West Shore Road, a vital North Shore artery that connects Oyster Bay and Mill Neck to Bayville, continues to be a political punching bag: its reconstruction has been stalled again for the third time in five years.
Though the deteriorating road’s underpinnings were visibly crumbling into Oyster Bay Harbor, the late Nassau Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) held up renovation plans in July, 2012 by questioning ownership of the thoroughfare that had been maintained by the county for decades. Some insiders suggested Schmitt had a personal dispute with then-Oyster Bay Town Clerk Steve Labriola, whose brother, Anthony, was a principal in the contracting firm hired to do the road reconstruction. Steve Labriola through a spokesman denied any involvement and Schmitt representatives said then that the presiding officer’s only concern was proper expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
Two years later, Republican County Comptroller George Maragos stalled the second phase of the road project for nearly six months. Insiders speculated the delay was due to a tiff between Maragos and Steve Labriola, who had quit his town job to serve as Maragos’ chief deputy. A Maragos spokesman insisted the comptroller’s only motive was to review and recheck the contract. Maragos approved the second phase in March 2015 at about the same time Labriola left the comptroller’s office to work for County Executive Edward Mangano.
Now, county Democrats have denied funding for the final phase of the road reconstruction as part of their plan to block borrowing for capital projects until the Republicans agree to hire an independent inspector general to review contracts.
Democrats cite the recent conviction of former State Sen. Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on federal corruption charges that included, in part, the $12 million award of a county contract to a firm that hired Skelos’ son. Skelos and his son are appealing.
In mailings to community and service groups, Republican county lawmakers accuse Democrats of endangering public safety with their borrowing boycott. The letters ask residents to call Democratic legislators and urge they vote to approve projects such as the purchase of new bulletproof vests, new police ambulances and repairs to West Shore Road.
“I write today concerning a very troubling and dangerous action undertaken by the Nassau Democrats in the County Legislature to deny funding for the final phase of reconstruction of West Shore Road,” wrote Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow). “West Shore Road serves as a prime access route between Oyster Bay, Mill Neck and Bayville and is utilized by thousands of our residents ... We cannot allow Nassau Democrats to continue to put our communities at risk.”
Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) countered, “We all want to see things done right, the proper precautions put into all roadways in Nassau County. We also have to have a basic level of confidence that contracts that are done in Nassau County are scrutinized by an independent inspector general ... We can’t give a blank check on a capital budget of millions and millions of dollars without having at the same time the proper aspects in place to allow for scrutiny and transparency in the process.”