By Larry Gordon
This was the second time I had been invited to visit the seat of power of Nassau County. The first was about 15 years ago, shortly after Tom Suozzi was elected county executive of Nassau County, and we had a meeting on the morning he returned from his first-ever visit to Israel.
Suozzi, now a congressman and also a candidate for governor of New York State, was a breath of fresh air for the county, but that was a much different political time than today’s climate.
Laura Curran was a well-liked, politically moderate county executive who lost to Mr. Blakeman in the November election even though she was counting on an easy victory. She understands that while she was indeed popular, her likability couldn’t triumph over the havoc wreaked on this country by Democrats in Washington.
Joe Biden is leading this country at high speed into a dead end, and people are waking up to the disaster he has created on numerous levels. One of those things he has done this past November is take down other Democrats with him.
Bruce Blakeman defeated Ms. Curran by a bit more than 2,000 votes. But as famed football coach Lou Holtz used to say, “Any game that you win by more than one point is excessive.” A win is a win.
Friday morning’s get-together was a quasi-celebration of Blakeman’s victory. It was New Year’s Eve that night, and while we were there ostensibly to affix a mezuzah at the entrance to Bruce’s office, it was also, as Bruce pointed out, a historic moment for the county.
Bruce Blakeman is the first Jewish county executive to preside over Nassau. We have known each other a long time, and throughout the campaign we both understood that Curran was popular and the Republicans were trying to test the political waters as they have done in the past, but Bruce was confident all along of being victorious.
Everyone involved knows that Bruce is going to be a proactive and outstanding county executive, but those present at the event last Friday, while supportive of Blakeman, also acknowledged that it was the Anne Donnelly–Todd Kaminsky race for Nassau County district attorney that gave Blakeman an advantage over Curran.
Donnelly defeated Kaminsky by 20%, and that was entirely unforeseen. Donnelly is a proficient career prosecutor but Kaminsky was a rising star in Democrat Party politics. However, Todd—also well-liked in the community—made a colossal error in judgement by actively supporting the no-cash-bail legislation passed into law last year by the New York State Senate. His most ardent critics, including WABC radio personality Bernard McGurk of Sid and Bernie fame, insisted throughout the campaign that it was Kaminsky who actually wrote the law. Regardless of the details, it appears in retrospect that the people of Nassau County had enough with criminals being put back onto the streets the very same day they were arrested for sometimes violent crimes.
With Blakeman and Donnelly in office, Nassau County is putting the brakes on the downward spiral that has plagued so many big cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The Nassau County population, by the way, is greater in size than ten other states around the country.
Anyway, last Friday, Bruce and his wife, attorney Segal Blakeman, ceremoniously placed a mezuzah at the entrance to the county executive’s office. Some of the rabbis present said that a mezuzah is really not required on a government building, but still, it was an extraordinary gesture.
In his remarks, Bruce said that he wanted “to thank Hashem” for leading him to this moment and giving him the opportunity to serve. Both the Blakeman and Donnelly elections were bellwether contests, signs of the direction in which the rest of the country may be headed in the year ahead. The hope is that now that we are inside 2022 it will be a year of sanity in which Republicans can win majorities in both the House and the Senate. The Democrats had their shot, and they created an impossible mess that will not be easy to reverse. The good news, though, is that help is on the way.
I also had the opportunity at the Mineola meeting to chat with Cedarhurst Mayor Ben Weinstock, so I took the liberty of addressing an entirely different governmental matter.
Have you been in any of our local banks recently and asked for ten or twenty dollars’ worth of quarters so as to be able to feed the parking meters in the Five Towns? For at least half a year I have been told there is a shortage of those coins or even that there are none at all in stock.
According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, there are still as many quarters in circulation as always. What has changed is that the disruption of business during the early days of the pandemic interfered with the usual circulation of the much-used coins. Also, because of the perceived shortage, people are holding onto these coins.
According to press reports, these shortages impact more on laundromats than on parking meters. But my guess is that around the Five Towns it is more of a parking-meter matter than anything else.
Here in Cedarhurst, we have two kinds of parking meters. Some that were installed over the last few years are more technologically advanced and are compatible with credit cards and a payment app, while others—probably the majority—still require coins. But the installation of those meters stopped a few years ago for some reason, and that means that some meters take credit cards while others do not. For the old meters, the option is either to pop a quarter in the meter or risk a $35 parking summons. Compounding the coin-shortage problem, there is a rather aggressive team of people who traverse the villages of Cedarhurst and Lawrence to issue summonses on our cars, which makes for a great deal of summonses and an increase in the payments of fines.
For my part, since the 5TJT offices are in Cedarhurst, I take advantage of parking permits that are issued by the local municipality, allowing permit holders to park in designated spaces in the local parking lots and in some cases near the railroad stations.
However, I asked the mayor if he has come across people challenging their parking summonses by claiming that banks are rationing quarters, making it between difficult and impossible to feed the meters the way we have been accustomed all these years. Mayor Weinstock said he had not heard that yet, but I told him that if I had the occasion to deal with parking tickets I would not hesitate to plead guilty, with an explanation—and that explanation would be that the banks on Central Avenue always say that they have no quarters, and that’s even if you have an account in said banking institution.
After all, how can you be accused of refusing to deposit coins into a meter if the institutions that facilitate the distribution of these much-needed coins won’t pass them along?
Like Bruce Blakeman’s office mezuzah, this is just a slice of Nassau County municipal life. Somewhere down the road there will be a solution to the need for those rolls of quarters, as well as for many more important things that need to get done in the months and years ahead.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.