Trustee Tomecki continues family tradition of public service
When Mary-Grace Tomecki wakes up each and every day, the Village of Floral Park and its residents are often on the forefront of her mind. Serving her third term as trustee on the Village Board, the lifelong resident can usually be found volunteering countless hours, nights and weekends to represent the community she loves with a tireless devotion and compassionate spirit.
Many residents may know the Floral Park native from her years in village government, but it is her family’s legacy of public service that has led her to be a trailblazer to effect significant change in her community. Tomecki’s family history in Floral Park dates back to 1956, when her father, Walter, purchased a property on Hinsdale Avenue. A member of the local fire department, Tomecki bought the empty lot and designed the house where his wife and daughter, Mary-Grace, still reside today. “I can’t imagine that house not being owned by a Tomecki,” she said.
The noble call to public service is something that is just part of the Tomecki family genes. As an 8-year-old girl, Mary-Grace witnessed her father’s passion to serve the community firsthand when he ran for mayor of Floral Park in the 1950s. “Even when he didn’t win, he still maintained his involvement,” Tomecki said. “It was sort of the culture of the household that you had a moral obligation to serve the community in some way, to contribute to it, to help maintain it.”
Tomecki recalled one of the first times she volunteered was with her father in the mid-1980s. The village had a rash of graffiti incidents on the Post Office boxes and the Post Office was not able to maintain the boxes. “Residents could volunteer to get a can of blue paint and go and paint the post office box,” she explained. “I can remember walking with my dad who volunteered to be one of these people, with the can of paint and holding his hand, and us walking over to the Post Office box. I have very fond memories of that,” Tomecki said.
As a young adult, Tomecki began to see the inner workings of government in college, as a summer assistant at the Department of Buildings in the Town of Hempstead. Additionally, she served internships with the Nassau County Board of Supervisors and the New York City Department of Business Services. In 1995, Mary-Grace attended the prestigious London School of Economics, where, during that summer, she completed coursework on the economics of the welfare state and European integration.
She has also earned two masters degrees, one in Elementary Education with distinction from Mercy College and in Political Science from New York University’s esteemed Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Among her other notable achievements, Tomecki is a fully accredited and licensed New York State Special Education teacher. After teaching for seven years in the Bronx, she recently moved on to another realm of education working as an academic advisor at New York University’s Stern School of Business but special education will always remains close to her heart. “I love teaching and I love special education. It was extremely rewarding,” she said. “I love the educational system and I like to be part of it and now it’s just in a different capacity.”
Tomecki was recently invited to be the keynote speaker for the fourth time at the fifth Annual “Women of Distinction” Awards ceremony in Albertson. Earning the award in 2008, Tomecki applauded the 10 women honorees for their dedication and ability to make a lasting impact on their communities by taking action.
“It’s important that we all be aware and vigilant of issues that affect us, whether it be quality of life or safety, but these particular women from my perspective at least, were willing to actually act and do something, and to not stop until they saw that the difference was made,” she said.
Trailblazing her way through issues that matter to residents is something Tomecki excels at. One of her proudest accomplishments during her tenure as trustee is through her work as liaison to the Citizens with Disabilities’ Committee (CDC). According to Tomecki, the CDC has helped to secure Nassau County Community Development grant monies for funding the automation of the Pool Building’s doors, and the reconstruction of a handicap ramp at the Floral Park Pool facility. They have successfully lobbied for the installation of handicap friendly picnic tables at the park, as well as in the pool areas. The addition of a third handicap parking spot in the pool parking lot this past year was also the result of their efforts.
And while she has championed many causes, she is perhaps most well known for her work in noise abatement. As Floral Park’s Aircraft Safety & Noise Abatement Officer, Tomecki has spoken out on behalf of her neighbors and has been a pioneer working with other village officials to get Town Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee (TVASNAC) of the Town of Hempstead, to address aircraft noise on Long Island as well as hold meetings in Floral Park, in order to allow residents to learn more about aircraft noise and to voice their concerns.
Before she was elected as trustee, she was slated to represent the Hillcrest section, a small section of Floral Park that is directly under runways 22 left and right at John F. Kennedy Airport. She says she became involved with the issue because the people she was representing were being adversely affected by air traffic.
“I assumed sort of an academic approach to the issue. I went and read everything I could that was understandable to me. I spoke to anybody that would speak to me, a pilot, anybody who had knowledge that I didn’t have. I started to build a base of knowledge of understanding it and started to work from there,” she said.
Tomecki says that the Floral Park Noise Abatement Committee has made some strides in the fight to lessen the air traffic over Floral Park, but it will always be an issue of concern. “What I have seen is that when they [the Federal Aviation Administration] can rotate runways, I do think they are. While Floral Park can get 48 hours of air traffic, that’s no longer the norm,” she said.
Floral Park Mayor Tom Tweedy, who has worked with Tomecki on air traffic issues on the village board for six years, says she has a passion to help others. “It’s really a part of her DNA. She wants to serve people and she does it very well and she does it very effectively. And she does it not for self-aggrandizement; she does it really to serve others. She does it for the most noble of reasons…” Tweedy said.
Tweedy added that Tomecki is an engaging person because she is curious about issues in the community. “And that curiosity is a benefit for us all. I can’t say enough about her…she really is a wonderful person for Floral Park, really does a great job for us,” he added.
When she isn’t busy working, Tomecki enjoys visiting art museums and draws inspiration from the Impressionists, her favorite being artist Edward Degas. She hopes to find time to travel abroad but says she will always return to the village she loves.
“I think people in general, if you are living in Floral Park, you must love Floral Park, and from that love comes a commitment to make sure it is a great place to live, work and raise a family,” she said. “I can picture myself always being here…I’m a lifer.”