The Town Board is working on developing a strong union
for the residents of North Hempstead.
On Thursday, Jan. 20, the Town of North Hempstead held its second town board meeting of the year. Supervisor Jennifer DeSena’s transition into office has not been smooth, as there has been an apparent partisan divide within the town board.
Now being a couple of weeks into the new year, the residents of North Hempstead had hoped the situation would have subsided. But the tension among DeSena, the town board and frustrated residents continues.
Councilman Peter Zuckerman, Councilman Dennis Walsh, Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, Councilman David Adhami, Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte and Supervisor DeSena were all in attendance for the town board meeting. Councilman Robert Troiano showed up about 45 minutes after the meeting had begun.
A concerned resident of Port Washington, Rebecca Hughes-Parker, was the first to bring up the divide by speaking about the negative tone she had witnessed.
Hughes-Parker pointed out that a newly hired spokesperson for the supervisor—Brian Devine—has been releasing comments to the press regarding the pushback of DeSena’s transition into office. The tenor of those statements had residents confused and concerned.
“Supervisor DeSena’s characterization of the office left to her really troubled me. [DeSena] discussed the need to remove partisan politics from the town board and clean up the office in [her] swearing-in speech,” said Hughes-Parker. “More recent comments by the spokesperson are insulting to some of our Democrat town board members, saying they’re doing dirty political tricks and not wanting to cooperate.”
She went on to say how it seems that the insertion of politics into the town board is still present and not removed, as the residents were promised.
Hughes-Parker wrapped up her comments by posing a question to DeSena. She asked, “Under your leadership, can we look forward to a more positive and productive tone than what we’ve heard recently so you guys can get to work and serve the citizens of this great town?”
DeSena answered Hughes-Parker’s question by saying she hoped to get back to a more productive tone.
The way that business is usually conducted in the Town of North Hempstead “has changed, and it changed because of the election,” said DeSena.
Although DeSena is a registered Democrat, she ran for supervisor as a Republican to defeat Democrat Wayne Wink, the former town clerk.
The switch from former Supervisor Judi Bosworth, a Democrat, to DeSena has caused the partisan divide in the town board to deepen and contentious issues to arise.
“It is very difficult because Supervisor Judi Bosworth had almost 20 people reporting to her and I have five,” said DeSena. “The town board used to sit together for 50 years, and that worked very well under Supervisor Bosworth.”
But because of the changes occurring in the town administration, “the people who used to report to the supervisor now report to the town board. The town board only has authority to operate as a board and we only sit [together] once or twice a month. It is no way to run operations,” said DeSena, who as chief executive feels employees should report to her.
“So if we could get back to the way things were under Supervisor Bosworth I would be thrilled,” she added. “I really want to get to work and I wanted to get partisan politics out of town hall.”
The next public comment to criticize the disarray of the town administration came from Eleanor Lange, a resident of the town for 42 years. Lange was a legislative aide to the town board for 11 years and made it clear she has worked with some of the present day councilmembers.
“When I heard that the supervisor called the Democratic majority and the town board deceitful I was shocked, very shocked,” said Lange. “[DeSena] has created a schism with [the town board] and this is not healthy for our North Hempstead community. The name calling and games must end right now, it must stop. It does not accomplish a thing. I also read there is fighting about town board offices, and in the midst of this pandemic I can’t believe that the town board offices are your priority. Therefore, I assume there is no agenda to help the community.”
DeSena clarified that she “did not call individuals deceitful, [she] thought the moves they made were deceitful because it was said [she] would have a smooth transition, but information was not given to [her]. I am trying to do my job. It will be difficult because $800,000 was taken from various programs throughout the town.”
DeSena did not have the chance to finish her sentence, as Lange repeatedly interrupted the supervisor from her seat across the room. DeSena calmly waited for Lange to finish before responding to her concerns.
“I am going out and meeting with people. I have not continued to complain about the offices. The town board has decided they are keeping them that way. I have suggested that it would be better to include all the town councilpeople together, but this is not something I am still pursuing,” said DeSena. “I am trying to work for the people now and I hope that the town board will join me in that,” earning a round of applause from the room.
Councilwoman Lurvey spoke up to clarify a point DeSena touched on.
“A lot of reference has been made by the supervisor to not having enough resources, as if her budget had been cut. The supervisor’s budget is the same as Judi Bosworth’s budget that was adopted on October 28th of last year,” said Lurvey. “When she claims that there are not enough resources that is simply not true.”
Former Senator Jack Martins was another public commenter to take the podium and address the town board’s issues. After witnessing the resident’s treatment of DeSena and criticisms of the town board, he felt like he had to step up to talk about what he was seeing. Martins was offended by the way residents were speaking to DeSena.
“We can be civil in our disagreements, and we should be civil in our disagreements,” said Martins. “What we ask is that this board conduct itself in a way that is consistent with the way that this town has operated for decades. The only thing that changed between December 31st of 2021 and January 1st of 2022 is that there is a Republican supervisor and there is a Democrat majority on this board. We did not elect you all to operate in the town as Republicans or Democrats, but as a town board.”
While Martins made points about the divide between the board, there was still pushback against his comments.
Councilman Troiano, who only joined the meeting 10 minutes prior, countered some of Martins’ points and spoke over others to discuss “the deterioration of what [he] thought was progress.”
Eventually, DeSena insisted everyone move on from the topic to get back to the agenda originally planned for the meeting. The meeting continued in a civil manner and the board was able to get through the items on the agenda.
Overall, the meeting showed the residents of North Hempstead that the issues within the town board are not yet resolved.
But DeSena and the other town board members are all hopeful that they will come to terms with their differences and move on to do work for the people as best they can.
Councilwoman Dalimonte lightened the mood of the town board meeting by suggesting team bonding kayaking.
“We are going to go kayaking over the summer, together, all seven of us,” said Dalimonte.
Her idea got the board and the crowd laughing, and some of her fellow council members even agreed to the suggestion. While it may have seemed like a joke, the team bonding exercise would be beneficial.
To watch the Jan. 20 Town Board meeting, visit northhempsteadny.gov. The next Town Board meeting will be taking place on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.
The Town Board is working on developing a strong union