Report: Nassau spent millions on lawmakers' pet projects despite financial woes

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Newsday reports that Nassau has been handing out millions of dollars to pay for lawmakers' pet projects, despite the financial mess in which the county finds itself.

Nassau spent $71,000 for work on a statue in Roslyn and another $75,000 to repair a duplicate statue outside of Roslyn High School. And $22,000 was spent to build another statue in Roosevelt, along with $100,000 that was allocated to build a "comfort station" at a Manhasset park. Those are just some examples of projects authorized by the Nassau Legislature over the past few years through its Community Revitalization Program.

The Newsday report finds that roughly 200 similar projects have cost Nassau $15 million since 2013.

"All they keep doing is spending and spending," says Pat Friedman, who's been a civic activist in Nassau since 1961.

Friedman has called on lawmakers to rein in spending, but Nassau for years has carried a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall. While the $15 million in earmark spending represents just a fraction of the county's overall budget, Friedman says every cent counts when there's a deficit.

Rich Nicolello, the Legislature's presiding officer, says the Community Revitalization Program allows legislators to address specific public needs within their individual districts.

"It's not going to private groups," Nicolello says. "It's going to fire departments, police departments, it's going to schools, local municipalities, that are putting these funds to use on behalf of taxpayers."

The issue is not a partisan one. Kevan Abrahams, the Legislature's leading Democrat, also defends the program, saying it does feature accountability and that the projects have improved quality of life across the county.

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