Nassau precinct plan a hard sell to public
Nassau County officials, in unveiling a proposal last week to shutter half of the county's police precincts, said they would go that extra mile -- and hold community hearings to get feedback on the plan.
As of early Monday afternoon, however, most residents had been notified of only one hearing: Monday, Feb. 13, 11 a.m., in the legislative hearing room.
Word of that come during a public safety committee hearing, where speaker after speaker turned thumbs down at the plan -- to the cheers of a raucous crowd.
But that's not all that's going on, County Executive Edward Mangano said Monday.
"We will talk to any established community group that wants to talk about the plan," he said.
He said he's met with civic representatives in his office. And that they've warmed to the proposal -- once it has been explained.
"We are asking them for feedback and we are offering the opportunity for residents who are interested to serve on committees where they can say what they want in the community centers," he said. "We will work to build them the way the community wants."
The idea is to sell the plan, Mangano said. "And those who sit down and listen are surprised that the plan can work.
During Monday's committee meeting, Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown) -- attempting to allay the concerns of some speakers, including the mayor of Sea Cliff, who requested a detailed map of proposed changes -- said Mangano's office and police brass would meet with any community that asked.
"If you want, the administration and police brass will come to your community," Dunne said, " . . . and answer some of these valid questions."
"Yes, we will meet with any community group," Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin replied after I emailed him a summary of Dunne's comments.
"We will meet with residents here in the office or there in the community," Mangano said.
That's ambitious. But it is, nonetheless, grand.
Because for a while there it looked as if the reorganization plan -- like so many administrative initiatives before it -- was going to be rammed through with too few chances for public comment.
And the public has a lot to say.
"I understand we have to do some cost savings with what is going on," Karen Montalbano of Baldwin told lawmakers, noting that the community has waited years for a long-promised expansion of the current building.
"You are going to build us something to put two community officers and a community room?" she asked incredulously, as the crowd roared approval.
Mangano's plan likely will be a hard sell to communities facing the loss of full-service precincts.
But the administration's determined to sell it, civic group by civic group if necessary.