Freeport elects first African-American mayor
by Laura Rivera, Newsday
Freeport residents made history last month when they elected their first African-American mayor, Andrew Hardwick, a Democrat whose slate unseated the team of three-term incumbent Republican Mayor Bill Glacken.
Five days before his Monday swearing-in ceremony, mayor-elect Hardwick was still pinching himself. “I stopped slapping myself. My hands are too big. It hurts,” he joked.
In a wide-ranging interview Thursday at his father’s Freeport home, Hardwick detailed some of the priorities his transition team has set. They included promises to tighten spending, refund a tax increase – but not as much as he pledged while a candidate – and increase transparency in government.
Hardwick’s March 18 victory over Glacken – by 328 votes out of 5,842 cast – has been widely seen as an upset for a village that hasn’t elected a Democratic mayor since at least World War II, said Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs. His party infused Hardwick’s campaign with about $10,000.
Hardwick ran on the Change Freeport Party line with trustees-elect Robert Kennedy and Carmen Pineyro, the first woman of Latino descent to serve as a Freeport Village trustee. Glacken’s running mates on the Home Rule Party were incumbent trustees Renaire Frierson-Davis and Don Miller.
During his campaign, Hardwick rebuked village government for incurring what he said was a $160 million debt.
Now, as he’s about to be sworn in on Monday, he said that given the recession, he’s considering a spending freeze.
Hardwick, the former Nassau deputy commissioner of parks, also promised to refund at least part of last year’s tax increase – less than the full rollback that he vowed during the campaign.
“We really need to tighten our belt,” he said. “My goal now is to give back a partial and not have a tax increase next year.”
He said he also would institute a no-tolerance policy on quality of life infractions, and pledged to engage more of the villages’ estimated 41,000 residents in government.
For some residents of the village – whose population is 34 percent African-American and 36 percent Latino, according to census figures – the election of a person of color to lead the government had been a long time coming.
Frank Hoosendove, 71, who has lived in Freeport for 31 years, said he voted for the first time in his life in November, when he cast a ballot for Barack Obama.
His second vote went to Hardwick. “It makes me feel proud to have a black mayor,” said Hoosendove, owner of the Hair Shack Barber Shop in Uniondale. But the main reason he chose Hardwick was taxes. “I think he can do more than the other mayor we did have in office for 12 years . . . to keep taxes down.”
CristÃÂ³bal Lopez said he was so moved by the election that he is planning to move back to Freeport after more than 20 years in Rockville Centre.
“After the election, I felt like going back to Freeport,” Lopez said. “This is a historic election. . . . If he does what he says, we’re going to have a different Freeport soon.”