Friday, July 29, 2005
The unofficial, unverified tally in the race for Sanitary District 2 Commissioner was 1480 for incumbent, Gerard Brown, and 956 for upstart challenger, Laura Mallay.
While a 60% to 40% margin of victory appears on its face to be rather impressive, the numbers don't tell the whole story.
First, look at those numbers: 2436 voters coming out for a Sanitary District election. That has to be unprecedented. And while Brown took Baldwin - his hometown where he enjoys considerable name recognition - Mallay swept up in South Hempstead and Roosevelt.
Then, look at the candidates: Gerard Brown, a sitting Commissioner, with more than tacit support of the GOP machine and its spokes in the wheel (read as, the Board of Commissioners of Sanitary 2), against out-of-the box, seat-of-the pants insurgent, Laura Mallay, running a shoestring campaign - the duration of which was all of three weeks - on the fly, with little organizational back-up.
You know that the machine was pulling out all the stops - summoning the Neanderthals and the mindless ("We command you and you shall obey") to vote for whoever they tell them too, while most of the irate and incensed (who would have put Mallay over the top, had this election been held in November), as angry as they are, stayed away from the polls. [We venture to say that, this rant and local press notwithstanding, most folks still don't know that there are Sanitary Districts - 2, 6, 14 or otherwise - let alone that one of these Districts dained to hold an election on July 28th!]
Laura Mallay, coming out of nowhere, garnered 956 votes - some 40%. Not too shabby, and not a good sign at all for Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray, who, from the rumblings we are hearing from those masses yearning to be free, will need a lot more than the drone of that sputtering machine to hold on come November 8th.
Perhaps Newsday put best in a Short Take entitled For the people: "Some people like to complain about problems. Fewer bother to try to fix them. Laura Mallay has done more than most in heading the South Hempstead Civic Association. But her effort to win a seat on the area's sanitary district went above and beyond. She lost but forced Republicans to fight to retain this patronage-rich fiefdom. At least Mallay gave voters an option."
The Cinderella candidacy of Laura Mallay did not have a glass slipper ending. Not this time. Goliath, despite the slings and arrows hitting the mark, stumbles on to live another day. Still, the final act has yet to play out.
In Sanitary District 2, now comes the Petition drive to dissolve this feifdom of waste. And at Town Hall, yet another Goliath awaits a different David's arrival - with his legion of disgruntled voters at the ready to pull those levers on November 8th and to change the course of history.
In three short weeks nearly 1000 voters - no Lilliputians they - were awakened by the call to arms of a beleagured people long-suffering under the yoke of a malevolent behemoth. They came close, with their sticks and stones, to taking down the slobbering giant. Much closer than that giant would admit. Too close for the comfort of a once invincible dynasty now driven to its knees, and soon to be forever banished from the kingdom.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Remember those Crazy Eddie commercials, where the bug-eyed guy would flail his hands and yell in your face, “Go to Crazy Eddie. His prices are IN-SANNNNE?”
Well, that guy from those comical TV ads of the 70s (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) is baa-ak – in all of his psychotic glory – in a new TV spot aimed at Tom Suozzi, as paid for by our friends at the Nassau County GOP.
In this spot, the Crazy Eddie reincarnate – wild-eyed and enraged (probably an ex-Commissioner from one of the Town of Hempstead Sanitary Districts), stares into the camera, crazed look and all, and indignantly tells viewers that Tom Suozzi and the Democrats raised taxes by 42%.
Now we don’t know if the guy in the ad actually lives in Nassau County, or just plays a County resident on TV, but where does the GOP get their numbers? There was one tax increase in the first year of the Suozzi administration of 19%, this to help make up for a $428 million deficit – a deficit courtesy of the very same folks who now complain about the Suozzi tax increase. [Were it left in the hands of the GOP County Legislators, the Suozzi tax increase would have been voted down, and, as they fiddled haplessly in Mineola, the County would have merrily rolled along right into bankruptcy.]
Does the GOP simply make up their facts and figures as they go along? Apparently so. Or maybe they just added in the increases in Town and Special District (again, the Town) taxes imposed at a time when the Town of Hempstead claimed it had, not a deficit, but a $50 million plus surplus, figuring nobody would notice. Who raises taxes – which is exactly what the Town of Hempstead did by some 12.8% in 2005 – when there is a surplus? Only in Hempstead Town!
Or it could be the GOP calculates into the tax necessary increases in fees, or other assessments beyond the control of either County Executive or Legislature, much as the Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, negates taxes imposed by the Town’s Special Districts when she pledges no tax increase in 2006 – for taxes under her control (read as, the Town’s General Purpose tax).
Okay, so we are expected to believe – factual evidence notwithstanding – that Suozzi has raised taxes by some 42%. By the same token, we are also asked to believe that the Town of Hempstead spends only 12 cents per letter mailed, when the postmark itself clearly reads 16.2 cents.
Can we believe anything the GOP tells us? Why not? We did so for lo those many years when fiscal doom and managerial collapse was all but kept from public view through the magic of smoke and mirrors.
Its fine to chide the Suozzi administration for hiring folks from outside the County, rather than to give deference to the able and willing within the County. We concur, and have so stated our displeasure, as has been duly noted by Team Suozzi.
To advance the incredulous – let alone the completely untrue – (and to do so in July, when hardly anyone is watching) signals not only the desperation of the GOP, but moreover, their willingness to say and do whatever it may take to stay in power, or to regain control lost due to the blindness of ambition and the suspension of reality that often accompanies unbridled arrogance.
So, watch for that Crazy Eddie spot on cable (never on satellite), and whatever you do, “Vote for the Republicans. Their facts and figures are IN-SANNNNE!"
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Thomas Friedman had a nice Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times. [SEE, Learning From Lance.]
Ostensibly, it spotlighted the pinpoint focus and detailed planning engaged by Lance Armstrong (who wore the coveted Yellow Jacket for the 7th year in a row at the grueling Tour de France), juxtaposed against the apparent lack thereof by the U.S. government – in areas seemingly vital to both our economy and our national defense.
Whether or not you agree with the politics, the thought-process (of which there is evidently little inside the Beltway) merits consideration on the local level.
Sure, one would think that the president – and Congress, for that matter - would have a strategy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, to stabilize Iraq so we can actually get on with the war against terror, and to keep jobs in the good old US of A, so we don’t have to speak with someone in Bangladesh every time our Internet service goes down.
Same said, for sure, as we think local and act local. When illegal housing has been a problem for some twenty odd years (okay, they were all odd), one would presume that our local leaders would come up with a workable strategy – as Thomas Friedman put it, “to thoughtfully plan ahead and to sacrifice today for a big gain tomorrow.”
Yes, we are caught up in eternal NIMBYism – “build that affordable housing, but not in my backyard,” but if we’ve been complaining about the very same issues for the past two decades and they’re only getting worse, clearly we have neither followed Lance Armstrong’s lead nor kept pace with the ever-changing realities of the new suburbia.
This is not to say that we want to see Kate Murray or Harvey Levinson don their racing gear and head off on tricycles through the hills and dales of the Hempstead Plain (or, come to think of it, to have the race for Town Supervisor decided by the outcome of a sporting event. We can picture that Tug-of War, and it ain’t pretty), but the fact remains that the tried and true – or even the attempt to fix the tried and true – simply doesn’t cut it.
We have no doubt that if Kate Murray had a magic wand [Be nice. We’re not going there – today!] she would wave off the evils of illegal housing, outrageous property taxes, unchecked zoning violations and, yes, those outmoded Sanitary Districts. [Why, if Kate had that wand, and her druthers, she’d probably whisk into oblivion some of the very irritants who surround her at Town Hall – assuming they showed up other than to collect a pay check.]
For better or for worse, there is no magic wand, and our Supervisor – who is, by any measure, astute, charismatic, engaging and photogenic – is rarely left to her own devices in terms of exerting enough “willpower to triumph” over those cancers that now ravage, and threaten to consume, America’s largest township. In short, that “strategic focus” is missing at Town Hall.
Whether the result of complacency – 100 years of one-party rule will do that to you – or the benign neglect that flows from a party leadership that long ago made the decision to forego the south shore in favor of points north, what has become clear is that Hempstead Town Hall lacks both direction and focus, with the best laid plans (many of which were laid eons ago) falling by the wayside or gathering dust in the catacombs.
We don’t blame Kate Murray – although, at times (all right, at all times), it may appear that way. It is not a lack of smarts, of ability, or of any personable attribute that distinguishes a passive government from a proactive one. We consider Kate Murray to be among the best and the brightest on all of these counts. [And while we kid her for being “smilin’ Kate,” face it, that grin is contagious.]
No, misogynists that we may be, Kate-bashers all, the problem is not Kate Murray. The problem at Hempstead Town Hall is a failure – more like a refusal - to let go of the past, and an innate need to preserve, at almost any cost, the status quo. Say anything, do anything – or do nothing at all – just to preserve the status quo.
