Chamber Celebrates Efforts, Charts Future

The board members took the oath of office at the installation dinner. From the left: Andy Dimakopoulos, Vice President C.J. Coleman, Michael Dispirito, Nancy Morris, Frances Lisner, Lynn King, Kim Jones, past Co-President William Hannan, Co-President Antonietta Manzi, Co-President Matthew Donno, Robert Donno and T.J. Costello. Missing were Treasurer Bo Tian, legal counsel Jared Beschel, Secretary Dawn Tennenbaum, and members Diane Harragan, Steven Blank, Ryan Martin and Steven Panzik. (Manhasset Chamber of Commerce)

The Manhasset Chamber of Commerce exemplifies the old cliche about there being strength in numbers.

There are numerous benefits the chamber brings to the Manhasset businesses and the greater community. Perhaps most consequential is its spearheading an initiative to install sewers in Manhasset’s main business district on Plandome Road. It worked in conjunction with the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District (GNWPCD) and other stakeholders to move the project forward. Members collected more than 1,800 signatures in favor of sewering and facilitated meetings involving the district and town and other elected officials. The chamber helped spur a feasibility study and also secured a $5 million state grant via Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti to finance the project.

Sewering would bring economic and environmental benefits to the area, which relies on costly septic systems to deal with waste. Restaurants, as an example, spend as much as thousands of dollars per month to clean out their cesspools. The project, according to the GNWPCD, will begin late this year or in 2024.

The chamber’s recent installation dinner, held at North Hills Country Club, provided another opportunity for the organization to flex its lobbying role.

Robbie Donno has been the chamber’s leading advocate for sewers. After accepting his Volunteer of the Year Award from last year’s winner, Antonietta Manzi, Donno spoke on the importance of the sewer project to the business district.

He noted that at the time of the 2020 study, the projected cost of putting a sewer line from Northern Boulevard to Webster Avenue (and adjoining streets) was nearly $17 million at the high end. The original plan called for the area’s annexation to the existing GNWPCD taxing district that would have imposed costs on every property within the sewered area. Under the revised plan, businesses will be given the option of connecting to the main sewer line. GNWPCD Supervisor Chris Murphy told the Manhasset Press that the small (4-inch) pipe will be installed with minimal disruption to the busy street. It would connect to the district’s existing line on Northern Boulevard. View article here.

Donno mentioned “the community involvement and input” and the chamber’s hiring of an attorney to assure that things went smoothly.

“The cost difference between having a cesspool, the way it’s done now, and having a sewer is astronomical,” he summed up, and urged attendees to support Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jen DeSena’s plan to use the town’s portion of the federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) to aid the sewer project. It would place $3.094 million in a dedicated fund to supplement the state funds. Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey had put up a competing list of projects benefiting from the town’s $10-plus million State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund program funds.

Donno argued that the additional funds are needed to put in place spurs off the main sewer line. The final individual connections would then be attached to the spurs, reducing potential costs for end users.

“Councilwoman Lurvey had her own plan that she put forward and unfortunately, there was no money assigned in her plan for the use of the ARPA money for the sewer district,” Donno observed. “So we are currently in negotiations with her to get her to change her mind and to vote for the supervisor’s plan, which would give [the sewer project] the boost that it needs. It’s important that you that take the time to write and email the members of the town board and ask them to support Supervisor DeSena’s proposal. This is going to change the face of our community. Make your voice heard. We’ve done a very good job in partnership with the Greater Council of Manhasset Civic Associations. They’ve been our partner in this. We’ve got to push this over the finish line and make this a reality and change the face of Plandome Road.”

(Lurvey, at the ensuing town board meeting, said she had been told by the GNWPCD that the $5 million from the state would be sufficient and thus there was no need for additional funding.)

Donno introduced DeSena, who was attending for her second time as an elected official. For years before, she had joined the gathering as the executive director of the Manhasset Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse (CASA).

The supervisor also encouraged members to back her plan, assuring them that the sewers will not bring high-rise apartments to the busy street, as residents feared.

Keynote speaker Elaine Phillips, center, poses with, from left, Chamber Co-Presidents Matt Donno and Antonietta Manzi, Plandome Manor Mayor Barbara Donno and outgoing Co-President Bill Hannan. (Manhasset Chamber of Commerce)

“This is something that we need for businesses. You in the chamber, you’ve have done so much for businesses. You’ve been waiting for many years for this,” DeSena went on. “This is a great project. This should happen. Townships are using ARPA money for sewer projects all over the state. We submitted it to the federal government and it was approved. I thought this was a no-brainer.”

She added, “I would suggest this is a great use of ARPA funds. It is going towards protecting the environment and it’s pro business. And it’s time to get this long awaited project done. Thank you for all that you do and keep paying attention and let your representatives know what you want.”

“Just don’t call it Supervisor DeSena’s plan,” she joked to laughter.

At the ensuing Jan. 24 town board meeting, the trustees debated DeSena’s resolution. After more than an hour of discussion, and lots of input from Robbie Donno, the board voted 4-3 along party lines to delay the vote until the March 14 meeting. The Democratic majority members said they supported the sewer project, but expressed reservations about the $3 million additional cost. Trustees wanted answers they hope to glean at an early February meeting with the GNWPCD.

Chamber Moves

Robbie Donno accepts the chamber’s Volunteer of the Year award from last year’s winner, Antonietta Manzi. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Co-President Matt Donno bid farewell to Bill Hannan, who shared leadership duties for two years. Hannan got a round of applause for his efforts. He will remain on the board. Antonietta Manzi, who has served as vice president, accepted the position of co-president with Donno, who praised her energy and creative ideas.

The installation lunch’s keynote speaker was Nassau County Comptroller Elaine Phillips, former mayor of Flower Hill who also represented the area in the state Senate for one term.

Phillips briefly discussed the county’s budget and spoke at length about her department’s audit of the county’s Department of Assessment.

“It’s an honor to be here. This is a wonderful organization,” Phillips said. “You know, we always talk about that it’s easy to complain about things and it’s much harder to raise your hand and do something. So the chambers throughout Nassau County—and particularly this one—[are] making changes.”

The comptroller thanked the government and school board representatives as well as the Manhasset-Port Washington Kiwanis club in attendance.

Chamber Achievements

According to Co-President Matt Donno, 2022 was a great year for the Manhasset Chamber of Commerce. Some of the highlights included:

• Earth Day Community Clean-up Day in April

• Successful series of Manhasset Al Fresco summer outdoor shopping/dining on Plandome Road

• Halloween on Plandome Trick or Treat

• Merry Manhasset Small Business Saturday

• The Chamber’s beautification sponsorships that enabled beautification of Plandome Road with floral hanging baskets and flowering planters throughout the spring and summer.

• In the fall, the chamber decorated the light poles with corn stalks and Halloween decorations. This winter, it decorated the light posts with real garland and Christmas lights.


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