Democratic Legis. Laura Curran and Republican Jack Martins, the two major party candidates for Nassau County executive, debated environmental and transportation issues Sunday, agreeing on the need to remove nitrogen from South Shore waterways, expand offshore wind sources and improve the county’s water quality.
The candidates forum at Adelphi University in Garden City was co-hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Vision Long Island and the Tri State Transportation Campaign. The forum focused on the county’s environmental challenges, from coastal resilience to sustainable transportation.
Curran, a second-term legislator from Baldwin, and Martins, a former state senator and Mineola mayor from Old Westbury, took questions from a panel of experts and from an audience of more than 50. Cassandra Lems, the Green Party candidate, was not invited to participate and distributed pamphlets outside the event.
Curran and Martins agreed on the need to expedite a plan to pipe sewage from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant through an abandoned aqueduct that runs along Sunrise Highway. The effluent would then connect to a new pipe running south along the Wantagh State Parkway and to the Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant in Wantagh, which uses an ocean outfall pipe to discharge treated wastewater three miles into the ocean.
Bay Park currently discharges its nitrogen-rich effluent into Reynolds Channel, degrading the water quality.
“This is excellent for the environment,” Curran said. “It will reduce the amount of nitrogen going into the bay immediately, which will restore our shellfish and the marshland will start to come back.”
If elected, Curran said she would appoint a new “resiliency officer” to coordinate the county’s environmental efforts.
Martins stressed the need to contain and clean up groundwater contamination emanating from former U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman manufacturing sites in Bethpage to protect the county’s sole source aquifer.
“We have seen that our water supply has come under constant attack,” Martins said. “And it is our responsibility to protect it.”
Martins and Curran each pledged to pursue offshore wind projects, to create charging stations at county buildings for electric vehicles and to protect open space and parkland.
Both candidates also expressed support for creating a dedicated funding stream for the underfunded NICE Bus system by imposing a surcharge on ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.
“A 50-cent surcharge would put about $5 to $6 million directly into bus service,” said Martins, who proposed the fee in his final days in the State Senate last year. “And that would go a long way towards providing a dedicated revenue stream for our bus service.”
Curran said increased bus funding could also come from the county’s reserves fund and from a portion of the MTA payroll tax imposed on county businesses.
“Every dollar that’s spent on our bus system generates many more dollars in economic activity,” Curran said.