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Glen Cove mayoral candidates trade jabs in debate

(L-R) Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi faces off

(L-R) Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi faces off against his opponent Reginald Spinello in a debate at Glen Cove High School. (Oct. 25, 2013) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi and his challenger, City Council member Reginald Spinello, sparred over their visions and records Friday night with the election less than two weeks away.

About 250 people listened to the Glen Cove natives in the city's high school auditorium during the debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Four-term Democrat Suozzi argued that he has made steady progress in improving the city while Spinello, an Independence Party member running on the Republican ticket, charged that the incumbent has achieved little.

Suozzi ticked off his accomplishments, listing facts, figures and projects.

"Our city is stronger. Our city is safer. Our quality of life is better. Our infrastructure is vastly improved. Our environment is cleaner," he said in his opening remarks. "I'm proud of my record."

Suozzi then took a swipe at his opponent, saying candidate Spinello may disagree with him, but as a council member Spinello voted with him 97.1 percent of the time.

"He hasn't presented any new ideas; he just follows my lead," Suozzi said.

Spinello, a retired businessman, said Suozzi, whose father, uncle and cousin have also been mayor, has traded on his name.

"Because of his name he was given the benefit of the doubt. Eight years later, I doubt there's a benefit," Spinello said. "Look around Glen Cove, look downtown, there's not one meaningful project he's brought here."

Suozzi cited progress on two major developments that have yet to be built -- the $1 billion waterfront development that has nearly completed site preparation, and "The Piazza," a mixed-use development that hasn't broken ground.

The candidates sounded similar notes on the need to expand the tax base and spur development, even if they differed on specifics.

Spinello said the city's industrial development agency needs to do more with tax breaks and hire experienced staff to sell the city to attract businesses.

Suozzi said the city has completed economic studies to market it to prospective businesses and noted that the waterfront development would create jobs and boost the local economy.

After the debate, which covered schools, the use of city vehicles by employees, mass transit and illegal housing, resident Mark Polowichak, 55, said he was impressed with Spinello.

"What I like about Spinello is he's a businessman," he said. "I think that's what we need."

Tony Tripp, 55, said he's sticking with Suozzi. "Mr. Spinello likes to talk about his vision, but what his vision is, nobody knows."

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