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Happy New Year 2024! I hope you and your families had a wonderful holiday season. I wish you all a happy and healthy new year. 2023 was an excellent year for our community and 2024 will be even better! It is my privilege to update you as to the state of affairs in our Village.
Our Fall events were outstanding and fun thanks to our amazing cultural committee. In September, we participated in Childhood Cancer Awareness month. We were joined by the Mary Ruchalski Foundation and the Katie McBride Foundation. It is our honor to stand alongside these wonderful organizations to help raise awareness and combat the terrible scourge of pediatric cancer. October brought a flurry of festive events to our community. We celebrated our 2nd annual Columbus Day parade led by Grand Marshal, “Uncle Nick” Nuzzi. The Nuzzi family is legendary in our town. They have contributed so much to the rich tradition of New Hyde Park. Nick Nuzzi exemplifies the very best of our history. Many thanks to our local merchants (Dominick’s Deli, Gino’s Restaurant, Remo’s Deli and Umberto’s Restaurant) for the donation of delicious food. Our street fair was another incredible success. The community block party was held in October this year but the fun and enthusiasm were palpable. We will return to our normal third Saturday in September (September 21) in 2024. The 3rd annual Halloween parade was groovy! Our Village team sported a “far out” 70’s theme. There were excellent costumes and plenty of delicious candy. The weather was awesome.
Our 3rd annual Diwali celebration was truly special. We had it in Gill Theatre, which was transformed with the wonderful decorations by All In One Party rentals in town. Natasha and her company were so generous in donating their time and decorations. The spectacular food was generously donated by our own Manjit Singh, owner of the Jackson Diner. Thank you to our sponsors and the talented performers in making the festivities so memorable. Our Veterans Day ceremony was a special and moving tribute to our true heroes. It stands shoulder to shoulder with Memorial Day as the two most important events of the year. Thank you to all our Veterans for their sacrifice and service.
The annual tree lighting was the next event on the calendar. Before that happened, Village Hall needed to be transformed into a winter wonderland. The hard work of this transformation was handled again by Reid Sakowich and members of our great New Hyde Park Fire Department. He has set the bar so high with the amazing decorations but always manages to outdo the previous year. The results were breathtaking.
The tree was lit by two incredible young men, Christopher Cooney and Aidan Schembeck. I met them through the best buddies’ program at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. It was my best moment of being Mayor. I am so grateful to call them my friends. Being around them and the other members of this outstanding program always brings a smile to my face and my heart. Thank you Christopher and Aidan for making the tree lighting much better with your participation! Santa was able to be right on time with the assistance of the entire Fire Department. Our terrific Fire Department is an integral part of every event we have in this Village.
We also celebrated the 50th anniversary of two members of the New Hyde Park Fire Department. In September, we honored Francis Valerio of Protection Engine Co. 2. He has contributed so much to our Village as a firefighter as well as previously serving as Village Treasurer. Cesar Quinones of Enterprise Engine Co.1 was honored in October. It was such an honor to celebrate their amazing accomplishments with many of their family and friends. Francis and Cesar, we thank you for your sacrifice, courage, and bravery.
In 2024, we will be celebrating our 3rd Annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, March 9, 2024. We will be honoring all first responders. It is an honor they richly deserve. We are delighted that this year’s Grand Marshal is Tony Jackson. He is steeped in Irish heritage and tradition. He can be heard on the radio every Saturday night on his Irish Country Show. He and his wife, Maureen, personify a life full of class, elegance, friendship, and love of community. We are so grateful to know them as neighbors and friends. On Saturday, May 11, 2024, we will be holding our 1st Mother’s Day parade. It is about time we honor all our great Moms! We want everyone to march with their Moms, Grandmothers and Great Grandmothers. If your Mom and/or Grandmother is in heaven, we ask that you march with a picture of them to honor them. There will be more details to follow but please plan to set that morning aside for our Moms.
