By Danielle Lipiec
This year’s Ocean Beach general election, which will take place on Friday, June 7, 2019, will place two of three candidates on the trustee board. While incumbents Matthew Blake and Chris Norris run for re-election, they are challenged by former Ocean Beach Trustee Steve Einig. Voters can visit the polls on the above date from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the Ocean Beach Community House. Below is information on the candidates.
As a Fire Island frequenter for the past 40 years and an Ocean Beach resident for the past 28, New York City attorney Einig has become more and more involved in the Ocean Beach community as the years have passed. Over time, he has participated in a multitude of community events, has spent the past 25 years running the children’s Sandpiper Run, and has maintained active membership, and at one time a presidency, in the Ocean Beach Association.
“Having spent so much time out there being very involved and getting so much out of these experiences, it was very easy to always want to keep giving back,” Einig says.
His care for the Ocean Beach community and those within it are what he says led him to serve his first two terms as an Ocean Beach trustee from 2000-2008. The move was a direct response to what Einig says was general displeasure among himself and his fellow Ocean Beach homeowners; becoming directly involved was what he believed was the best way to make a change.
During his time as trustee, Einig was largely focused on tackling imbalances between the commercial and residential sectors of the village. In doing so, he and fellow trustees managed to raise business license fees while offsetting a raise in real estate taxes. After a lost election following his second term, he decided to take a break from his direct involvement in Ocean Beach politics.
Einig has not remained dormant in his time away from a seat on the trustee board however. He has maintained his community involvement by attending meetings and staying up to date on ongoing issues and discussions within the village. Those discussions, he says, have led him to believe that the homeowners of Ocean Beach are yet again displeased.
“I’m hearing a lot of unhappiness amongst my fellow residents. Enough that they have inspired me to put my hat in the ring and become a trustee again, mostly for reasons of oversight, accountability and fairness,” he says.
If elected, Einig plans to address matters such as quality of life, public works matters such as sewage and flooding issues, and the salaries of those in elected positions, including trustees.
Einig expressed a personal concern with current trustee and mayor salaries. While his advocacy for giving those in elected positions better pay dates back to his first term as trustee, he believes salaries have gotten a bit out of hand.
“In conjunction with Hurricane Sandy, the mayor and trustees received salaries. But there wasn’t much of a public discussion or debate about it, it was more or less ‘This is what we’ve decided, and this is what we’re going to do,’” he said. “That salary has gone up considerably since that time … certain of us question that and wonder if perhaps that money could be better spent.”
Over it all, Einig hopes to bring genuinity, and both wanted and needed change to the table as he pursues the trustee position he once held.
“I seek the position for what may seem to be a silly reason, but for altruism. I want to help, and contribute, and make the village a better place for everybody. You certainly don’t do anything like this for the money or glory,” he says.
Nearing the end of his first term as a trustee, Chris Norris hopes to find himself on the board again following this year’s general election. A lifelong resident of Fire Island – with his family’s residency dating back to his grandparents in 1910 – Norris has a number of issues he is dedicated to tackling to ensure a better tomorrow for Ocean Beach.
“I was once apolitical in the village,” he says. “What prompted me to join the board were the challenges in the village that were deeply concerning to me. I felt I had no standing complaining about something if I wasn’t willing to engage in part of the solution.”
Norris began his first pursuit for a seat on the board four years ago, and won. He says his experience and expertise as a commercial general contractor in New York City for the past 30 or so years has given him a skill set applicable to what Ocean Beach has been facing in recent times.
Norris says he came into the trustee position with three lines of thought: to bringing the village back from disparities caused by Hurricane Sandy, to generate improvements on quality of life, and to create overall community balance. So far, he believes he and his fellow board members have been successful.
“Being part of a team that is actively moving the ball forward, and creating a future for the kids and the grandkids to experience the privilege I had growing up here as a child, is precious to me. I want to be able to give to my kids and my grandkids what was given to me,” he says. “I think from every objective measure, things are on the upswing.”
Particularly, Norris believes bringing the village together is an imperative part of creating the better future he says he’s been working toward as a trustee.
“We are one village. It’s not downtown, it’s not the residencies, it’s not the bay, it’s not the beach. It’s one, small community with so many treasures. To balance the needs of all is a high bar to hit in government. But working towards balance in the community without any polarization is a large portion of what I’ve focused on,” he says.
Norris hopes to continue what he has started if elected to another term, and views the years ahead hopefully.
“The future is bright and the job is not done, so let’s pull together, work together and continue the momentum we have,” he says.
As a longtime Ocean Beach resident, Ocean Beach Fire Department volunteer, and now a two-term Ocean Beach trustee, Blake has remained actively involved in life on Fire Island. He hopes to continue his record of involvement as he runs for his third term as trustee in this year’s election.
Blake began his trips to Ocean Beach from his home in Queens with his parents at just 4 years old. What began as a summer escape from the urban environment he grew up in became a lifetime in a community he now considers home.
“When I think about my home, it’s here,” he says. “My deepest connections on a community level are with the individuals who have seen me grow up, and those who I’ve grown up with.”
With 37 years of residency under his belt, Blake says that he’s made sure to remain an active community member. He first got his foot in the door to the board eight years ago, when ongoing contract negotiations between the village of Ocean Beach and Fire Island Ferries peaked his interest. After just finishing a graduate level course that focused on negotiation analysis, Blake saw himself as a resource in the matter and offered the board his knowledge and experience.
Since, he has been able to take a seat on the board and bring with him experience gained from years working in the financial services sector. Currently he heads a global financial services team, and says his
career has helped immensely with work he has done
for the village so far.
“My value add to the group has been a few things, the first of which is the financial mindset I bring. I’m accustomed with budgets, financing structures, and I apply an analytical perspective to any questions that come up,” he says. “Additionally, I think I bring an external perspective to our local and more micro-oriented conversations here in Ocean Beach.”
Blake believes that the current board has been most successful in meeting the demands of Ocean Beach, and hopes to maintain its chemistry and success in the upcoming term.
“I think the composition of the board right now is the best combination I’ve worked with. There are highly complementary skill sets. It’s important that you have the right mix of people – personalities, temperaments, professional backgrounds and perspectives – around that table, because at the end of the day, it is about driving convergence,” he says. “I think we have a group of very strong-minded people who, through the board mechanism, converge around the right decision regularly.”
Blake also notes the board’s success in pulling Ocean Beach back up to standard following Hurricane Sandy, and even now, continuing to build the community back up in its wake, alongside needed improvements unrelated to Hurricane Sandy damage.
“We have had to deal with all of that plus the reconstruction from Hurricane Sandy, and I think we’ve gotten this village from a place where, seven or eight years ago after the storm hit, there was a question about the viability of Ocean Beach,” he says. “We’ve now come so far away from that question and you see tremendous investment and a more beautiful town … I think there’s a bright future here. It’s not just any one person, it’s been a collective effort on that front.”
Blake looks toward to the future optimistically, hoping for continued growth, success and flourish for the Ocean Beach community.
“We’re thinking about the current group of villagers – the residents and commercial district – all as one village. We’re thinking about those who are here today but also future generations. Everything we’re doing right now is about that,” he says.
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