Two Vie For Park District Commissioner Seat

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David Paterson
David Paterson
Jay Hernandez
Jay Hernandez

This month, the Manhasset residents will get to cast ballots to decide into whose hands they will be placing important Manhasset assets—public parking spots, to be exact.

One of the three Manhasset Park District Commissioner seats is up for grabs in the upcoming Dec. 8 election. It is a position that is in charge of both municipal and metered parking lots for shoppers as well as merchant lots that are reserved for store owners and their employees to park. The department also oversees 544 commuter spots for the Long Island Rail Road parking lot as well.

The incumbent, David Paterson, takes his job seriously; he noted that he personally patrols Manhasset’s parking lots himself up to three times a day. He was elected as Park District Commissioner in December of 2012 to a three-year term, and is seeking to serve a second term come the elections to be held on Tuesday.

Paterson is a filmmaker and writer, best known for cowriting and producing the 2007 movie Bridge to Terabithia and has been involved in other cinematic works screened at major film festivals. In addition, he is also a professional stunt man and a volunteer firefighter.

Despite the many hats that he wears, Paterson said he’s also been an active member of the Manhasset community, where he’s lived with his wife and sons since 1999. He said that he jumped at the chance when asked to run for his first term as Park District Commissioner and during his tenure he said that he feels he’s worked passionately to improve parking conditions in the area.

“I decided to run on a platform of transparency and change, which I’ve been very successful at since elected,” he said. “I make sure that we always reach out to the community…we keep our website constantly updated, and I created an ‘instant report’ for both staff and community members to be able to immediately report an incident in one of our lots that will be immediately reviewed and addressed. Since this was implemented, our complaints have dropped dramatically and relations with the community have improved greatly.”

Paterson also noted that he’s put a lot of effort into creating additional parking solutions for the Manhasset area, since he said that situation has always been an issue in the area. If reelected, he promised to continue his efforts in that regard as well as spearhead new initiatives.

“In the three years I’ve been commissioner, we’ve had the largest increase in commuter, merchant, and shopper parking than in the last ten years of the Park District,” he said. “I’m also trying to create an even better relationship with the Town of North Hempstead…we need them to make some broader changes, such as a reconfiguration of one of our lots to add more commuters spaces. We also want to lease town property so we can create more spaces as well and work with them on closing illegal parking lots.”

Paterson’s challenger is no stranger to the office of the Park District Commissioner. Jay Hernandez held the job himself last year for eight months. He was appointed after the position had been vacated. Seeking re-election in December of last year, Hernandez unfortunately came up short in the election by less than ten votes. This year he hopes to reclaim the office.

Hernandez’s background is every bit as rich and varied as that of his opponent. He is an extensive world traveler who has had a long, 37 year history in international banking. He left the banking business and started a second career as a high school teacher, but after finding it unfulfilling, moved into real estate and currently runs a successful rental property company.

Now semiretired, Hernandez said that he has the free time on his hands to be able to fully devote himself to serving the community of Manhasset, of which he has been a resident for over 20 years with his wife and two daughters.

It was this desire to help his fellow residents that drove him to accepting his original appointment as Park District Commissioner and it is this same desire that is driving him to attempt to hold that office once again, he said.

“My strength has always been in bringing people together and getting things done…during my first tenure as commissioner, I worked to bring the Town of North Hempstead and the Park Department closer together. There’s been a lot of animosity between the two and I tried to bring them together to get more things done,” he said. “That animosity held up the opening of a new parking lot, and I personally got that lot open by holding the presentations myself. I’m a bipartisan person and I don’t care about political affiliations…I’m an independent, so I will work with whoever is on the other team to get the job done. That’s my job.”

Hernandez also noted that, based on his past in the financial industry, he took a much more active interest and role in the finances of the Park Department, making sure that he personally signed off on all monthly reconciliations…something he said his processors had neglected to do.

If elected as commissioner, Hernandez said that he will bring his considerable skills and his civic-minded attitude to bear on the parking issues that concern Manhasset residents most; and, he promises, he will get results.

“The things that need to get done would have already been done if people would just sit across from each other at a table and work together to get them done…all of the proposals put forth by the current commissioners would have been done by now if they did that,” he said. “I think there are things that need to get done, such as reconfiguring the parking lots. I also think there are much better ways of collecting revenue for the parking spaces from residents and non­residents, and there are better ways of tracking finances…the Manhasset Park District manages a lot of money, and that money has to be responsibly spent, and those decisions have to be transparent so that the public is aware of how it’s spent.”

Elections will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the Manhasset-Lakeville Firehouse Company #1 at 35 Bayview Ave. Both candidates encourage the public to attend and vote for who they believe to be the best man for the job.

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