Farmingdale Trustee Ralph Ekstrand running for mayor, he is a...

Farmingdale Trustee Ralph Ekstrand running for mayor, he is a member of the Farmingdale 2035 Party. Credit: Handout

The heart of Farmingdale -- its downtown district -- is on the minds of six candidates vying this month for village leadership positions.

The fate of the blighted blocks of Main and Conklin streets near the Long Island Rail Road station is the central issue in the March 20 election for a mayor and two trustees.

The mayor's race pits current trustee Ralph Ekstrand, 56, of the Farmingdale 2035 Party, against Georgiana Sena, 61, of the Village Independent Party.

Competing for two trustee seats are incumbent William Barrett, 56, and newcomer Thomas Ryan, 55, both of the Farmingdale 2035 Party, as well as Village Independent Party members Susan Miles, 48, and Michael Manchin, 66.

Current Mayor George Starkie is resigning to focus on his family and business. Starkie spearheaded the downtown redevelopment plan for which Ekstrand's party is named.

"Downtown Farmingdale 2035: A Downtown Master Plan" was approved last November. One of its tenets, mixed-use zoning, also passed in November.

"The future of Farmingdale is the redevelopment of the area by the train station," Ekstrand said, adding that he hopes to attract young professionals to the village. "We've got to have walkability and use mass transit, with gas prices and pollution increasing."

Farmingdale will maintain its "quaintness" so long as the developments are designed with a "hometown feel," he said.

"Change always has resistance to it, but you have to change as you move into the future," said Ekstrand, a pharmacist who has lived in Farmingdale since 1981.

The revitalization plan encourages developers to build storefronts with apartments above them. It projects that 375 housing units can be built downtown by 2035.

Sena, a law firm administrator and paralegal, said she fears the proposal threatens the village's "old Farmingdale charm."

"The historic train station is from 1851, and we'd like to preserve that," she said. A four-story Hilton hotel that has been approved by the village "doesn't fit with the historic atmosphere," Sena said.

Sena said she shares Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto's opposition to what she called "the urbanization of suburbia."

She acknowledged that downtown Farmingdale needs a boost, but wants the development scaled back. Main Street is too narrow to handle the additional traffic that would come with major development, the 14-year resident said.

Miles, one of Sena's running mates, agreed. "I certainly believe in smart growth, but not in overdevelopment," said Miles, manager at a global manufacturing company. "We would lose the feel of a village and become more of a city."

Ryan, president of a home medical equipment provider running on Ekstrand's slate, countered that mixed-use development will succeed where other approaches have failed.

"What was working in the '60s won't work in the 2000s now," said Ryan, a "lifelong 'Daler." "When the first shovel goes into the ground [under the 2035 plan], it's going to be very rewarding."

Fiscal prudence is another campaign theme.

Ekstrand said he would continue the budgetary practices that have earned Farmingdale a strong A1 Moody's rating and enabled it to keep its projected property tax levy below the state-mandated 2 percent cap.

Sena said the current administration has put too many expenses out to bond in order to keep taxes down. "It's a kick-the-can-down-the-road approach," she said.

Barrett, a current trustee and a CPA on Ekstrand's slate, said mixed-use development downtown would increase tax revenue.

Securing water for Farmingdale -- which is looking to contract with either the Suffolk County Water Authority or the Bethpage Water District -- is another important concern going forward, Barrett said.

Manchin, a retired Nassau County police officer running with Sena, said he would re-evaluate "excessive and overzealous code enforcement in the village."

He reasoned that a healthier tax base would allow Farmingdale to depend less on revenue from summons.

Polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. at Village Hall, 361 Main St.

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