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Hofstra Presidential Debate Means Cost To Taxpayers, Boom For Local Businesses

Hofstra Debate Banner (credit: CBS 2)

Hofstra Debate Banner (credit: CBS 2)

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GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – No matter who comes out on top tonight on stage at Hofstra University, some local businesses are already winners.

The influx of media and other observers on Long Island to watch President Obama take on Republican challenger Mitt Romney translates to a big boost for the hospitality industry near the Hempstead campus.

The Garden City Hotel has been booked solid since Friday.

“We’re fully committed tonight, we were last night – and the lounge is going to be bustling tonight,” Garden City Hotel manager J. Grady Colin told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall On The Story

“The restaurant, it’s very exciting to be there tonight. We have special drinks that are made especially for the debate evening. There are several reservations. People are going to have cocktails, watch some TV, and have dinner and it’s going to be a party evening here in Long Island,” Jini Tharappen, the hotel’s director of sales, told WCBS 880 reporter Sophia Hall.

She said the debate is a positive for all businesses in the area.

“Especially that this is the second time we’re having it in the last four years,” she said, adding she hopes Long Island gets another debate four years from now.

But Nassau County taxpayers will be footing part of the bill as Hofstra hosts the second presidential debate.

It’s estimated an additional $600,000 will be spent for the all-hands-on-deck police presence plus overtime pay, and Hofstra has spent $4.5 million getting the campus ready for its national appearance.

The tab for Nassau County taxpayers could be twice as much as it was in 2008, because a sitting president is taking part in this debate which means more security measures have been implemented. And the 80 town hall questioners who will be in the audience for the debate spent the night at a hotel and had to be sequestered from the media this time.

“Emergency Services Bureau, bomb squad, almost every unit in the police department is contributing to this detail in some way” Kenneth Lack with the Nassau County Police told Gusoff. Police warned the total cost for the beefed up security could reach $1 million.

Some Nassau residents said the national exposure and hosting an exercise in democracy is worth the use of tax dollars.

“You have to support this, you have to give it 100%. This isn’t something that’s wasted. People have fought for this right,” one Nassau resident told Gusoff.

“We spend money for whatever else we need and I really need to hear what both candidates have to say,” another resident said of the costs.

A donor has picked up most of the costs incurred by Hofstra to host the debate. The university is banking on the fact that the national audience will help Hofstra recoup some costs like it did after the 2008 debate when the university saw a spike in applicants.

“The debate in ’08 actually put Hofstra on the map for me. In 2008, I was still in high school deciding what college to attend,” student Erin Rapp told Gusoff.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said the cost of hosting the debate is worthwhile because of the work created, the sales tax revenue collected and the spotlight the debate puts on Nassau.

Do you think it’s worth the taxpayer money for Hofstra to host a presidential debate? Share your comments below…