On Friday, Jan. 27, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena gave her second State of the Town Address at Harbor Links in Port Washington. This speech is an annual event in North Hempstead where the town supervisor shares accomplishments and plans for the new year. The speech is accompanied by a luncheon hosted by the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Port Washington–Manhasset.
As the first Republican town supervisor in over 30 years, Supervisor DeSena and the town board started on uneasy terms leading to many public disagreements at board meetings. While the board still disagrees from time to time, they have been able to collaborate for the benefit of the town.
“I am proud of the great work we have done, and while some of our board meetings have been a bit painful at points, we’re in this together, and we’re all committed to doing the people’s work,” said Supervisor DeSena.
At last year’s town address, Supervisor DeSena stressed the importance of transparency and reform.
“My goals for my administration have not changed since my inauguration,” said Supervisor DeSena at the start of her speech.
For Supervisor DeSena’s first year in office, she made it a goal to have residents be more informed on what is happening within their town government. She worked with North Hempstead TV, the town’s government access TV channel, to begin rebroadcasting town board meetings.
“These rebroadcasts, which occur at varying times throughout the week, give our residents as much of an opportunity to tune in as possible,” said Supervisor DeSena.
This year, Supervisor DeSena will be working on providing highlights on town projects to be broadcasted on North Hempstead TV.
“The town will bring a number of projects to fruition that residents have been looking forward to,” said Supervisor DeSena. “As work intensifies, residents should expect to see them documented in new programming.”
Substance Misuse Advisory Council
Previous work as Executive Director of the Manhasset Coalition Against Substance Abuse has made Supervisor DeSena an advocate for substance abuse support. As promised in last year she established the town’s Substance Misuse Advisory Council.
“[The council] has worked diligently to meet the issue head-on through a number of ways, including free Narcan training seminars in conjunction with Northwell Health,” said Supervisor DeSena. “This council includes important voices in the fight against the drug overdose epidemic.”
This year, Supervisor DeSena and the advisory council will “continue to work to address the opioid crisis and navigate the uncharted landscape of legalized recreational marijuana in New York.”
Last year, Supervisor DeSena called for a recommitment by the town to investing in critical infrastructure projects such as improving roads and sewers.
“I am proud to announce today that over the last year, the town has taken major steps to completing a number of long-stalled projects that will improve the quality of life of our residents,” said Supervisor DeSena.
She highlighted a few highly anticipated projects, such as sidewalk repairs and road repaving on Westbury Avenue in Carle Place and the Manhasset sewer connection project.
By utilizing a portion of the town’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds, the town will be making a $2 million investment in the future of Carle Place’s downtown, shared Supervisor DeSena.
Residents and businesses have desired the Manhasset sewer connection project along Plandome Road for many years. Throughout 2022, Supervisor DeSena met with stakeholders involved in the project to discuss how to move forward best.
“Details are still being finalized. I have long believed that now was the perfect time to address it, especially in light of the $5 million grant secured by Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti in furtherance of this project,” said Supervisor DeSena. “Over the last year, the town has secured millions of dollars in grant funding to make projects and programs a reality.”
Town’s Master Plan
North Hempstead’s Master Plan is nearly 35 years old, and Supervisor DeSena feels the plan needs to be updated to reflect the diverse needs of the town’s communities. Supervisor DeSena has spoken to residents from “all walks of life and all corners of the town” to receive feedback on the master plan.
“I believe the time is ripe to bring in a professional planner to help shape the process formally,” said Supervisor DeSena. “There will be a difficult balancing act ahead as we preserve the town we love while considering the possibility of changes to reflect times more accurately.”
Our Seniors, Disabled, and Veterans
From the start of Supervisor DeSena’s term, she has prioritized caring about North Hempstead’s most vulnerable populations.
“We should be doing everything we can to work to make our communities more diverse, inclusive, and equitable because it’s something that will make our communities stronger,” said Supervisor DeSena.
Supervisor DeSena proudly announced the town’s Veterans Advisory Committee’s hard work this past holiday season which collected nearly $10,000 as part of the Veterans Donation Drive.
In last year’s Town Address, Supervisor DeSena vowed to be transparent with residents and work on increasing accountability to taxpayers. At this year’s speech, she announced that a five percent tax cut was delivered to the town’s residents in the unanimously passed 2023 Town Budget.
“Our residents already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation, so any tax cut is a great start, and I look forward to building on it come budget time this year,” said Supervisor DeSena.
Another central theme of last year’s Town Address involved fixing the challenges facing the town’s Building Department. Supervisor DeSena proposed a series of actions to reform the department. The plan strikes a portion of the Town Code that created needless interference and shifted accountability away from trained professionals in the Building Department.
With support from residents and the town Building Department Commissioner, a modified version of the proposal passed. Supervisor DeSena has requested that our Nassau County Comptroller’s Office perform a full field audit of the Town’s Building Department.
“This was long overdue and something that no administration had had the courage to do in the past,” said Supervisor DeSena. “I am confident that this impartial assessment by an outside agency will identify and address any mismanagement of departmental operations and any potential misconduct.”
New Issues Addressed This Year
In January 2022, the town lost the Town Comptroller and Chief Deputy Comptroller. The Director of Finance, Paul Wood, has served as Acting Comptroller temporarily for six months.
“Having no formally appointed Comptroller could put our town at risk financially and jeopardize our Triple-A bond rating,” said Supervisor DeSena. “This situation needs to be rectified.”
Another issue that Supervisor DeSena touched on is the town’s Board of Ethics. At last year’s State of the Town, she spoke about the need to install members to the Board of Ethics in defined, staggered terms and stop the practice of allowing them to serve in ‘holdover status’ from previous administrations. Changes to the term rules would ensure the town has a Board of Ethics independent of any outside influence.
Over the last year, four members have been installed into new, defined terms. “I will push for a fully appointed independent Board of Ethics” said Supervisor DeSena.
Supervisor DeSena concluded her town address by describing her first year in office as “wonderful and challenging.”
“The Town of North Hempstead is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. I am certain that as we continue to work together, the best times are ahead of us,” said Supervisor DeSena.