Three candidates will vie for two seats on the Lynbrook village board of trustees in next Tuesday’s election.
Deputy Mayor Michael Hawxhurst seeks to retain his seat, while Trustee Hilary Becker is not running for re-election. Challengers Laura Ledwith Ryder, a paralegal and realty business owner, and local business owner David O’Neill are also looking to join the board. Ryder will be on the same ballot as Hawxhurst as part of the New Vision Party, while O’Neill is running on the People’s Trustee line. Ryder is running for the first time, while O’Neill is vying again after losing his 2019 bid for trustee. Both have been active in the community and regular attendees at village board meetings for years.
Also, incumbent William McLaughlin will vie against challenger Josh Marguiles for village justice. East Rockaway is holding an uncontested village election, as Tim O’Hagan and Jack Felbinger are running unopposed for two trustee seats and Richard Braverman is running for judge. Polls will be open at Greis Park’s Recreation Center, in Lynbrook, and at the Charles Formont Senior Center in East Rockaway, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Ahead of the election, the Herald asked each Lynbrook candidate about issues pressing the village and what their goals would be if elected.
Herald: Why are you running for office, and what would your top priorities be if elected?
Hawxhurst: Being a part of this village board is both an honor and privilege. I am running this year to continue the work that I have been involved in during my time on the board. As a team, we have accomplished much, but we have much more to go.
We have seen improvements to our parks, roads and services provided to the residents. Improvements to the equipment we provide to our first responders to ensure they can respond to any emergency in the village. Also, we have been able to stay under the tax cap the past four years. During the past year, we have had to pivot in so many services the village provides due to the pandemic. We had changes to our recreation programs, library programs and events. All our first responders were stretched to the max in their work this year. Most importantly, we understood the problems the pandemic presented to our residents and adjusted the budget twice to reduce the tax rate charged to the residents.
Going forward, my top priority is to continue to find opportunities to provide the best services to our residents at the lowest cost possible. Managing our budget to provide the most cost-effective services is my top priority if re-elected.
Ryder: When Mayor Alan Beach asked me to join his team as Lynbrook trustee, I was both humbled and honored. I have dedicated the last 20 years serving our residents through the Lynbrook Community Chest, Lynbrook Cares Committee, as chairwoman of the 9/11 Memorial Committee, the Lynbrook Oktoberfest Committee co-chair, as a member of the Architectural Review Board, among others. Service has been has been a tremendous honor and an incredibly rewarding experience for me.
Because I believe so strongly in service to the community where one lives, I view the position of trustee as an opportunity to serve our residents in new ways. My top priority, if elected, is to continue to move Lynbrook forward with sensible growth while maintaining financial viability and to keep Lynbrook an affordable place to live while not sacrificing any of our top-notch services.
O’Neill: I decided to run for public office because I believe I can bring change to how Lynbrook is governed and our village’s overall outlook, with both being a part of my platform also in the last election. More so now than the past election, I believe Lynbrook needs new businesses to open that are the right fit for our village, and this includes the need for a total overhaul of the downtown area. This will bring in residents, which, in turn, will help our existing businesses thrive in today’s challenging economy.
We need to stop the bleeding, lower taxes and cut spending. We need to make Lynbrook affordable for residents so they can retire and stay in the village. An immediate priority is helping our residents get through this pandemic safely and working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead to keep our residents safe. We need to help our seniors get vaccinated and help get them to doctors’ appointments, either via transportation or telehealth. We need to get personal protective equipment to our residents who need it, along the lines of how when I owned Village Car Service in Lynbrook, I frequently helped out our senior citizens and other village residents.
Herald: What other major goals do you hope to accomplish?
Hawxhurst: During 2020, we saw the importance of family and togetherness. As we look ahead, some of the major goals I would like to see accomplished include the continued upgrade of our park facilities. From installing an artificial-turf field, lighting, resodding fields, upgrading playground equipment, and expanding our swim program, so much has been done. The Master Park Plan outlines future opportunities to grow and continue to provide new opportunities in the most cost-effective way possible.
