Erin King Sweeney was appointed as the new councilwoman for the Town of Hempstead’s Fifth Councilmatic District on January 13, during the town’s January town board meeting. She replaces the venerable Angie Cullin, who officially retired from public life in early January.
Your NewsMag requested a meeting with King-Sweeney to discuss her first steps as a councilwoman, and what she may be able to accomplish until an election is held for the seat in November.
You were appointed to the board. What are your qualifications, and what would you have campaigned on had you run for this elective office?
I’m a lawyer, I’ve been practicing for 15-16 years, I am active in the community and I’m raising 2 kids, so I feel I am just as qualified as anyone else to hold this seat. If I were to have run in an election, I would have run on community and charity involvement, the fact that I have good education and have been out there making small business work. For example, I am involved with the American Heart Association, and I am a member of the board of the Nassau County Cradle of Aviation. I have also represented small business companies to help them build their businesses in New York.
Civic leaders are known for fitting in to these positions, such as Norma Gonsalves. Have you been involved in civic leadership?
One doesn’t have to be a lawyer for this position, that’s true. But, I am also a trustee of the Wantagh-Seaford Homeowners Association. I was a secretary at one time, as well.
What are the issues facing residents of the Fifth Councilmatic District?
Although I’ve only been in office nine or 10 weeks, it’s been a tremendous whirlwind experience so far. The district encompasses Seaford, Wantagh, Bellmore, Merrick, Freeport, Baldwin and down to Point Lookout and Lido Beach, and I have been to every town several times to meet with scores of people in organizations, such as the civic leaders. Because every one of these towns is on the water, I have heard about water issues and beach issues, for example. It’s also about keeping the streets safe, it’s about economic opportunities, about issues that have arisen from Sandy.
The Hempstead IDA grants tax breaks to several industries that move into the town. At a time when revenues for all towns is down, and they are working to recover that revenue, are the benefits of those breaks still meaningful to the town, and what are they?
The IDA is a separate entity, not part of town government. But I believe the agency would indicate that through the use of inducements and other benefits, they keep and attract businesses to the town. More jobs come to our region, supporting both our economy and tax base.
The town’s building department has had difficulty in the past enforcing laws pertaining to illegal occupancy. Is this an area you wish to concentrate on to help alleviate? Illegal occupancy can often mean a loss of taxable revenue for the town?
I think the town has been aggressive in dealing with illegal occupancy. I understand that increased fines and legislation that puts greater burden of proof on landlords who run illegal boarding houses is helping the town in its efforts to curtail illegal boarding houses.
Your predecessor had a love for the bays, and she supported them as a member of SPLASH. Do you see the bays as recovering, and have you gone after as much illegal dumping as you can?
As a town board member and South Shore resident, I hope to keep our bays and waterways clean and healthy. As I’ve said before, all the towns I represent border on the water. I look to work more closely with our Conservation and Waterways Department to ensure bays and waterways are properly policed, and that our efforts to restore coastal wetlands remain a top priority for the residents.
What will the $400,000 in Sandy monies awarded by the federal government go toward?
This funding will aide in developing a comprehensive master drainage plan and study for the NY Rising Community Reconstruction areas of Bellmore, Merrick, Seaford and Wantagh for widespread flooding from Sandy. This project will provide a “roadmap” for drainage infrastructure upgrades to answer unmet recovery needs, and ensure a flood-protected community.