There isn’t a soul at Town Hall who doesn’t recognize the fact, for instance, that the Sanitary Districts are dysfunctional, and downright cost inefficient. True, as well, for Water Districts and the many other “Special” Districts that tax greatly but provide residents with little in return. Attempts to justify their continued existence, whether advanced by District Counsel, a local Councilman, or sitting Commissioners, are both laughable and preposterous. Yet, the basic instinct to protect these fiefdoms – and the stream of party loyalists they produce – overrides even the mere consideration of initiatives that may change the very essence of the way the Town of Hempstead conducts business, provides services and tackles community problems.
So, when we, as residents and community activists, raise our voices to complain – whether about longstanding problems, such as illegal rentals, or of the more ephemeral, like accumulating trash along “Main Street” - we get a friendly nod, a pat on the back, and a temporary, often knee-jerk response – what we at The Community Alliance have dubbed “the Band-Aid approach.”
Kate Murray once asked a gathering of local civic leaders, “What would you want us to do in a perfect world?” Kate, in a perfect world, you’d have Mike Deery call a news conference so you could boldly step up to the microphones, and firmly make the following statement:
“My name is Kate Murray, and I stand before you to say that this is not Joe Mondello’s Hempstead Town. Heck, Joe Mondello doesn’t even live in Hempstead Town. The hell with Joe Mondello. Ladies and gentlemen, this is YOUR Hempstead Town. Today, we concede to a pattern of inertia. We accept, at long last, responsibility for holding America’s largest township in place, as the rest of the world moved forward. We acknowledge than we can do more, take less, and hold the line on those @$#%!* mailings.
“Today, we begin to clean house at Hempstead Town Hall. The folks you voted out of office years ago, and who found refuge on the Town payroll, are gone, their positions filled by qualified residents – Democrats, Republicans and the unaffiliated – who will not only show up for work every day, but will work for you every day.
“Today, we take the first steps to consolidate the Sanitary Districts under Town of Hempstead Sanitation, assuring that every homeowner enjoys the same level of service, and every homeowner pays the same tax rate.
"Today, we are pleased to announce that the Town has hired twenty new Building Inspectors, assuring that every hamlet and unincorporated area will have the dedicated Code enforcement its residents pay for and deserve.
“Today, we pledge to hold that line on ALL Town taxes, and to take control of every entity that bears the name and seal of the great Town of Hempstead.
“Today we not only make the promise, but begin to live the promise, that those elected to serve the people of the Town of Hempstead will not only aspire to do the job, we’re going to get the job done.
“In the Town of Hempstead – in YOUR Town of Hempstead - the buck will not only stop here, with your Supervisor, it will stop, and linger longer, in your wallets.
“Today, we return the Town of Hempstead to the people of Hempstead Town!”
Okay, we can all wake up now. . .
When “change” becomes a four-letter word, and the fear generated by the prospect of change brings out a barrage of lies, misrepresentations, half-truths and the completely inane, we have to ask ourselves one simple question: Can we do better? At the very least, we owe it to ourselves to try.
For all intents and purposes, there has been no change – either in power or direction – at Hempstead Town Hall since 1907 (the year the electric vacuum cleaner was invented). A house, especially one that local government calls home, should at least be broom swept (if not vacuumed) once every hundred years, don’t you think?
To quote Thomas Friedman, if out of context, “maybe we have the leaders we deserve. Maybe we just want to admire Lance Armstrong, but not be Lance Armstrong. Too much work. Maybe that's the wristband we should be wearing: Live wrong. Party on. Pay later.”
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Sanitation Supervisors On Campaign Trail in Sanitary District 2 - All In A Day's Work!
They've gone too far.
First it was Kate Murray, using taxpayer paid mailings to campaign for re-election. Now, in a hotly contested election for a Commissioner’s seat in Sanitary District 2 (South Hempstead, Roosevelt, Baldwin and part of Uniondale), Supervisors – yes, paid Supervisors – of the District are handing out campaign literature – under signature of your popularly elected Board of Commissioners – refuting claims that the District is a wasteful sink hole of political turpitude.
It is one thing for a sitting Commissioner, running for re-election, to – at his own expense – print out and distribute literature that purports to dispute his opponent’s claims, but for an “elected” and paid Board to promulgate, and salaried Supervisors to distribute, pure campaign literature is the stuff that Grand Jury Indictments are made of.
The handout states, among other things, that “The primary reason taxes vary between Sanitary Districts is the same as in all school, library, fire and police districts and Incorporated Villages in the County. The simple answer is the Nassau County assessment of taxable properties.”
Oh, that says it all. We’re not talking about the varying costs of Special Ed programs or transportation, or even disparate costs for teachers’ salaries and the maintenance of buildings and grounds. We’re talking about GARBAGE COLLECTION!
We all have to have our trash and recyclables picked up from our homes and businesses and transported to the dump. And we all should have the same services for which we all bear the same expense.
Do we pay a different tax rate depending on where we live in the Town of Hempstead for services provided by the Nassau County Police Department? If so, then we suggest an investigation is in order. We know that we pay different taxes for our multitude of Fire Districts, but that’s another story for another day.
To pay different tax rates so we can have different people pick up our garbage in different areas of the Town is nothing short of absurd, and to have these political hacks – those with their patronage jobs on the line and their hands in our pockets – tell us otherwise (on our dime, no less), is nothing short of unconscionable.
The missive distributed by the Board of Commissioners of Sanitary District 2 cautions residents that (should there be consolidation with Town of Hempstead Sanitation), the Town “is under no obligation to hire any employee from Sanitary District 2.” Gentlemen of the Board, in case you haven’t looked, the rank-and-file employee, with rare exception, is Civil Service. We need the folks who pick up the trash, consolidation or not. What we don’t need are umpteen Supervisors and an untold number of Commissioners, who are the only ones who would lose their jobs under consolidation. Good riddance to bad rubbish, we say!
The Board of Commissioners of Sanitary 2, through its campaign handout, goes on to argue that the District “provides one of the highest levels of services in the County.” For goodness sake, its GARBAGE COLLECTION! Besides, Town Supervisor Kate Murray has already conceded, publicly, that the services of Town Sanitation are just as good as the services provided by Sanitary District 2.” Next case.
Point 3 of the Board of Commissioners is almost beyond belief: “Sanitary District 2 works closely with our local schools and fire districts, providing them with inter municipal agreements to help hold the line on taxes.” Yikes. Do they mean that if serviced directly by Town of Hempstead Sanitation, the trash at schools and firehouses within Sanitary District 2 will be left to rot on the streets? And “hold the line on taxes?” No oxymoron here. Just morons. Duh! Sanitary District 2 residents already pay twice the tax paid by residents served by Town Sanitation. Watch where you hold that line!
Finally, the Board of Commissioners argues (we wonder who writes this trash) that the Sanitary District “works closely with community groups… sponsoring events like the Big Sweep and programs like the Classy Cans. Consolidation would end this vital local level of accountability.” Are you buying into this, folks? The civic and community groups – who do all the foot work in promoting and sponsoring these events and programs – won’t bring you a Big Sweep or Classy Cans without the assistance of Sanitary 2. What utter rubbish!
As for that “local level of accountability,” how about a Town Supervisor who exerts at least some level of “local control,” bringing back accountability to Town Hall? Now there's a classy can the voters should consider trashing come November 8th!
The Commissioners of Sanitary District 2, in their taxpayer financed and employee distributed campaign literature, tell residents that “the service Sanitary District No. 2 has provided you… for over seventy-five years should continue.” Here at The Community Alliance, and in households throughout Baldwin, Roosevelt, South Hempstead and part of Uniondale, we believe that more reasoned thought will prevail, and that voters will say, “after seventy-five years, we’ve had enough!”
THE ELECTION IN SANITARY DISTRICT No. 2
The vote for Commissioner in Sanitary District 2 is Thursday, July 28th, 2 PM to 10 PM. Sanitary District 2 encompasses Baldwin, Roosevelt, South Hempstead and part of Uniondale.
If you live in Sanitary District 2 - or know someone who lives in Sanitary District 2 - get out the word. Every vote counts. And every vote to dismantle this inequitable and unfair system of costly patronage feifdoms is a vote to restore true local control to Town government.
The voting places for the Sanitary 2 elections are as follows:
Roosevelt (part Uniondale): Queen of the Most Holy Rosary - 196 West Centennial Avenue, Roosevelt, NY
Baldwin: Sanitary District #2 Headquarters - 2080 Grand Avenue, Baldwin, NY
South Hempstead: Covert School - 379 Willow Street, South Hempstead, NY
THE COMMUNITY ALLIANCE ENDORSES CHALLENGER, LAURA MALLAY, FOR SANITATION COMMISSIONER IN DISTRICT No. 2.
ADOPTABLE KATE VISITS TOWN HALL: Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray (center?) greets John and Maria Ninivaggi of Seaford as they meet an adoptable pet in the lobby of Town Hall in Hempstead. Animals from the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter were brought to Town Hall for on-site adoptions as part of the Town’s Summer Pet Adoption Program.
In an effort to increase awareness of Supervisor Kate Murray among Town residents who may not know that smiling face, the Town of Hempstead has initiated an "Adopt-A-Murray" program, to run now through November 8th.
