Nassau leaders ID 2013's biggest challenges
Newsday asked the leaders of Long Island's 13 towns and two cities what they see as their biggest challenges in 2013. Here are the answers from the leaders of Nassau County's three towns and two cities. Responses from the five Western Suffolk supervisors appeared Wednesday, and the East End's leaders ran Thursday.
Helping residents recover from superstorm Sandy, encouraging development, stimulating the local economy, maintaining town services and improving the environment are among the challenges for 2013 identified by Supervisor Kate Murray.
"Our government will continue to meet the challenge of helping Sandy-impaired neighbors with the recovery and home rebuilding process in the New Year," Murray said in a statement.
Town officials will continue assisting residents with the building permit process, waiving permit fees and providing information on flood recovery assistance, Murray said. Hempstead also will continue to repair town facilities and restore its eroded coastline to protect against future storms, she said.
Murray pointed out Hempstead will maintain all services for next year, while reducing total town taxes by 0.5 percent. Town officials will work to secure development projects and spur job-boosting construction projects across the town, she added.
"We are ready to assist [Nassau] County-selected developers in putting shovels in the ground at the Hub, having created a progressive building construction zone for the site around the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum," Murray said.
The town also will work to improve the environment through its Renewable Energy Park at Point Lookout, Murray said. Officials will educate residents about the importance of conservation and green energy resources, such as geothermal and solar power, she said.
Additionally, the town's one-stop career center will continue to help thousands of job-seekers find employment, she said. The Hempstead Town Planning Department and Industrial Development Agency will offer low-cost loans and tax credits to help businesses grow, she added.
Supervisor Jon Kaiman said that as the economy improves, the town must continue making do with less.
"We're slowly coming out of the dead economy," Kaiman said. "The challenge has been to maintain all that we do with limited personnel."
In the past three years, he estimated the town has reduced its staff by nearly 30 employees. The cuts have extended to full-time and part-time workers, along with some programming.
"If each department loses four or five employees, that takes a toll," he said.
Another hurdle, Kaiman said, will be recovering federal aid dollars. After Sandy hit, the town suffered structural damage to some of its buildings, and debris cleanup could cost upward of $20 million. Kaiman said that personnel costs for overtime pay will be "substantial."
Kaiman said the town will continue to add to its arts programming. In recent months, the town partnered with the Great Neck Arts Center, saving it with a multimillion-dollar bond payment.
"The arts is becoming a real focus," Kaiman said, adding that arts programming might be a way to save the blighted, historical Shumacher House in New Hyde Park.
The new year brings with it the continued challenges of recovering from superstorm Sandy with both "physical and psychological efforts," Supervisor John Venditto said.
"There are lessons to be learned from the great storm -- before, during and in its aftermath," he said. He said he was satisfied with the town's cleanup efforts and the post-Sandy intermunicipal cooperation, but added that more can always be done to prepare.
The town enters 2013 with several measures in place to combat its debt, he said, citing the current year's discretionary cuts, retirement incentive program and union concessions. The town will conduct an inventory of its properties to see which can be sold to create revenue next year, he said.
"The general economic conditions are not better," Venditto said of the regional, national and global climate. "The revenues are continuing to decrease. The problems are still every bit as much the problems of a year ago, but the town's response has put it in a better position."
Fixing the programs cannot be done by "with a flip of a switch" but rather "methodically, slowly and on a step-by-step basis," which has been Oyster Bay's approach, he said.
The town also will resist pressure to urbanize while creating housing for seniors and young adults, Venditto said. "We need to fight to maintain our suburban lifestyle."
Mayor Ralph Suozzi said the city will work cooperatively with all schools in Glen Cove, not just the public schools, to help them strengthen security and safety post-Newtown.
"We've already started by hiring a retired police officer who will be the liaison from the mayor's office to the schools and police department," Suozzi said.
Suozzi said the city also will be seeking reimbursement from FEMA for its expenses from Sandy, "not only for the overtime and the damage that occurred, but also money that we will need to strengthen and fortify infrastructure around our low-lying areas."
Suozzi said another goal for 2013 will be to expand the city's water well field and delivery system "so we have sufficient capacity and redundancy for the future."
Suozzi said the city would like to boost its recycling efforts.
"Now that we get money for recycling materials including cardboard, we are going to increase our recycling by educating the community about the importance of it," he said. "It reduces expenses, brings in revenue and helps the environment."
Work also will continue on the city's waterfront redevelopment project, he said.
Superstorm Sandy's destruction changed Long Beach's history forever, and 2013 will be the year the city must rebuild stronger, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.
The storm caused about $250 million in damage, rendered about 100 homes uninhabitable and destroyed the city's beloved boardwalk.
Next year, the city will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to strengthen its beachfront, continue to raise money for its Sandy relief fund, and move forward on rebuilding the boardwalk, Schnirman said.
Progress is critical to the city's summer tourism season, he said.
"The big challenge for 2013 is rebuilding Long Beach stronger, smarter and safer," Schnirman said. "Underneath that is ensuring that we have a great summer focused on reinvigorating our downtown."
A big piece of the puzzle will be working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for the cost of rebuilding, Schnirman said.
The city also needs to work toward fiscal solvency while rebuilding from the costly storm, Schnirman said. Long Beach is in the midst of paying down a $10 million deficit officials discovered in 2012 and must run a tight fiscal ship, he said.