A crowded field of candidates is jostling for two trustee seats up for election on the Hempstead Village board, as six candidates seek to distinguish themselves from one another on issues of development and downtown revitalization.
Most of the contenders in the March 19 election say the village has been poorly served by many of the property tax breaks known as PILOTs — short for "payments in lieu of taxes" — given out to local businesses or developers, and many said they would focus on spurring commercial development if elected.
Trustee Jeffery Daniels, a senior vice president at a commercial real estate services company and the only incumbent running, said the village has been "stagnant" for decades.
Daniels, who was first elected last year, proposed creating a uniform tax exemption policy for the village to "provide guidance" to the Nassau County and Hempstead Town industrial development agencies in granting tax breaks in the village.
"It could provide incentives for businesses to come into the village, but it mandates that the benefits actually go to the village," he said.
The other seat is open because trustee Perry Pettus is not seeking re-election. His attorney Jim Druker said the decision was motivated by a recent death in Pettus’ family, not the four indictments he faces on corruption charges. He pleaded not guilty.
Daniels, 46, is running on a slate with Waylyn Hobbs Jr., a pastor, volunteer firefighter and former village trustee and deputy mayor. Hobbs, 57, said the village should create a registry for vacant homes and require the banks that own them to pay fees.
"We're going to make it so that it's not comfortable for the banks to leave the homes vacant," he said.
Candidates Darrell J. Garner and Sherina Gonzales-Lucas, who are also running together on a slate and were endorsed by village Mayor Don Ryan, are strongly opposed to new apartment construction in the village.
"We feel that apartment buildings are overcrowding our infrastructure," said Garner, 45, a community service representative for the Nassau County Commission on Human Rights and the son of former village Mayor James A. Garner.
Gonzales-Lucas, 37, a real estate broker, said the village should create a land bank to purchase zombie homes, renovate them and sell them to village residents.
Two candidates are running independently: Dorothy Shelley Brazley and Michael Abrahams.
Brazley, 62, a former Hempstead school board member and a legislative aide in Hempstead Town Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby's office, said she did not think the village infrastructure "can bear the addition of new apartment units." She said the village should study relocating its downtown away from the courthouse on Main Street to make it more attractive to new businesses.
Abrahams, 51, the director of operations of a nonprofit and former Hempstead Village administrator, said the village should ramp up code enforcement and sanitation services in the village's public spaces.
"All I see when I get to the train station is litter, crime and social decay," he said.
The village fired Abrahams from his post in 2007, and in response he sued the then mayor, Newsday has reported. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.
Abrahams was the only candidate to say he would seek to combat "corruption" and "nepotism and patronage" in the village government.