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Hempstead Town formally repeals law offering free air to motorists

The board meeting takes place at 7 p.m.

The board meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Hempstead Town Hall, seen here on March 12. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Hempstead Town Board members Wednesday repealed town code that required gas stations to offer free air to motorists, a move that formally takes the law off the books and settles a lawsuit with business owners.

Board members voted 6-1 to strike the language after the board eliminated the law in August. Councilman Anthony D’Esposito voted against repealing the law in August and again Wednesday, saying he had issues with the language of the law and called it rife with conflict.

Town Attorney Joe Ra said the resolution was a housekeeping matter to drop any mention of the free air law from town code after the law was abolished.

“We’re not adopting free air, we’re getting rid of free air,” Ra said.

The town board passed the initial law in 2016, requiring all service stations to provide free air to motorists to inflate tires. Former Supervisor Anthony Santino called the law friendly to taxpayers and important for public safety on town roads.

Santino and board members received a harsh rebuke from the service station industry and coin-operated air vendors who could no longer collect the 75 cents to $1 charged to operate the air pumps.

The town last month settled a case with more than 200 business owners who filed a class-action lawsuit, which argued the law would hurt businesses. The owners also contested a provision in the law that could send them to jail for up to 15 days if an air machine isn’t functional and charge up to $10,000 in fines.

A Nassau County judge had issued an injunction in January barring the town from enforcing the law, citing ambiguity and conflict with state law that allows service stations to charge for air.

In a separate resolution Wednesday, town board members voted 5-2 to postpone its budget meeting and not approve a tentative budget before budget talks resume later this month.

Board members scheduled a special meeting Oct. 15 to vote on a tentative budget and moved a public hearing from Oct. 17 to Oct. 23 to make changes and hear public comment.

Supervisor Laura Gillen and Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby dissented, with Gillen arguing that board members were invited in July to discuss drafting the proposed $444 million budget before she presented it to the board. The budget carries up to a 0.74 percent tax increase for 17 percent of homeowners in special districts, documents show. 

“Drafting a budget is much like walking a constant tightrope,” Gillen said. “Finding the right balance of services and taxes is never easy.”

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