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Southampton candidates face off at FRNCA forum

10/09/2019 6:00 AM |

Code enforcement and unsafe housing were the hot topics Monday as candidates for Southampton Town Board and supervisor faced off before the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Candidates also debated whether the eastern part of the town receives preferential treatment.

The two candidates for Suffolk County Legislator on the South Fork, Democrat Bridget Fleming and Republican Linda Kabot also squared off, in front of large pictures of two blighted structures on Flanders Road, which the FRNCA board placed as a backdrop for the forum.

• The Southampton supervisor race pits incumbent Jay Schneiderman of Southampton against Greg Robins of North Sea and Alex Gregor of East Quogue.

Mr. Schneiderman, a former East Hampton Town supervisor and county legislator, has the backing of the Democratic, Conservative and Working Families parties.

He lost a primary for the Independence line to Mr. Gregor, the current town highway superintendent who was elected with Democratic support.

Mr. Robins, the Republican candidate, is a retired teacher of 39 years, a North Sea Fire Department member for over 25 years and an elected fire commissioner in North Sea. He was town Republican chair from 1985 to 1987.

• For the two Town Council seats, incumbent Republican Christine Scalero is term-limited out of the position, and incumbent Democrat John Bouvier of Westhampton is seeking reelection. He also has the Independence line.

The other Democrat is Craig Catalanotto of Speonk.

The Republicans are running Richard Martel and Charles McArdle, both of Hampton Bays, and the Independence party is running Hannah Pell of Southampton, who did not attend the FRNCA forum.

Mr. Martel, who owns Skidmore’s Sports & Styles in Hampton Bays and is the president of the Hampton Bays San Gennaro Festival, also has the Conservative, Working Families and Libertarian lines, while Mr. McArdle, a retired town police officer and union leader, has the Republican, Conservative and Working Families lines.

Supervisor candidates

Mr. Gregor said that as highway superintendent, he treats all parts of the town equally.

“Flanders is suffering from different things than the rest of the town,” he said. “You don’t have the big McMansions, you’re more blue collar people.”

The town, he said, tends to cater more to the wealthier areas in the eastern part of town.

He said there need to be different zoning codes to address many of the problems in Flanders.

Mr. Gregor said FRNCA has frequently gotten grants for improvements in the area, but the town hasn’t acted on it and, in some instances, has moved the money elsewhere.

The roads north of Flanders Road have flooding problems and need to be lifted, he said.

Mr. Schneiderman said he has been instrumental in numerous projects in the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton area, such as getting repayment for Flanders Northampton Ambulance Corp. for transporting inmates from the jail; getting the Big Duck moved back to Flanders, getting the new roundabout installed at the traffic circle and getting an indoor pool at Suffolk County Community College in Northampton.

He said the town has demolished a number of dangerous and dilapidated buildings.

As for Mr. Gregor’s claim that grant money targeted for Flanders was used elsewhere, Mr. Schneiderman said that’s true. He said he wanted to use $3.5 million in county grants to relieve flooding on Dune Road in Hampton Bays and East Quogue, but after Mr. Gregor raised the issue, the county shifted the money to Brentwood.

“It didn’t come to Flanders,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We lost that money.”

Mr. Robins also claimed that the east side of Southampton Town gets preferential treatment. He said the governor and county executive recently attended an event at Lake Agawam in Southampton Village.

He questioned if that kind of reception would have greeted a similar project at Wildwood Lake in Northampton.

Mr. Robins said code enforcement takes political will and “in my opinion, the current supervisor doesn’t have the political will” to do something about blighted properties.

“Things are moving in a positive direction in Flanders, Riverside and Northampton,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

The dilapidated buildings in the photos are dangerous, he said.

“It’s a blight on the community and we’re all about address that blight. … I will work to improve these properties.”

Southampton council candidates Craig Catalonatto, John Bouvier, Charles McArdle and Richard Martel. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Council candidates

Mr. Bouvier said he has chosen to be the Flanders/Riverside liaison for the past four years.

“This is a great community,” he said. “There’s so much going on here, from the Riverside Redevelopment to the Maritime Park, and we are working with the Children’s Museum of the East End and Head Start.”

He said the town has demolished a number of dilapidated homes in the area, but he said it’s a lengthy process to get to that point.

Mr. Catalanotto drew some groans when he described areas in Riverhead Town that his family frequents, rather than Riverside.

But he complimented the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton community.

“You have a vision that most hamlets don’t,” he said, adding that they have embraced affordable housing and education.

He said he would look for ways to bring in new enterprise as a councilman, by elimination of some fees and expediting the process.

Mr. Martel said he’s been involved in the San Gennaro Festival for eight years, Hampton Bays Little League for 20-plus years and the Kiwanis Club of Southampton for 39 years, which brings food baskets to the Phillips Avenue School in Riverside.

“I can work with pretty much anybody,” he said. The issues in Flanders, he said, are not much different that those in Hampton Bays.

Mr. McArdle said he had the Flanders section when he was a police officer. He feels code enforcement is the town’s biggest problem, although overall crime is down in Southampton Town.

“Code enforcement is a nightmare,” he said.

When he was a police officer, code enforcement was under the control of the police department, and he feels that is where it belongs.

He said Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. Bouvier “were here four years and they did nothing. They had their chance, I want my chance.”

County legislator candidates

Incumbent Democrat Bridget Fleming and Republican challenger Linda Kabot agreed on many of the issues they discussed, with one exception being public finance of campaigns.

Ms. Fleming, a former assistant district attorney and Southampton councilwoman, is running for her third two-year term on the legislature.

Mr. Kabot is a former Southampton councilwoman and supervisor.

“The job requires skills that I am just really blessed to have developed,” Ms. Fleming said.

Ms. Kabot said she brings “common sense and leadership.”

Starting in 2021, if a candidate raises a certain amount of money with low-dollar individual contributions, that money is matched with money from the video machines at Jake’s 58 Casino in Islandia.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that corporate money supports votes, that’s why I support public finance of campaigns,” Ms. Fleming said.

“And I don’t,” Ms. Kabot responded.

The idea behind public financing is for less corruption.

Ms. Kabot said that in this case, casino revenues are being redeployed to fund political expenses for campaigns.

“I don’t agree, with our dire financial situation at the county, that money should be redirected to go to politician’s expenses,” she said. “I don’t agree that it’s going to stop the influence of all these special interests.”

Top photo caption: Supervisor candidates Jay Schneiderman, Alex Gregor and Greg Robins. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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