Residents of West Hempstead have been complaining about speeding traffic on Woodfield Road for many years, and throughout the neighborhood there are lampposts covered with flowers in memory of individuals who were fatally struck by motorists. Alongside calls to reduce speeding, the race for County Legislator for the 14th district is picking up pace.
“West Hempstead is a walking community, and the safety of our residents is of the utmost importance,” said Republican candidate Bill Gaylor. “Whether they are driving in their cars, bicycling down the street or walking in the neighborhood, people have expectations of safety.”
He stood at the corner of Woodfield Road and Linden Street alongside incumbent John Giuffre, Rabbi Elon Soniker of Anshei Shalom, and Queens Jewish Link columnist Moshe Hill in his role as a supporter of Gaylor.
“The foundations for lights will be poured and once cured in about three weeks, installation of a signal will begin,” Gaylor said at the Aug. 21 press conference. Within days, construction began at the intersection with Lindberg Street, where a 12-year-old boy was fatally struck by a car last October.
“For us to be able to walk safely, to know that our children are able to walk the community safely with safe places to cross, puts all of us as parents and community members at ease,” Rabbi Soniker said.
Gaylor and Giuffre thanked Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman for installing the light and funding a traffic study for the entirety of Woodfield Road.
Gaylor’s opponent, Democrat Jake Scheiner, said that the press conference had been hastily scheduled after he announced plans for his own rally for Aug. 23 at the corner of Woodfield Road and Maple Street. “They know that they have a race and they will have to work for it,” he said of the Republican lawmaker.
The army veteran built his career as an attorney, professor, and as a Lynbook Village judge. He was first elected as County Legislator in 2015, with his district based in Malverne. Following last year’s redistricting, West Hempstead was drawn into his seat. Scheiner’s political experience developed as a staffer for Rep. Tom Suozzi and as a regional director for AIPAC. He serves as vice president of Simon Paston & Sons, an insurance company based in Lynbrook.
“Every accident and every injury, every tragedy on Woodfield Road is a testament to the failure of those who are responsible for our safety,” Scheiner said. “While I’m glad that after years of public pressure the county has stated its intention to add a traffic light, at the intersection of Lindberg and Woodfield Road, that simply is not enough.”
He added that traffic safety is “not a partisan issue but a human issue.” He stood alongside more than 40 neighbors who shared their thoughts.
“I’ve been here for 44 years living on this street,” said Robert Harris. “I’ve witnessed rampant speeding, illegal passing, tailgating, and unfortunately worse accidents on this road.” He spoke of the last repaving nearly 25 years ago when he successfully fought against the county’s plan to widen the road. He then argued for more traffic signals. “The best that I was able to get was a painted sign on the road saying 30 miles an hour.”
Harris added that in his pleas to the county Department of Transportation, he noted that there are many Shomer Shabbos families “trying to cross this street safely without any assistance from the government.” Sagine Pierre, president of the West Hempstead Chamber of Commerce, spoke as a local resident whose children bike on the streets.
Scheiner later said that in this community of families, all major streets should be evaluated for pedestrian safety. Last Sunday, he walked the West Hempstead Kiwanis Street Fair on Nassau Boulevard next to Halls Pond Park and remarked how a lengthy stretch of this road borders on a playground and a Chabad shul where families dodge speeding vehicles on Shabbos. Although Gaylor was not campaigning at the street fair, his party colleagues Town Supervisor Don Clavin and Councilman Tom Muscarella had tables with literature highlighting their accomplishments and positions.
Schneier continued his walk a few blocks north to Echo Park, where the indoor and outdoor pools closed in spring for renovations. To date, work has not begun at this park and the timeframe for completion is estimated at three to four years. Having written a letter to the Town of Hempstead Parks Department, Scheiner said that the lack of transparency is an insult to the community along with a summer where the pools were closed without any work being done.
Fearing that the Republicans would preempt him by scheduling an earlier press conference, he opted not to hold a rally this time. Standing alongside supporter Gary Port and myself, he delivered a short speech to reporters. “Families have gone all summer without a vital summer amenity. This is about a lack of communication from our local government. We need answers,” he said. “This issue is not just about a pool. It is about a lack of communication, a lack of transparency.”
I spoke as a supporter of Scheiner, noting that while lawmakers can enact laws and pass budgets, candidates for public office raise attention to overlooked issues brought to them by voters.
In this election year, my neighbors will choose their County Legislator not so much whether he is a Democrat or a Republican, but on who would be more attentive to our needs. These include traffic safety, reopening public pools, upgrading parks amenities, and closing the chronically troubled Capri Motor Inn on Hempstead Turnpike.
At the same time, Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, facing a rematch next year against Democrat Laura Gillen, is also watching this local race to see how West Hempstead will be voting, as it will determine the balance of Congress and the future of his seat. There has never been a better time for my neighbors to become politically engaged, in races across all levels of government.
Full Disclosure: Moshe Hill is a volunteer supporter for the Gaylor campaign, and likewise I support Scheiner. This article is intended as a news story, covering the race for County Legislator.
By Sergey Kadinsky