Laura Curran


OpEd: An Unforgettable Trip to Israel

Western Wall and Dome of the Rock atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel. (Getty Images)

Last month, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel. Accompanying me for the journey was my friend Rabbi Hershel Billet of Young Israel of Woodmere. Together, we crisscrossed the Land of Milk and Honey, dashing from religious landmarks and cultural touchstones to institutions of government, commerce, and medicine.

On a personal level, my trip was filled with countless experiences I won’t soon forget. Praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest and most sacred site for the Jewish people. Walking with Rabbi Billet through the unprecedented archeological excavation that dates back to the Second Temple period, between 516 BCE and 70 CE. Visiting the historic Jordan River, where according to the New Testament, John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ.

Standing at the site of the Masada, the majestic fortress King Herod built near the Dead Sea in the last century BC. Witnessing the sunset at the Sea of Galilee, or marveling at the snow-covered Mount Hermon. One cannot also forget their first falafel in pita with just the right amount of hummus! For a country the size of New Jersey, Israel certainly punches above its weight.

While I was traveling on my own expense, I knew that this was an important trip for me to take as Nassau County Executive. Above all, it was an opportunity to learn more about the culture and history of the Jewish people and their homeland. Especially in light of rising anti-Semitism and hate-fueled crimes here at home, I’ve sought to deepen my cultural understanding and solidarity with our proud Jewish community. 

As I walked the path through Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, I was reminded of just how important it is that we be neither silent nor complacent when confronted with hatred. In January, I organized a march of more than 2,500 Long Islanders of all faiths to take a stand against Anti-Semitism, and working through my new task force, Unify Long Island, we will continue to combat bigotry through education and unity.

Walking out of Yad Vashem, the first thing one sees along the mountain’s slope is a dramatic view of modern-day Jerusalem. It reminds you of the light that comes after the darkest hour — not just a new nation, but a beacon of hope built from the ashes of tragedy. 

Modern Israel is a gem, and today in 2020 we have much to learn from the Israeli people.

As county executive, my most important job is keeping our residents safe. My administration has especially prioritized securing synagogues, mosques, churches, and cultural institutions, working closely with community leaders to ensure the safety of residents of all faiths. It’s no secret that Israelis live in a dangerous geopolitical neighborhood. Meeting with local officials from Sderot to Efrat, I saw first-hand the advanced methods, tools, and know-how Israel champions to protect its citizens.

I’m working hard to build up research, development, and technology here on Long Island, and Israel’s tech sector has set a new global standard for innovation. In proportion to its population, Israel boasts the largest number of startup companies in the world. As Americans, we don’t just share with Israel timeless values of freedom and democracy; we also share common economic connections that help us all prosper.

Strengthening the bond between Nassau County and Israel has been a priority of my administration, and my trip to the Holy Land has inspired me to fortify that commitment.

I will continue to stand with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. As both continue to come under attack at home and abroad, that stance will remain firmer than ever. Am Yisrael Chai.

Laura Curran is the Nassau County Executive.

Automatic CPR Devices: Saving Nassau’s Lives


First responders in Nassau County who save lives every day just got some help. And it’s already helping them save more lives.

Nassau ambulances have new technology on board that, at a crucial moment, can help turn a tragedy into a life saved. It’s a change that is making Nassau safer and better able to protect residents facing a medical emergency. Every county ambulance is equipped with a state-of-the-art chest compression device that first responders can use to treat cardiac arrest while still in the vehicle. It’s a fairly small piece of equipment that can make a big difference.

Our first responders started working with the Defibtech Lifeline ARM Automated Chest Compression device about a month ago. In that time, it was used 22 times, helping save 10 lives with a 45 percent success rate. That’s in comparison to a 30 percent rate with manual cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). 

The Nassau County Police Department bought 30 devices with $300,000 in asset forfeiture funds. In other words, we’re using money seized from criminals and drug dealers to save lives. This initiative would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Legislator Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury), who worked collaboratively with our police. 

Automating compressions makes sense in principle and in practice. While a human being may become exhausted or do compressions at a less-than-ideal rate, this device used by trained first responders can accurately time compressions without tiring. The net result: More lives are saved.

This device can free first responders to do other tasks and continue doing compressions even when a person is moved. Interruptions or pauses in CPR, even due to other rescue-related activities, can reduce a person’s chances of survival. Using automated devices to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation compressions increases chances of survival.

