You may remember the line in the famous Simon & Garfunkel song, “Mrs. Robinson”: “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” I heard that song the other day and I immediately thought of our former Councilman Nick Bianco. Love him or hate him, Nick was a huge force in Yorktown government for 18 years. Serving with him for 16 years, I grew to really appreciate Nick for his leadership, dedication, work ethic and friendship. A few years ago, Nick decided to retire and moved rather abruptly to Florida. Last week, I saw Nick for the first time in years and he agreed to an interview.
What have you been doing since you left Yorktown?
Jim, my wife and I settled in Florida’s east coast seven miles from the ocean. It will be three years this October since we left Yorktown. My health has greatly improved since our move. I walk, lift weights, and swim several times a week. Just enjoying the great weather, reading, and retirement. I also do four hours of unpaid volunteer work once a week. We do a lot of cruising and visit my daughter and six grandchildren in Germany as often as we can. Of course, they come to Florida along with my son and family.
You’ve done so many wonderful things in your life—police officer (20 years), investigator for the Legal Aid Society, Yorktown environmental inspector, and Yorktown councilman. Can you reflect for a moment on your amazing career? What do you miss about these jobs?
I do miss at times all the careers of the past. The police work especially. Legal Aid was my second home. I worked with fantastic people there. Being a councilman in Yorktown, I enjoyed the constituent service. My career has been to serve and I really believe in serving the public. Funny, on reflection, I made numerous friends in law enforcement whom I still hear from and see often. The same is true with Legal Aid. However, in the political world, I can count on one hand those with whom I found true friendship, and found to be honorable, ethical and trustworthy. Jim, you are one of them. I had hoped to find more, but did not; many are only out for themselves. That is unfortunate and will hurt our democracy.
During your years as councilman, you made quite a name for yourself as an environmentalist. Why do you care so much about our environment?
The environment, to me, is a gift given to us by God. I fought hard to preserve what we had in Yorktown because the air we breathe is very important. When I went to China, I saw people who had to wear masks and could not breathe because they had no trees. I learned once again how important it is to conserve our environment.
What are your thoughts about the present day efforts to do away with the open space fund, eliminate the tree ordinance and finally relax wetlands protections?
Only fools would do away with open space, tree laws and wetland protection. I question the true motives of those who want this. Are there financial gain for themselves, their business interests, or friends? Surely, this is not for the residents.
What accomplishment during your years in Yorktown government are you most proud of?
I was always proud of saying and voting NO to those who advocated lowering our environmental standards. I was proud of my record in wetland laws and open space and how open space became active and passive recreation. I was proud in getting the Lakeland Central School District and Mohegan Fire District tax formulas corrected—to this day, residents in those districts continue to save thousands of dollars.
What was your biggest disappointment as councilman?
My biggest disappointment is not getting residents and many elected officials to realize how open space saves tax dollars and helps businesses prosper. Year after year, I would make this point only to realize that I needed to do a better job next time. At least I tried. I was proud to help secure thousands of acres of open space during my tenure.
You and I ran against each other four times yet I never felt that you were an opponent. You were always a good friend and you may remember we signed an agreement to campaign in a civil way. It’s too bad we don’t see that in politics any more. Your thoughts?
I remember that our campaigns for political office were civilized and professional. I was proud to run when you ran. We always kept our promise not to put any campaign signs up. We were civil to each other and became good friends. I happened to be in Yorktown several months ago and was really surprised to see that the main intersection of Yorktown now looks like billboard city. I am glad that in the town I reside in now, there are strict laws governing business and political signs.
On behalf of the citizens of Yorktown and myself, I want to thank you for your years of tireless service and wish you and Ginny a very happy retirement. Good luck!