Eight candidates are running for two Hempstead trustee seats as the village grapples with a $2 billion downtown redevelopment project and the fallout from a troubled school district.
The crowded field of candidates will vie on the March 18 ballot for two seats held by incumbents Don L. Ryan and Perry Pettus, who are seeking re-election.
The challengers are: Hempstead school board president Lamont Johnson; Hempstead Housing Commissioner Marcia Turner and her running mate, Wall Street accountant Jewel Lynette Butler; school administrator Ida Rowe and her running mate, former NYPD Det. Dennis Jones; and real estate broker Lenora Long.
Ryan, 72, a registered Republican, and Pettus, 56, a registered Democrat, are running together on the Unity Party line. Ryan has served on the board since he was elected in 2001. Pettus has served on the board since 2002.
The top two finishers are elected to four-year terms. There are five seats on the board, plus the mayor.
The board has touted the village's improved bond rating and lowered crime rate. Ryan said he plans to focus on reducing crime.
The village is grappling with a project to revitalize downtown Hempstead, including a series of multistory apartments, businesses including a hotel, an entertainment complex and parking.
Ryan said the project focuses too much on apartments in a village already clogged with heavy traffic.
Butler, 47, a registered Democrat, and Turner, 58, an architect, whose voting party is undeclared, are running on a joint ticket on the Moving Party Line. Both are longtime Hempstead residents who have raised families attending Hempstead schools.
They are running on a platform of reforming the school district and bringing jobs and business to downtown Hempstead. Butler said she is in favor of improving downtown by keeping local residents employed and bringing prominent development to the area.
"There was a time when Hempstead was the shopping mecca and we can do that again," Butler said.
Rowe, 67, and Jones, 55, both registered Democrats, are running together on the Hempstead Rising Party line. The two candidates say the village needs to take responsibility for the school system and reducing crime. They said the downtown plan can bring more promising businesses to the village.
"The most pressing issue is the school system is fractured. We question the leadership and where it's going," Rowe said.
Hempstead Union Free School District board president Johnson, 43, whose registered party is undeclared, is running on the Bridging Divide Party line.
Johnson was elected to the school board in 2013 and selected as board president last year. He said he plans to serve the remainder of his term on the school board and as village trustee simultaneously, if elected.
He said he wants to bring jobs to Hempstead and will work to lower crime. Johnson said the village has forgotten about its schools, which he said need to be an intricate part of the community.
"In order for this village to work, the village and the school district need to bridge the divide between the two," Johnson said.
Long, 69, who is a registered Democrat, is running on the Committed to Action Party line. She said the downtown redevelopment project needs to be rethought. "It's not a good deal for the village," Long said. "I think it should be started from the beginning to see how the project could benefit the residents of Hempstead."
Voting is from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. at polling places in the Fulton School, Jackson Street firehouse, Hempstead police armory, Village Hall, Jackson School, Franklin School, West End firehouse, Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School, East End firehouse, Barack Obama School, Southside firehouse, Lawrence Road Junior High School and Kennedy Memorial Park Recreation Center.