Still no end to Hempstead Town’s free air issue


The Town of Hempstead decided to again postpone a decision on a town ordinance amendment enacted last year that requires gas and service stations to provide free air 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The constitutionality of the amendment is being challenged in court by two trade associations and independent service station owners in Nassau County.

Erica Dubno, an attorney for the trade organizations, reminded the board that the amended ordinance already had a temporarily restraining order imposed on it by the Nassau County Supreme Court last September. Additionally, in January, a Nassau County Supreme Court judge ruled the amended ordinance "appears on its face to be an attempt to circumvent the purpose of the Open Meetings Law,” which requires that the public receive notice of government meetings and that board votes be held in public.

During the town’s March 7 board meeting, Dubno held up billing invoices showing that the town had spent $30,000 in attorney fees within a 53-day period to defend itself on the issue. The documents were acquired through a Freedom of Information Law request that Dubno later said was filed by Franklin Square resident, Felix Procacci, who regularly attends, records and comments on the town’s board meetings.

"The town is laying people off right now, and there are serious budget issues and tax issues going on," Dubno said of the expenditure.

The amended ordinance bans and criminalizes possession and operation of coin-operated machines, and subjects business owners to criminal charges including imprisonment for up to 15 days and up to a $10,000 fine.  The state's fine for broken air machines, Dubno said, is $25.