Letter: Let’s Sit Down And Talk

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By Scott P. Strauss-Mayor, Village of Mineola

I write this letter in response to an Oct. 15 letter to the editor in the Mineola American from the Mineola Board of Education, with “unanimous consensus, under the signature of Artie Barnett, president. I am writing directly to the board of education because I believe it most appropriate that municipal boards communicate with each other on a board-to-board basis rather than by playing media games.

The basic point of the school board’s letter is that the Mineola Village Board acted in a “shortsighted” and “negligent” manner in formulating its Master Plan and in approving several major residential development projects as part of the Village’s Downtown Revitalization Program because it undertook actions “without the input of the local school board.” The school district claims that these new projects will generate a “significant” increase in school population resulting in an increase in class sizes, the need for new sections and the need to expand the Pre-K—2 building at Hampton Street School.  It also claims that the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) Program awarded by the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) constitutes a sweetheart deal with residential developers which may leave the apartment buildings “empty, or worse, subsidized” and create an unstable tax base.

The facts and the truth do not support these charges.  Allow me to analyze the school board’s claims item by item.

The claim that the school district was not consulted with respect to the revitalization activities undertaken by the village board is bogus.  The school district was invited to participate at every step of the way.  All activities of the board of trustees were conducted in public, were televised in the community and were widely covered by local print media.  Everyone, including the school board, was invited to participate.

With respect to the residential developments on Willis Avenue and Old Country Road (formerly “The Winston”) and Front Street and Roslyn Road (now known as “Hudson House”), five hearings were held before the board of trustees. The school board attended none of them.  Hearings were held before the Nassau County Planning Commission.  The School

Board attended none of them.  The matter was before the Garden City Board of Trustees.  The school board was absent.  The IDA conducted a hearing in Mineola.  The school board was absent.

With respect to the residential development project at Old Country Road and Third Avenue, five hearings were held before the board of trustees. The school board attended none of them.  A hearing was held before the Nassau County Planning Commission.  The school board was absent.  The IDA conducted a hearing in Mineola.  The School Board was absent.

On the school board’s report card, it gets an “F” for attendance.  Also, “F” for participation.

With respect to the claim that these projects will increase student population “significantly,” the record in these matters is otherwise.  Comprehensive environmental studies were undertaken by the developers and carefully reviewed by independent experts retained by the village.

Concerning the Winston, studies predicted that this project would generate a maximum of 11 school-aged children. No studies challenging these numbers had been submitted by the school district.

The Churchill is a senior community and is not predicted to generate any school-aged children.

Concerning the development at Third Avenue, studies predicted that this building would generate a maximum of 41 school-aged children.  No studies challenging these numbers had been submitted by the school district.

With respect to the IDA’s PILOT awards, it should be noted that over the 20-year period of applicability the following totals will go to the school district: Winston, $11,365,826.09, Churchill, $1,355,427.70 Third Ave. and Old Country Road: $12,381,154.30. That’s $25,102,408.09.

This translates into a yearly average to the school district of $1,255,120.40.  The pre-development (2011-12) school taxes for all of these properties were $371,945.29.

The board of trustees, in examining these projects, carefully considered the impact which they would have upon school taxes and weighed that impact against the benefit which the

school district would receive.  It is unfortunate that the school district chose not to participate in the review process concerning these developments and now wishes to take cheap shots at the very village board which was analyzing the issues it should have considered.

I invite the school board to work together with the village board as we review further developments in Mineola. I would be happy to arrange a meeting between both boards to discuss participation protocols. But civility will be mandatory.

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