"We think folks will really warm up to the idea of having a Murray in their houses," said program coordinator and Counsel to Sanitary District 1, Nathaniel Swergold. "In fact, the Town will be adding on extra trucks during the Labor Day holiday to bring these adorable, cuddly Kates to more than 200,000 Town of Hempstead homeowners."
"Folks have told me that they would willingly pay twice as much in taxes to have a little kitty Kate underfoot," declared Town Councilman, Anthony Santino. "They are like tiny cherubs. I'm adopting two myself."
The adoptable Murrays, recognizable by their effervescent, Cheshire cat-like smiles, are expected to be readily available for adoption come the fall. "We're churning 'em out of the breeding mill in Westbury just as fast as we can," chimed an enthusiastic Joe Mondello. "They're so adorable, aren't they? You just want to squeeze one so tight you loose circulation in your hands and can't feel your wallet anymore."
The Adopt-A-Murray program did hit an early snag when efforts to mail the Murrays to every Town of Hempstead household were thwarted by the United State Postal Service. "We have issues when it comes to transporting live pets through the mail, especially under official seal of the township," said a spokesman for the Postal Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Taking issue with the Postal Service's contention that "this is way beyond the capability of Parcel Post," Town spokesman Mike Deery told reporters that he didn't see the mailing of the Murrays as problematic, either for the Post Office or for TOH taxpayers. "How much could it possibly cost to mail a Murray?," queried a bemused Deery. "I figure 12 cents each, max."
Residents who choose to adopt a Murray will be provided with a complimentary litter box - a Town of Hempstead in miniature, complete with scale Sanitary District trucks to pick up after the pet. "A Murray in every Mansion. A Kate in every Kitchen. That's our goal," said Town Attorney Joe Ra, who has been designated as Counsel to the Adopt-A-Murray program. "Sure, she may claw at your furniture, cozy up to the tenants living in the basement apartment, and raid the fridge after you've gone to bed, but once you get to know your pet Kate, you'll love everything about her. Who could resist that smile, after all?"
Not everyone is as enamored with the prospect of smiling Kates proliferating in the Town of Hempstead. Harvey Levinson, candidate for Town Supervisor, sees the Adopt-A-Murray program as just another duplicitous ploy of a sputtering political machine. "This is the old bait and switch game," said Levinson. "The Town mails you a color photo of a smiling, charming Kate Murray, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and you're hooked. Then comes the real deal - a pet Murray at your doorstep, hissing, chomping at the bit, demanding to be obeyed. And you're stuck footing the bill for a million Murrays let loose on the streets of Hempstead Town by irate taxpayers."
Levinson has unveiled a program of his own to counter the kitsch Kates - an amusement arcade game featuring pop up Kates, lovingly referred to as Whack-A-Murray. Demonstrating, rubber mallet in hand, Levinson matter-of-factly beat each Murray back into the hole as they popped their grinning heads to the surface. "If you win enough tickets whacking Murrays," chuckled Levinson, "you can collect the entire Town Board!"
Meanwhile, officials at the Nassau County Department of health delicately pondered how to handle the possible abandonment of thousands of pet Murrays. "Yeah, they're cute now," said Commissioner David M. Ackman. "Wait until they've grown a bit, its the dead of winter, you have to trudge with your Murray through the sand in the street, and she has eaten and taxed you out of house and home. Then its not fun and games anymore."
Unfazed by the scuttlebutt, the Adopt-A-Murray team has kicked off the season, offering free shots (for the pet owners, not the Murrays), but no spaying. "Spaying?," laughed Mike Deery. You can't possibly mate a Murray. They're all test-tube grown at GOP Headquarters."
To find out more about the Adopt-A-Murray program, or to take home a Kate of your very own, call the Adopt-A-Murray Petline at 516-489-6000. Tell them The Community Alliance sent you!
Friday, July 22, 2005
Boy, do we get lots of e-mail at The Community Alliance. And people are beginning to add their comments to our blogs. Way to go!
Thanks for the kudos - as well as the challenges to refrain from the truly partisan. Both are appreciated, and necessary. As for being "over the top," you betcha. Get used to it! [Hey, we got your attention, didn't we?]
The Community Alliance Mindset
In terms of espousing a philosophy, The Community Alliance holds itself out as neither Republican nor Democrat, liberal nor conservative - although, admittedly, we all have our leanings, and, at times, more than freely express them. [So far, we are still permitted to do so under the Supreme Court's interpretation of the First Amendment. See, there we go again. Stay tuned...]
We consider The Community Alliance to be a tool of progressive thought, and a vehicle for positive change. [When The Community Alliance was founded, it was our hope that we could encourage folks to think outside of the box. Right now, we'll take simply "thinking" as a step in the right direction! :-)] Our “bent,” if you will, is to rock conventional wisdom; to stand what has been and what is on head in favor of what we know could be. Innovative. Avant-garde. Blunt. And, yes, even outlandish. That's us!
The approach was - and continues to be - that quality of life here on our Long Island is, indeed, what we make of it, and what we've made of it - even in a light most generous to local government - is none to good. There is a real need for us - and all of us - to stop relying on the spoon-fed propaganda (even this spoon-fed propaganda) and to start thinking on our own. To question - motives, words and, above all, the actions of those in whose hands we have entrusted our futures.
Now that's not a partisan commentary, although it may seem that way at times. Just a fact of life as we have come to know it on our Long Island.
There are Republicans in local government who are the closest of allies in our endeavor to restore the suburban quality of life to Town, County and Island. They know who they are, and we never hesitate to give them both credit and the opportunity to blog - or at least to comment.
Then, too, there are Dems who have become as much a part of the problem as the problems themselves. Seldom do we hesitate to point that out as well.
We reference, in chapter and verse (okay, so its bad verse. Let it go!), both the shortcomings and the virtues of our elected representatives, pointing out the good as well as the bad, hoping to peak interest and to garner a response. Above all, we stand by the credo that public service is a privilege, not a birthright.
Good government - and good government officials - defy broad labels and artificial designations. A Roosevelt by any party, we suggest, would make a good President.
Endorsements for the Good of Community
In terms of endorsements, you may be surprised at our picks. Or maybe not. Our objective is not to tell you how to vote. You can, and should, make up your own minds, based on the community of interests you hold dear. We simply opine and offer our views as to whom we believe would best serve "We the people" in any given office, based on our perspective of who we think will do what must be done, and our collective experience on the front lines of community. The bottom line is that the endorsements of The Community Alliance are purely self-serving. After all, we live here too!
As for the endorsement of Laura Mallay over Gerard Brown for Commissioner in Sanitary District 2, this is not, to us, a matter of partisan politics, but rather, of intuitive common sense. A no brainer, if you will, for anyone who takes a moment to stop and think about it.
We don't know whether Mallay is a Democrat, Republican, or a member of the Tupperware Party. Frankly, we don't care. We are reasonably certain, and would be shocked if proved wrong, that Brown is a good cloth-coat Republican. Not that there's anything wrong with that, in the least. The only questions here are who would be best suited to challenge a system that is rife with patronage, and to overthrow a feifdom that exists - at exorbitant expense to the public - only for the benefit of the few? Mr. Brown has said that the Sanitary District system works. The trash is fine. Come on in. Ms. Mallay says the system is broken, and if it can't be fixed, then it must be dismantled and scrapped. That, in and of itself, is justification for our endorsement. [Not that we need justification. SEE BELOW, “We can say pretty much whatever we darn please…”]
We Are Not A Potted Plant
On the involvement of civic association's in day-to-day politics, we are faced with a double-edged sword. Civic associations, as a matter of law, cannot immerse themselves in the political process. So, for example, they are forbidden to endorse any candidate or to make a contribution to a political campaign fund. [Fortunately, The Community Alliance is not a civic association, nor any type of chartered or incorporated organization, so we can pretty much say and do whatever we darn please – short of yelling “fire” in a theater or advocating the violent overthrow of our government. As for campaign contributions, sorry, our coffers are empty. That’s what happens when you charge nothing for “admission” to the “club!” :-)]
Of course, sidestepping pure politics in no way precludes civic groups from participating in government, and this, by its very nature, means that getting in the faces of elected representatives and, from time to time, publicly stirring the pot, is a very good thing. There is a fine line to be walked, to be sure. Still, walk we must. All of us.
Here at The Community Alliance, we can simply walk the walk with a little more beat in our stride, and talk the talk with considerably more punch. We dare to say what the civics can't - or won't.
The whole idea of civic involvement, as we see it at The Community Alliance, is to challenge the status quo at every level, at every turn. As we frequently say, you don’t need civic associations or quality of life watchdog groups to maintain the status quo. The status quo maintains itself quite nicely on its own!
If you think that all is well in our Town – or beyond – that’s fine. If, after counting what’s left in your wallet, you feel comfortable with the property tax system, sanitary districts, and the plethora of local taxing jurisdictions, no problem. If you verily believe that you are getting the best bang for your buck, and that those who are elected to represent us are truly doing so, that’s great. [If you believe these things, of course, you probably stopped reading these blogs long ago…]
If, on the other hand, you believe we can, and we must do better, then come on board. That, in a nutshell, is what The Community Alliance is all about.
