The Island Now

Nicolello campaigns against invisible foe

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Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2011 10:41 am

Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) might be running a one-man race in the 9th District.

Ostensible Democratic opponent Jason Watson is nowhere to be found, while eight term legislator Nicolello continues to campaign in the normal fashion.

Married 23 years with two college age children, the lifelong New Hyde Park resident still enjoys being a legislator. An insurance lawyer, for him, the Legislature is essentially another fulltime job.

"It's nights and weekends," said Nicolello.

During an interview at his law firm of Congdon, Flaherty, O'Callaghan, Reid, Donlon, Travis & Fishlinger, he described a Republican vision for Nassau County that includes no property tax increases, but admitted his caucus could have handled better some issues, such as the NIFA takeover.

He said the main priority for his district is holding the line on property taxes.

"The primary reason is I understand the realities that your average resident is dealing with," he said. "I understand that they are burdened with high taxes. They have difficulty with the assessment system that has been broken for years."

He said during the 10 years of Democratic control, spending increased by at least $600 million.

"I think it's the whole approach that we've taken, myself included, which is to look at the spending side of a whole equation, instead of reaching into taxpayer pockets," he said. "That can't happen anymore. It's going to require some difficult decisions, and it's going to require making decision that are going to make some people unhappy, but we are in this mess because people were unwilling to make those difficult decisions before."

He said his most difficult decisions have involved layoffs.

"The concept of laying off 600 or 700 [county employees] is truly one of the worst things I've had to consider as a legislator. Each one of them is contributing money to a family," he said. "The average Nassau county employee is probably making $40,000 or $50,000, which is probably not enough for a family with a single breadwinner. It's barely enough to survive on the island."

He said the tax assessment system "absolutely does need improvement," but the Legislature has implemented new rules and will consider additional rule changes after next year's budget is passed that would take effect 2012.

"We have started," he said.

The 9th District represents all or parts of Bellerose Terrace, Floral Park, New Hyde Park, North New Hyde Park, Garden City Park, Westbury, Williston Park, East Williston, Mineola and Carle Place.

As a legislator, Nicolello said he is most proud of helping his constituents with local problems, such as flooding in Mineola, and helping Republicans "try to bring the county back."

He said the Legislature will hold hearings before the end of the year on proposed changes that would close two unidentified police precincts, and on Long Island Bus, which is slated to be run by French-based corporation Veolia when the MTA contract ends Dec. 31. Local Democrats have criticized Republicans for refusing to hold hearings on Long Island Bus.

"Could we have had hearing on Long Island bus? Yes. That might be a fair enough criticism," he said.

But, he said without a clear plan, hearings would have been of "very limited value."

"I think you should always give the people an opportunity to speak on something," Nicolello said. "Would that change what we were going to do? No."

Of the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, the board that took over county finances after finding a $176 million deficit in the current county budget, Nicolello said the board had "done some things that have actually helped financially."

"The county executive sued NIFA," he said. "In retrospect, this is 20/20, it's hindsight, what he should have done is embraced them as soon as they came in. Unfortunately, they are not very embraceable."

In an ideal world, he said the 2012 budget would not rely on one-shot revenue sources, such as land sales, but the difficult economic situation makes it a necessary evil.

"They are not ideal things, they are not things that you would want to do, but we are avoiding taxing the residents," he said. "Our position is once we get to a more stable county, those measures will by necessity go away."

Nicolello received his bachelor of arts degree in government and politics (Magna cum Laude) from St. John's University. He received his juris doctor from Fordham Law School. He is a member of the Alumni Associations of Fordham Law School and St. John's University.

He has been a practicing attorney since 1986. He is associated with the law firm of Congdon, Flaherty, O'Callaghan, Reid, Donlon, Travis & Fishlinger. He concentrates in the area of insurance law.

Nicolello served as the counsel to the Board of Education of the NHP-GCP School District from 1987-2009. He was admitted to the New York State Bar, as well as the Federal District Court for the Eastern and Southern Districts. He is also a member of the Nassau County Bar Association.

He is a member and past president of the New Hyde Park-Floral Park Kiwanis Club, associate director of the Irish-Americans in Government, co-chair of the American Committee on Italian Migration, and a member of the Mineola Lions Club, Cellini Lodge (Order Sons of Italy in America), Parks Civic Association, New Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, former coach of the Wildcats Soccer Club, third degree member of the Knights of Columbus, NHP Council, Notre Dame Parish, Elks Club, NHP Lodge, NHP Memorial High School Dad's Club, member-at-large, Shelter Rock District, Theodore Roosevelt Council, Boy Scouts of America, and an honorary policy committee member - Jewish Advisory Network for Security on Long Island.

He is also a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Nassau County Bar Association and Columbian Lawyers' Association, the professional association of Italian-American attorneys.

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