Fri, 26 Aug 2005

Political stalemate stalls $22M in aid - Newsday

Political stalemate stalls $22M in aid
August 26, 2005

A yearlong feud between two Democratic legislators and the Republican-controlled Town of Hempstead has stalled Nassau’s request for $22 million in federal funds intended to help the needy throughout the county.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notified Nassau last week that it rejected the county’s annual application for $18 million in Community Development block grant money and $4 million in other federal funds because the legislature had not authorized the request. The department gave the county 45 days to fix the problem.
The money is allocated among 31 Nassau governments and agencies to provide housing assistance to the poor, elderly and disabled. County officials yesterday continued to insist legislative authorization is not needed to apply for it, even though the county legislature and its predecessor Board of Supervisors have voted to approve it each year for the past 30 years.
To avoid jeopardizing the funds, a key lawmaker promised yesterday the legislature would approve the application at its next meeting.
"This is going through Sept. 7, no ifs, ands or buts," said Legis. David Mejias (D-North Massapequa), who chairs the Minority Affairs Committee. He said that would be "within the 45 days and we will be in full compliance."
The stalemate began in July when Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury) and Legis. Kevan .Abrahams (D-Hempstead) complained that Hempstead Town, which is due about $5 million, has not presented an adequate commercial redevelopment plan for Nassau Road in Roosevelt. The two legislators had been demanding such a plan for more than a year.
Democrats on the Minority Affairs Committee tabled the block grant application after the county attorney’s office and the director of the county’s housing office said it did not need legislative approval.
Nassau submitted its application on Aug. 10, along with a county attorney’s legal opinion that legislative approval was not necessary. HUD’s regional office responded by letter Aug. 18, saying the agency had determined that Nassau’s block grant plan "is substantially incomplete and therefore disapproved."
The letter from regional director Robert Cardillo said federal law requires jurisdictions to certify that their plan is authorized under state and local law. Within 45 days, he said, the county must identify what official or entity authorized the plan, explain the basis for the authorization and provide documentation.
Earlier this month, Oyster Bay Town officials warned Nassau in a letter that HUD had told them the county’s application "will be found to be deficient" without legislative approval.
But Rosemary Olsen, director of the county’s housing office, yesterday said HUD had never told her there would be a problem and she understood the agency simply wanted more details before accepting Nassau’s plan.
Corbin and Abrahams yesterday conceded the application would likely pass despite their objections.
"I know we don’t have the votes to stop it and each legislator has to do what they think is best, but the shame of it is the town’s stubbornness not to do the right thing," Abrahams said. "If it comes to the legislature and the town has no plan, I will vote against it."
Hempstead spokesman Michael Deery yesterday countered that the town has a comprehensive plan for Roosevelt and called the two lawmakers "recklessly irresponsible" for endangering the money.

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