The central question in the race between Tom Suozzi and...

The central question in the race between Tom Suozzi and Edward Mangano is what to do about the county's tenuous finances. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Republican Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his Democratic challenger Thomas Suozzi spoke on a host of environmental issues -- from the Bay Park Sewage Plant to green energy initiatives -- at forum held Wednesday night at Hofstra University.

Mangano and Suozzi took separate turns, answering questions for 30 minutes from a panel of environmental advocates and audience members at the event organized by the New York League of Conservation Voters and Hofstra.

Both candidates, when asked about their plans for the Bay Park Sewage Plant heavily damaged by superstorm Sandy, said they would support the creation of an outfall pipe that extends into the Atlantic Ocean to get rid of the treated sewage water.

The pipe currently extends to Reynolds Channel, which has experienced spillage of partially treated sewage from the pipe, including a spill in the spring.

Suozzi, who served as county executive from 2002 to 2009 before losing to Mangano by 386 votes, said that, before leaving office, his administration presented a master plan in 2009 to overhaul the aging plant, and fixing the plant would be on the top of his agenda.

"I'm in favor of an ocean outfall pipe unless we can demonstrate that there is something more efficient," Suozzi said.

Mangano has sought approval from the county legislature to bond a total of $722 million to restore the plant, which serves some 550,000 Nassau residents. So far, the legislature has approved only about one-third of that amount, with Democrats calling for more oversight measures.

Mangano said his plans to repair the plant call for a "regional approach" that would incorporate strengthening treatment plants in Long Beach, Hempstead, Atlantic Beach and Point Lookout.

Both were asked if sea walls should be considered in the wake of superstorm Sandy. Suozzi said "everything should be considered," but added he would convene experts to make a more informed decision. Mangano said his administration was "studying" whether sea walls should be included in the county's post-Sandy infrastructure plans.

When asked how they planned to promote "smart growth" on Long Island, and how they would work with town and village officials on projects, both men pointed to their plans to develop downtown apartments near train stations aimed at luring young professionals.

Suozzi said he would work on building his relationships with local officials, saying "the county executive needs to be the great convener," and said he would create a grant program to help towns and villages revitalize their downtown areas.

"If we don't grow, and grow in responsible ways, we're not going to make it," Suozzi said. "Ninety-five percent of our land mass should stay the same. Five percent around train stations should be redeveloped."

Mangano said his administration has "worked closely with towns and villages" and said the county has created an incentive plan for developers looking to convert empty office buildings into residential spaces. So far, four such conversion projects have been proposed, in Mineola, Long Beach and Farmingdale, Mangano said.

"They are by train stations, which gives us that transit-oriented housing that we're looking for," Mangano said.Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University's National Center for Suburban Studies, who moderated the forum, said the focus on environmental issues for a county executive forum "showed the seriousness and importance of these issues."

"The economy, the environment and social equity -- without all of them working in conjunction, we cannot have a sustainable community, certainly not in the long run," Levy said.

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