LiHerald.com: Combining leadership and community activism

By Vanessa Parker

About 30 community members and leaders attended the Parkhurst Civic Association's second annual Membership Mixer on Jan. 27 at Elmont American Legion Post 1033, where they discussed economic development and improving the quality of life in their neighborhood.

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The association is one of seven civic groups in Elmont. 

A $10 donation was requested of the attendees, half of which was set aside to benefit the local veterans at Post 1033. The goal of the mixer, according to PCA President Carl Achille, was to bring people together for the first time in the new year, and to catch up on new developments in the community.

"It's going to be a great opportunity to see what we've been up to the past year," Achille said. "It's a great time to network with our elected officials, small business owners, civic leaders, members and neighbors."

The evening began with remarks by the Rev. Ralph Taylor, of Emanuel Baptist Church in Elmont and dinner fare. The mixer included featured guest speaker George Maragos, the Nassau County comptroller, as well as County Legislator Carrie Solages; Aubrey Phillips, a community activist and information technology consultant; and Achille.

One of the topics Maragos touched on was taxes. "People pay a disproportionate amount of tax money in Nassau County," he said, "and that's because most people don't know they can file a tax grievance."

Solages said that he was available to help residents with the forms they need to file to grieve their taxes. "If you don't grieve this year, you'll be forced to pay more next year," he said. "There are programs and people available to assist you to make it easy for you. Seek out the help. It's there for you."

Solages also said that he wanted to help foster economic development in Elmont. "What we need is a Long Island Rail Road stop, not Belmont racetrack development," he said. "We must find ways to best use our time to create economic development. We must also tell people to invest in Elmont, and we need ideas that will bring them here."

Phillips expressed relief that none of the plans put forth thus far for redeveloping Belmont Park have been approved, and especially that the New York Cosmos' proposal for a soccer complex had been met with strong opposition.

"I was up at 4 a.m. walking the streets of Elmont, putting up 'No Soccer' signs," Phillips said. "My neighbor caught me. He happened to have the same idea, too, and along with him and a few others, we just got up and made a stand. Now it's a victory. We didn't give in to this type or economic development at any cost."

Solages said that if it weren't for Phillips's efforts, "we'd have a half-built soccer stadium" today, noting that his resistance to the idea is the right spirit for citizens to have.

"Though our president of the United States doesn't agree with us, it's important to engage in some resistance," Solages said. "Engage yourself in community issues and concerns and get involved. That's what this association is all about."

Getting involved at the community level is important to a thriving community, Achille added. "As an NYPD detective, I get a lot of questions about police exams, as in when the next test is being given and what to expect," he said. "What we need are more people to take that test and become police officers, for example. We need to get more of our people working in our community. We also hope people have experience in finances and how our community works." 

The evening ended with some R&B and hip-hop music as attendees mingled.