Ryder: First and foremost, I intend to work together with the board to maintain Lynbrook’s AA+ financial rating. This top rating, which is the highest the village has ever had, enables it to obtain the lowest interest rate possible, quite an incredible accomplishment. In addition, as an active member of the Lynbrook Beautiful Committee for well over a decade, I strongly believe that living in an aesthetically beautiful community instills pride, increases the interest of new businesses and contributes to an increased value of our biggest asset — our homes. While our Department of Public Works is, without question, second to none, I would love to see residents again actively participating in beautifying our village by rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
O’Neill: Lowering taxes, bringing in new businesses, overhauling the downtown area, cutting unnecessary spending and helping our residents get through the pandemic are top priorities of mine. In addition, we need to help fill the offices in Lynbrook and bring business to Lynbrook. People would feel more comfortable working locally, rather than taking the train and subway. We should be reaching out to businesses to rent office space in Lynbrook and have an office in New York City, so the workers can work in both offices.
I would sit down with our [Department of Public Works] and ask their advice and suggestions on how we can start dealing with these issues. Lynbrook has been my home for 45 years and counting. I grew up here. I honestly care about the issues that our village is faced with. I always have and always will have the best interest of Lynbrook at heart.
Herald: The coronavirus has impacted many village businesses, what can be done to help them recover during such a difficult time?
Hawxhurst: The past year has been a challenge to every individual and every business in the village. The struggles each have faced have been incredible and have been different for each one. Addressing what can be done to help them recover is not a simple answer, but requires the village to continue to be open to the needs of each one. Since the early stage of the pandemic, the board has met with different businesses to see how best we could assist them. From closing Atlantic Avenue for dining, allowing sidewalk dining and tents in parking lots, the board worked to find the best solution for each business.
Ryder: We have all seen first-hand the suffering the coronavirus pandemic has caused each of us, whether it be the tragic loss of a loved one, illness, job loss or school uncertainty, among other things. But we have also seen the very best through service and support of our family, friends and neighbors, which includes our local businesses. To help them, the current board has come up with creative ideas, including permitting outside dinning and closing Atlantic Avenue for dining. These initiatives were very well received and immensely popular. I would work to continue these initiatives in the warmer months, even when the pandemic is over.
O’Neill: We must encourage shopping local to keep our economy thriving. One idea I had, based on the work of other towns and villages, is to create a “Lynbrook USA” app. The app would connect shoppers to local businesses and offer points that lead to discounts. In addition, the app would list every business and type of business that’s in Lynbrook — every pizzeria, accountant, etc. The village can reach out to app developers to come up with this plan (or even work with our young minds in technology/business/virtual enterprise classes at Lynbrook schools to sculpt an app), maybe even creating a contest or project along the way.
Herald: Traffic, roads, parking and the condition of the Long Island Rail Road station are all major concerns among residents, what can be done to address these?
Hawxhurst: These are challenges we have faced since I have been on the board and we continue to address. We have added additional parking to the village by regaining control over the spots under the LIRR. Additionally, spots have been added to the road outside of Village Hall and the village has recently purchased two pieces of property that will be converted to additional parking. At no cost to residents, a pay-by-phone system has been added for all meters in the village.
We have repaved many roads and continue to have an annual road program to addresses our roads. Can we do more? Yes, and repaving more roads while keeping costs under control is what this board is committed to do. We have worked with our counterparts in the county and town to have such problem areas as Broadway, Scranton and Union avenues repaved in the past year. Working with the LIRR, they have completed the first phase of the platform renovation with the viaduct structure completion delayed until 2022. We are continuing to work with the LIRR to see if the second phase rehabilitation of the downstairs waiting room is included in their next capital budget. The pandemic has caused significant financial strain to the LIRR, but we continue to press them and our other local representatives to finish this project.
