Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano proposed a new, smaller arena to replace the aging coliseum, urged Democratic critics to help him close perpetual budget gaps and ticked off a list of past initiatives in his fourth State of the County address Wednesday.
After recovering from a teleprompter glitch during his opening remarks, the first-term Republican seeking re-election this fall launched into what at times felt like a stump speech—although he also struck some downer notes while mentioning Superstorm Sandy, the loss of the New York Islanders and the recent deaths of two Nassau cops and a top Nassau GOP lawmaker.
“Nassau County had the distinction of being the highest property taxed County in the nation; that is no longer true,” Mangano told the crowd assembled at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in his hometown of Bethpage. “While we still have much work to do, we’re headed in the right direction.”
His address comes as federal Sandy recovery aid has begun trickling into the region, while The Amazing Spiderman 2—the largest film shot in New York State—is now in production at a nearby sound stage and after a federal judge recently ruled against a 2011 county employee wage freeze.
He also reminded the audience that he has frozen property taxes, cut the county workforce and privatized county services such as the bus system and inmate health care at Nassau County jail in his quest to close budget deficits. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state-appointed fiscal watchdog, took control of county finances a year after Mangano took office.
Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), the leader of the county’s Democratic legislative minority, criticized Mangano for his ongoing plan to close half of the eight police precincts—one cost-saving measure the county exec didn’t mention—and for a recent credit downgrade.
“It seems as though Nassau County has hit rock bottom,” Abrahams said, although he did endorse the new arena idea. “How much are we really saving and is it really worth it?”
Tom Suozzi, the ex-Nassau County executive seeking the Democratic line for a rematch against Mangano—who unseated Suozzi in 2009—released a statement critical of Mangano before the address.
“Under Ed Mangano, Nassau County has been mired in reckless mismanagement and constant fiscal crisis,” Suozzi said. “Furthermore, Mangano has presented no vision for our future and continues to rely on borrowing to the detriment of future generations.”
Suozzi’s Democratic primary opponent, millionaire Adam Haber of Roslyn, also took a swipe at the county executive, accusing him of “speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Mangano said that taxes have not gone up, but Nassau’s middle class families know that they are being squeezed by paying more fees, while government services are getting cut.”
In his defense, Mangano repeatedly referenced a $3 billion deficit he inherited from Suozzi, half of it from funds borrowed to pay property tax challenges in a grievance system Mangano has tried to overhaul. He also called on Democrats to provide the three votes needed to approve borrowing to pay more property tax settlements—something Democrats vowed not to do in the run-up to the recent legislative redistricting.
“We have truly reinvented and are rebuilding a stronger, better and brighter Nassau County,” Mangano said. “That is why we must never return to our past practices.”