I am delighted to update everyone on the progress of our infrastructure projects. The Village Hall restoration continues into the new year. New flooring, windows, lighting, paint, and HVAC system are all installed. There is a new handicapped ramp and new front door courtesy of a Nassau County grant. The Clerk’s Office and Building Department are almost completed. Security cameras have been installed in the offices. These cameras are focused on the counters in each office. This was done in accordance with a Justice Court audit from several years ago as well as in consultation with law enforcement experts. Several cameras in the hallways and common areas have been replaced due to their age and inoperability. The community room and basement are being utilized by many organizations. These organizations appreciate the work done to make both areas spacious, airy, and clean. Troop 298 did an amazing job with the basement. Our Seniors program loves the renovations. January 2024 will begin a makeover of the bathrooms downstairs to make one handicapped accessible bathroom. This is done with the benefit of a Nassau County grant. The community room was necessary due to the demolition of Marcus Christ Hall. The boardroom has been moved upstairs. This was completed in Spring 2023 and mentioned to our residents starting in November 2022. The boardroom is available to organizations to meet. The Chamber of Commerce is one of many such organizations that are welcome to use it. I know many residents have seen the new boardroom with the original tin ceiling and wood floor. It is beautiful. There is one addition to the boardroom that I have personally donated. As a student at Chaminade High School, a special speech by Teddy Roosevelt came to my attention. The Marianist brothers wanted us to know this speech and the meaning. It meant so much to me that I have it in my office at work. On March 27, 2021, during a transition meeting with former Mayor Larry Montreuil, he referenced the very same speech as a piece of advice. A full two years later when the need to vacate the original boardroom and move upstairs to give more space to our community due to the demolition of Marcus Christ Hall, I knew the new boardroom could use the speech. It will be seen by future administrations because even though Teddy Roosevelt gave the “Man in the Arena” speech in 1910, it still holds true over 100 years later. It emphasizes the importance of action and striving towards worthy goals in life over idle criticism, laziness, and inaction. Bully for you!
While on the topic of Village Hall, I would like to update you on changes within Village Hall. We have seen some employees move on and wish them well and welcome new members to our Village family. I believe the teamwork and chemistry have never been better. We have a new Clerk, Maria, new Treasurer, Oscar, new Deputy Clerk/Treasurer, Arlene, new Court Clerk, Dawn, and new administrative assistant, Cheryl. We are honored to have them come on board. As Dawn said when asked how the transition was going “I have been here 3 days and I feel like I have been here 3 years. Everyone has been so welcoming and like a family.” This is also the first time in my 21 years in village government that the offices inside village hall have been decorated for the holidays. It is nice to see this change.
I want to share two great stories with you about our tremendous employees. In November 2023, it came to our attention that a residence had wild ducks in their backyard. This is not allowed in our Village. The Building Department did an investigation. Binu, Building Department Head, and Theresa, DPW employee, went to the residence and became concerned about the welfare of the two ducks. It was decided that they would take the ducks into their custody and bring them to Village Hall. Through Theresa’s care and connections, we were able to find a foster home for the ducks with the assistance of the Humane Society. This was accomplished within the same day. Within 15 minutes of finding a foster home, we were able to raise $2,000 privately for the care of the ducks. Theresa delivered the ducks to their new home on her own time after work.
On December 21, 2023 I received a call from a neighbor that their cat, Gingi, was stuck at the top of a tree in their backyard. This was an inside cat that got out and had been up there all night in freezing temperatures. Gingi appeared petrified as the wind blew the tree back and forth. She could not be coaxed down. I called the fire department and our public works department to see what they could do. Their bucket trucks did not reach into the backyard and there was no room for the fire trucks to access the area. A few armchair quarterbacks suggested “this is no big deal the cat will come down on its own.” This was a big deal to the owner of Gingi. Gingi was at the top of the swaying tree crying for help. We were not going to walk away from this situation. Igor, DPW Superintendent, suggested that Floral Park had a larger bucket truck. He made a call and the Floral Park DPW truck showed up within 15 minutes. Joseph Esposito from Floral Park DPW rescued Gingi within 10 minutes. There were many tears shed about the best outcome possible. I reached out to Floral Park Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald to thank him for his continuous friendship and support. These are two examples of outstanding initiative by our employees.
