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Mineola election focuses on tax breaks, apartment development

John Colbert, who served as mayor of Mineola

John Colbert, who served as mayor of Mineola from 1994 to 2003, said he opposes what he called the "massive development of downtown Mineola" and that large apartment complexes such as the 275-unit Modera, seen Tuesday, March 1, 2016, detract from the area's quality of life. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Two former mayors are seeking to rejoin Mineola’s village board, challenging incumbent trustees Paul Pereira and Paul Cusato in an election where development is a key concern.

The village board voted in 2013 to double the length of a term from two years to four years. This month’s election is the first since the resolution was adopted.

John Colbert, who served as mayor from 1994 to 2003, said he’s running on the Save Our Suburb Party line because he opposes what he called the “massive development of downtown Mineola.”

He said large apartment complexes such as the 275-unit Modera, are excessive and detract from Mineola’s quality of life. More than a thousand units have been proposed to be built in Mineola, according to a study commissioned by the village last year. Colbert said the village board has erred in handing developers too many tax breaks.

Colbert said that, if elected, he would work to keep development in check and “be the voice of the people.”

Larry Werther, who previously served on the board for 10 years, said he’s running again because the current board has lost its way. He also cited the village’s “massive tax breaks” to developers.

“We’ve got to stop the madness, we really do,” Werther, 63, a retired vice president at J.P. Morgan, said. “We’ve got to get government back in the village of the people, for the people.”

Werther was a board member from 2003 to 2013, and was appointed mayor in 2011 after former Mayor Jack Martins was elected to the State Senate.

If re-elected, Werther said, he wants to work with the board and also act as it’s conscience. “I would remind them that we’re not a village of developers,” he said.

Incumbent trustee Paul Cusato is running for a seventh term on the Hometown Party line. A trustee for 12 years, Cusato said the village is on the right track with development.

“We are moving in the right direction,” Cusato, 67, a retired electronics designer, said. “If we didn’t do anything, we’d have had the same abandoned buildings that we had years ago.”

Cusato added that after recently approving projects such as a 192-unit complex at the former Corpus Christi school, the board now intends to dial back development and assess the changes.

Paul Pereira, a trustee since 2008, and deputy mayor since 2011 is running on the New Line Party line for a fifth term. He said that the village is in the best shape it’s ever been in, and that he wants to see the current board’s work to fruition.

Pereira touted the village’s “relatively flat” taxes, fiscal responsibility, and lack of reliance on bonding. Development incentive bonuses have enabled the village to make improvements without “taking it out of our residents pockets,” Pereira, 44, said, adding that he was confident that the village’s infrastructure could withstand downtown development, and that Mineola had the advantage of a “unique location and position.”

Voting is on March 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mineola Village Hall, 155 Washington Ave.

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