Ryder: I look forward to continuing with the current Village Road Program to repair and improve draining and paving issues on our roads. I will continue to work with the board to push for the county to improve and re-pave the many county-run roads in the village, which is a substantial amount. I also look forward to continuing to look for creative ways to obtain additional parking. The village has successfully obtained additional parking under the LIRR trestle and has recently purchased two properties to create additional parking. The Lynbrook station has recently seen improvements to the platform and aqueduct underneath the tracks in excess of $17 million. However, it can’t stop there. We must demand that the MTA now focus the street-level waiting room and clean and beautify under the trestle, making it an enjoyable environment for Lynbrook commuters.
O’Neill: With the pandemic, the parking is not a situation as in past years. The problem is that the village is losing revenue while less people are using the meters. Less people are paying for employee parking and for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly parking when taking the LIRR. Ridership is down 90 percent; that means the village is down 90 percent on funds from those parking fees. More people are working from home now more than ever and will continue for the next few years. When companies start asking employees to start coming back to work in New York City, that does not mean the office will be at 100 percent capacity, but rather 50 to 60 percent, and the rest will work from home and alternate days at the office.
Lastly, although the recent renovation to the Lynbrook station added some wonderful and needed changes, many residents feel like it wasn’t enough. For instance, many residents expected further changes in modernization, safety and changes to the street-level area of the station, including installation of new sidewalks and improvements to the station house (most of which were proposed, but not implemented due to recent decreased ridership). Clearly, this means we must increase ridership, since more ridership means more revenue, which means a greater chance of new renovations. However, this lack of ridership is not a valid excuse for the village not having made these needed changes earlier.
Herald: Why are you a good fit for this position, and why do you think the community should vote for you?
Hawxhurst: In serving on the Board, I have realized that the one of the most important aspects is communication. Both communication with the residents and communication with other members of the Board. We do not get things done individually. We work together as a community to get projects completed and keep this Village moving forward. 2020 has brought us numerous changes and challenges. Not only with the pandemic but we also saw numerous social changes moving forward. My experience both on the Board and in the financial services industry has provided me with the tools to continue to serve this community. Looking forward, we face bigger challenges each day and I believe my background provides me with the tools to best serve the residents of this wonderful Village. The residents have given me their trust in this position, and I work every day to ensure I continue to earn that trust. By working together as a community, we can get the best Lynbrook.
Ryder: I work tirelessly for the matters I believe in. I have a passion for service. I am able to find compromise and mutually beneficial solutions, and work together with others as a team. Lynbrook is my home and I believe I will bring a fresh, new perspective with a wide range of personal and professional experiences that will contribute greatly to the growth of our village. I want to see Lynbrook continue to thrive. I will bring to the position strong leadership skills, high integrity and common sense. I understand the importance of cooperation and teamwork. I take seriously the responsibility of being a dedicated public servant. I apply common sense principles in all of my decisions. I look forward to working with Mayor Beach, Deputy Mayor Hawxhurst and Trustees Reardon and Boccio. Together we share a common vision of moving Lynbrook forward with sensible growth with financial viability.
O'Neill: I feel like I would be a great fit for the position because of the dedication and love for this village that I have demonstrated over the years and plan to continue demonstrating. I want to see Lynbrook thrive. I want my fellow residents to have their voices heard. I am just a regular guy—just like our fellow residents who live in Lynbrook—who knows what it is like to own a business in Lynbrook. Unlike the other candidates, I know what it is like to start a busines from scratch: I started All Metro Mortgage and Great Bay Realty, as well as Village Car Service. I started with 2 cars and built the business up to 20 cars. I know what it is like to succeed and fail in business.
With that being said, we need to run the Village of Lynbrook like a business with account receivables and account payables. Stop wasting money and start tightening the belt. We never hear people say, “I can’t wait to retire in Lynbrook”. Everyone says when they retire, they are moving because they can’t afford to live here since the taxes are too high. New York is second only to New Jersey in number of residents moving out-of-state, and it is happening at a record pace. I want to help change this.