The debt and the runaway spending have been addressed, though the consequences of past corruption still entangle the Town of Oyster Bay.
Supervisor Joseph Saladino, after 13 months in office, relishes tackling the problems. He told residents at a recent civic meeting in Farmingdale that, “It’s a real pleasure to go to work seven days a week to turn this town around.”
He listed what he considers his accomplishments, including reducing the town’s workforce, a $1.3 million tax levy decrease in the 2018 budget, trimming the debt (by the end of this year) by a planned 22 percent, increasing the rental fees fivefold for concessions at the golf courses and beaches, and going from paying to have recycles removed to a single-stream process that will bring $435,000/year into the town’s coffers.
The town board voted to raise annual parking permit fees for residents of unincorporated areas to $50 and $10. Some who opposed the increase had argued that the town first needed to address the shortage of parking spots. Saladino repeatedly argued that the fee increases helped bring fairness to paying the $8.2 million annual cost of maintaining the many parking lots, the majority at railroad stations, that the town operates.
“A lot of people complained, why do they have to pay for the maintenance of the parking lots when they don’t use them,” Saladino told Anton Media Group.
To help grapple with the parking shortage, Saladino formed a Commuter Parking Advisory Committee that he co-chairs with Councilman Anthony Macagnone.
On it, he said, “You have experts, engineers, people who are familiar with architecture and construction. But you also have the regular residents who are commuters.”
He added, “The task force helps us determine [solutions], and it’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all. There’s not one answer to everything.”
And not all solutions will be as simple as restriping the commuter lot at the Massapequa railroad station to add an additional 50 spots.
When he decided to leave the New York State Assembly last January to assume the leadership of the town, Saladino knew there’d be many problems to fix.
“So [the parking shortage] is one more situation that I fully recognize needs to be addressed to find the solutions, and we need to do it appropriately and hopefully without tremendous expense,” he observed. “One of the things I have to do as a responsible supervisor is to look at the costs and determine the benefits—because no one wants to go out and borrow $100 million.”
Saladino said he also created task forces to deal with the opioid crisis and diversity. One of the areas he claims he’s made progress in is improving the Department of Planning and Development. He installed Leslie Maccarone to lead the department shortly after he took office, and one of their biggest successes has been to institute same day permits, the vast majority to residential projects.
At the recent public hearing of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) in Hicksville, Firoz Shaikh, a CPA based in the hamlet, claimed that, “There’s always complaints from my clients that the town is very unfriendly towards business.”
He was referring to the process of obtaining permits from the planning department. and such issues as commercial building signage.
Maccarone was called upon to respond and affirmed, “This year, we’ve spent a lot of time rebuilding the department. Besides streamlining the permit process, we’ve added people.”
The next step in the process of revitalizing the downtown, Maccarone related, was implementing the zoning changes that will be necessary to allow mixed-use buildings in the town’s current CB zoning—which does not allow residential uses except through variances.
Maccarone assured attendees that “we will be fast-tracking the projects within this Hicksville downtown area,” claiming that commercial projects, if all site plan approvals are completed, can receive a permit within three or four weeks.
Oyster Bay Deputy Supervisor Gregory Carman Jr., who co-chairs the Local Planning Committee determining how to spend the $10 million state DRI grant to improve Hicksville, said that Maccarone’s department is “completely different than what it was a year ago. I’m an attorney from the private sector, and I know how difficult it was dealing with the department [when] representing clients.”
After praising Maccarone’s leadership, Carman stated that the planning department “is friendly and is there to help. To anyone interested in seeing development happen, we’re there to work with you.”
“My job is to look at all the problems in the town and to fix them,” Saladino summed up. “And to bring about financial responsibility and operate the town responsibly.”