Glen Cove City Councilman Anthony Gallo warned that the city is risking financial ruin if officials proceed with a massive waterfront redevelopment, while Mayor Reginald Spinello framed the project as a fiscal cash cow.
The exchange came in an impromptu 36-minute mayoral debate after Tuesday night's council meeting.
It was the only debate of the election. Gallo had declined Spinello's invitation to a debate before the GOP primary because the mayor is not a Republican; and Spinello had not agreed to Gallo's request for a general-election debate, even though the mayor had said he would.
After resident Pasquale Cervasio raised the debate issue Tuesday, Spinello offered to "debate right after this meeting." Gallo agreed.
Developer RXR's $850-million-plus Garvies Point waterfront plan includes 1,110 condominium and rental units, four parks, three marinas, stores, a restaurant, offices, an amphitheater and other amenities. Construction could begin in the spring.
"With this waterfront, the city is going to really experience a complete turnaround in finances," Spinello said.
The mayor said numerous studies have shown the city would earn more from the project in tax revenue than it would spend and that the city's streets, schools and first responders could handle the influx of new residents and visitors. And the projected 1,005 jobs generated during and after construction would pump money into the city's economy, as would the new residents, he said. "We need empty-nesters, we need young professionals," he said. "These are people with disposable income."
But Gallo said the project would strain the city's infrastructure, schools and police and fire services. He also criticized the possibility of the city helping fund the project through up to $100 million in tax increment financing bonds, which borrow against future tax revenue. Gallo argued that's financially risky, which Spinello disputed.
Gallo called on city officials to renegotiate with RXR for a better deal, because the borrowing of tens of millions of dollars and the spending on services for new residents and visitors "could actually put us into insolvency, into bankruptcy," he said. "I hope I'm wrong."
The candidates also disagreed on what to prioritize within the police department. Gallo wants to double the number of officers in the crime prevention unit from two to four. But the mayor said that would take two officers off the city's streets and lead to increased overtime expenses to ensure there are enough street patrols.
To see the debate online, go to youtube.com/watch?v=WILt_3M6bPQ.