We owe our first responders our gratitude. Giving them better equipment so they can do their job even better is one way to both help them and help ourselves. First responders are still the ones who perform the rescues, but now they have one more tool at their disposal. 

No one wants to imagine that they could one day find themselves in a life-or-death medical emergency. However, our residents can be confident that Nassau will go above and beyond to protect and save you when your life is on the line. 

Making Sure Nassau Counts in The 2020 Census

Sample U.S. 2020 Census Form for population count

America is about to go through an important once-in-a-decade process: the U.S. Census. Counting everyone in America is a lot of work, but so much is at stake — especially for Nassau County. 

Billions in funding is decided by the Census. Ten years ago, we were undercounted and as a result, Long Island didn’t get our fair share of funding for a decade. Nearly one in four Nassau residents didn’t fill out the 2010 Census when it was first sent to them, according to estimates. Nassau is ranked the fifth most difficult-to-count county in New York State.

We already send more money to Washington, D.C. than we get back, so we cannot afford another undercount. That’s why I brought together more than 30 nonprofit, labor, faith, and community leaders to form a Complete Count Committee with a single goal: ensuring every person in Nassau is counted in next year’s Census.

We are engaging our immigrant and hard-to-count communities early to educate residents about why it’s important to be counted, and to reassure them that it’s totally safe.

The federal government distributes $53 billion to New York State based on Census data. That’s money for roads, bridges, public schools, law enforcement, housing programs — the list goes on. So when you fill out a Census form, what you’re doing is making sure your community gets the services it needs. 

Census data are used to determine political representation on the federal and local levels, including each state’s electoral votes. And businesses look at Census data when they decide where to set up shop or relocate. Real dollars and important decisions are based on that data.

Being counted should be easier than ever for many residents next year. By April 1, 2020, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the Census. Once the invitation arrives, you can respond for your home online, by phone, or by mail.

Don’t throw away that envelope from the U.S. Census Bureau. Ninety-five percent of households get their Census “invitation” in the mail.

Tell your friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they know they should be counted. And if you have children, being counted in the Census is one of the best things you can do to secure a better future for your child and community. So let’s make sure Nassau counts.

Laura Curran is the Nassau County Executive

Breaking Ground on Nassau’s New State-of-the-Art Police Academy

Nassau Police Academy
A rendering of the estimated $40 million, 120,000-square foot police academy planned for Nassau Community College.

Since 1982, Nassau County’s law enforcement officers have not had access to a permanent training facility. 

Instead of working from a real police academy, the brave men and women we depend on for our safety have been shuffled through temporary facilities. Most recently, they have been renting out a classroom at an elementary school in Massapequa. Meanwhile, corrections officers are being trained in dilapidated trailers.

It is unacceptable. From the moment I took office, I began organizing officials to finalize a state-of-the-art academy worthy of the officers and communities it would serve.

The past arrangement wasn’t just undermining critical training and intelligence procedures for the 13th largest police force in the nation, it was also breaking the bank for our taxpayers. That is why I proudly stood with local officials on May 29 as we broke ground on a new police academy. 

The new Nassau County Training and Intelligence Center will be located in Garden City and is slated to open in 2021. The groundbreaking marked an important moment in a years-long effort to build a state-of-the-art training facility. 

Thanks to private and public support gathered through the Nassau County Police Department Foundation, we provided $3.9 million in donated services to fund the 89,000-square-foot facility, which will provide both academic and physical training for officers and will house the counterterrorism specialized unit.  

The new facility will usher in a new era in police, correction officer and probation officer training, and community engagement. It will serve as a model for shared services and may provide working space with other departments in the region.

Not only will the new center continue to bring law enforcement into the 21st century, but by replacing the facility rented from Hawthorne Elementary School, taxpayers will no longer be responsible for the $700,000 a year in rent. 

The new facility’s location on the campus of Nassau Community College will also improve recruitment efforts by giving the department access to the diverse student body there and will greatly benefit the college’s criminal justice program. 

The center will serve as a vital resource to our entire law enforcement community and will place Nassau on the cutting edge of police training, intelligence, and counterterrorism expertise to proactively address the threats facing our region now and in the future.

Laura Curran is the Nassau County Executive.

End of The Frozen Assessment Roll in Nassau

After eight years, the Mangano administration’s frozen property tax assessment roll has officially come to an end, as I fulfill my promise of fixing the broken system and restoring integrity to our tax rolls.

The previous administration left us with more than $500 million in liability from property tax grievance settlements due to inaccuracies. There was never a plan to address this mounting debt accumulating from the broken system — until now.