We are very excited to update you as to the progress of our Department of Public Works facility. Thanks to the studious work of the head of our DPW, Igor, and the head of our Building Department, Binu, as well as our new architects, the plan is to go out to bid by mid-January. This is long overdue but a welcome sign of progress. We had to change architectural firms since the original firm refused to cut the budget as it existed when this administration took over. Our budget, pursuant to state funding, is $5.1 million. The plans as of April 2021 called for a building that would have cost over $7 million. Their steadfast refusal to any meaningful reduction in the plans and budget resulted in their removal from the job. The new firm produced plans that fit within our budget of $5.1 million. We will also be able to utilize the Nassau County sump ground to store our trucks and allow residents with permits to park in a designated area. This will spare the destruction of Nuzzi Field. The bathrooms will be used by DPW during construction to further save money. However, once this construction starts, Nuzzi Field will be shut down due to all the construction. The estimated construction time is approximately 18 months.
Marcus Christ Hall plans are moving forward. The plan is to potentially go out to bid by late Spring 2024. The demolition of MCH was generously donated and saved the Village $75,000 - $80,000. We have $1.1 million set aside for this project based upon $450,000 in State grants, $250,000 in a County grant and $400,000 in revenue from taxes. There will be a need to have a bond to pay for the remainder of the project. This is a common practice used by all municipalities to pay for larger projects. This Village routinely uses this method on our road paving projects. This Center will be a gathering spot for our entire community. People of all ages and backgrounds will be celebrating together under one roof. It will have the ability and space to have multiple organizations use the facility simultaneously. This is an investment in us. We will provide further information as the year progresses. Special thanks to Trustee Rainer Burger for spearheading this project with his many years of expertise. We continue to be open to ideas and suggestions. If anyone wishes to donate their time or offer their services in the trades, we will put you to work. I will continue to ask for anyone who knows how to get furniture for our new MCH. Just contact me as to your suggested place or contact person.
Memorial Park will continue to undergo more wonderful changes. First, we are working with Troop 298 to further honor our fallen soldiers that Memorial Park is so aptly named after. Our respectful intention is to show all 105 heroes from New Hyde Park that gave the ultimate sacrifice. We plan on showing their names, branches of service, dates of service and enlistment photo (when possible). This is a massive undertaking, and the results will be a tremendous addition to our park. Secondly, I am happy to announce that the Village and the New Hyde Park Little League have entered a historic partnership to transform the most underutilized part of the park. With the closing of Nuzzi Field, this left the league with one small field. The big field at Memorial Park is the largest part of the park and seldom used. My intention was to convert this to a small field. The little league wished to have it remain the same size but with the capability of transforming it so kids of every age could use the field.
We explored putting turf on the big infield. The cost was substantial ($350k +) but it would enable the transition, result in fewer rainouts due to better drainage and be maintenance free for 10 years. I asked for a substantial contribution from the league, and they delivered big time. The little league will contribute $100, 000 towards the cost. Talk about stepping up to the plate! We are thrilled with this partnership and can’t wait for our children to enjoy baseball and many other sports on this field for years to come.
As you can see 2024 promises to be an exciting year with so many projects underway. I have been told by a resident that our agenda is “too ambitious.” I welcome that critique. I have been taught that the opposite of success is not failure. It is lack of ambition. I will rely upon Historian David McCullough “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could reinstate through what we do as parents, grandparents, as teachers, as legislators that old noble ambition to excel.”
There are wonderful things happening in our community! Don’t sit on the sidelines and let it pass you by. Get in the game and participate and join us on this journey. Together we can achieve anything!!
Mayor, Village of New Hyde Park