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1st District

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Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. Photo by Phil Corso

By Elana Glowatz

Two neighborhood leaders are battling for Brookhaven Town’s 1st Council District seat, with incumbent Valerie Cartright leaning on her record of community involvement and challenger Ed Garboski on his background as a small business owner and civic president.

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski. Photo by Phil Corso
Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski. Photo by Phil Corso

In a debate at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers office last week, Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who is seeking her second term on the town board, and the Republican Garboski, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, did not stand apart on many of the area’s biggest issues.

Both said they agreed that repaving town roads, upgrading parks and preserving open space were important, as well as holding the line on taxes. They also made similar statements about the need to crack down on illegal housing in the area, specifically overcrowded homes rented to raucous Stony Brook University students — Cartright and Garboski said the town has to work with the university to alleviate the problem.

But one issue for which they had different solutions was the pace of the town’s approval process for businesses looking to locate or expand in Brookhaven. Many stakeholders have argued the process for site plan approval and other planning and zoning concerns is slow and deters business, particularly in a sluggish economy. The candidates said they heard those complaints and had plans to address them.

“I was a home improvement contractor and had to deal with the Town of Brookhaven,” Garboski said, adding that he also witnesses the movement of business in his role as civic president. “The bureaucracy … [has] just too many rules and regulations.”

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. Photo by Phil Corso

He said the town should keep watch on businesses, but needs to move things along. According to the challenger, his first step would be determining whether the holdup is a personnel issue or can be attributed to the approval process itself.

The incumbent, on the other hand, pointed to a department restructure in the town in January 2014 — among other changes, the town board split up the building and fire prevention department, putting building into the planning department and fire prevention into the public safety department.

“I think it’s time for us to sit down as a board and evaluate that restructuring to see if it’s been more effective,” Cartright said. “To see if there’s any additional stuff that needs to be restructured.”

Another topic that received different responses was the issue of drug abuse and addiction on Long Island. While Garboski stressed the need for outreach programs in neighborhood schools and educating parents so they can identify a child with a drug problem, Cartright said Brookhaven should be assisting community groups that are already tackling the issue and should work with the county to get homeless people, many of whom struggle with addiction, the services they need.

In endorsing herself for re-election, Cartright said she has worked to bridge the gap between the government and the community, touting the bulletin that she sends out to residents with information about upcoming public hearings and proposed laws, among other outreach efforts.

Garboski said he agreed that bulletin is helpful to people like him, who are keeping an eye on town news. For his own part, he emphasized his experience as a business owner with negotiating and budgets, and said he has time to put toward alleviating quality of life issues.

The two community advocates will face off on Nov. 3.

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President announces candidacy against Valerie Cartright

Above, far right, Ed Garboski testifies before the town board. He has announced he is running for the seat held by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. File photo

Ed Garboski will be taking a leave from his role as civic president as he works to unseat Councilwoman Valerie Cartright in the fall.

Garboski, of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, announced his run against one-term incumbent Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) for Brookhaven Town Board’s 1st District at the civic’s meeting on Wednesday night — opening up much debate.

The association’s bylaws do not contain a provision for taking a leave of absence, which originally created a tricky situation for the membership during the discussion. The room was divided — and at times argumentative — over whether Garboski should resign his position as he runs for political office on the Republican and Conservative tickets.

Faith Cardone said she felt it would be a conflict of interest for him to remain the president while running a political campaign for the Town Board.

Garboski said he had wanted to take a leave of absence, largely because he foresees having less time to fulfill his presidential duties, but was limited because of the bylaws’ shortcoming. He pushed back, however, when some called for his resignation, including fellow civic executive board member Joan Nickeson.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. File photo
Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. File photo

“I don’t think that I need to resign as of right now,” he said. “Where’s the conflict [of interest]?”

Other members also spoke up against Garboski remaining in his civic position.

“I don’t want to insult your integrity, Ed,” Gerard Maxim said, but having Garboski serve as president while also running for Town Board “makes it awkward for us.”

There were, however, voices of support in the audience.

Kevin Spence, a Comsewogue library board member, said there is no ethical problem before Election Day.

“I don’t see where this is a conflict until he gets elected.”

After some back and forth, Garboski relented somewhat, saying, “if this is such a big problem … if it’s that important to this membership here that I step down, I’ll step down.”

But instead, another library board member, Rich Meyer, made a motion for civic members to vote on granting Garboski a leave of absence starting in August and ending after the election, overriding the bylaws.

The members unanimously approved the motion for his leave.

Once Garboski departs in August, Vice President Diane Lenihan-Guidice will step into his shoes, including running the civic meetings for the months he is away.

Cartright, who is running for a second term on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence lines, said in a statement she and Garboski “will continue to work together to address community concerns. As a sitting elected representative, I firmly believe government always comes before politics.”

She said if re-elected she would “address the needs and ideas of the community and advocate for an informative and transparent local government.”