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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Potholes and the Hempstead Village mayor’s race

Hempstead Village hall is seen in an undated

Hempstead Village hall is seen in an undated photo. Credit: Howard Schnapp

See those potholes?

Fill them up. And come Election Day you’ll have good luck.

Or at least better luck than Wayne Hall, who on Tuesday lost his bid for a fourth term as Hempstead Village mayor.

Hall, according to unofficial vote tallies, had 54 percent of voters in the election go against him.

That’s a big loss, so big that some village observers believe it to be less a show of support for the victor, village trustee Don Ryan — who will return the village to Republican control after 12 years of Democrats’ domination — than a show of disdain for Hall.

“The people were mad at me and they showed it,” Hall said in an interview Wednesday. “They came out for Don.”

During the campaign, Hall was peppered — which may be too light a characterization — with a variety of complaints.

There were complaints, for instance, about Hempstead’s plan to grant property tax breaks to some developers.

Some compared the issue to the dispute over property tax exemptions granted to the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream — a comparison, by the way, that misses the mark.

Green Acres already was on the Hempstead Town tax rolls when an agreement with the town Industrial Development Agency significantly reduced the mall’s property taxes.

That move, in turn, significantly increased taxes for property owners who were left to make up the difference.

But in Hempstead Village, tax breaks were being used to spur develop on parcels NOT on village tax rolls. That new tax revenue, in turn, was supposed to go toward stabilizing village property tax rates.

Hall also was hurt by Democratic infighting. The mayor was frequently, and very publicly, criticized by two village political powerhouses, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby and Deputy State Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper. Neither responded to requests for interviews Wednesday.

Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic chairman, acknowledged the party’s loss of the mayor’s post to a Republican after 12 years as a blow.

“This was a case of an official being in power too long and people wanting a change,” Jacobs said. It also didn’t help, he said, that Goosby, Hooper and Hall couldn’t find a way to work together.

As it turns out, however, the deciding factor probably wasn’t tax breaks. Or even politics.

It was ... potholes.

They were featured in a double-sided flier, bearing the Assembly seal, with Hooper standing over ragged roads — holding a Feb. 26, 2017, edition of Newsday, presumably as proof of pothole freshness. The flier asked, “Is Mother Nature Angry at Hempstead?” and told residents how to file claims for damaged vehicles.

Hall said he’s fired off letters complaining about the flier — which some residents said they found on windshields around the village last weekend — to the state attorney general’s office, the Nassau district attorney and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) complaining that the fliers were political.

As it turns out, Hall acknowledged that the village hasn’t filled potholes in a year because of a dispute with a contractor who was passed over in bidding for the job, which costs Hempstead about $3 million a year.

The plan, Hall said, is to get to them this spring, as the weather warms up.


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