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Sea Cliff government reorganizes

Villafane has high hopes for the coming year

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The Sea Cliff board of trustees held its annual reorganizational meeting on Monday night, and Elena Villafane was sworn in as the village’s 36th mayor, and Dina Epstein and James Versocki began their terms as trustees.

As the meeting got under way, outgoing Mayor Edward Lieberman say farewell after serving for four years. His time as mayor, Lieberman said, was the highlight of his public service career, and he added that the commitment of current and former trustees and other village officials enabled him to fulfill his duties in a way that far exceeded his own skills.

“Your dedication to the village — our village — and its residents has truly been a shining standard of excellence,” he said. “Placing ourselves in the arena of governmental administration has jettisoned each of us to new heights we never could have imagined.”

Lieberman said he was confident that Sea Cliff would be in good hands with Villafane at the helm, and that residents would take pride and comfort knowing that she, her administration and the board would continue to make the village “the gem of Long Island.”

After Villafane, Epstein and Versocki were sworn in, Villafane appointed Epstein deputy mayor, a job most recently held by Villafane. On Tuesday, Epstein said she was ready to step into her new role and was excited to be serving under Villafane, who she believed would lead the village into a new era of success.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Epstein said. “I love Sea Cliff, and I am honored to be able to serve. Elena Villafane has hit the ground running — she has been hard at work since the night of the election [on March 16], putting together all kinds of initiatives.”

In her State of the Village address, Villafane said that the coronavirus pandemic had not stopped the village from accomplishing a great deal over the past year, thanks in large part to the village staff and its Department of Public Works. The long-awaited Sea Cliff sewer project, she said, had proven to be a success so far, with much of the village’s downtown now hooked up to a new sewer system, leaving behind its aging cesspools. She said she hoped to see it expand by the end of the year.

Villafane said that the village had also received a grant from Nassau County to renovate its baseball fields, and it planned to break ground as soon as this season is over. She added that the firehouse and Village Hall had undergone long-awaited renovations. And she lauded the village for its designation of Sea Cliff Avenue for outdoor dining, helping local restaurants increase capacity at the height of the pandemic last spring and summer.

Finally, Villafane said that the public water feasibility study commissioned by the village and conducted by Walden Environmental Engineering showed that municipal water is possible for the Sea Cliff Water District. The fact that a study undertaken by the state Department of Public Service showed that public water is feasible throughout Nassau County and would be in residents’ best interest demonstrates that the village could be on a path toward completely municipalizing its water sources.

Villafane said she wanted to address residents’ desire for better and more varied means of communication with village officials. She has been researching the development of a master email list for officials that would be available to all residents. She also said she would establish regular mayor’s-office hours on the first and third Monday of every month to accommodate residents who want to meet with her in person.

Social media will also be a priority, Villafane said, and she planned to create official village Facebook and Instagram pages. Additionally, capital projects for the village museum, library and public works facilities need to be worked on.

On the legislative front, Villafane said the village would consult with the Architectural Review Board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission to enhance the preservation and protection of its resources. And the board of trustees, she said, planned to jump-start a Long Range Planning Commission to gauge how the community wants the village to move into the future, an effort that was sidetracked last year by the pandemic. Epstein and Trustee Nick Pinto will serve as liaisons to this new committee.

“All of this could not be possible without the outstanding support of the entire Village Hall and DPW staff,” the mayor said. “I want to thank each and every member of our organization who came to work throughout this difficult year of Covid each and every day to deliver the services that our residents have come to expect.”