Manorhaven had been the only village in the Town of North Hempstead with a contested mayoral and trustee race this month and it was proving to be an acrimonious battle. Then the incumbent mayor and his team won a court battle Thursday to remove the challengers from the ballot.
The team led by incumbent Mayor Michael Meehan sued the challengers in court, arguing that their nomination acceptances were not properly notarized. A State Supreme Court justice in Nassau ruled to keep the challengers on the ballot. Meehan's team then appealed to the Appellate Division in Brooklyn and prevailed with a ruling in their favor.
Giovanna Giunta, who sought to unseat Meehan, will now wage a write-in effort, along with Dorit Zeevi-Farrington and Mark Lazarovic, who are angling for two available trustee seats. All terms are two years.
"The opposition has stripped the constituency of the opportunity to have a choice," said Lazarovic, 64, a builder.
A campaign representative for Meehan's team did not respond to requests for comment about the decision.
Lazarovic said their team opted not to appeal further in the interest of time and because Thursday's decision by four justices was unanimous.
"It's a little devastating," he said. "We're still hoping to win."
The challengers plan to stand outside the polling place asking people to write in their names and to remind voters that the names need to spelled correctly.
"We have long, complicated names," Lazarovic noted.
Giunta, 37, a substitute educational assistant in Port Washington schools and the owner of a transportation company, and Zeevi-Farrington, president of three yacht charter companies, say they've met with suspicious acts that Giunta said were a "a little coincidental." Giunta said a drill bit was inserted in a tire of one of her trucks and brake lines were cut on a vehicle in May, soon after she announced her candidacy.
Zeevi-Farrington said campaign signs were vandalized, which opponent trustee candidate Patrick Gibson said also happened to his team's signage.
"We generally have contested races, and they're generally spirited in Manorhaven," said, Gibson, 40, who ran for trustee four years ago and lost.
"It's always been a contentious, nasty place in terms of elections," Lazarovic said.
Brendan Fahey, the incumbent trustee running on Meehan's team, could not be reached. Fahey, 52, is an equipment operator in the Town of North Hempstead's highway department.
This is the first time Giunta and her teammates are running for office. They all say they were prompted to enter the race because of frustration over a lack of attention from the administration about their concerns over a cell phone tower.
"As we got exposed to what's really happening in village hall, we just realized we can't win until we run for election and we convey to the people what's going on," Zeevi-Farrington, 49, said.
Lazarovic said he's opposed the cell tower since it was approved by former Mayor Nicholas Capozzi in 2007. Lazarovic said he sued the village, leading to a stop-work order that prevented its completion.
Capozzi, who had been mayor or a trustee for 12 years before he lost to Meehan in 2008, said residents had complained of no cell phone service in Manorhaven.
While Capozzi signed the contract, he said Meehan and Fahey were on the zoning board at the time and approved it. Meehan said he and Fahey were alternates on the board at the time and did not vote or participate in any discussions regarding the tower.
If re-elected, Meehan, 49, who owns a business expediting visas and passports, vows that the stop-work order "will not be lifted under any circumstance" and that he will seek to have the tower moved to a nonresidential area.
"The notion that I've been less than responsive to the community is false," he said.
Gibson said whoever is in charge of the village needs to understand telecommunications rules and that his slate's opponents have a misguided idea that they can simply "wave a magic wand and make the cell tower go away."
Beyond the cell tower, Meehan said he plans to continue getting grant money to restore Morgan's Dock and revitalize the village's main street, Manorhaven Boulevard.
He cited plans for a rain garden that will capture rain water for plants along the main street. The plants will absorb a large percentage of runoff, filtering pollutants before they reach Manhasset Bay, he said.
If elected, Lazarovic said his team will encourage residential development in an industrial area of Manhasset Isle.
He also plans to address street flooding. "The drainage here is quite awful," he said. "Some of it flows right into the bay. It's a hazard."
The village needs more parkland, Lazarovic said, adding that he would like to see a dog run and to turn now-abandoned Morgan's Dock into a park.
Giunta said the court actions wasted village resources.
Meehan said his political party is paying the legal fees and that suing was necessary to show "my opposition's disregard for the law."
Capozzi said the village's elections often feel like the "wild, wild west." In 2006 he had an opposing trustee candidate thrown off the ballot for falsifying petitions. During the 2008 race, a mayoral candidate was removed from the ballot after a State Supreme Court justice found there wasn't enough evidence he was a village resident.
"But don't get me wrong, it's a lovely village," Capozzi said. "It's got so much potential."
Voting will be held Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Village Hall, 33 Manorhaven Blvd.