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Closer Look Podcast: Greenport Village Trustee candidates forum

The four candidates vying for two seats on the Greenport Village Board introduced themselves and answered questions from the public at a candidate forum Monday night at Floyd Memorial Library. 

The event was organized and moderated by Rena Casey-Wilhelm, who took questions from the audience and from a “Greenport Village 2019 Election” Facebook page she created.

Since Mayor George Hubbard Jr. is running unopposed, only the trustee candidates were asked questions. And only one of the two incumbents up for re-election is seeking another term, as Doug Roberts opted not to run again.

The other incumbent, Jack Martilotta, a Greenport High School teacher and National Guard reservist, is pursuing another four-year term.

The other candidates are Devin McMahon, a former village Planning Board chair and bar manager at Lucharito’s; Lily Dougherty-Johnson, who owns Lily’s Farm and works part-time at CAST (Community Action Southold Town); and Peter Clarke, who owns Clarke’s Garden and Home store in the village.

Devin McMahon

Mr. McMahon, 33, said he’s lived in Greenport his entire life. He served for five years on the village Planning Board and was its chair.

“I’m running because I want to continue volunteering my time,” he said. “I’m a lifelong member of the community who has seen the struggles people are dealing with in trying to stay within the community.”

Lily Dougherty-Johnson

Ms. Dougherty-Johnson, 38, also grew up in Greenport. “My motivation is because I love this space,” she said in explaining her decision to run for office.

She’s volunteered with the Dances in the Park committee and the Friends of Mitchell Park.

“I just want to stay involved and I want the village to retain the character it had when I was growing up, but also welcome all the new change. We need to be planning for change and for the things we want to see.”

Peter Clarke

Mr. Clarke, 60, moved to Greenport in 1998 and became a full-time resident in 2010.

“After a few years of living here part-time, I realized it’s a place I wanted to live in full-time,” he said.

He owns Clarke’s Garden and Home in the village and served as president of the Business Improvement District for several years. He said he has extensive business experience as well as volunteering work.

“We’re at a crossroads,” he said. “We are trying to make good decisions for the future of Greenport and they don’t have easy answers. My goal is to engage the community and make sure we take a road that includes everyone that’s a constituent in the community.”

Jack Martilotta

Mr. Martilotta, 43, has lived in Greenport for 12 years and lived on the North Fork before that.

“I moved out here when I got out of the service, I met my wife, and this is where we wanted to live,” he said.

Mr. Martilotta is also the varsity football coach at Greenport. He served in the Army and still serves in the National Guard.

He said there were a lot of challenges in the village when he was first elected four years ago, and many of them have been met, including repairing the power plant, repaving many village streets and widening Main Street.

Below is a sampling of some of the questions and answers from Monday’s forum:

Q: How can you promote community involvement?

Ms. Dougherty-Johnson said the village web site could be “more user-friendly,” and suggested that the village get its own Facebook page. She said she’s written letters to the village officials and gotten no response.

Mr. Clarke said outreach is the first thing that comes to mind, both electronically and in person.

“Encouraging people to voice their opinions and thoughts and concerns,” he said. He said he will make himself available for open office hours if elected.

Mr. Martilotta said the board has made some related changes in the last four years, such as moving meetings to 7 p.m. and streaming them online. He said he was initially concerned that not many people were watching them it, but eventually realized they were, as he often encountered people who asked him about things they’d seen on meeting videos.

Mr. McMahon said community involvement is incumbent on community members. He said when he was Planning Board chair, people would often say that they didn’t know applications had even been proposed. He said increased visibility can get more people involved and engaging younger generations to come to village meetings would help.

Q: What is the village’s most glaring shortfall?

While none of the candidates felt the village had a “glaring” shortfall, Mr. Martilotta said the village needs to do a better job of communicating and explaining its vision.

Mr. McMahon said finding a creative way to get issues out to the community before meetings could be beneficial. Often, people hear about items that were discussed at a prior meeting, he said.

Ms. Dougherty-Johnson said the village should do more long-range planning.

Mr. Clarke said he feels the board needs to be faster in moving from ideas to implementation.

Q: What would you like to see happen in the village?

Ms. Dougherty-Johnson said she’d like to see the waterfront remain accessible and not be developed into more condos, and would also like to see businesses other than hotels and restaurants downtown.

Mr. Clarke said he’d like to engage experts on a case-by-case basis to augment the Village Hall staff.

“We need resources so we are not viewed as a small hamlet that the big boys can come into and take advantage of,” he said.

Mr. Martilotta said the most important asset the village has is its sewer plant. “That’s the jewel of the entire village,” he said. “It’s something no one else has on the North Fork. We don’t have septic rings and immediately outside the village does.”

He said the village should try to find a way to extend the sewers to the Stirling Harbor area.

Mr. McMahon agreed with Mr. Martilotta. He also cited infrastructure and long-range planning.

Q: How would you alleviate parking problems?

Mr. Clarke said the village had a parking study done in the mid-2000s but only some of its recommendations were implemented. He said the BID suggested implementing municipal meters downtown but that was rejected.

He supports a system in which people would pay to park in prime parking spots, with lower-priced flat rates for the entire day in other areas. He also encouraged the development of off-site parking within a quarter-mile of downtown at a low price or art no cost.

Mr. Martilotta said metered parking “didn’t seem particularly popular.”

The village recently put a limit on how long people can park at the MTA lot and the village hired seasonal traffic control officers to enforce parking laws.

“There is no simple solution to the parking problems in the village,” Mr. McMahon said. He suggested taking several approaches, such as seasonal meters on parts of Front and Main Streets, and parking passes for village residents.

“It has to be a comprehensive approach,” he said.

Increasing communication with the Long Island Rail Road was also suggested. Mr. McMahon said the LIRR frequently says it doesn’t provide more service on the North Fork because they don’t have the ridership. But they don’t have the ridership because they don’t have the service, he said.

Ms. Dougherty-Johnson said she likes the idea of a shuttle from Moore’s Lane to downtown Greenport. “It would be a good, low-cost option and we’re not paving anything,” she said.

Also on the ballot in November but not actively running for trustee is Cynthia Roe, better known as Cyndy Pease Roe, who said this week that she has withdrawn her candidacy.

Voting in the village election will take place Tuesday, March 19, at the Third Street Fire Station, where polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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