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Hempstead amends law mandating free air at service stations

The Hempstead Town Board -- from left, members

The Hempstead Town Board -- from left, members Erin King Sweeney, Edward Ambrosino, Dorothy Goosby, Town Supervisor Anthony Santino, Gary Hudes, Bruce Blakeman and Anthony D'Esposito -- voted to modify the town's free air law during a meeting in Hempstead on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead Town Board on Tuesday amended the town’s free air law so that service stations will be required to provide free air for tires during business hours only, instead of all day.

Board members voted 5-2 to modify the law, with Erin King Sweeney and Bruce Blakeman opposing the change. King Sweeney, Blakeman and Edward Ambrosino failed in their attempt to table the motion. Ambrosino voted for the law.

“In these economic times, I don’t want to impose burdensome regulations, and I stand with small business,” King Sweeney said.

The law, which was approved by the town last year, requires service stations to provide air at no cost to motorists, who were previously charged 75 cents to a dollar for the service.

Town board members voted to amend the law while facing a State Supreme Court lawsuit filed in Nassau by service station operators and air pump suppliers. In the revised law passed Tuesday, the board did not define business hours.

A judge issued an injunction against the law and ruled in January that the town skirted the Open Meetings law when it included the 24-hour requirement after it had been earlier removed from the law.

Service station owners who don’t comply with the law could face jail time of up to 15 days, if an air machine isn’t functional and receive up to $10,000 per week in fines.

Bill McCabe Jr., owner of Service Station Vending Equipment Inc. in Floral Park and a plaintiff in the suit, said he would continue with the lawsuit and said the revised law still unfairly penalizes small business owners.

He noted the town has spent more than $30,000 in legal fees and that the town’s zoning laws cannot determine the price for services.

“All of you made a mistake; you’re just fixing a mistake. You still have failed to address a number of issues,” McCabe said. “This law wasn’t researched and it’s not constitutional . . . how is this good for business?”

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