For the past eight years, homeowners who successfully grieved year after year shifted the tax burden onto those who didn’t. The inherently unfair system gave grievers a more favorable ratio and almost guaranteed a reduction. This ends with the final Mangano roll of 2019-2020.

After eight years of paralysis, we took action and completed the first reassessment of more than 400,000 properties. Nassau does not get one extra dime from the reassessment, but we are ending a system where one half of taxpayers subsidized the other half. 

The Nassau County Assessment Review Commission (ARC) has sent final determination letters to property owners who filed grievances on the county’s 2019-2020 tentative assessment roll, which was published on January 2, 2018. Residents and other property owners will receive bills based on this roll in October 2019 for school district taxes and January 2020 for county, town, and special district taxes.

This is also the last year for ARC’s mass-settlement program, which was an unfortunate by-product of the frozen roll. To date, for the 2019-2020 tentative roll, ARC has made 203,732 residential settlement offers, of which 174,281 were accepted and 20,437 were rejected. Of these offers, 127,459 were part of the mass settlement program. 

Just from settlements this past year, the county lost more than $7 billion in market value and $20 million in assessed value — in a rising market. This significant loss of property value countywide was driving up school tax rates. Having a lower assessed value means you need a higher tax rate in order to get to the budgeted tax levy amount for the school district. 

This ends now. 

The 2020-2021 tentative roll that was published on January 2, 2019 used updated market values from the reassessment that I ordered when I came into office. As a result of the accuracy of the reassessment, ARC will verify and most likely concur with the class ratios published by the assessment department, which will negate any cause for mass settlements.

I want to assure residents that you will always have the right to grieve, but you shouldn’t have to do so to obtain a fair assessment of your home.

Laura Curran is the Nassau County Executive

Taking Nassau from Worst to First on Ethics and Transparency


Last week was another milestone in my administration’s mission to root out corruption and promote transparency in county government.

I took office promising to restore trust in a county plagued by a culture of corruption, largely due to lack of transparency in our contracting process. Now, Nassau County is bringing 21st century solutions to age-old problems.

In my first month in office, I signed an executive order establishing a zero-tolerance policy for county employees involved in procurement or contracting, emphasizing they cannot accept gifts from vendors. Recently, I signed an ordinance removing an anti-competitive fee for vendors seeking to do business with Nassau.

In two months, the number of vendors registered rose 80 percent, from 960 to 1,727. We’ve also seen increases in women-,minority-, and veteran-owned businesses registering with the county. Competition means better prices.

We revised county ethics policies stating that procurement professionals are responsible for conducting themselves with integrity and reporting observed acts of criminality, waste, fraud, or abuse.

We worked to develop an online workflow allowing vendors to submit claims online, with electronic approval. These changes increase efficiency.
We collaborated with the comptroller’s office to develop Nassau County Open Checkbook, a new web portal showing an easy-to-read online checkbook detailing more than a billion dollars of annual county expenditures.

Last week, we took another step to help turn Nassau from worst to first when it comes to procurement ethics. We announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Exiger, a leader in risk and compliance solutions, ensuring that the county spends every contract dollar wisely. At no cost to taxpayers, this will give Nassau access to Exiger’s cutting-edge Insight 3PM platform, to streamline research on current and potential vendors.

Nassau is the first municipality in the nation to use this third-party monitoring technology to vet vendors. This technology has been widely used in the private sector to ensure compliance and make operations more efficient.

Before I was elected, research on Nassau’s vendors was limited to manual searches of open-source records — basically a Google search.

Now we will leverage artificial intelligence to search for publicly accessible information that could pose problems for county, including potential ethical conflicts or undisclosed investigations of vendors.

The platform will generate customized reports based on our specific needs and will give my compliance team access to information from global databases including Bloomberg, LexisNexis, and World Compliance.

We’re only getting started. My compliance team is moving full-steam ahead on my anti-corruption agenda, entailing additional reforms to bring more transparency into how we spend taxpayer money.

Laura Curran is the Nassau County executive

Nassau Ramping Up Road Repairs for Peak Pothole Season

Long Island Potholes
A car swerves into the opposite lane of traffic to avoid a massive pothole on Selfridge Avenue in East Garden City on Friday, March 7, 2014.

Clear skies, green lights, music’s up, then suddenly, “Bam!” the rim cracks, your tire blows — you’ve hit a dreaded pothole.

Everywhere I go, people ask about road repairs. As winter wears on and peak pothole season is upon us, my team has put together an aggressive plan to get Nassau’s long-neglected roads back in top-notch condition.

