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Year in Review: Top Stories of 2013

The family of Dean LaLima embraces outside a Nassau County Courtroom after a verdict is read in the fatal hit-and-run case on Aug. 1, 2013. Photo credit: Geoffrey Walter
The family of Dean LaLima embraces outside a Nassau County Courtroom after a verdict is read in the fatal hit-and-run case on Aug. 1, 2013. Photo credit: Geoffrey Walter
Board Approves Firefighter Layoffs: In February, Garden City village trustees voted 6-2 in favor of laying off six professional firefighters and one fire lieutenant during an emotional standing room only board meeting. The lieutenant, under civil service law, was demoted to firefighter. The seven employees were John Occhipinti, Eric Baron, Brian Galazka, Shawn Bigam, Peter Thorp, Thomas Talento and Robert Noonan (a lieutenant demoted to firefighter).

Fire Commish: We Will Not Put Up With Union Thuggery: Trustee Dennis Donnelly, appointed fire commissioner, read a statement at the May 2 board meeting regarding what he described as "union thuggery." In part, the state read: The volunteer force in the village has been inundated with harassment on their personal jobs by union representatives in solidarity with the Garden City Fire Union. This harassment has been conveyed by the NYC PBA, the NYC Fire Union, the fire dispatchers union, the teachers union, etc. The subject of this harassment centers on volunteerism. They say that union members should not under any circumstances volunteer as a fireman in Garden City where union jobs are at stake.

Guilty Verdict in Fatal Hit-and-Run of Dean LaLima: The Williston Park man charged in the fatal hit-and-run that claimed the life of Grimaldi's pizza manager Dean LaLima was found guilty of all charges in August. Raymond Kalenka, 46, was later sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years in jail. Nassau County Judge Jerald S. Carter cautioned the family of Dean LaLima that no sentence he could impose could fill the “hole in their soul.” Though LaLima’s father, John, and his sister pleaded through cracked voices and teary eyes to impose the maximum allowable sentence, Judge Carter said two to seven years at an upstate penal facility was “not warranted” due to the lack of Kalenka’s criminal history.

Judge: Village's 2004 Zoning Ordinance Violated Fair Housing Act: A U.S. District Court judge ruled in December that a 2004 Garden City zoning ordinance intentionally discriminated against minorities in an attempt to keep them from living in the village. Judge Arthur Spatt said the village violated the federal Fair Housing Act, the United States Constitution and other civil rights statutes when it illegally discriminated "on the basis of race and national origin against minorities in Nassau County" and "perpetuated deep-seated segregation that has allowed Garden City to remain an overwhelmingly white enclave surrounded by predominantly minority neighboring towns." Village officials said they are "extremely disappointed" in the ruling and intend to file an appeal.

NYS Education Commish 'Suspends' Common Core Forum: New York State education commissioner John King "suspended" an October roundtable discussion on the new Common Core standards scheduled to take place in Garden City after emotions ran high at debut Town Hall in Poughkeepsie. Parents were outraged.

20th Anniversary of LIRR MAssacre: December 7, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of Colin Ferguson's shooting rampage on the 5:33 p.m. Long Island Rail Road commuter train out of Penn Station due to arrive the Merillon Avenue station in Garden City.

Board Approves $1.5M Bond Resolution for Expanded Senior Center: In October, Garden City village trustees voted 6-2 in favor of making, at maximum, $1.5 million worth of improvements to the senior center on Golf Club Lane. Trustees Nick Episcopia and Richard Silver both voted against the expenditure. The move got mixed reviews.

Board Approves Adelphi Construction: Village trustees unanimously approved Adelphi University's application to erect a nearly 100,000 square foot two- and three-story building on a portion of its Garden City campus after the continuation of a public hearing on the matter June 6.

A Victory in the Fight Against Airplane Noise: Days before the 2013 legislative session closed in June, the New York State Assembly passed a bill that requires the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey (PA) to conduct a noise and land use compatibility study to better address the rise in aircraft noise over Long Island. Though Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed the bill, some are still calling it a victory because he's still directing the Port Authority to conduct noise studies that meet the requirements of Part 150 for LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports.

Village Administrator Announces Plans for Retirement: Robert Schoelle will retire in 2014 after working for the village of Garden City for more than four decades. The long-time village resident has served as village administrator for the past 33 years and will continue serving in this capacity until the village board of trustees hires a replacement. During his tenure as village administrator, Schoelle worked under 18 mayors, including current mayor John Watras. The board is currently seeking Schoelle's replacement. Interested applicants should forward a cover letter and resume to resumes@affionpublic.com. Reference IVGC.

John Watras, Garden City's 45th Mayor: John Watras officially took the oath as Garden City's 45th mayor during ceremonies April 1. He received 262 votes during in the general village election. Watras, unanimously selected for the seat by the nominating committee of his western property owners' association, was blindsided in January when fellow West trustee Laurence Quinn challenged his nomination. Watras won the Feb. run-off.

Two New Faces on the Village Board: Village acting justice Merril Biscone administered the oath of office to newly elected trustees Robert Bolebruch, Richard Silver, Dennis Donnelly and John DeMaro Monday at village hall.
Bolebruch and Silver are newcomers to the board, representing the West and Central respectively.

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