Nassau, Huntington pass the test while Islip fails

An investigation into alleged illegal dumping of toxic An investigation into alleged illegal dumping of toxic waste at several Suffolk County sites including Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood has widened. Investigators are now looking at 175 Brook Ave. in Deer Park, where officials say debris was dumped into a sensitive wetland that forms part of the watershed into the Great South Bay. Above, a view of the property on Monday, May 19, 2014. Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has ...

Two Long Island municipalities, Nassau County and Huntington Town, moved with the speed of light -- in governmental terms -- last week with welcome policy turnarounds.

That was in stark contrast to a third, Islip Town, whose attempts to micromanage a public meeting went badly awry.

First up, the good.

Nassau County turned around quickly to bring back a police team that specializes in enforcing drunken-driving laws.

It took just one day for County Executive Edward Mangano to restore the unit after Newsday and News 12 Long Island reported a steep drop in DWI arrests after police deep-sixed the unit.

Using patrols by the Selective Enforcement Team, known as SET, Nassau cops made an average 2,641 DWI arrests each year from 2008 to 2011. With the shutdown of the program, the number tumbled from 1,853 in 2012 to 1,545 last year.

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That's a problem because fewer arrests don't necessarily mean fewer drunken drivers -- only that fewer of them may have been caught.

Nassau residents pay a lot for policing, and with the unofficial start of summer this weekend, it's good that SET is once again set to help keep roadways, drivers and families safe.

Let's move on now to the Town of Huntington, which reversed a decision on how it handles downtown parking fees.

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With its bars, shops and restaurants, Huntington village can get awfully crowded. It's likely to get even more crowded with a boutique hotel and two condo and apartment complexes in the works.

Parking often is at a premium.

Enter the town's new parking program, which combined more enforcement with higher parking fees.

Together, they generate more revenue for the town that -- like so many others on Long Island -- is loath to raise taxes. What Huntington seemed to forget is that the village business district also works because local residents actually shop there.

Residents had to learn to feed the meter or risk a ticket -- because those parking enforcement officers are fast!

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Then came the town's decision to swap traditional meters on some downtown streets with blue New York City-style multispace meters. Those charge $1 an hour -- even though most errand running requires far less time.

Residents -- and the businesses they found harder to frequent -- complained.

To its credit, the town listened, and those multispace meters will be reprogrammed to accept 25 cents for 15 minutes.

Two municipalities, two cheers -- which leaves us with Islip, which last week earned anything but.

Let's see: It's been weeks now since residents near Roberto Clemente Park learned that construction debris tainted with asbestos was dumped in that public park.

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The town initially dispatched town employees to hand out copies of an old town statement that answered few of the neighbors' questions.

Last week, Islip tried to rectify that by holding a community meeting. But the town attempted to control the meeting by requiring written rather than live questioning of officials. Frustrated residents ended up leaving in droves.

Among residents' complaints about the meeting: Town officials seemed to spend more time talking than listening. They also complained that a Spanish-language interpreter -- in a community where more than half of the school district is Hispanic -- could not properly interpret.

It all indicated that Islip -- which continues to insist that top elected officials knew nothing about 32,000 tons of illegal, potentially dangerous dumping in a community park -- remains stubbornly disconnected from the residents those officials are supposed to represent.

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