In 2019, the Department of Public Works (DPW) will repave a total of 175 lane miles — that’s a 130 percent increase since 2017.  

With more than 1,500 county-owned lane miles in Nassau, we have a lot of work to do. We began a pilot pothole program in fall 2018 for short-term resurfacing. Rather than filling potholes individually, our resurfacing strategy aims to mill and fill larger patches of roadway — a quicker, more efficient, and safer option that prepares us for our long-term resurfacing program.

The pilot program has proven to be successful and so we plan to significantly expand it in 2019.  In 2018, we filled a total of 60,057 potholes, paved 87 lane miles (up 20 percent from 2017), and deployed seven three-man crews a day during peak pothole season.  

The county recently purchased six new hot boxes used to keep asphalt hot while on the road. Without hot boxes, the crews must make frequent trips to an asphalt plant in order to get hot asphalt, wasting time and resources.  

We are also tightening up our contracting process. DPW historically bid individual $4 million to $5 million resurfacing contracts. This year, they’ll bid an extensive $15 million road resurfacing contract to solicit interest from new firms capable of delivering large projects. This will also expand our vendor pool and get us a better bang for our buck.

Why do these hazardous road craters seem to be multiplying every year? Potholes begin to develop when snow and ice melt. The resulting water then seeps beneath the pavement through cracks caused by the wear and tear of traffic. As the temperatures cool to freezing at night, the water becomes ice and expands below the pavement, forcing the pavement to rise. As the weight of traffic continues to pound on this raised section and the temperatures once again rise above freezing, a shallow divot occurs under the surface and the pavement breaks, forming a pothole.

DPW contractors will begin permanent repaving in the spring when the weather breaks. They’ll continue with temporary resurfacing efforts throughout the winter if and when the weather is warm enough to accommodate the laying of asphalt.

Looking toward the future to address infrastructure, Nassau is undergoing a state Roadway Sustainability and Compliance Study. The study is assessing existing roadway conditions on county-owned roads so that DPW staff can prepare long-term plans to maintain these roadways consistent with federal and state guidelines. 

See a pothole?  Please report it to 516-571-6900.  

Laura Curran is the Nassau County Executive.

Marijuana Legalization: A Challenging Opportunity

As county executive, my top priority is ensuring the safety and health of our residents — especially our children. That means anticipating challenges, such as snowstorms or critical funding for law enforcement that could dry up, before they arrive at our doorstep.. Today, it’s the potential legalization of the sale and possession of marijuana in New York State.

It is widely expected that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature will move to legalize recreational marijuana in the near future. We don’t know exactly what it will look like, but we know that it’s coming. This change will be consequential, and there will be challenges we need to address.

Legalization of recreational marijuana will have real implications for our law enforcement processes, health codes, commercial development, government tax revenue, licensing and regulation — the list goes on.

However you feel about the issue and what it means, there is something all of us can agree on: Our law enforcement, business community, schools, health officials, and residents need to be equipped with the tools and information to be prepared on day one.

That is why I have formed the Nassau County Task Force on Marijuana Legalization & Regulation.

This Task Force will bring together leaders from across the county who will focus on key local needs in advance of potential legalization, including the identification of equipment and training requirements for our officers, new public health protocols, new regulatory and licensing procedures, and tax revenue and business development implications.

The Task Force will be cochaired by Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and Nassau Legis. Josh Lafazan (D-Syosset) and will include a varied group of stakeholders, ensuring that all voices and perspectives are heard.

This will be a challenge, but it will also be an opportunity. It will be an opportunity for Nassau to lead the way in New York from day one — to promote new business opportunities and utilize new tax revenue for our residents.

Turning this into an opportunity will require hard work and preparation from leaders across the county to understand what is needed.

Given the breadth of potential impact for all county residents, the initial goal of this Task Force will be to develop a working understanding of the facts around marijuana legalization, and to accordingly pursue policy recommendations that will keep us safe while maximizing the benefits for our residents.

If and when legalization happens, Nassau will set an example for all of New York, seamlessly incorporating harm-reduction strategies and implementing a marijuana program that will absorb the regulations needed to ensure public safety, protect public health, and provide consumer protection.

I look forward to hearing from our Task Force so that we can get to work on turning this challenge into an opportunity.

Coming Soon: Nassau Hub Development

Here's a rendering of what Forest City Ratner’s redeveloped--and scaled down-- Nassau Coliseum would look like.

