Rhetoric surrounding Tuesday’s Amityville Village election has deteriorated to the point that residents say it’s become one of the most combative campaign seasons in village history.
“I’ve seen all the elections since the 1930s and without question this definitely has the nastiest tone about it,” said Bill Lauder, 94, director of the Amityville Historical Society.
Mailings and social media posts have taken swipes at a candidate’s military service, accused another of being tied to special interests and alleged a sexual favor was exchanged for a political appointment.
The two trustees running for mayor, Amityville First Party candidate Nick LaLota and Hometown Party candidate Dennis Siry, and the future of the Amityville Police Department are at the center of the squabbles. Siry and his supporters have accused LaLota of wanting to abolish the department. The police department can only be dissolved by public referendum and LaLota said he only wants a better contract for the village’s interests, noting that police costs make up 52 percent of the municipal budget.
Adding to the tension are outside politicians. Babylon Town Supervisor and Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer took out a full-page ad in a weekly paper denouncing LaLota.
Lauder, who was the Republican Babylon Town supervisor from 1963 to 1965, said Schaffer’s involvement was unique in village politics. He said the village has been intent on keeping national political parties out of elections, and candidates always run on local party lines.
“I represent all the residents of the village and I feel that gives me the ability to speak to them,” Schaffer said.
Also stepping into the local election is the Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation, a super PAC run by Suffolk County police unions. Newsday has reported the group has spent more than $2.8 million on local races since 2011.
The group includes Christian Mullin, president of the Amityville police union, as a member, said foundation president Noel DiGerolamo. The foundation has sent mailings to Amityville residents and canvassed neighborhoods in support of Siry, residents said.
The campaign also has become part of trustees meetings, with residents querying board members about claims made in mailings about disciplinary actions involving village police officers. And, at Monday’s meeting, LaLota announced details about a campaign appearance.
“I was outraged,” said Joan Donnison, president of the Bay Village Civic Association. “I knew it was the last meeting before the election and there would be some kind of partisan stuff going on. I was not surprised but I was appalled.”
LaLota said that board meetings had to serve as political arenas because no candidate forums have been held.
“I think there are many residents who have been misinformed by mailings sent by outsiders and the doubt that’s been created has culminated in them having to turn to ask their questions here at meetings,” LaLota said.
Siry called LaLota’s plug for a campaign event “inappropriate.”
“A board meeting should just be a board meeting,” Siry said. “It’s not fair to the residents.”
Donnison said the nasty tone of the campaign in part caused the civic association board to vote unanimously to not hold a candidate forum for the first time in eight years.
“We were not going to put ourselves in the middle of it,” she said, noting that she worries about lasting harm to the village’s reputation. “This is just not what Amityville is at all.”