We invite you to consider, to contemplate and to conceptualize a better community. We welcome your comments – good, bad, pro and con (just hold the personal vitriol). Agree or disagree, you are free to make some waves, to stir that pot, and to – may the heavens protect us – think, question and suggest!
As recently reported in Newsday [Not Sold On Homes Plan], the Long Island Regional Planning Board has released a draft study which, according to housing advocates, underestimates – some say grossly so – Long Island’s need for affordable housing.
While Lee Koppelman, Executive Director of the Regional Planning Board, acknowledges the affordable housing shortage on Long Island, the draft report points to a decreasing population in many Long Island communities (obviously, the shadow population of illegal renters has been overlooked in its entirety) and, curiously, lower monthly costs of home ownership.
Whoa! Lower costs of home ownership? That’s where the Planning Board’s report turns from “draft” to “tornado,” a vacuum sucking all reason and reality from Long Island’s housing scene.
According to the report, in 1985, the monthly cost of home ownership was $2,830, compared with $2,388 in 2004. The Planning Board cites lower interest rates for this finding. [Yes, we're talking 1985 costs in 2004 dollars, but still, the numbers don't jive with the finding that the true costs of home ownership are less today than they were in 1985.]
While statistics can be made to show anything we’d like them to show, these figures alone are so skewed that they cannot be said to pass the straight face test. Is there anyone reading this – or anyone that any reader knows – who is paying less today for housing costs than they did in 1985? Maybe – just maybe – if we take property taxes out of the equation, and you refinanced when rates were rock bottom, you may have broken even. Even then. If you pay property taxes as part of your mortgage, you will find, more often than not, your monthly tax escrow to be greater than the principal and interest on your loan combined.
Let’s pull out those Tax Statements for 1985. Hmm. Combined Town, County and School tax - $4,246. Now, the Tax Statement for 2004 (drum roll, please) - $10,672. Yup, our housing costs have gone down.
Never met Lee Koppelman. We’re sure he’s a wonderful guy. Brilliant, in fact. But come on now, Lee. It doesn’t take an expert in the field of either planning or economics (or someone who plays such an expert on TV) to realize that housing costs on Long Island have skyrocketed since 1985, and real income has nowhere kept pace.
Even the Planning Board's own figures belie the study's conclusions. In 1994, the median price of a single family home in Nassau County was $176,000. In 2004, the median price was $427,000. How is it possible that monthly housing costs have gone down?
The Community Alliance has reviewed the July, 2005 Summary Presentation of the Housing Segment of the Long Island Regional Comprehesive Plan, as promulgated by the Planning Board, and to be fair, the study, even in its infancy, reaches toward numerous admirable goals.
We agree with the Board that "the key to building more affordable housing is higher density" - that balanced mix of attached and semi-attached homes; smaller single family houses amidst the McMansions; rentals and ownership properties interspersed with retail businesses in the "downtowns" of our communities.
Among the salient points advanced by the Planning Board that merit implementation are:
- Housing programs that target specific populations, including seniors, the young, seasonal workers, and middle-class professionals;
- Creation of a "Next Generation Housing Fund," to assist with down payment for home ownership; and
- Streamlining the approval process and removing unnecessary barriers for the construction of affordable housing.
The Community Alliance deems as unacceptable, however, the Board's proposal to turn illegal housing units into legal accessory dwelling units, an idea that would legitimatize the dangers - to life, limb and suburbia - of illegal apartments in single-family homes. Anyone who believes otherwise need only take a drive through Elmont!
As we’ve intimated before [okay, we’ve come right out and screamed it], there hasn’t been anything close to planned development on Long Island since Robert Moses built his causeway. Build what you want, as big as you like, the uglier the better – and if, by some odd quirk, there’s a rule that says you can’t do that, we’ll find a way to carve out an exception.
“Smart Growth” on Long Island it is not. On our island, “regional planning” has been and, in great measure, remains an oxymoron.
Studies are all well and good. Everyone should have a study commissioned once in his or her lifetime. A study on affordable housing on Long Island, however, must come out of the box with a basic premise – that there just is not enough of it!
For more information on “Smart Growth” initiatives, visit www.smartgrowth.org.
For more information on a "vision" of a Long Island where communities and neighborhoods have a true sense of place, visit www.visionlongisland.org.
To be a true rebel for the cause of community, visit www.thecommunityalliance.org and "sign up" as a "friend."
Thursday, July 21, 2005
For those who have been asking, the chart below shows taxes paid by both residents and businesses in the various Sanitary Districts in the Town of Hempstead, based on a hypoyhetical value of $350,000. [Of course that's hypothetical. Where are you going to find a home in Nassau County for $350,000?]
Of interest, the Baldwin Herald reports that "There are approximately 15,000 stops in Sanitary District 2, less than half the pickups in District 6, which comprises 35,000 residents." This notwithstanding, residents in District 2 pay almost as much in taxes for garbage collection as residents in Sanitary District 6. What gives?
It appears that the only Sanitary District in which taxes are lower than those paid by residents and businesses serviced directly by Town of Hempstead Sanitation is District 14, which services East Atlantic Beach and Atlantic Beach Estates. What say we all take our garbage to Atlantic Beach and save a bundle?
MALLAY FOR COMMISSIONER
Elections for a Commissioner in the beleaguered Sanitary District 2 will be held on Thursday, July 28th. Sitting Commissioner Gerard W. Brown, a career Supervisor of Operations in the Baldwin Fire Department, faces a stiff and vociferous challenge from Laura Mallay, a community activist who calls South Hempstead home.
While Brown may represent experience, having been a Sanitation Commissioner since 2000 (whatever "experience" may represent in what is patently a patronage position), he also carries the baggage of the status quo, the maintenance of which is wholly unacceptable.
Mallay, while admittedly a novice to trash collection (then again, her garbage must be said to be as good as Mr. Brown's), is zealous in her desire to work not for the benefit of the privileged few, but rather, for the good of the public at large. Laura Mallay, like a cool breeze on a hot summer day, represents change - a change that can only take place with an outsider sitting on the inside.
Acknowledging, at least in this particular race, that change trumps experience, The Community Alliance endorses Laura Mallay for Sanitation Commissioner in District # 2.
Memory is a strange and wonderful thing. Too bad there’s not enough of it to go around. And not only on our computers, which never seem to have enough memory to run those mega-games we load for our kids. Our own minds, from time to time, drag up that apocalyptic blue screen – the “fatal error” that blurs the line between perception and reality.
Fact is, we only retain some 10% of what we learn – even less after the Regents’ exams - and, without doubt, the retention rate of that which we hear and see casually is dramatically less.
So it comes as no surprise that the collective memory is not quite as sharp as we think it to be on matters of how we are governed, and by whom.
We seem to forget, for instance, that Greg Peterson, GOP standard bearer for Nassau County Executive, succeeded Tom Gulotta as Town of Hempstead Supervisor (or was it Presiding Supervisor at the time? We can’t remember). Different body, same glitz, glam, smoke and mirrors. Good old Greg tells us that Nassau County used to be a “jewel.” You mean “jewelry,” don’t you? Greg wants to “restore accountability.” Sure, let’s bring back the days of “borrow and spend” that brought our County to its knees. Greg tells us that our taxes are too high, and points the finger at Tom Suozzi for creating this mess. Funny how memories fade and the mind plays those tricks on you, isn’t it?
By the way – does anyone remember the name of the Town of Hempstead Presiding Supervisor before Tom Gulotta? Wasn’t it a fella by the name of Mondello? And way back when? Does the name D’Amato ring a bell?
And speaking of Town Supervisor, what’s with all the “ooohs” and “ahhs” when the current occupant of the office, smiling Kate Murray, presents artists’ renditions of what the “new” Elmont or the “new" Baldwin will look like? Doesn’t anyone remember that these were the very same renderings shown to us three Supervisors ago? The Town’s Façade Improvement program is exactly as its name suggests – a façade!
Illegal housing has been in the news quite a bit of late. Not a new problem – just a growing problem which, indeed, has reached a crisis point. And yet, our Town Supervisor – 8 Building Inspectors in her “arsenal” – would have us continue to live under the delusion that the Town of Hempstead's approach to the problem is “effective,” and that the Town is “very, very aggressive.” Geez, if Salk were this “aggressive,” we’d still be battling Polio. “Effective?” Yeah, about as effective as gluing those heat-retardant tiles to the space shuttle using peanut butter and spit! Wait. Let’s stick those up our arsenal.
While we’re on the topic – and before we forget - a bit of history vis-à-vis the number of Building Inspectors in America’s largest Township: Five years ago, when our local Councilman was Joe Kearney, the TOH had a total of 6 Building Inspectors. Councilman Kearney assured the community that additional Inspectors had been hired and were in “training.” [We assumed, given the length of time this “training” was taking, that the Inspectors must have been in an Oxford University Doctoral degree program). Today we have a total of 8 Building Inspectors – subject to early retirement – and the assurance from the Supervisor that more are on the way. How many more and when? We can’t recall.
