Building Bridges To Garden City


Sylvia Cabana bringing services to village in role of town clerk


Town of Hempstead Clerk Sylvia Cabana
(Photo courtesy of the Town of Hempstead)

When Sylvia Cabana was elected Hempstead Town Clerk on Nov. 7, 2017, she became the first Latin woman to ever be elected to this position. It’s the latest rung the Garden City native has ascended on a path she’s traveled ever since her parents moved to the village with Cabana and her two brothers when she was 5. The proud daughter of immigrants—her late father was from Argentina and her mother is from Cuba—Cabana’s moral foundation is based on family, education, and giving back to the community. It’s these cornerstones that have served her well as a mother of two and in her transition from having her own immigration legal practice to changing gears into become a public servant. One of her biggest goals when she was elected was to make her fellow Garden City residents aware of the services available to them from the Town of Hempstead.

“Because I’m from Garden City, we’re an incorporated village and we didn’t really deal with the Town of Hempstead. But there are a lot of good services that the town provides. Since I’m from Garden City, I want to bring as many things to the village and its residents. One of the best things that I’ve done is that the Garden City Public Library is now certified by the U.S. State Department as a passport acceptance facility,” she explained. “The first time we did it, we used this mobile RV unit the town has and that didn’t work. It was raining and only one family at a time could get processed. We needed to do it inside, so I looked into it and was able to get the Garden City Public Library certified. We did have one passport day there and it was great. It was really well attended and people thanked me a lot for doing it. We’re going to be bringing it back there again.”

Other ways Cabana has used her office to help benefit her neighbors was by setting up a Senior ID program at the Senior Center, where retirees can apply for a free identification card that contains medical information including blood type. She also helmed a history presentation, using source material from the town’s archives dating back to the 1600s that she has access to as the official keeper of records. She is also keen on participating in story time at the library, where she would read to children in English and Spanish. The idea of young people learning another language is a passion for Cabana, who believes it to be another tool they can use to their advantage in a very competitive job market. (“I think all kids, regardless of who they are, should learn another language.”)

Town of Hempstead Clerk Sylvia Cabana addressing Rotary members and guests at a recent meeting.
(Photo courtesy of the Mineola-Garden City Rotary Club)

Between these efforts and her participation in local groups like the PTA and SEPTA, Cabana was asked to speak before the Mineola-Garden City Rotary Club at a recent meeting. She was able to emphasize how her office provides a multitude of services for the general public and how she is striving to make the office more accessible to all residents in an effort to make an impact and positive change for the community. There was also a direct personal connection for Cabana when she was approached to appear before the Rotary.
“It turned out that the president, Joanne Meyer-Jendras, lives next door to my mom, which is the house where I grew up. I used to babysit her children. She’s a really nice lady so when she asked if I could speak, I said that I’d love to,” she explained.

Growing up in Garden City provided plenty of great memories for Cabana and in many ways, what made the village so special for her as a child continues to resonate for her children, a 12-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter.
“I was very lucky. Both my parents were very good and devoted to us. I spent a lot of summers at the Garden City pool, which was a lot of fun. I always loved that,” she recalled. “[Garden City] is a very close-knit community. I’m still friends with people I knew since kindergarten—you start with people when you’re little and you grow up with them. My brother played a lot of soccer, so we experienced a lot of school spirit. It was a good childhood with all great memories. I kind of took for granted how pretty a town it is and how well-maintained it’s always been until I came back to raise my own family.”

Cabana received her bachelor of arts from Barnard College, master’s Columbia University and juris doctor from Hofstra School of Law. Her career as an immigration attorney for the past 20 years has taught her the importance of family values and providing opportunity for people of all ethnicities. The idea that all boats rise on the same tide is paramount to her role as the town clerk, particularly when she’s visiting schools and libraries.
“I think the libraries throughout the Town of Hempstead are very receptive. I think it’s a good way to get into the community and a great way to bring services to the people,” she said. “That’s what I ran on. I think government should be accessible and that a lot of people have no idea what the local government can do for them. We must provide our children with as many opportunities as possible to succeed.”

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