Port Jefferson election: 3 vie for 2 trustee posts
Carmine Dell Aquila's first term in office has been an eventful one: The Port Jefferson village trustee championed a controversial building ban, rallied opposition to a proposed $20-million fish farm and voted to censure a village mayor who later decided not to seek re-election.
Now Dell Aquila, a 28-year village resident and semiretired developer, is on the ballot with two challengers in Tuesday's election. His opponents are Lee Rosner, a corporate real estate broker and chairman of the village zoning board, and Jim Burke, a lawyer and former village planning board chairman.
The top two vote-getters earn two-year seats on Port Jefferson's board, which has four trustees and a mayor.
Dell Aquila said he has worked to protect Port Jefferson from "unchecked development" that "puts a burden on our infrastructure, which is taxed as it is."
But other village officials, including Mayor Margot Garant, said Dell Aquila is a divisive figure. Garant said she has contacted the state Commission on Public Integrity to inquire about removing Dell Aquila from office.
Garant accused Dell Aquila of disclosing confidential village information and spending town money without authorization on concrete barriers to keep drivers off eroding roads. Dell Aquila dismissed the charges as "without evidence or merit."
Rosner accused Dell Aquila of fostering a "very negative" climate at village hall and being "more interested in looking under rocks" to defame political opponents than in handling village business. Dell Aquila said he has been vigilant about village business.
Burke, who lost a trustee race in 2007, said he has tried to focus his campaign on repairing village roads and preserving the Port Jefferson power plant rather than on personality conflicts.
"Back-to-basics issues," he said. "The things that local government is really here for."
Dell Aquila said his unsuccessful push last year for a building slowdown would have allowed the waterfront village to update antiquated codes and plan for future growth. He said he still believes the 8,000-resident village needs to protect itself from reckless growth, though he would support redevelopment in the village's uptown and downtown areas if it is handled "in an equitable fashion and if it really benefits the residents of Port Jefferson."
Dell Aquila said his opponents are complicit in some of the village's poor planning decisions because of their work on the planning and zoning boards. He pointed to a medical park near the train station that "will be a traffic nightmare" when it reaches capacity.
Rosner disputed Dell Aquila's claim that he and Burke helped sell out the village to developers. He said the village needs to coexist with local businesses to protect its tax base. Rosner agreed some roads are in need of repair but added the village could fix them with the $5.5-million bond issue on the ballot. "We need to have a strong business district," he said.
Burke said the village needs to partner with the business community to fill vacancies in its uptown neighborhood.
Port Jefferson "needs better coordination between the village and the landowners," he said.
Voting is Tuesday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Port Jefferson Village Hall, 121 W. Broadway.