A bit further back in history, some twenty years ago, our then Councilman – now what was his name again? Oh yeah, Joe Ra - “promised” to rid the Elmont community of illegal rental apartments. Ask Roy Mezzapelle, Co-Chair of The Community Alliance, for a copy of the videotape, on which a svelt and youthful Ra tells an Elmont audience words to the effect of “Get me the addresses of those illegal apartments and we’ll close them down.” [Copies of the video are available – on VHS and 2 DVD set – at The Community Alliance gift shop. Stop in and tell ‘em Roy sent you!] Query as to how many of those apartments remain on the Town’s list of 3900 open cases?
Traveling even further back in time, eons ago, when only dinosaurs and Joe Mondello roamed the Hempstead Plain… Well, you get the picture. Its all beginning to come back to us now.
When the problems we complained about 10 years ago and 20 years ago are the very same problems we must confront today – only compounded by 10 or 20 years of neglect – its time to start taking more Ginko Biloba. Do they really believe we’ve forgotten the “These things take time,” the “We’re working on it,” and the “We’re studying the problem?” Apparently so.
Now, what were we talking about? Oh yes. Memories, like the corners of our Town. Misty, watercolor memories of the way we were…
So, spare us the regurgitated candidates – they really are getting old. Hold up on the platitudes, the promises, and the same horse and pony show that’s been around Town since Barnum and Bailey merged with the Ringling Brothers in 1907. We know that you folks are relatively smart and in tune, so stop treating us like fools and idiots by telling us silly things like we “enjoy” paying twice as much for trash collection, or that residents have “local control,” while the Town Supervisor has “no control.” And when you invite us to the theater of the absurd, give us some credit – and our memory, be it as it is, its due – as we have some inkling (call it déjà vu) that we’ve seen this performance before. Like that lousy B-movie we keep taking out of the library (because we forgot that we had seen it a dozen times already), we don’t enjoy it, we can’t fast forward, and the rewind button is broken.
Whether we are Republicans or Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives, or consider ourselves among the fiercely independent, there is a point, beyond partisan politics, when our memories are jogged, the intelligence center in the brain kicks in, and we finally say, “No more!”
Sure, you can forget the past. You can even forget the present - or at least try to. If you do, however, it is at your own risk and to our common detriment. Whatever you forget - either by choice or happenstance - just remember that November 8th is Election Day.
Ah yes, we will remember it well. . .
- - -
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: No wonder the Nassau County Clerk's office takes 2 years or more to mail recorded Deeds and Mortgages to residents. County Clerk Karen V. Murphy, now under investigation by the Nassau County District Attorney, has been taking your documents home with her, allegedly stuffing envelopes with her Mom and Aunt. Whether there has been criminal conduct cannot be said. What can be said, without hesitation, is that the Nassau County Clerk's office has become, in the 12 years under Karen Murphy, the most poorly administered Clerk's office in the State of New York.
Two years to put a recorded Deed in the mail? Ridiculous! Here's a suggestion to remedy the situation: Elect Kate Murray as County Clerk. She's got that mailing thing down pat! [Your Deed will be in the mail - a photo of Kate in the upper right corner - within 2 days!]
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
James Doohan, who passed away this week at 85, will always be remembered as Montgomery Scott, the brusque Scotsman - the take charge Chief Engineer known to the world (in fact, to many worlds) simply as “Scotty.”
Mr. Scott was most adept at getting his fellow space voyagers – you know, the folks who always interfered with the “Prime Directive” – out of harm’s way. With the Enterprise crippled, Klingons to starboard, and Captain Kirk yelling from the Bridge, “Scotty, we need warp speed,” Mr. Scott, cool as a cucumber, would matter-of-factly quip, “You’ll have to fire me, Captain. I’m doing the best I can. The Dilithium crystals are all but depleted.”
Sure enough, within seconds of annihilation – and without further commercial interruption – Mr. Scott would manage a circuit break here and a wire splice there, and warp speed it was. The Enterprise, and, so it would seem, the universe itself, was saved.
As much of a wiz as Scotty was in Engineering, his greatest feats were always accomplished in the Transporter room, where Mr. Scott was at the “Away Team’s” beck and call. Just one, “Beam me up, Scotty,” and those in search of intelligent life in that final frontier (save for crew members wearing the off-color shirts – the extras - who never made it back) would dematerialize safely, and then materialize - almost always in one piece - on the mother ship.
Many a time, right here on planet Earth – where the search for intelligent life continues – a good Communicator and a long-reaching tractor beam would come in mighty handy.
Imagine the scenarios as they play out before Starfleet Command:
Town Councilman Tony Santino: “You earthlings enjoy paying twice the tax for your garbage collection. Now repeat after me. ‘I am willing to pay more for local control.’”
Residents of Sanitary District 2: “Scotty, beam us up!”
Sanitary District 1 Counsel, Nat Swergold, to the Jewish residents of the Five Towns: “I have studied the Hebrews for some time now, and understand the needs of your species. You will have extra trucks to collect bread during Passover.”
Residents of Sanitary District 1: “Scotty, beam us up!”
Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray: “Ah, another ‘Summer of Love’ for me and my precious pets. Ray, be a nice boy and mail these letters, will you?”
Town of Hempstead residents: “Scotty, Beam us up!”
Alas, we do not live in an age of great Communicators, and with Scotty’s passing, the Transporters have all gone still. We are left here, on sometimes alien turf, the atmosphere dense with gas – or is it simply hot air? – to fend for ourselves.
It has been more than a generation since the original Star Trek series went off the air in 1969. Man has walked, driven and golfed on the Moon. Star Trek, itself in the time-warp of syndication, has evolved into the Next Generation, and from there, into Deep Space. And we’ve had our share of Star Wars sequels, prequels, and Jar Jar Binks.
Yet, what is old is new again. From the radio days of the Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds, to today’s Tom Cruise thriller, where seemingly indestructible machines and their other-worldly operators threaten to destroy all of humanity.
No, Scotty is no longer with us to “beam us up.” He is among the stars, once again. Fear not, however, you fellow travelers of time, space and the Town of Hempstead (where no Democrat has gone before). For no machine is everlasting, and no being – whether Martian or Mondello – is forever durable. Indeed, machines, by their own devices, are prone to failure, and their operators, as hardy and long-lived as they may appear, susceptible to the most basic effects that both they and we too often take for granted – the air, the water, the vote!
Goodbye, Mr. Scott. We will be hailing you on all frequencies. “Beam us up!”
The Associated Press reported the ticketing of two NYC men for, of all things, standing under a NO STANDING sign.
Whether there is more to the story – Gay bashing, for instance – will not be the subject of this dissertation. Rather, today’s lesson will be how we, in the Town of Hempstead, could avail ourselves of a unique opportunity to alleviate the burdens of almost every quality of life concern, from too many cars parked on our streets to the plight of the homeless – NO STANDING ANYTIME.
Think about it. A civic group calls a town meeting at a local public school to talk about community concerns. NO STOPPING HERE TO CORNER. Move it right along, folks. You can’t discuss community issues here.
A Sanitary District calls for an election of Commissioners. Just in case anyone other than the initiated (with secret handshake) shows up, a sign at the polling place. NO STANDING ANYTIME. What, you can’t reach the levers from a sitting position? Too bad. Next!
Illegal basement apartments a “scourge” on your community? No problem. A sign adjacent to that outside entrance – NO THROUGH TRAFFIC – is sure to do the trick.
Want to lower Property Taxes? Piece of cake. STEEP DOWNGRADE. That oughta do it. Are the egos of those politicos getting out of hand? Simple. STOP AHEAD.
Of course, sometimes we are the cause of our own undoing. The lament, for example, of a hamlet whose signs proclaim, SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY. Okay, so “slow” children need to play, too. Or how about DIP IN ROAD? Why doesn’t that dip get out of the road so we can get on with things?
Yes, the signs of the times truly make the times. Yet, words alone are sometimes not enough. Consider these road signs and how they could be effectively utilized in our villages and unincorporated areas (gratuitous suggestions are captioned):
ENTRANCE AT TOWN HALL
UNLIT ROAD: DARK AT NIGHT
And last but by no means least …
Kate Murray, Supervisor
And now, we at The Community Alliance await the next sign. Perhaps a comment from a loyal reader. YIELD to those voices in your head. Or, better yet, just STOP!
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Mineola, NY – Democratic candidate for Town of Hempstead Supervisor Harvey Levinson today announced a ten point “Illegal Housing Enforcement Plan” to address a host of illegal housing issues that plague the Town of Hempstead. Decades of neglect and the failure of the Town Supervisor to seriously address illegal housing have resulted in a backlog of 3,900 pending cases, approximately 700 of which are in the Elmont community.
Levinson said, “The machine politicians in the Town of Hempstead have completely failed to take illegal housing seriously. The Town of Hempstead is the largest township in the country with over 750,000 residents and they have only 8 building inspectors who deal with illegal housing. Many of these houses are deathtraps for those who live there, a menace to firefighters and other emergency responders, and the landlords aren’t paying their fair share of the taxes. They are unscrupulous and they’re taking advantage of the housing shortage we face here on Long Island. It’s wrong and as Hempstead Supervisor, I will proactively fight to end illegal housing in the Town.”
Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi joined Levinson at the event to show his support for Levinson’s “Ten Point Plan.” As Mayor of Glen Cove, Suozzi increased enforcement of City building codes by deputizing local attorneys, who worked pro bono, to assist with the prosecution of landlords who owned illegal housing, as well as hiring more building code inspectors.
Suozzi said, “Over the last three years, I have held 35 economic development zone meetings throughout the county. One of the number one issues mentioned in these meetings was illegal housing. The lack of leadership by Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead in addressing this problem has put an undue burden on law-abiding, honest taxpayers. Harvey Levinson’s plan addresses the major problems with illegal housing in the Town of Hempstead. I look forward to partnering with Harvey as Hempstead Town Supervisor.
Levinson’s ten point plan addresses a multitude of issues currently ignored by the Town of Hempstead. Major provisions of the plan include significantly increasing the number of building code enforcement officers. Currently the Town has only 8 building code enforcement officers to serve a population of over 750,000, which happens to be the nation’s largest township. These positions will be funded by increasing the fines levied against illegal housing landlords and eliminating political patronage that has plagued the Town for decades under the rule of the machine politicians.
Levinson also plans to deputize local attorney’s, who will work pro bono, to reduce the current backlog of 3,900 pending cases. A Commissioner of Housing will be appointed to work with local developers and business leaders to create starter and workforce housing. In addition, the Commissioner will liaison with the Nassau County Homeless Task Force to ensure Nassau County residents who are displaced from illegal housing will find temporary emergency shelter, if necessary.
Also attending the press conference was Laura Mallay, candidate for Commissioner of Hempstead Sanitary District #2, serving Ballwin, South Hempstead, and Roosevelt. This is a special taxing district, which is one of approximately 400 invisible governments. Levinson has criticized Hempstead Sanitary District #2 for having the second highest trash collection fees in Nassau County, with residents paying twice the amount many other Hempstead residents pay. Levinson said the Town of Hempstead’s failure to eliminate illegal housing has increased the cost of garbage services for all Town of Hempstead residents because honest residents are paying for the garbage service of those living in illegal apartments. The Sanitary District #2 Election will be held on Thursday, July 28th.
The election for Town of Hempstead Supervisor will be Tuesday, November 8, 2005.
- - -
Levinson’s 10 Point Illegal Housing Enforcement Plan
As Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead, Harvey Levinson will:
1. Hire 20 additional building code enforcement officers
Currently there are only 8 officers who serve a Town of 750,000 residents, which happens to be the largest township in the country. In addition to adding more code enforcement officers, the officers will be “on-call” 24 hours a day in order to inspect homes during late night and early morning hours when police, fire, and first responders may be entering homes.
2. Pass the “New Hyde Park Double the Rent Fine”
The Village of New Hyde Park recently instituted fines that double the amount of money illegal landlords charge in rent. For example, an illegal housing landlord who charges $1,000 dollars in rent will be fined $2,000 for each month of rent charged the tenant. In egregious cases, the Hempstead Town Attorney, under Levinson’s administration, will request the court to impose jail time for landlords. The additional building code enforcement officers will be financed in part through expansion of these fines.
3. Completely restructure the Hempstead Town Attorney’s office
The Hempstead Town Attorney’s office has the responsibility to prosecute illegal housing cases. The Hempstead Town Attorney’s Office is a patronage mill. The top town attorney, who is the highest paid public official in the town, is paid for full time work, but also serves as General Counsel for Hempstead Sanitary District #6. Under Levinson’s leadership, the town attorneys will not be allowed to hold employment outside the Town. In appropriate cases, the Town Attorney’s office will notify the Internal Revenue Service of the landlord’s activities.
4. Request Additional Days On Nassau County Court Docket
Request the Nassau County District Court open additional days on their docket to address cases involving illegal housing. In addition, the Town Attorney’s office will invite neighbors who live near illegal houses to attend court hearings and participate in judicial proceedings to ensure judges are fully aware of the impact illegal housing has on neighbors.
5. Deputize Local Attorney’s to Reduce Illegal Housing Case Backlog
Reach out to local attorneys and ask them to assist the Hempstead Town Attorney’s office in prosecuting illegal housing cases. They will be deputized to assist the Town Attorney in prosecuting a particular case and they will perform that service pro bono, or without compensation. As Mayor of Glen Cove, Tom Suozzi increased prosecution of illegal housing cases by working with local attorneys to serve as deputized attorneys for the city. They performed this service pro bono, or without compensation.
6. Coordinate with First Responders and Garbage Collectors to Gather Information
Coordinate with police, fire, emergency responders and garbage collectors to gather information on the presence of illegal houses. The Town of Hempstead will design a universal form where police, fire and emergency responders can record evidence of illegal houses. First responders often see evidence of illegal housing, but have no way to transfer that information to the Town. The town will actively interview garbage collectors. Often they are the first to identify specific houses and neighborhoods with consistently large amounts of garbage.
7. Create An Illegal Housing Hotline
Create an Illegal Housing Hotline for the Town of Hempstead. The hotline will encourage callers to identify themselves, but will also accept anonymous calls. The hotline will identify possible illegal houses in the same way Crime Stopper hotlines help identify possible crimes in progress.
8. Create an Illegal Housing Advisory Board To Work with Civic Leaders
Create an Illegal Housing Advisory Board composed of civic organization leaders to work with neighborhoods and communities in rooting out illegal housing. Civic organizations are the first line of defense against illegal housing and they have, to date, not been effectively engage by the Town of Hempstead.
9. Landlord Certification In Collecting Back Rent
Change the law to require landlords to certify their property was compliant with all municipal codes when they file petitions with the court to collect back rent. Currently, landlords who run illegal houses are allowed to legally collect back rent because the court documents do not require they certify their property was compliant with municipal codes. Landlords who lie could be prosecuted for Perjury.
10. Appoint a Commissioner of Housing
Appoint a Commissioner of Housing, who will be responsible for working with developers and business leaders to create starter and workforce housing in the Town of Hempstead. The illegal housing industry is driven by the lack of housing in Nassau County. As Hempstead Supervisor, Levinson will work with community leaders to work with zoning requirements to encourage housing opportunities.
In addition, the Commissioner of Housing will liaison with the Nassau County Homeless Task Force to ensure that Nassau County residents who are displaced from illegal housing will find temporary emergency shelter, if necessary.
Nassau DA To Ask Grand Jury To "Investigate" Illegal Housing
What do you know? The illegal rental of accessory apartments in single family homes is about to go before a Grand Jury in Nassau County. [SEE Newsday, Illegal Housing to get Full Attention.]
At first blush, this sounds as grand as the jury itself – round up the illegal landlords and haul them off to the County Jail for 30 days, 6 months, or perhaps even longer, should they fail to reveal their sources.
Dig just beneath the surface and you will find, by District Attorney Denis Dillon’s own concession, that the purpose of convening a Grand Jury on the illegal housing issue is not so much to prosecute the wrongdoing landlords (or, for that matter, the wrongdoing Realtors), but rather, to “study” the problem. As Newsday put it, “to find big-picture solutions to a problem that has plagued governments across Long Island for years. Those solutions may be presented in the form of a report that would be written by prosecutors, and adopted by the grand jury.”
Now maybe if the Grand Jury starts handing down indictments of Town officials – for dereliction of duty in failing to enforce the laws already on the books, themselves sufficient to stem the tide, or for only having 8 (count ‘em, 8) Building Inspectors for the whole of America’s largest township – then we’d see some progress. Forget the landlord. You put Kate Murray in handcuffs and walk her out of the courthouse before the waiting press and everybody will take notice. Don’t count on anything quite as grand from this Grand Jury.
There is no question that the illegal housing catastrophe – and the corresponding affordable housing crisis – require solutions, which mandates immediate study by housing and planning “experts” (not Prosecutors) - but to have a Grand Jury (which is composed of the same peers as you find on a Petite Jury – in other words, the guy at the corner bar who couldn’t weasel his way out of Jury Duty) "study" the problem is almost as useless as having the State Legislature appoint a Blue Ribbon Panel. To empanel a Grand Jury to investigate old men telling lawyer jokes at the courthouse, on the other hand – well, that’s a different story entirely. :-)
Darren Sandow, program director for the Long Island Unitarian Universalist Fund, which supports social, environmental and economic justice issues, has it right when he says we’ve been there and done that. The lack of affordable housing really is the bigger problem – and one which the Lee Koppelmans of Long Island shouldn’t blame civic and community groups for. [Take a look around our County and Towns, Lee. You call the haphazard and rampant development we’ve seen over the past 25 years and continuing to date “planning?”]
The other problem, almost as big and just as real, is the utter lack of enforcement by Town government – those charged with zoning and building code enforcement who are quick to point fingers, but mighty slow in pulling the trigger on those “tools” that Hempstead’s Mike Deery says the Town has in its arsenal. [That “arsenal” the Town of Hempstead constantly refers to reminds us of George Bush’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. You hear an awful lot about them, but they never seem to materialize.]
