Part of an occasional series of interviews with Long Island's town and municipal leaders
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray recently visited Newsday to talk to reporters Aisha Al-Muslim and Patrick Whittle and a group of editors about issues and developments in the town. Here are excerpts.
On the town's finances:
"I'm very proud that the Town of Hempstead has a AAA bond rating. We don't need to resort to one-shot revenues, fiscal gimmicks or layoffs that unfortunately other municipalities need to do in order to stay afloat . . . We are also in the middle of a tax freeze . . . We borrow $50 million a year and we pay off $50 million a year. By keeping that balanced structure, we have been able to stay afloat and to do well . . . For every three people who retire, we hire two and that has gone a long way in keeping our budget straight."
On the town's renewable energy park in Point Lookout:
"It's the first of its kind on Long Island and a tremendous victory in a green sense . . . The wind turbine has produced about 120,000 kilowatt-hours so far . . . We have a 60-kilowatt solar field . . . and a solar house . . . We also have a shellfish nursery that is completely solar- and wind-powered, where we are able to produce 9 million sea clams a year that are deposited into the bays. We are looking into geothermal energy and . . . putting solar panels on all senior centers."
On the failed Lighthouse Project:
The project "was not sustainable -- that's the reason why we could not go with the [New York Islanders owner Charles] Wang plan . . . The roadways and the infrastructure just would not support 10 to 11 million square feet of development there. Wang's plan had the density of the Upper West Side . . . His concessions were that, 'We are hoping to get funds from the feds, we are hoping to get funds from the state.' The problem from a zoning authority standpoint is that we can't approve plans or developments based on wish lists."
On the future of the Nassau Coliseum property:
"In June 2011, the town board took the extraordinary step of creating a zone that was sustainable and that we could all live with . . . We tried to create as flexible of a plan that we could so that the landowner, Nassau County, could then work with a developer with creating a new development on the property. We basically want to be flexible and get out of the way . . . I'm very hopeful that a developer or developers are going to step up because it is just too much of an important piece of property."
On a casino at Belmont Park and Elmont's Hempstead Turnpike rezoning:
"The stakeholders would ultimately make the decision whether there would be a casino or not. They are just going to have to do their due diligence with the community . . . Obviously if a casino would be on the property, that would flow into our new zone in Elmont for the Hempstead Turnpike corridor and hopefully help our zone . . . It called for the first time for mixed-use -- residences above commercial structures."
On the state comptroller conducting an audit of the town's animal shelter budget:
"I have no concerns about our budgeting practices in our animal shelter . . . I do believe the comptroller might have been pressured into calling for the audit, and that's fine. I don't care what the motivations are . . . I view some of the concerns from the animal shelter people as opportunities to improve our shelter . . . We have two full-time veterinarians, we conducted a national search for an animal shelter director, we have a new assistant director, we will have central air conditioning, we are creating beautiful walking trails, we have a TNR program and a volunteer program."