Hundreds packed into the lobby of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on Monday as new County Executive Bruce Blakeman, County Comptroller Elaine Phillips and County Clerk Maureen O’Connell took their oaths of office.
In his first remarks after taking leadership over one of the country’s most populated counties, Blakeman made it clear that he would not abide by Governor Hochul’s mask mandate, which was implemented in early December amid a new wave of cases caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
“Starting today, Nassau is normal again,” Blakeman told a largely unmasked crowd. “We have seen the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we can no longer be afraid. Yes, we still have challenges, but they are manageable.”
According to The New York Times’ online tracker, Nassau’s hospitalization rate had increased by 47 percent in the previous 14 days, with 58 deaths in that same period. The seven-day positivity rate climbed to 24 percent, as well.
Blakeman said the county would continue to encourage and support free vaccinations and testing for residents. He said this approach would account for the economic, social, and mental health consequences of lockdowns and mandates.
“Nassau County is not in crisis,” Blakeman continued. “Our hospital admissions are rising by a manageable and predictable rate. Reason and common sense must supplant hysteria.” Blakeman promised to lobby Albany to keep students in class without masks.
Blakeman also took aim at the previous administration’s approach to the tax reassessment system, describing it as “unfair” and “secretive,” alluding to the algorithm used by Laura Curran’s office. Blakeman pledged to provide transparency by investigating the previous system with Comptroller Phillips.
“There is no reason why millionaires should pay zero taxes, and then homes that are identical in the same communities pay vastly different tax rates,” Blakeman said. “It’s broken and we will fix it.” Reducing taxes to retain young people and keep older adults comfortable would be another major focus of the new administration, Blakeman said.
Blakeman closed by saying he and new District Attorney Anne Connelly would demand the repeal of the state’s bail reform bill.