EAST WILLISTON - County Executive Ed Mangano and Democratic challenger Tom Suozzi butted heads at their first debate Tuesday night on everything from taxes to the redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum.
As loyal supporters cheered and booed at The Wheatley School in East Williston, Mangano touted his property tax cuts, plans for the Coliseum, and storm readiness, while Suozzi highlighted plans for bringing postgraduates back to the Island.
"I believe high taxes killed real estate jobs, I believe high taxes killed our future," said Mangano, targeting Suozzi, who held the county executive's job from 2001 to 2009.
Suozzi fired back, arguing that Nassau County must be far friendlier to younger residents who often choose to flee the region.
"We need growth in our downtown areas to bring in sales tax revenues, create apartments out of vacant buildings, and create environments where our young people want to move," said Suozzi, adding his proposal for a Suburbia Trailblazers Award that would bring resources to towns willing to change their zoning to allow more downtown revival.
Mangano also pushed his plan to keep the brain drain from sucking away future Long Island leaders.
"We already have three pilot programs in Lynbrook, Valley Stream, and Baldwin like this to allow any city that wants to work to reuse vacant land and vacant buildings," Mangano said. "We're working to reuse vacant land and vacant buildings…and transform them into places where young professionals want to live."
The debate became heated over taxes, like in one exchange where Mangano called Suozzi a liar for blaming him for the county's debt.
"I reduced the debt. You increased the debt," Suozzi said.
"That's an outright lie," Mangano shot back, amid shouts from the audience.
Suozzi later asked if Mangano wanted to address a "rumor" that The Hub would allow gambling and two began bickering.
"He and I have completely different views of what should be done," said Suozzi. "The voters will have to decide which vision they like best."