By Lauren del Valle (Staff Writer) Students and community members packed the Student Center Theater to watch Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Democratic candidate Tom Suozzi debate sustainability Wednesday.
The New York League of Conservation Votes Education Fund (NYLCVEF) and Hofstra’s National Center for Suburban Studies hosted the panel forum of four local experts who probed the contenders on environmental and community growth issues.
Approximately 300 people attended the event. Local notables such as Fox News contributor Chris Hahn were among the crowd.
Larry Levy, Executive Dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies, moderated the debate.
The forum allotted each candidate 30 minutes on the floor during which the panel posed questions for which the candidates had two minutes to answer. Neither candidate was allowed to listen to other’s responses.
Suozzi spoke of the need for Nassau County to recognize that leadership, cooperation and faith in the greatness of Nassau County are needed to make his visions reality.
Adrienne Esposito, panelist and Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, focused her questions on the water contamination, which has plagued Nassau County for years. She specifically addressed the Northrop Grumman Plume in Bethpage and the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. The former contaminates the water source with oil that has seeped into the soil and the latter due to destruction from Hurricane Sandy allows sewage to reach the Massapequa water source.
Suozzi proposed that he would use local, state and federal government resources to intercept the contamination before reaching water sources. Mangano pointed out the “Sewage Treatment Master Plan” already in place.
“The only good thing about Superstorm Sandy is that nothing that was proposed would have saved the treatment plant from the nine foot tidal wave,” said Mangano. “Now is the time to start over.”
Bethpage resident Liz Cotton attended the event specifically to hear about the water contamination issue.
“I live very close to the plume. I live in the number streets where they were drilling when they first found out about it,” said Cotton. “I have kids that are growing up in that town and it’s a problem.”
Cotton was pleased with Mangano’s track record as county executive and how he answered the panel’s questions. Alternatively, she felt Suozzi was vague and indirect in his responses.
Panelist Chis Capece, the Senior Development Director of Avalon Bay Communities Inc., questioned the candidates on community growth. Nassau County has been in the process of enacting a three-phase plan to develop the acreage around the Nassau Coliseum into “The Hub”. Mangano has collaborated with President Rabinowitz, Nassau County Community College and local businesses to create a plan for footbridges and safe crossings.
A developer, operator and $229 million in funding have been approved thus completing phase one.
The next two phases will include working with the Nassau Police Department to create parking lots and utilize the land to build a marketplace, incorporating local business, entertainment and academia.
The forum ended after two hours of discussion. The NYLCVEF thought the turnout and dialogue led to be a success.