Thanks to a political version of Democratic Party musical chairs, Robert Troiano of Westbury has been tabbed to run for his old Town of North Hempstead District 1 council seat. It is being vacated by Viviana Russell, who replaced Troiano in 2010. The district covers Westbury, Old Westbury, Carle Place and New Cassel.
The decision by North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth to not seek reelection opened the way for Town Clerk Wayne Wink to run for the top post, while Russell has been chosen to try to replace Wink.
Troiano is a member of the North Hempstead Democratic Committee’s Executive Committee and also serves as director of special projects at the Nassau County Board of Elections, In addition, he is the president of the Westbury School District Board of Education.
“Was it always in the back of your mind to get back into electoral politics?” Troiano was asked.
“It was not at all,” he replied. “It only occurred because Viviana decided to run for clerk and created an open seat.”
Troiano reached out to town Democratic Chairman John Ryan when contemplating running for the council seat.
“He was supportive from the very beginning,” Troiano related. “My wife [Sharon] and I took some time to give consideration to it, and then we decided to go forward.”
“Why are you running?” Troiano was asked.
“When I was on the town council beginning back in 2004 for six years, that was, I felt, one of the most beneficial times for the Westbury New Cassel community up until that time in the town’s history,” he replied. “I developed a very strong partnership with Wayne Wink, who was also a councilmember.”
The pair also both served together as Nassau County legislators.
“I look forward to the opportunity to reignite that partnership to do new things for the Westbury-New Cassel community and the entire town,” Troiano stated.
Asked in what specific ways a trustee can aid his district, Troiano replied, “It’s always helpful to have a seat at the table. To weigh in on things going on. To have the opportunity to actively engage the administration in initiatives that I think are important to our immediate community, such as environmental justice and increasing affordable housing.”
“What sort of things can you do, given the economics and complexity of putting up affordable housing?” Troiano was asked.
He noted that prior to serving on the council, he was a member of the town’s Community Development Agency.
“We began buying properties along Prospect Avenue [in New Cassel] that were blighted and needed to be renovated,” he observed. “Over time, we assembled packages of land, and it provided an opportunity to do an entire revitalization of Prospect Avenue and the creation of hundreds of units of quality affordable apartments.”
He added that there are still possibilities along Prospect Avenue and also within the interior streets of New Cassel to purchase deteriorated houses, to renovate them, and resell them to families at an affordable price.
“I was part of a team that worked on a revitalization of Prospect Avenue, which was cited by Hofstra University as the best model of revitalization of a suburb in the country,” Troiano stated.
Troiano is also proud of his efforts in helping to bring the “Yes We Can” Community Center in New Cassel to fruition. In an interview with Newsday he called the center one of his legacies.
It’s always helpful to have a seat at the table. To weigh in on things going on. To have the opportunity to actively engage the administration in initiatives that I think are important to our immediate community.
Regarding the industrial area of New Cassel, Russell has indicated that in her remaining time on the board, she wants to push “some legislation I have pending dealing with environmental concerns in our industrial area, which has been a long time waiting and overdue.”
Troiano is also focused on that area, and what he called “environmental justice,” adding, “It has been observed that minority communities suffer from environmental damage more so than other communities. I look forward to the challenge of addressing the health concerns created by some of the operations in the New Cassel area.”
He added, “An example of that is the location of a couple of sand mining operations along Grand Boulevard which create particulate matter that affects residents south and north of the operations. The town has been working with the owners of those properties for a solution to enclose the operations in a physical structure where the air would be filtered before being released into the atmosphere.”
A Public Figure
Troiano, 68, has long been in the public eye.
The first African-American to ever serve on the North Hempstead town council, Troiano won his seat in 2003 and served through the end of 2009 and was succeeded by current Councilwoman Viviana Russell, the first woman of African heritage to serve on the town board.
In 2009, he was elected District 2 Nassau County legislator. Troiano won subsequent reelections in 2011 and 2013 with 84 percent of the vote each time.
But soon after winning his third two-year term, Troiano resigned his legislative seat to take a position as director of operations for then incoming North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth. County Executive Ed Mangano called a special election for Troiano’s seat and it was captured by current Legislator Siela Bynoe (D–Westbury).
Troiano left the town to take a job with Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s new administration in 2018. However, he resigned from his post as acting commissioner for traffic and parking violations a day before he was to be considered for confirmation by the Republican-controlled Nassau Legislature. Published reports indicated that the Majority would question Troiano about his tax liens and foreclosures.
Asked about these financial problems, Troiano chuckled and said, “Whenever my name gets mentioned there’ll be that asterisk. Like millions of other people who suffered through the 2008 financial crisis, I got into financial difficulty that caused me to not be able to pay my tax obligation in a lump sum. I arranged with the IRS to make installment payments, which I did and completed at the end of 2017.”
He added, “There was never an allegation of wrongdoing. It was simply my needing more time to pay off that obligation. And there was never a foreclosure on the house.”
Pushing back against what he called the characterization of lack of transparency on his part, Troiano asserted, “The financial disclosure form was meant to reveal potential conflicts of interests. So typically, what you report are obligations to companies and individuals because they may have business that comes before the town council. It was my understanding that obligations to the federal government did not need to be reported, because there are no apparent conflicts with the federal government. But when I had to report that as well, I did make that disclosure.”
Troiano is a 60-year resident of Westbury and graduated from Westbury High School. He earned psychology and sociology degrees from Brown University in 1975, followed by a MBA degree in public management finance in 1978 from Stanford University.
He has worked as counselor for recovering addicts, as an auditor and as senior vice president at Prudential Securities. His terms on the Westbury School District Board of Education encompass the years 1991 to 1994, 1996 to 2002 and since 2018. He has served as board president a total of nine years.
He was also the Long Island representative for the New York State Senate majority for a time.
Having interacted with the public for so long, Troiano claims he enjoys the back-and-forth of spirited debate.
“People have the right to know and express their opinions,” he observed. “You hope they do it diplomatically and in a non-personal manner. And sometimes emotions fly high.”
He added, “It’s a good test. If you can’t stand up [for yourself], maybe there’s something wrong with your argument.”
Asked about the town’s challenges and problems he’d like to tackle, Troiano replied, “I’m not going to try my hand at projecting what issue will come up in the future. I’m just going to rely on my experience to deal with any issue that comes up.”
He continued, “I think the public wants their government to provide services commensurate with the taxes that they pay. And one of the things they expect their government to do is provide safe, comfortable roads to ride on.”
He concluded, “As a councilperson I can continue the work that Viviana has been doing and continues to do.”