Democrats retained a majority on the Southampton Town Board yesterday with the election of Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman to the Southampton town supervisor’s post and Southampton Town conservation board member John Bouvier to the board seat being vacated by Councilwoman Bridget Fleming. Schneiderman, fellow Independence Party member Brad Bender and Bouvier were all elected with Democratic backing.
Incumbent Republican Councilwoman Christine Scalera was elected to a second term yesterday. Scalera garnered the most votes in a tight four-way race for two seats.
Schneiderman, who defeated Southampton Trustee Richard Yastrzemski by a 56 to 44 percent margin, will succeed Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, a Democrat who is seeking her party’s nomination to run for Congress in 2016.
Fleming will succeed Schneiderman in the Second Legislative District, a seat he held 12 years and was forced to vacate due to term limits.
Schneiderman, a former East Hampton resident who served two terms as town supervisor there (2000-2003) before his election to the legislature, found himself defending his local credentials in the campaign, with his opponent focusing attention on his residency and role in East Hampton.
“I wasn’t sure that would resonate with voters,” Schneiderman said in an interview this morning. “I was a little nervous going in,” he said.
Schneiderman hopes to pursue a novel approach to affordable housing opportunities for local young professionals. He has proposed a town-sponsored and administered program that would “identify underutilized homes” and then finance and construct accessory apartments that would be rented to a pre-qualified tenant. A portion of the rent would pay the debt service on the construction, while most of the rental income would be payable to the homeowner, creating a much-needed revenue stream for seniors, single parents and others who are struggling to maintain home ownership, Schneiderman said.
“It’s a new concept and we’d start small,” he said.
“I’m not going to say we’ll house all of our work force. That’s not going to happen,” Schneiderman said. “But we have to house a larger proportion of our workforce in housing that’s not substandard and in housing that’s in the communities where people are working.”
The Riverside Revitalization Action Plan, which calls for the construction of more than 2,200 new dwelling units in the hamlet adjoining downtown Riverhead, is “very ambitious,” Schneiderman said. “I would not want to roll it out quickly, but it may not be possible to start it small, since it depends on the construction of a sewage treatment plant,” he said.
“If the community is comfortable with this plan, I will do everything I can to make sure it comes to fruition,” the supervisor-elect said.
He noted that the County Legislature will need to vote to appropriate funding for the Route 24 traffic circle reconstruction next year and said he would lobby hard as supervisor to make sure that appropriation gets 12 votes among his former colleagues.
Schneiderman said he looks forward to working in bipartisan fashion with the town board, whose members, he said, have proven themselves to be hard-working and diligent.
“I think I have a great board,” he said.
“I will be the kind of supervisor who will be really out there in the community. I want to help unite the community. Southampton faces a lot of challenges. We have to be one community and overcome multiple divisions,” he said. Those include “race and ethnicity, wealth, geography, local versus nonlocal, all kinds of things. We need to find the things that unite us. We all really have the same goals. Ultimately, it’s all about quality of life.”
Schneiderman’s sentiments were echoed by Scalera. “It’s great to hear,” she said in a phone interview this morning. “I’ve always worked in a bipartisan fashion. You have to put the residents first. We have a job to do and will work together to get it done. That’s the kind of culture we’ve had here and I’m happy that it will continue.”
Scalera said there is room for disagreement on issues, but it’s important to work together to resolve them.
“I’m confident we will have respectful dialogue and debate. Maybe we agree at the end, maybe we won’t,” Scalera said, “but we’ll listen to one another and do what’s best for the town.”
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