Greenport Village candidates make their opening pitch

(L-R) Candidates at the Meet the Candidates night in East Marion Tuesday evening. (Credit: Paul Squire)
(L-R) Candidates William Swiskey, Doug Roberts, Zuleyha (Julie) Lillis, George Hubbard and David Muarry at the Meet the Candidates night in East Marion Tuesday evening. Not pictured is Village Trustee candidate Jack Martilotta, who was away on duty with the National Guard at the time of the event.(Credit: Paul Squire)

The North Fork Chamber of Commerce’s Meet the Candidates night Tuesday evening marked the first opportunity for the Greenport Village mayoral and trustee candidates to make their pitches in the same room. All the candidates were there except resident Jack Martilotta a trustee candidate who was on duty with the National Guard at the time of the event.

Though not a debate, the candidates answered questions on issues posed to them from the audience at Hellenic Snack Bar in East Marion — from shoveling snow and keeping the popular ice skating rink open to civility and openness by the Village Board and the future of Mitchell Park. 

Read what the candidates had to say — in their own words — below:

Who they are:

Greenport Mayor Candidate and current Deputy Mayor George Hubbard: “Right now I’m serving on the Village Board. I’ve been there for eight years as a trustee … I think we’ve come a long way. We’ve got some good stuff done. There’s a lot more work to be done throughout the power plant and other stuff in the village. I plan to be very straightforward with people. Anytime I’ve run a meeting over the past eight years, we’ve been open for conversation, for talk. That’s the kind of meeting I run … I work on Shelter Island but I’m born and bred in Greenport all my life. I care deeply about Greenport and I only look for the best thing for all of us.”

Greenport Mayor Candidate Zuleyha (Julie) Lillis: “I am not a politician. I have business experience and reside in Greenport. I want Greenport to be a better place for residents and small business owners. I will be a full-time mayor. I am honest and trustworthy and I want input from the residents and taxpayers … Together we can make Greenport a better place to live and work. A vote for me is a vote for a better Greenport.”

Village Trustee candidate and incumbent David Murray: “I’ve been on the board for four years now and one of my main roles for the village is the liaison for Mitchell Park Marina. It’s been a joy being the liaison for Mitchell Park. Three years ago I was on the steering committee for the Tall Ships event …  It’s going to be another fantastic event. I’m honored to be on the steering committee for that. We’re going to bring in another 100,000 people. Not only do they come to Greenport, but they also come to the other businesses on the North Fork … I look for your support and look forward to another four years.”

Village Trustee candidate Doug Roberts: “I was born and raised ‘up the island’ in Northport, a town that once had the promise and magic of Greenport. But today it looks like another New York City commuter town, which disappoints me … [My wife and I] decided to come here and we’re raising our family here. This feels to me like the Long Island that our parents would have found in their 30s … I’ve spent all these years working with school districts, working with private sector companies, starting my own business. I’ve picked up some lessons along the way that could be helpful in determining Greenport’s future … It’s clear that folks in town have lost faith in their government. They think we can do better, and I aim to honor their trust and restore their trust in our government.”

Village Trustee candidate William Swiskey: “I guess most of you know who I am. I’m not going to try to blow smoke in your face. The Village has serious problems. Its roads are crumbling. The almost $5 million upgrade at the power plant has gone seriously wrong — they can’t tell us why. We have no policy for Mitchell Park. Relay for Life had to go back to Southold because the Village couldn’t accommodate it because of the moratorium [on events]. Yet last night, they voted to approve a mass assembly permit with the moratorium still on [the park]. When I questioned them, they all looked like they didn’t know what was going on. We have serious problems and they’re going to be costly to fix. We have a firehouse that needs a lot of work, we have broken roads – we – well – that’s what I got to say.”

Should the Village clear sidewalks downtown after snowstorms?

Hubbard: “After the big storm, it was done. After the little storms, it wasn’t done. I would make sure that it is done and continue it on.”

Swiskey: “I believe in that … I would commit to that in an instant.”

Roberts: “We just spent a bunch of money paying somebody to walk around village streets taping notices to people’s doors that hadn’t shoveled their sidewalks. Those notices, by the way, said you’re going to get a big $250 fine and go to jail. What if we took the money we paid the guy to walk around and put those signs up and put it into shoveling.”

Should the Village close the ice rink, which critics say is losing money?

Murray: “That has never been brought up closing down the rink. We would never do that. That was a brilliant idea to put that rink there in the first place. That brings in people in the wintertime … that’s a vital thing for the Village of Greenport.”

Roberts: “We need more stuff like [the ice rink].”

Swiskey: “That would be insane to close that ice rink.”

Should the Village limit events at Mitchell Park or charge a fee to those who want to hold events there?

Hubbard: “We’re looking for everybody’s input on that. We did a couple of public hearings on that a year ago … Yes, we want to correct the issues and the problems down there and keep it open for everybody. People that put tents in there, we have an area that’s designated now [for them] … We’re trying to keep everything away from the center part of the marina.”

Murray: “Everything that has come up for public assembly permit, I’ve voted against. I agree that the park is for the people … That’s why we have a moratorium. I can’t stand seeing things in there every week.”

Swiskey: “People give me grief about this, but the park is for the people. The marina is to raise money. And some of these events shouldn’t be in the park …  We need to get control of the park back.”

Roberts: “I was exploring this idea [of charging to have events in the park] early on. If you can’t change your mind, are you sure you have one? … I’ve since talked to a lot of people around town and that is not a good idea. We need to protect that park for the people. The problem right now is the marina doesn’t make any money.”

Lillis: “I will listen to all and work with your elected officials in making the best decision for Greenport, I promise.”

Should public discourse, specifically at Village Board meetings, be less contentious and if so, how?

Hubbard: “The Mayor has control of the meetings. He runs his style of meeting. He is the person that is in charge of it. He’s supposed to control order … every meeting that I’ve run, I’ve never told somebody that they couldn’t speak … I did not always agree with what the Mayor was saying.”

Swiskey: “If I’m sitting at a table on the board as a Trustee and the Mayor acts like that to somebody, he’s going to hear it from me and he can try to throw me out of the meeting.”

Lillis: “It’s time to change. It’s time to change. We have to do better.”