Lawmakers voted to hire West Group Law to handle lease negotiations...

Lawmakers voted to hire West Group Law to handle lease negotiations that include NYU Langone, Nassau County and Nassau Community College, seen in 2016. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Nassau County lawmakers on Monday approved nearly $3 million in outside legal contracts for work on issues ranging from a challenge to a new state election law to a plan to build a new medical center on the grounds of Nassau Community College.

The most contentious vote resulted in hiring a law firm to explore legal action over the election changes. Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman is considering suing over the law, which moves many local elections from odd years to even years to coincide with gubernatorial and presidential elections.

The GOP-controlled Rules Committee voted 4-3, along party lines, to award Manhattan-based Genova Burns LLC the $500,000 contract.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, signed the measure in December after it passed the Democratic-controlled State Legislature. It goes into effect in 2026.

Advocates argue that New York traditionally has higher voter turnout in even-numbered years than in odd years when town and county offices are on the ballot. Democrats historically have higher turnout during gubernatorial and presidential years.

Republicans oppose the law, saying it will lead voters to ignore local issues on ballots where federal and state races dominate.

Nassau is not the first municipality to consider a challenge. Last month, the GOP-controlled Onondaga County Legislature set aside funds for a lawsuit.  

By lumping local elections with high-stakes races on the federal and state levels, there is the potential for "ballot fatigue," John Hiller, Nassau's chief deputy county attorney, said.

"There's an absolute concern that the lower part of the ballot will not receive the actual attention of the higher part of the ballot, and the importance at a local level could be lost by virtue of the overwhelming form that's going to be presented to the voter," Hiller said.

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove), the minority leader, said the county shouldn't be the entity filing and funding a lawsuit.

"We're asking the county taxpayers to pay for a lawsuit that might influence the possible results of elections based on what year we vote in. And just because one party doesn't like those results doesn't mean that the taxpayers should have the burden of a half million dollars to be put on this," DeRiggi-Whitton said. "If someone's not happy with it, that's a real political issue, not a governmental issue."

After the vote, Blakeman said in a statement: "Nassau County is resolute in making sure that local issues are not drowned out by national and state issues and ensuring greater voter participation.”

Lawmakers also voted to hire West Group Law, of White Plains, to handle lease negotiations that include NYU Langone, Nassau Community College and the county. NYU Langone said last year it plans to seek approvals to build a $3 billion medical center on the campus' grounds.

The Rules Committee voted 4-0, with three Democrats abstaining.

Steve Ritea, a spokesman for NYU Langone, said in a statement: "We are actively working with Nassau County, the state and Nassau Community College (NCC) to develop a new, state-of-the-art teaching hospital and medical education and research facility on the NCC campus, further deepening our commitment to providing world-class health care to Long Island residents."   

Legislators also approved a separate contract with West Group Law, which is representing the county in a lawsuit with vendors sparring over development of a new Family & Matrimonial Court in Garden City. The contract adds $966,000 to the firm's current contract, putting the total contract at $1.961 million.

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

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