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Opinion

Gillen wants takeover of building dept.

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen on July

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen on July 2, 2019 in Hempstead. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Gillen wants outside control of building dept.

State officials are coming to the Town of Hempstead Tuesday to meet with Supervisor Laura Gillen, in what Gillen told The Point she hopes will be the first step toward bringing in a state monitor for the town building department — a move that comes after years of complaints over the department’s handling of superstorm Sandy.

Gillen and State Sen. John Brooks first called for the state’s involvement over the summer. In August, two State Senate committees requested that the state Department of State investigate the building department, saying the state should “consider further intervention, including, but not limited to, the placement of a state monitor.”

The state’s involvement marks the latest attempt by Gillen to bring in a third party to oversee or investigate the town’s building department. Previous efforts were thwarted by the Republican-led town board, whose members said they wanted to handle the department internally. 

Tuesday’s meeting was set before Hempstead Deputy Building Commissioner John Novello was indicted on charges that he stole $59,000 from the Cedarhurst Republican Committee, Gillen said. But she noted that Novello’s arrest shows why the building department itself shouldn’t handle its own reform efforts.

The scrutiny stems from the building department’s handling of Sandy. The town didn’t notify homeowners that their homes had been designated as substantially damaged, which required them to do significant and expensive repairs they didn’t know were needed, sometimes until years later when they filed unrelated building permits. 

But Gillen said the issues in the department go beyond the storm.

“I have heard from several developers who said they don’t even want to build in the Town of Hempstead because it’s such a nightmare dealing with our building department,” Gillen told The Point. “My ultimate goal is to get an independent expert to come in there and tell me how to fix my building department and root out corruption.”

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Can we all just get along?

After two hard-fought campaigns for the State Senate, James Gaughran’s defeat of 24-year incumbent Carl Marcellino last year was also the start of a beautiful friendship.

Marcellino had perfected retail politics over his long tenure, and the many organizations he assisted over the years chose to honor him this year, with his successor making a presentation Thursday night at the Huntington Historical Society. “He always is extremely gracious and helpful to me and has given me some good advice,” Gaughran told The Point.

So when local fire departments called about the status of the annual 9/11 memorial ceremony in Oyster Bay Marcellino had spent significant time organizing, Gaughran asked him to co-host it with Gaughran.

“I was very pleased,” Marcellino told The Point, acknowledging his surprising friendship with Gaughran.

The former senator said he had secured state funding to build the wall that is inscribed with the names of Oyster Bay residents who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. He said the first memorial event at the Western Waterfront on West End Avenue was in 2003 and the name of each victim is read aloud while family members display their photos. “It’s a very moving ceremony and I have been a part of it for many years.” 

Marcellino also said that post-Albany life is very good. He is now president of the Oyster Bay Rotary Club and he was finally able to go on a vacation to Italy with his family, spending eight days in Rome and Florence. 

“It was great.”

- Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Pencil Point

A new leaf

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Quick Points

  • Starbucks chairman emeritus Howard Schultz has ended his independent bid for president in 2020. A free double latte if you remembered he was running.
  • Russia and Ukraine exchanged prisoners, with Russia returning 35 Ukrainians in a move hailed as the first step toward ending the conflict between the two countries. But it’s hard to see how this ends without Russia returning what Ukraine really wants back — Crimea.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials undermined their own weather forecasters by issuing an unsigned statement erroneously defending President Donald Trump’s contention that Alabama would be hit hard by Hurricane Dorian. Surely you’re not surprised that NOAA is not immune to this administration’s abiding rule that politics trumps science.
  • Don Clavin, the Hempstead Town tax receiver and Republican candidate for supervisor, says he will cut staffing if elected. Funny, don’t remember Clavin objecting when previous GOP supervisor Anthony Santino and the Republican-controlled town board voted after Democrat Laura Gillen’s election in 2017 to protect 192 town employees by granting them appointments, promotions, raises and transfers and to bar the termination of union employees for budgetary reasons.
  • President Donald Trump’s planned talks with the Taliban: Political genius, TV-ready stunt, or ill-fated and inept bungling? Given results of nuclear talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the Iran nuclear reboot, the Middle East peace process and the tariff war with China, we might have an answer.
  • Former White House adviser Steve Bannon says no Democratic candidate will be able to stand up to President Donald Trump on a debate stage and convince voters he or she should be commander-in-chief instead of Trump. That must be because, unlike Trump, none of them will pretend to know more than the generals who report to him.
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer, who plans to spend $100 million of his own money seeking the presidency, has qualified for the fourth Democratic debate, in October, after missing this week’s debate in Houston. But there’s a better way to hammer home his message that there’s too much money in politics: Drop out.

- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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