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Three slates seek seats in Manorhaven

Village finances, legal costs and empty storefronts are key issues cited among three political slates vying for leadership in Manorhaven.

Three candidates are running for mayor, and six are seeking two trustee spots, all two-year terms. Voters go to the polls on Tuesday.

Challengers to Mayor Giovanna Giunta and trustees Mark Lazarovic and Dorit Zeevi-Farrington say a change in leadership is due. They point to a state audit in February that listed Manorhaven as one of four villages statewide to be labeled in "significant fiscal stress."

The report said short-term debt of $485,000 in fiscal year 2013 was nearly 11 percent of the village budget, when less than 5 percent is recommended.

Officials in the village of 6,700 said the report did not account for expected federal reimbursements for damages from superstorm Sandy; and incumbents said the audit mischaracterized finances. They said the administration fixed years of fiscal mismanagement it inherited.

But challengers also cited a 52 percent increase in the commercial tax rate that fueled a legal challenge from businesses in the village. Officials have adjusted the rate to lower than before and a payment of $104,000 to the business owners who sued has been proposed.

Giunta, 41, a co-owner of Giunta Transport and a paraprofessional for the Port Washington School District, leads the Manorhaven Revival Party.

Elected in 2012, she said she has improved record-keeping, beautified the village's streets and environment, and enhanced safety and transparency. There are solar-powered traffic signs in place, more disabled-accessible features, a quarterly newsletter, a dock being revamped, and an active village dog park and nature preserve, she said.

Running for mayor on the Manorhaven Residents Party line is James M. Avena, 70, a former trustee. Avena, a former president of Cantor Fitzgerald, cited the audit and said he would "tighten" the budget, which village officials say is now balanced. Avena said he would seek input from area business owners to make the village more business-friendly.

John O'Reilly, 55, is running for mayor on The Manorhaven People's Party line. A superintendent at the Albin Gustafson Co., O'Reilly said securing grants is key to funding repairs to roads and sewer systems. Lawsuits have hurt the village's finances, he said. And he vowed to consider housing for young professionals and to fix infrastructure.

Incumbent trustee and Revival Party candidate Zeevi-Farrington, 53, has served on the board since 2012. Owner of the Manhattan Steamboat Co., she said the administration has worked to beautify the area and become more transparent and fiscally prudent.

Her running mate Lazarovic, 68, who runs the Swan Harbor Homes building company, touted the village's handling of the aftermath of superstorm Sandy and said it is a priority to seek re-enforcement for the village's pump station.

Avena's running mate is Kevin M. Gately Jr., 46, a project manager for a large global technology consulting firm that he declined to name publicly. He said his financial experience would help ensure more austere practices.

Running with Avena and Gately is Priscilla von Roeschlaub, 77, an associate broker for Douglas Elliman who wants to see the business corridor thrive, seniors stay in the village, and housing codes enforced for landlords.

People's Party candidate for trustee John S. Popeleski, 54, is a water plant operator for the Port Washington Water District and a volunteer firefighter. He said he would focus on revitalizing village infrastructure and enforcing local codes for illegal parking and housing.

Jonathan K. Davis, 47, a trial attorney with Queens-based Mallilo & Grossman, said the village should be involved in fewer legal battles, and he criticized the commercial tax hike. He said the village must lure residents to the waterfront and convene discussions with business owners.

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