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Candidates Debate Issues Ahead of East Run-Off Election

Eastern Property Owners' Association hosts first ever town hall meeting.

Dennis Donnelly and Francine Ryan debate the issues at a town hall meeting Tuesday in the East.
Dennis Donnelly and Francine Ryan debate the issues at a town hall meeting Tuesday in the East.
The Eastern Property Owners' Association's (EPOA) first ever town hall meeting encouraged debate amongst village trustee candidates Dennis Donnelly, selected by the East Nominating Committee to serve a new, two-year term, and challenger Francine Ryan, a 27-year resident who threw her hat in the political ring for the first time.

Candidates covered numerous issues currently facing the village, including what to do with St. Paul's, revenue generation, keeping the business district vibrant, village communication with residents, particularly during Superstorm Sandy, downtown development and Garden City Fire Department changes, the last of which took center stage.

Revenue Generation

When asked during her EPOA Nominating Committee interview how she'd increase pedestrian traffic downtown and generate revenue for the village, Francine Ryan suggested the formation of a marketing committee similar to the existing Citizens Budget Review Advisory Committee (CBRAC).

"If you have a problem there are talented people in this town willing to help," she said, adding that closing Seventh Street to vehicular traffic could boost revenue.

She also suggested the implementation of renting St. Paul's and paid parking. "It doesn't have to be a lot. It could be 25 cents," she said. Referring to St. Paul's Ryan added, "If there's an opportunity we could rent it could you imagine the potential?"

Ryan also said ambulance services could be provided under the auspices of the Garden City police and fire departments so the village could receive insurance monies.

Donnelly, who has served as board liaison to the business district for years, said merchants are not in favor of closing streets. "Businesses in the business district don't want to do that. We've asked them to do that on multiple occasions," he said, adding there are half the stores that do make money and half the stores that say it'll drive traffic away because there's no parking available for its customers.

He also voiced his opposition to parking meters in Garden City and the creation of a volunteer ambulance corps, stating,"We have the county ambulance available to us at no cost."

St. Paul's

Ryan, who founded the advocacy group Eastern Property Owners for Saving St. Paul's in 2010, said it's no secret she'd like to see the building saved. "St. Paul's, the 800 pound gorilla in the room," she said, adding that she's frustrated by 17 years of "back and forth" and $1 million spent on consultants. "I believe there's a solution that won't cripple taxpayers," she said, though not specific as to what plan would accomplish such.

She suggested the creation of a conservancy, similar to the Central Park Conservancy, to mobilize people to raise money. She likened her idea to the Garden City Pool, a former "land dump" that has now become a community asset and part of what makes "Garden City Garden City."

If elected, Ryan said she'd form an independent committee to come up with a solution for St. Paul's.

Donnelly, who publicly stated he would like to see the building saved, said the village would have to float the bonds for a conservancy and floating bonds in the "$10, $20, $30 $40 million range" would no doubt lower the village's AAA bond rating significantly.

Donnelly, after receiving the Erwin & Bielinski report, believes the Committee to Save St. Paul's (CSSP) proposal is dead. When repeatedly asked if she still supports the group's proposal even after reading the E&B report, Ryan repeatedly responded, "I believe a solution exists without crippling taxpayers."

Communication, or Lack Thereof

Francine Ryan was disappointed by the lack of communication on the part of the village to its residents during Superstorm Sandy. "No information was communicated during the storm," she said, adding that county executive Ed Mangano, the school district and even the local churches all managed to keep in touch with people but the village didn't.

Donnelly agreed, stating the village "could have done a better job." He noted that Garden City's Board of Education was praised, as it should have been, for its frequent contact with parents. "That wasn't the case in the village," he said.

A major part of the problem is the fact that many residents provided their home phone numbers to the village's emergency Swiftreach system. "Most of those numbers were landlines," Donnelly said. The numbers became useless with during prolonged island-wide power outages.