In case you haven’t heard, we are bringing transformative development to Uniondale’s Nassau Hub.

The Nassau County Legislature advanced our plan, signifying Nassau’s readiness for the land around Nassau Coliseum to become a destination. We have a strong development team in BSE Global the arena’s operator and RXR Realty. Also in place are a labor commitment, community benefit plan process, and required zoning.

The plan establishes a time frame for groundbreaking. It includes a Northwell Health Innovation Center, a much-needed parking structure, housing, and retail development.

For decades, we’ve talked about site development  but no one has delivered. This framework will bring exciting activities, jobs, and housing to The Hub.

Some skeptics may remind us of the failed Lighthouse project, the rejected referendum to fund a new Coliseum and the Islanders leaving for Brooklyn.

But my administration has brought us closer than ever to Hub development.

How did we get here so quickly? Immediately after taking office, I formed a Hub Advisory Committee comprised of experts, elected officials, and community stakeholders. It provided key insight to help us envision the Hub’s future.

The group suggested that my administration issue a Request for Expressions of Interest, which allowed developers and others to submit their visions for the Hub. BSE explored opportunities with dozens of potential partners, choosing RXR Development, headed by Scott Rechler, a well-known developer with Nassau roots.

Last month RXR and BSE announced that Northwell Health, LI’s largest employer, will take some 250,000 square feet to develop an Innovation Center on the property. The addition of Northwell so early in the process proves the viability of the site and will deliver on the promise of high-paying jobs at the Hub.  

What’s next? The developers have committed to an open dialogue with the community and elected officials, including the Hempstead Town Board. We have new channels of communication that will remain open throughout the process.

Meanwhile, the Coliseum provides world-class entertainment like Billy Joel and Elton John. And the Islanders will play 20 games there for the next two seasons, as they wait for their new Belmont park home to be built.

I attended the Islander’s first game back home, and the Barn was rocking from the moment the puck dropped until the last player skated off the ice. The spine-tingling energy was infectious and made me excited for the future.

Successful Hub development will show the the world that Nassau is not the land of no. We are growing the tax base, creating a real live-work-play destination and we are ready for the future. 

Laura Curran is the Nassau County Executive 

Fixing The Tax Assessment System: Nassau’s New Guarantee

Whether combating the opioid epidemic, tracking hurricanes, or fixing Nassau County’s corrupted property assessment system, when it comes to responsible government, data matters.

New County Assessor David Moog and I found troubling data after we delved deep into the latest residential property values. An assessment-data expert further analyzed our discovery. The data — developed by the Department of Assessment and a reliable county contractor — came from Nassau’s first reassessment of every property since 2010.

The data showed a gulf between new and old residential property values. Why? The old valuations were grossly inaccurate.

Property values in the real world were rising. But the county’s assessment roll was frozen. Annual rounds of successful property tax challenges resulting in assessment reductions compounded the problem.

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners grieve their assessments annually, which is their right. Most win a reduction. But property owners shouldn’t have to grieve to get their correct assessment. It’s our job to get it right.

Nassau could not defend against this annual avalanche of up to 200,000 grievances, and was forced into mass annual settlements. Why did the county lose so many grievances? Because the county was unable to defend the uniform level of assessment of .25 percent using the inaccurate market values under the old system.

I’d planned to use that same number, after the reassessment — until I saw the troubling data. That data, when combined with the impact of the prior administration’s stipulation with taxpayer representatives, showed that the county would basically have the same assessment roll as the corrupted, frozen roll if we kept the level of assessment at .25 percent.

That means we’d have done all the hard work on the new assessments to end up where we started — with an indefensible assessment roll and the need for hundreds of thousands of mass annual settlements. Again.

I take very seriously my pledge to clean up the assessment mess, and I am going to do just that — starting with a new, defensible level of home value assessment of .10 percent.

What does this new level of assessment mean for homeowners? They will retain the right to challenge their assessment. And they can learn how the new level of assessment will impact individual property rates with a comprehensive outreach effort effort starting November 1 that includes in-person appointments and an online campaign.  

I will protect taxpayers from the shift in rates with proposed New York State legislation providing transitional caps on any relative assessment increases over five years. And with new property values recaptured on the assessment roll, many taxpayers will see a reduction in taxes.

We will get an assessment roll that is both defensible and accurate for all county homeowners. And as more data becomes available in the coming weeks, I will share it. That is my guarantee to every property taxpayer – full transparency as we fix the mess left by the prior administration.