Celebration Delayed Is Still Celebration

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Oyster Bay Republicans take oaths of office

Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino (right) takes the oath of office, sworn in by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (left). (Photos by Frank Rizzo)

An evening celebrating a sweep of elective offices for Town of Oyster Bay Republicans was drawing to a close.

Rabbi Jaimee Shalhevet of the North Shore Synagogue stepped up to the podium to deliver the Benediction.

But before the serious words came the light-hearted remarks, a pattern followed by most of the speakers.

“I’d like to take a poll,” she pronounced. “OK, are there other Jewish Democrats in the room (raising her hand)?”

Seeing few or none, she joked that she would need an escort out of the room as appreciative laughter filled the space.

The rabbi was safe, of course.

In a large auditorium where registered Democrats were scarce, a spirit of bipartisanship did often reign on Jan. 10 at Hicksville High School.

One of the state’s ranking Democrats, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, was there to administer the oath of office to Supervisor Joseph Saladino, who won a two-year term last November after being appointed late last January.

Councilman Joseph Muscarella, who served as emcee, observed that it “was an historic election last year. Against all odds it was the best election in the Town of Oyster Bay ever (applause).”

He acknowledged a number of politicians in attendance, and the one who got the biggest applause was former Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta, whose term ended in 2000.

Muscarella joked about the snowstorm the previous Thursday that delayed the ceremony.

“It took Joseph Saladino three tries to [become] supervisor last year. You think [the inaugural] is going to happen on the first try?” he joshed.

Councilman Tony Macagnone swore in Town Clerk Jim Altadonna Jr. to a second full term.

Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Angelo Delligatti, a former supervisor and councilman in Oyster Bay, did the honors for councilmembers Thomas Hand and Lou Imbroto, who won elections in their own right after being appointed to fill vacancies on the board in 2017.

Councilwoman Michele Johnson was sworn in by Nassau County Supreme Court Justice John Galasso, who recalled holding her when she was a baby.

Amanda Swickle of Jericho sings the National Anthem at the Jan. 10 inaugural ceremony. Looking on, from left, are Town of Oyster Bay councilmembers Thomas Hand, Lou Imbroto, Michele Johnson and Supervisor Joseph Saladino. Swickle has performed in the Broadway National Tour of the musical Annie.

Cross Party Pals

After noting that Saladino is on friendly terms with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who was slated to appear but had to miss the ceremony, Muscarella turned to DiNapoli and said, “I do want to ask the comptroller, ‘Does Joseph Saladino have any Republican friends in Albany?’” to laughter.

Muscarella remarked on the deep connection DiNapoli had to the area. The night before, the emcee had talked for 45 minutes with DiNapoli’s brother, Jim, to gather some humorous material. He made the connection after calling Jim’s mother-in-law, Sally Iavone of North Massapequa. Iavone, Muscarella said, hosts the comptroller at large family gatherings.

“I was born in the Town of Hempstead and grew up in North Hempstead, but Oyster Bay is a great town. It deserves a great government. I lived in Nassau County my entire life,” said DiNapoli, who mentioned visiting aunts in Hicksville and Farmingdale and spending a lot of time in the town.

The comptroller and Saladino both served in the state legislature as members of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, which DiNapoli chaired.

Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta (right) received a big hand when introduced. At left is new Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, a former state assemblyman.

“Joe was relentless in talking to me about environmental issues, and certainly the Grumman-Navy Plume,” he related. “For years, it’s been a passion of his to see that the citizens would be protected and that the drinking water would be protected.”

DiNapoli also revealed that Saladino—whom he labeled “an avid outdoorsman”—lobbied him to clear the legislative path to name the striped bass as the state’s saltwater fish.

“Saladino was always there to support our agenda,” DiNapoli said of his time on the legislature. “It didn’t matter if I was lead sponsor as a Democrat—if it was good for the environment and the people of Long Island, Joe was [for it.]”

Someone asked me, ‘Why are you going to the swearing-in for Joe Saladino? You’re a Democrat, he’s a Republican.’ Well, first of all he asked me. And I was raised the right way. When a friend asks you to do something, you say yes. But I’m also very proud to be here because I know this man. And I respect this man. And I value his friendship at the personal level. And I’ve appreciated it at the governmental level. He’s always been a wonderful colleague and a standup guy. There are times for elections—we all know that. But what’s more important is the time for politics. From my point of view we can benefit from less politics and more governing. And I think that’s what Joe Saladino stands for (applause).”

DiNapoli recalled the time he was approached to replace New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi after the latter resigned because of a scandal.

“Joe was someone I reached out to,” DiNapoli related. “And I said. ‘I know I’m on the other side of the aisle, but is there a chance you can consider supporting me? Because I can’t get this position if I only have Democratic votes in the Assembly—there’s not enough votes.’ And without hesitation Joe said. ‘Tom, I know you and work with you, and I will vote for you and I will support you.’ And it really meant so much to me, that at a time of great challenge for me to get the position, Joe Saladino didn’t care about what party label I had. He looked to me as a person and he was willing to stand with me. And I’ve never forgotten that. And it’s really a privilege to continue to call you friend.”