The non-starter here, which always seems to garner the most publicity, is the illegal immigrant. Gosh, unless your parents or grandparents or great grandparents were Native Americans (giving you the inalienable right to own and operate casinos), you are the sons and daughters of immigrants, too. And just ask any Native American and he’ll tell you – we’re all here illegally! Whether you are of German or Irish stock, African-American, or, as some of us like to put on those Census forms, Eastern-European American - or, for that matter, a Mexican laborer struggling to support a family and make a better life for his children - you deserve a roof overhead, in a house or apartment up to code, with an affordable rent or mortgage. Period.
Let’s start working together to find the answers, to insist that Town officials enforce Building Codes, and to get State, County, Town – and, yes, even the Feds – off their respective kiesters to develop, fund and implement a Master Plan that introduces affordable workforce and senior housing to the “downtowns” of our communities.
Lee Koppelman, if you have any ideas, we’re listening. Otherwise, about all any of us can do at this point is to await that Subpoena from the Grand Jury.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Am I really paying that much more than my neighbors for trash collection?
Not only do the tax rates differ dramatically depending on who collects your garbage in the Town of Hempstead, there is even a disparity between what different homeowners pay within the same Sanitary District.
The comments posted to the recent blog [http://thecommunityalliance.blogspot.com/2005/07/picking-through-trash-at-town-of.html]bear out the fact that tax rates vary not only by District but, it would seem, by neighborhood - and even by block.
Sanitary 2 Taxpayer said...
My vote is to eliminate the Sanitary Districts, combining services and personnel with TOH Sanitation.We are taxed to the limit in Hempstead Town, and for what, to support political cronnies and a bloated "local" government?Thanks for publicizing the reality of life in the Town of Hempstead, where "quality" isn't even part of the vernacular.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 1:28:45 PM
WHAT is EVERYONE'S tax rate for sanitation? IS mine HIGHER than yours vs. the Town's tax rate? I don't want to pay the Town's tax rate if it is higher than what I am paying. Please post the name of your community, what sanitary district you are in and what your assessed tax rate is. This way we can be objective here. Thanks. Inwood - Sanitary District 1. $11.945
Friday, July 15, 2005 10:41:48 AM
sanit 6er said...
Franklin Square - Sanitary District 6. $18.901
Friday, July 15, 2005 11:36:35 AM
happy with Town Trash said...
East Meadow - Town Refuse. $7.157. The sanitation services provided directly by the Town of Hempstead are just fine. We have the same garbage collection, recycling, yard waste pick up, etc. as those served by the so-called Special Districts. And who knew that we pay less than half the tax?Come on over to TOH Refuse Disposal - the trash is fine, and the tax rate is a heck of a lot better!
Friday, July 15, 2005 11:41:28 AM
I live in West Hempstead District 6 and mine for the '04 tax year was $16.118. What's happening here is nothing short of an absolute sham. It's time for change. I'm sure there will be plenty of resistance from the establishment, but I say, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"
Friday, July 15, 2005 5:34:14 PM
Sanitation Rates in the Town of Hempstead District Rate (per $100 of assessed value)
Saturday, July 16, 2005 8:59:51 AM
Of course, if you live in a Special Sanitary District (as opposed to being serviced directly by Town of Hempstead Sanitation), you pay a tax for Town Refuse disposal, this in addition to the tax you pay for being in a Sanitary District of your own. In some instances, the effective tax rate per $100 of assessed value, is as high as $26.058. And you thought your garbage wasn't worth that much!
Where in the Town of Hempstead do you live and what is your Tax Rate for Sanitation? It's like the old broom at the cash register trick, where the cashier rings up the broom on your tab, even though you didn't buy the broom. The twist: Everyone pays a different price for that same broom!
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Around The Sanitary Districts
The vote for Commissioner in Sanitary District 2 is drawing closer - Thursday, July 28th, 2 PM to 10 PM. Sanitary District 2 encompasses Baldwin, Roosevelt, South Hempstead and part of Uniondale.
If you live in Sanitary District 2 - or know someone who lives in Sanitary District 2 - get out the word. Every vote counts. And every vote to dismantle this inequitable and unfair system of costly patronage feifdoms is a vote to restore true local control to Town government.
Community advocate Laura Mallay is looking to unseat the machine-tooled Commissioner, and to eliminate this wasteful taxing jurisdiction, consolidating services with Town of Hempstead Sanitation.
The voting places for the Sanitary 2 elections are as follows:
Roosevelt (part Uniondale): Queen of the Most Holy Rosary - 196 West Centennial Avenue, Roosevelt, NY
Baldwin: Sanitary District #2 Headquarters - 2080 Grand Avenue, Baldwin, NY
South Hempstead: Covert School - 379 Willow Street, South Hempstead, NY
Tired of paying too much in taxes for garbage collection. Fed up with party politics? Do you really want to take back our Town and regain local control? You know what you have to do. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE! Vote to throw those self-serving, do nothing, no-show, tax-guzzling bums out!
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In Sanitary District 6, covering Elmont, Franklin Square, Garden City South, Lakeview, Malverne Park, South Floral Park and West Hempstead, Petitions to run for Commissioner will be available at Sanit 6 Headquarters (80 Cherry Valley Avenue, West Hempstead) on Monday, July 25th. Care to toss your hat in the ring? Send a message to Town Hall - "We're mad as Hell and we're not gonna take it anymore!" Then vote (August 15th) and throw out that old, broken, tax-generating machine with yesterday's trash!
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Is That Compost We Smell at Hempstead Town Hall?
No, we're not done sorting through the garbage at the Sanitation Districts in the Town of Hempstead. Far from it!
With that sham of an election in Sanitary District 1 just behind us [SEE Nassau Herald and "Secret Vote" Goes Forward...], and "elections" for Commissioners upcoming in Sanitary District 2 (July 28th, 2 PM - 10 PM) and Sanitary District 6 (August 15th, 6 PM to 10 PM), the heat is on for the Town - and its "special" Districts - to show that the Sanitary Districts' trash is well worth twice the price.
From what we hear from the Commissioners, the District Managers and the folks at Town Hall (including Town Councilman Anthony Santino), the services provided by the Special Sanitary Districts (as opposed to the TOH Sanitation Department) are sooooo good that we're fortunate to have the privilege to pay double the going rate paid by those serviced directly by the Town.
Interestingly, Levittown, home to TOH Supervisor Kate Murray, and East Meadow, the stomping grounds of former TOH Supervisor and County Exec wannabe Greg Peterson, are both served directly by the Town of Hempstead Sanitation Department. Shucks! Kate and Greg miss out on the sheer enjoyment of paying double the tax to have their garbage collected. And what a shame that neither Kate nor Greg have "local control" over their sanitation services. Hey Tony, can we take up a collection for these poor, unfortunate souls?
Truth is, sanitary service in the areas serviced directly by the Town of Hempstead - East Meadow, Levittown, Merrick, Bellmore, Seaford, Wantagh, Lido Beach, Point Lookout and parts of Uniondale - is every bit as good as the trash collection in Sanitary 2 and 6. Geez, it's garbage, stupid. How good can it get? And just how deep do we have to keep digging into our pockets, not only to pay for trash pick-up, but worse, to support an entrenched system of party patronage?
Of course, don't fret for Kate and Greg, for life outside the Sanitary Districts isn't quite as bad as they would have us believe. In fact, in Kate Murray's own words, "The Town of Hempstead Sanitation service is excellent... just as good as Sanitation District number 2."* No wonder Kate and Greg always have those big grins on their faces. They're getting the same sanitation services as those who live in the "special" Districts, and at half the cost!
Assuming we use our noggins and count the nickels and dimes, elimination of the Sanitary Districts, with consolidation of services under TOH Sanitation, is a no-brainer. The jobs of the rank-and-file at the Sanitary Districts are safe. Hey, they actually work for a living. Does the Town of Hempstead really need to operate (and don't let them hoodwink you, these are, for all intents and purposes, TOH operations) 5 separate Sanitary Districts (in addition to its own Sanitation Department), each with, give or take, 6 Commissioners, 17 Supervisors and a Manager? Okay, by a show of hands (or a "no-show" of hands, as the case may be), who is in favor of eliminating the "special" Sanitary Districts and consolidating them under the Town of Hempstead Sanitation Department? Just as we thought!
Given the crock we are spoon-fed by the Town as to the "benefits" of the Special Districts, is it any wonder Kate Murray is always smiling? After all, you can't possibly put this malarkey over on the public with a straight face!
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Around The Sanitary Districts
In Sanitary District 2, Harvey Levinson, Chair of the Nassau County Board of Assessors and candidate for Town of Hempstead Supervisor (the fella who opened our eyes to the taxing travesty of the "Special Districts"), has called for full disclosure of Sanitary District 2 management salaries and positions. A Freedom of Information Law request was sent July 1, 2005, with no response received to date. [Funny how the Town of Hempstead routinely disregards FOIL requests, isn't it? Maybe they just don't bother to commit anything to writing?]
