On April 1, Mayor Reginald Spinello and several department heads for the City of Glen Cove presented an update on the progress and changes made in the city over the past 15 months and what the community can expect to see in the coming months. Spinello outlined everything from finances to new businesses in his 20 minute speech in the main chambers of city hall, to a crowd of about 100 people that included local elected officials as well as residents.
“As I enter the second year of my first term as mayor, I can confidently proclaim that under my leadership Glen Cove is well on its way to a bright future,” Spinello said. “Glen Cove has a $50 million budget and to run a business of that magnitude effectively and responsibly, it takes someone with proven business experience to manage it…My many years of experience running a large company are being well utilized at this job and that experience is already paying off.”
He continued, highlighting the fact that business is returning to Glen Cove.
“Our downtown is finally waking up from a deep sleep and our long awaited waterfront redevelopment project will become a reality with a closing on the sale of the property this summer. Once these critical things start to fall into place, the city’s financial position will improve dramatically and the taxpayers will no longer be footing the bill for years of fiscal mismanagement.”
He discussed several cost cutting measures he has spearheaded that has helped the city save money, including the Voluntary Separation Incentive Plan for city employees, which he said resulted in a savings of nearly $400,000 in 2014; a reduction in the cost of health care benefits by requiring non-union employees to contribute more, as well as changing the health insurance eligibility requirements for new employees; and the negotiation of a new police contract in 2013, which he said will save an estimated $300,000 for each new employee over an eight-year period.
By settling unresolved lawsuits, the mayor said he estimates he will save the city more than $100,000 in projected future legal costs just this year alone.
“Additionally, as a result of those settlements the city will be receiving over $1 million in revenue this year,” Spinello said, noting that in his first budget, commercial property taxes were reduced and residential property taxes were held to a minimal increase of approximately 1 percent.
He then outlined 10 “quality of life issues” that he has focused on, including the new Crime Prevention Unit in the police department; the creation of Neighborhood Walking Tours, which include police, the mayor and code enforcement staff; the reconfiguring of the Code Enforcement Department and its procedures, which has resulted in the collection of $100,000 in fines; aggressively combating illegal housing; installing carbon monoxide detectors in all city buildings; re-establishing the Residential Rehabilitation Program for income-eligible senior citizens 60 and over and/or handicapped homeowners; instituting a Senior Outreach Safety Program in collaboration with the police department to address scams that target senior citizens; the adoption of legislation regarding the homes in the Crescent Beach area which led Nassau County to assisting the city with a $12 million grant to conduct a feasibility and design study followed by construction of a sewer system for the homes in the area; the passage of legislation banning hookah lounges in Glen Cove and putting restrictions on the sale and advertising of E-cigarettes and restructuring the Glen Cove Harbor Patrol.
Other areas the speech highlighted were the waterfront development and new business.
“I expect that sometime this later this summer, we will see a shovel in the ground as construction begins,” said Spinello of the $850 million waterfront development. “This project is expected to create thousands of new construction jobs along with hundreds of permanent jobs during the life of the project. A big win for our local economy.”
In addition, he said a long awaited commuter ferry service will become a reality, noting the construction of the ferry building will break ground by this summer.
He said the demolition on the next phase of the Piazza Project will begin in May, the same month Panera Bread is expected to open.
Other new construction includes the “55 and Over” residential development located just off Landing Road, which has already begun on the 72 units, and the privately owned former Konica/Minolta property on Charles Street in the Landing is in the final stages of environmental remediation.
“I have met with the owners and they intend to put the property up for sale once it’s remediated,” said Spinello. “I’m hopeful that an exciting new project can be found for that site.”
He briefly discussed the Coles School property, an “underperforming asset” that has been dormant since 2009 and “is in desperate need of revitalization and re-purposing.” He said that since the school district is not interested in the property, the city sought other alternatives to “preserve the sentimental and historical value yet consider potential uses that would provide revenue for the city.” He said the request for Expressions Of Interest resulted in nine proposals, five of which were chosen for presentation to the City Council for further evaluation during pre-council, which is open to the public.
“Once we have all the facts and figures, we look forward to sharing our thoughts and recommendations with the public and seek community input,” Spinello said.
The mayor also went into detail on how he has made good on his campaign promise to have Glen Cove “re-open for business.” He said the first thing he did in that regard was to find a new deputy mayor who could hit the ground running on new business development, which he found in Barbara Peebles, who also serves as the executive director of the Industrial Development Agency.
Spinello said that more than 25 new businesses opened their doors in the past year, representing in excess of 150 new jobs, and that Glen Cove is attracting national chains.
He said another exciting trend is that Glen Cove is attracting many restaurateurs and the “city is becoming a fine dining destination once again.”
Before concluding, he said a series of Town Hall meetings are planned for May and June so he can meet with neighborhoods and have open discussion on their specific issues.
“When I ran for this office, I promised that under my administration, Glen Cove was going to be open for business again. And when you look at what we’ve accomplished in our first year, I’m proud to say that we’ve kept the promise and there’s more to come,” Spinello said.
After the mayor, Darcy Belyea, director of department of parks and recreation, spoke about what her department has accomplished over the past year or so. She talked about the reestablishment of a recreation committee to monitor sports programs that use city properties and provide recommendations to make these programs better and gave an update on facilities and programs.
She said renovations are planned for the lower restrooms at Morgan Park, which also had a new playground installed last fall, and said they are reviewing plans for renovations and upgrades at Stanco Park. She said they also just received a donation of another beautiful playground from North Shore LIJ Hospital that is expected to be installed for the summer. She discussed the city’s summer camp program, which grew with the addition of nearly 50 new campers, including an increase in enrollment for children with special needs.
Jim Byrne, director of the department of public works, talked about some of the changes he’s made since coming on board last year.
“We have completely revamped the snow removal process,” he said. “We have a plan now; we have the city broken up into seven areas and our equipment and personnel are assigned to those areas on a permanent basis. We have a plan and we stick to it.”
Kristina Heuser, the deputy city attorney, talked about the changes made in the code enforcement department and the prosecutions that have resulted from the crackdown on illegal housing and other violations. The city has collected $100,000 in fines and has brought a “record number” of prosecutions involving overcrowding and illegal basement and attic violations. She said the defendants in these cases include homeowners who live in one part of their home and rent out another part to tenants who in turn sublet their space to even more people. They also involve absentee landlords who permit unlawful uses of their property.
She said there are more than 30 illegal housing prosecutions on the books.
“We have cured over 50 homes,” Heuser said. “These homes not only create unsightly conditions and drive down property values…they also a disproportionately burden our water supply, our sanitation and our school system.”
Police Chief William Whitton and Deputy Chief Christopher Ortiz then took to the podium. Whitton said the department is almost up to the previous staffing levels prior to the retirements in 2011 and said that the overtime is down and arrests are up, particularly DWIs. He should photographs of items recovered by the Crime Prevention Unit and spoke about the fact that the department is aiming to be proactive; part of that involves
“Having a fully staffed department allows us to do a lot of things within the community and have a community policing approach,” Whitton said. “Each day each school has a police officer walk through it…I want the kids to get used to seeing the police and I want the police used to being in the schools.”
The full progress report can be viewed online at http://new.livestream.com/cityofglencove/events/3936683.