With a little less than a month to go until the Nov. 8 elections, the Bardonia Civic Association hosted a candidates forum Monday night at the St. Francis of Assisi Church, where 18 candidates for town, county and state government came out to talk to voters.
“At our fall meeting, we always try to have the candidates come in and talk to us if there’s an election coming up,” said Arlene Whitaker, president of the Bardonia Civic Association.
She said they invited 21 candidates, so having 18 show up was a solid turnout, as was the crowd that came out to the event.
“We must’ve had about 100 people here tonight,” she said. “And many of them had questions about different issues. It wasn’t about one problem or one issue. It was a very multi-faceted evening.”
The candidates in attendance were:
- Rockland County Sheriff: Louis Falco, democrat; and Tim O'Neill, independence
- Family Court Judge: Paul Chiaramonte, republican
- Rockland County Legislative District #9: Christopher Carey, republican; and Christopher Martone, democrat
- Clarkstown Supervisor: Alex Gromack, democratic incumbent and Ralph Sabatini, republican challenger
- Clarkstown Town Council: Shirley Lasker, democratic incumbent; Frank Borelli, republican incumbent; David Ascher, democratic challenger; Shibu Abraham, republican challenger
- Clarkstown Clerk: Justin Sweet, democratic incumbent and Diane Holland, republican challenger
- Clarkstown Justice - Howard Gerber, democratic incumbent and Antonio Reda, republican challenger
- Clarkstown Superintendent of Highways: Wayne Ballard, republican incumbent and Dennis Malone, democratic challenger
- New York State Supreme Court Justice: Paul Marx, democrat
The forum gave each candidate two minutes to make opening statements, then opened it up to the crowd for questions directed at any of the candidates and ended with giving each candidate another two minutes for closing remarks.
One of the biggest issues the Bardonia Civic Association has faced in recent months is a at the intersection of Bardonia Road and Route 304. One big reason many are opposed to the convenience store is because it would be close to Bardonia Elementary School, and bring in increased traffic to an area where children walk to and from school. Along with standard questions about taxes, questions about the QuickChek were the most common ones asked during the evening’s question and answer portion.
“The issue is at the top of the agenda on everybody’s mind,” said Michael Hull, one of the more vocal opponents to the convenience store in the Bardonia Civic Association. “I’d be surprised if anybody didn’t know this is an issue.”
The proposal hasn’t been brought into the Planning Board yet, but once the official process gets under way, Gromack said it will have to go through multiple committees and stages to make sure it would be a worthwhile addition to Bardonia, something that’s not just determined by the various committees.
“You all have a voice, your voice can be heard at all these various levels of committees that review any application,” Gromack said.
The questions about the QuickChek were directed only at a few candidates, so not everyone spoke about it. Sabatini said he has some conflicting feelings in that he’s pro-business, and thinks the convenience store could bring business into the town, yet he’s also pro-community, and if the majority of people in the community don’t want the store, then elected officials should listen to that.
“If they treat the Bardonia Civic Association the way they treated the 3,500 people that signed the term limit petition, dismissing it out of hand, then I will support you a hundred percent in blocking the QuickChek,” Sabatini said.
Martone said he has a personal affiliation with the issue in that he has a young child starting Bardonia Elementary School next year. So while he said it’s important to bring business into to town, “we also want to protect our community.” He said he hopes a compromise can be reached between the two sides that would benefit everyone.
Hull also asked candidates if any of them had received donations from the people who own the property where the proposed QuickChek would go, but nobody had.
Other topics that came up a few times during the question and answer portion dealt with taxes, possible cuts and the large number of candidates signs placed all throughout town.