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Suozzi decries precinct consolidations; Mangano calls criticism 'silliness'

From left to right: Democratic Nassau County Executive

From left to right: Democratic Nassau County Executive candidate Thomas Suozzi and Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano speaking during interviews with Newsday (Oct. 3, 2013, Oct. 11, 2013) Credit: Heather Walsh, Steve Pfost

Nassau County Executive candidate Thomas Suozzi took swipes Saturday at incumbent Edward Mangano's cost-saving police consolidations and the Republican's campaign signs thanking him for not raising taxes.

Mangano's campaign fired back that Democrat Suozzi's comments outside a downsized police precinct show "just how disconnected" he is "from reality."

"I don't know if you've seen these signs all over Nassau County that say 'Thank you Ed Mangano' -- are you kidding me?" Suozzi said as he joined a protest at the former Fifth Precinct building in Elmont, which is now a lower-staffed community policing center. Suozzi restated his campaign theme that Mangano raised taxes and ran up debt, and then asked the crowd of 75 supporters, "Should we thank him for closing the Fifth Precinct?"

They roared "no."

Suozzi said the precinct consolidations had increased overtime costs.

"He closed the precinct because he said it would save money, and in fact overtime has gone from $36 million when I left office to $61 million projected this year," Suozzi said.

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said Suozzi's administration had to deal with overtime costs as well.

Earlier in the day Mangano defended the consolidations.

"Police protection remains right at that building, duplicative administrative positions have been eliminated, period," Mangano said. "Crime is down 10 percent, we have the safest large suburban county in the nation and we're saving taxpayers over $30 million a year. It's campaign silliness."

Suozzi countered: "His 'Thank you Ed Mangano' signs are really the ultimate silliness -- they're false."

Newsday reported in August that police overtime pay was projected to increase by 21 percent by the end of the year compared with last year.

At that time, police Commissioner Thomas V. Dale said the increase was a result of voluntary buyouts, attrition and restructuring that reduced the number of officers. Officials said that planned hirings would reduce overtime costs. In July the county's Office of Management and Budget projected police overtime by the end of the year will be $60 million, $16 million over-budget.

Year-to-date crime statistics show mixed results in the Fourth Precinct, which absorbed the Fifth Precinct, for the year through Sept. 9. Overall crime is down 10.5 percent, while major crimes declined 0.2 percent, according to the Nassau Police Department. Sex crimes have fallen by 44.4 percent, but robbery is up 21 percent and burglary is up 9.86 percent.

Suozzi said Saturday that Mangano was responsible for increased school taxes because of persistent problems with the county's property-assessment system. Suozzi's remarks echoed a new television ad released Saturday mocking Mangano's campaign signs.

Nevin, who called the event a "desperate political stunt," rebuffed the property tax claim. "School taxes are controlled by schools and not Nassau County," Nevin said in an email.

Both candidates had busy schedules Saturday. Mangano attended a ceremony in the morning adding the names of three volunteer firefighters to a memorial in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.

"It's important that we pause and honor those volunteer firefighters who made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty," Mangano said. "We pause today to offer our county's condolences for their loss and to honor their legacy" by placing their names on the memorial."

Suozzi went to the Black-Brown Alliance conference in north Islandia held by African-American and Latino elected officials.

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