The village is in the process of collecting additional phone numbers via its Swiftreach system. According to a village press release the system can send alerts to phone numbers and also deliver text messages and emails. To achieve the best results, it is vital that residents provide contact information via the village website (at the bottom, right hand side of the home page) including home phone number, cell phone number, work phone number and email addresses.
Robert Alvey January 18, 2013 at 11:40 AM
Good article and it is worth knowing the issues. I endorse Francine Ryan over current Trustee Dennis Donnelly. At a recent trustees meting there was no need to the trustees to argue and trash the GC Library over their efforts on hurricane Sandy before again attacking each other on MORE consultant reports. I know Mrs. Ryan and her family. Francine has lived in Garden City for almost as long as my own family, and has been a continually positive and upbeat force in the community. She has the ability to listen, understand, and works to accomplish goals of the community rather than simply block others if they disagree. I believe it's time to have another lady on the Board. It may help remind the men on the Board to be a bit more respectful of each other and to the public that attends the meetings.
GCRes1 January 18, 2013 at 12:49 PM
A vote for Francine Ryan is a vote for the Committee to Save St. Paul's.
Reed Marcus January 18, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Friendly support for Ms Ryan is admirable. However, after reading materials about the CSSP plan and its inaccuracies and misleading cost information, it is clear that Ms Ryan is mis-guided or is also being duped. The information in the CSSP plan (which she supports) is bad info and needs to be completely revisited. If anyone wants to save St Paul's, they need to distance themselves from that CSSP plan and she would not do that when specifically asked. On the village website there has been a document called Addendum M and most recently there was an independant review of the CSSP plan; in both, the plan is clearly shown as a much more expensive venture that anyone is being led to believe. The CSSP plan just does not work. I hope residents take a moment to read through the docs and please help their friend come up with a new plan with real costs. All should see if residents (even many CSSP members) would support the complete salvaging of the building. Other scenarios (including demolition) need to be seriously considered. All the talk about bad service and over taxation is easy to say, but the truth is that GC remains an amazing place to live. Premier service with a tax price that comes with living here. And the current Board of Trustees has helped control both service and tax rate changes. The BOT does actually agree on most all measures taken in running the village. It is only the St Paul's issue that has been so divisive. Lastly, there are lots of good people who can do good in many areas of the village, but in this particular case, Ms Ryan should not be on the Board of Trustees. It would be great if she got involved in other public situations where residents could see what she can do and can measure her on her actions,and not only by what she says.
john ertle January 18, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Reed I could not agree more with your assessment. As a resident of the East I attended the Town Hall meeting and was very pleased with how the EPOA managed the meeting as well as how over the past year they have really made great strides to inform all residents on these important issues. I was amazed at the lack of preparation on the part of Ms Ryan and that she did not come prepared at all with a plan or the ability to answer the questions posed to her. At a minimum I figured she would be able support her campaign goals. Im sorry but I know as a resident that I am not looking for a Trustee who in these times comes in front of me with the suggestion to install parking meters in our downtown as a means to generate revenue and at the same time in the literature i have said she does not want to shift expenses to residents. Also, she suggested that GC use its current fire department and police department staff to operate an ambulance service so that our Village can get the revenue that Nassau County currently receives. Clearly she forgot that we would have to invest in actual ambulances. I would also like hear the response from the union when she suggests to them that their members double as ambulance drivers and paramedics.
Douglas O'Connor January 19, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Smells like CSSP is motive for both EPOA and WPOA canddiates. Are candidates required to divulge their source of campaign contributions or financing?
GcSupporter#2 January 19, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Good question. Wonder who was doing the donating at Donnelly's fundraiser at the FIREHOUSE.
Reed Marcus January 19, 2013 at 04:42 PM
I had hoped that the Estates challenge was more than just St Paul's, but as I understand it, Mr. Blair appeared at the Estates meeting this past Tuesday with one of Ms Ryan's campaign people (both are high level active members on the CSSP). In fact that was the only person Mr Blair sat with and spoke to. So between that and the fact that Ryan and Blair share a campaign flyer designer, the St Paul's connection exists in the Estates as well. It is a shame than these challengers need to make GC look so bad (with all their distracting issues that are either already fixed or on the mend) when in fact, things are pretty good here, and have been getting better with all that the current board has done (John DeMaro, Dennis Donnelly, and Larry Quinn certainly contributed; sadly on many issues Mr Watras either abstained, voted nay, or made sarcastic remarks/gestures - sometimes an obscene one). This election should truly be about best representation with most qualified individuals. GC residents will only get that with John DeMaro in the ESTATES , Dennis Donnelly in the EAST, and Larry Quinn in the WEST. Honest, hardworking, dedicated and qualified Trustees with remarkable experience and a track record of making changes where needed and controlling spending while improving/maintaining services. I hope that people get out and vote, I think that voting is very important especially in our local elections.
Reed Marcus January 24, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Blair and Ryan are supported by the same small group of CSSP individuals ...... ask your neighbors in the East, A large flyer arrived in today's mail that is the same flyer that Ryan is using. The only difference is the photo. So I guess all of this conspiracy theory is valid after all. Certainly, residents see this for what it is. Challenging with points that are obvious and solutions that are ridiculous. Not mentioning that many matters are being handled already. Presenting future proposals that are either no action or are scenarios that have already been considered... Blair and Ryan as challengers have nothing to bring to the table other than their lack of village experience and their common CSSP agenda. The only way to maintain our premier services and improve how they are delivered in a fiscally responsible manner for our VIllage is to vote for John DeMaro and Dennis Donnelly. They are the best qualified candidates and they can win this election if everyone goes to VOTE on Tuesday. Cast your vote for DeMaro and Donnelly because you really know them from their responsible and dedicated public service experience on the Board and prior to that they particpated in all public village service areas of Garden City. On TUESDAY, from 4:30 to 9:00 please bring proper current Photo ID; Vote for DeMaro in the ESTATES (at Stratford School), and Donnelly in the EAST (at Stewart School).