Richie Cannata, on sax, and keyboardist Chris Clark perform “New York State of Mind,” the first song Cannata said he recorded with Hicksville native Billy Joel. Cannata deftly declined to rank Supervisor Joseph Saladino’s skills on the drums when asked by emcee Joe Muscarella, but said he planned to play some gigs around town, and the supervisor was welcome to sit in. “In this venue was created one of the greatest songwriters in the business, my dear friend and colleague Billy Joel,” Cannata observed. “I believe he went to high school here, and he was very appreciative of this great place called Long Island.”

DiNapoli acknowledged the difficulties Saladino faced when he took over.

“And I know what it’s like to walk into an office—appointed, not elected—having to clean things up as quickly as possible,” DiNapoli pointed out. “I had a couple of years to do it. He didn’t have quite as long. And you get blamed for some of the old stuff and people say you haven’t done enough. It’s not easy. But Joe rose to the occasion (applause). He set a clear path.”

He added, “I know this is a wonderful town. And the people here deserve quality service. They deserve a government that they can respect. You had budget and financial issues. Spending issues. Debt issues. Some of which we pointed out in past audits—but the warning signs were not heeded. And it really lead to a moment of crisis. And some overriding concerns—ethics, integrity, transparency: something we need to do a better job of at all levels of government today.”

DiNapoli said that “restoring faith in town government here in Oyster Bay has certainly been the number one challenge. And this team led by Supervisor Saladino has taken on the challenge in all those areas, particularly with regards to budget, fiscal responsibility and openness. Much has been done, but there’s much more work to do. And I’m confident that with your leadership, Joe, that work will get done.”

Supervisors, DiNapoli noted, have only one vote as part of a leadership team, and “the only way to get an agenda passed is to build consensus. It’s an unusual position. Everybody thinks you’re the guy or woman in charge, but in fact, you have to get the votes of the majority on the town board. I know that Joseph Saladino is a consensus builder. I know that he’s a good listener.”

He added, “I’ve seen that Saladino spirit up close on many occasions. He is a worker. And I asked one of your former colleagues on the Assembly, ‘What would be the one word you would use to describe Joe?’ And he said, ‘It’s an easy one to come up with: he’s a relentless. He doesn’t stop. When he’s committed to something, he truly gets the job done.”

DiNapoli said that Saladino could’ve stayed in the Assembly and coasted to many more terms, gaining seniority and continuing to do good work in the capital.

“And instead of taking the easy path, Joe Saladino instead said, ‘I want to come back home. There’s a big need in the Town of Oyster Bay. I want to make a difference in the community I’ve called home my entire life,” DiNapoli said. “I admire anybody, especially during these very challenging times in government, who says, ‘I want to take on the hard job. I’m not content to take the easy path.’ So Joe, I’m thrilled that you asked me to [administer the oath].”

The Jyotika Dance Group provided some of the entertainment. Looking on, from left, are Town Clerk Jim Altadonna Jr. and councilmembers Thomas Hand and Lou Imbroto.

Touting The Record

Saladino had a long list of people to thank, starting with his parents, Jessie and State Supreme Court Justice Joseph J. Saladino Sr. His speech centered on the turnaround in the town since he took over.

“New change is being assured,” affirmed Saladino. “We feel it. We know we’re reshaping this town. As supervisor, I’m proud of the many milestones our town board and dedicated workforce have reached in reshaping the public trust and enhancing transparency while delivering these important services in a fiscally sound way.”

He added, “Protecting your wallet is a pledge we’ve made and a promise we will keep. When I first took office, the town faced a budget crisis, but I’m happy to report that our finances are now stable thanks to greater efficiencies, innovative measures and cost savings programs. And we will soon see a greatly improved bond rating which will lower taxes.” Pointedly turning toward DiNapoli, Saladino said that he looks forward to good audits from the comptroller’s office.

He ticked off some highlights from his year in office:

  • LED streetlights saved $500,000 on the electric bill.
  • A new recycling contract that “turns trash into cash to the tune of millions of dollars.”
  • Collecting five times the amount of revenue at the park and beach concessions.
  • Same-day building permits—the town has issued more than 2,000 since the start of the program last April.
  • Reversing the trend of what Saladino called “wild borrowing….By the end of this year the town of Oyster Bay will have paid off 22 percent of its debt.
  • The Hicksville downtown revitalization, spurred by a $10 million state grant. “With community input a new zoning plan will be presented to the town board, and we will redesign this historic and wonderfully diverse community,” Saladino affirmed. “The plan incorporates smart growth, complete streets and transit-oriented development to create Long Island’s coolest downtown.”

Summed up Saladino, “This administration is getting the job done….It’s the dawn of a new day in our beloved town. We will not let you down, and we will never let you down.”

Odds And Ends

Hicksville School District Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso gave the welcoming speech.

The Color Guard consisted of the American Legion Post 1066 of Massapequa and the Boy Scouts of America Troop 776.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by student liaisons to area school boards: Viren Fernandes, Katherine Jergensen, Gunther Chow and Joseph Reyes.

Father Kenneth Zack of St. Rose of Lima in Massapequa intoned the Invocation.

Spiritual reflections were given by Pandit Man Ji, Asamai Hindu Temple of Hicksville and Giani Armarjit Singh of Plainview’s Guru Gobind Sikh Center.

Entertainment was provided by singer Maureen Taylor and pianist Seth Weinstein.

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Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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