Also in Sanitary District 2, community advocate Laura Mallay (SEE www.southhempsteadcivic.org/sanit2.htm) is challenging the machine-tooled candidate, looking to consolidate the District with the Town of Hempstead Sanitation Department. The vote is on July 28th. [As Kate Murray said to Laura Mallay, "There is an election every year. If you're not happy, just run for Commissioner." Laura, the Supervisor didn't mean you should actually run, did she? :-)]
In Sanitary District 6, Petitions (to run for a Commissioner's seat) will be available as of Monday, July 25th at the District office (80 Cherry Valley Avenue, West Hempstead). The Petition must have at least 25 valid signatures (persons of voting age who reside within the District). Petitions must be returned to Sanitary 6 by Friday, August 5th. The vote is on August 15th. Any takers?
*June 23, 2005, meeting of ACORN Uniondale/Roosevelt community held at the Cerebral Palsy Center in Roosevelt.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
As if unsolicited mail from the Town Supervisor wasn't enough, now we have to worry about - and pay for - telemarketers calling our cell phones.
That's right, cell phone numbers will soon be made available to those who pitch everything from chimney cleaning to aluminum siding - and don't forget those Real Estate agents who want to know if you plan on selling your house. Hey, if the price is right!
You can keep those unsolicited - and costly - calls from reaching your cell phone by registering your cell phone number with the Do Not Call Registry. Simply call 1-888-382-1222, or visit the Registry website at www.DoNotCall.gov.
As for that all too frequent - and costly - political banter from Town Hall (the stream has slowed to a trickle of late. Do you think they're getting the message?), you can place yourself on the NO-MURRAY-MAILGRAM List by logging on to http://www.thecommunityalliance.org/pages/2/index.htm.
At the same time, you can become a "Citizen-Member*" of The Community Alliance, adding yourself to the ever-growing list of those who want to be in the know and on the go vis-a-vis quality of life issues that impact upon our Long Island. There are no dues to pay (as a Town of Hempstead resident, you've more than paid your dues), and the opportunity to join forces with the willing, to read the rants, the raves and the utterly ridiculous (or is it?) - and to offer commentary, ideas and rants of your own - is, well, priceless!
*The Community Alliance does not have "members," per se. We have friends. Okay, we have acquaintences. All right, so when they see us walking down the street they cross over to the other side. We can deal with that! :-)
Monday, July 11, 2005
Sanitary District 1 Vote Goes Forward On Sabbath, Justifiable Claim of Inadequate Notice notwithstanding; Jewish Voters Disenfranchised
From its most innocent perspective, moving forward with the vote for Commissioners in Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 1 on Friday, July 8th, given questionable notice to the public, was dubious, at best. Looking at the election in a light that shines on the darker side of Town of Hempstead politics, knowingly disenfranchising an entire block of voters, on religious and ethnic grounds, was nothing short of dastardly.
One would think, discretion being the better part of valor, that the Commissioners of Sanitary District 1, their learned Counsel, Nat Swergold (the man who told the public, in justifying tax rates, that District 1 places additional trucks in service in this heavily Jewish District during Passover to collect bread), and the "powers-that-be" in the Town of Hempstead, would have voluntarily postponed the vote, assuring both sufficient notice under the law and deference to the many in the District who observe the Sabbath. But no, stupid is what stupid does!
Residents in Sanitary District 1, which covers the Five Towns, Inwood, Green Acres and Valley Stream South, brought an action seeking injunctive relief before the Supreme Court in Nassau County, looking to postpone the July 8th election, essentially on the grounds that the District gave inadequate notice to the public of the pending election. Ancillary to this issue, residents raised the concern that the election was to be held on a Friday evening, from 6 PM to 10 PM, the start of the Jewish Sabbath, effectively disenfranchising a large segment of the electorate.
Late afternoon on Friday, July 8th, Justice LaMarca of the Supreme Court granted a temporary Injunction, staying the vote. Then, at the literal 12th hour, upon Appeal to a Justice of the court's Appellate Division (District Counsel Nat Swergold - with loaf of bread in hand, no doubt - knocked on the door to the house of Justice Thomas Adams), the injunction was lifted and the vote was allowed to proceed.
"This is the ultimate in chutzpah," said Five Towns resident, Mark Stein. "First, they don't tell you about an election. Then, they hold it on shabbos, knowing full well that Jews wouldn't be able to vote."
The sentiment ran deep and emotions strong in the Jewish communities of the South Shore, Mr. Stein expressing the opinion of a crowd of the faithful emerging from a local Lawrence synagogue. "They kept us from voting on July 8th," said Stein, angrily, "but you can be sure we'll be at the polls in force come November 8th (the General Election). We'll show them the meaning of 'local control.'"
The "ultimate in chutzpah" (nerve or gall). You've got that right. A secret election, poorly publicized, with insufficient notice to the public. An election that undermined the democratic process, precluding many - including an entire religious/ethnic group - from participating in the vote. An election fraught with patronage (politically connected Sanitation Supervisor Phil Mistero, for instance, the brother of Inwood Republican leader Jesse Mistero, is paid over $150,000 a year).
One wonders just what the Commissioners of Sanitary District 1 are hiding from the public? Apparently, with a taxpayer-funded budget of $15 million dollars, and absolutely no oversight - either from the public or, surprise, surprise, from Town Hall (the folks who say they have "no control" over these Special Districts) - they've got plenty to hide.
One would expect to hear from the Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, condemning the unorthodox (pun intended) - if not unlawful - methods of a Sanitary District that operates under the banner and auspices of the TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD. Certainly, one would expect the Supervisor to publicly express outrage over the disparate and discriminatory practice of holding a public election on the Sabbath. True to form, we hear silence from Town Hall, and nothing from Kate Murray.
Complain about Kate Murray's job performance, and she'll call you a mysoginist (woman-hater). Disenfranchise the Jewish voters of the Town of Hempstead, and you hear nary a word from the Town Supervisor. Something truly smells rotten at Town Hall in Hempstead, and its not just the garbage. To be sure, the voters won't get trashed again in November!
AROUND THE SANITARY DISTRICTS
In TOH Sanitary District 2, community activist Laura Mallay continues to mount an admirable campaign against the sitting "machine-tooled" Commissioners. Looking to dissolve the District by Petition (putting herself out of a job if elected), Mallay would be a watchful eye over a taxpayer-funded pot that, for too long, has avoided public scrutiny. The election in Sanitary District 2 is Thursday, July 28th.
In TOH Sanitary District 6, The Community Alliance has learned that elections for Commissioners are scheduled to take place on Monday, August 15th. Who knew? Certainly, not the voting public. Yet another "secret vote" in a sham election.
Are we "enjoying" our "local control" yet?
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Kudos to Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes, Don Clavin, who has literally put fun back on the campaign trail. With all the bells and whistles - not to mention the handcuffs - Clavin, who is seeking to unseat Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, has launched a rather tongue-in-cheek website ( a blog, in fact) - www.askhoward.org - featuring, believe it or not, a lifesize cardboard placard of a body representing the Comptroller, atop which sits Weitzman's face.
Leaving to the politicos and the public the task of seperating fact from fiction, the tactic is ingenious and, face it, hilarious. Clavin has enlivened an otherwise dull campaign for a not particularly exciting office. Even Clavin's deadpan look as he stands with arm around the erzatz Weitzman is enough to generate a chuckle from the most diehard Dem.
Clearly, Clavin has the upper hand (and watch where you put that hand on the wooden Weitzman, Don) in this race for sheer knee-slapping, "in your face" theatrics, his adept use of cyberspace showing up his opponent's campaign which, thus far, hasn't left the keyboard.
Certainly, we are early on in this race - where Don Clavin would have to be characterized as the underdog. Still, the website's relatively good-natured, above-the-belt style makes for one hell of a ride along the Information Highway. "Have no fear. Bulldog Clavin is here!" :-)
NOTE TO HARVEY LEVINSON, CANDIDATE FOR TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD SUPERVISOR: Take a cue from Don Clavin and go for the cardboard Murray. That would be huge! Hey, at least you could hide behind Kate's smiling face when those angry Sanitary District Commissioners start hurling the tomatoes...
Laura Mallay to challenge Gerard Brown for sanitary commissioner
Well, what do you know? In Sanitary District 2, a Commissioner standing for re-election is also a Baldwin Fire Commissioner (nothing unique to District 2. The same holds true in District 6, where a sitting Commissioner is also a Commissioner of the Lakeview Fire District). And we don't have to check party affiliations to say with confidence that the "connections" run much deeper than that.
As Ricky Ricardo was fond of saying, hands on hips and that stern look upon his brow, "Lucy, you've got some 'splaining to do..."
Is it that we just don't get it or that we just don't care? Or could it be that everyone and his brother-in-law is on the public payroll?
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Meanwhile, the fun and games - not to mention the party patronage - continue in Sanitary District 1. Read on . . .
Levinson: Sanitary Election Doesn’t Pass Smell Test
Lawrence- Town of Hempstead Supervisor candidate Harvey Levinson and community leaders today called for immediate postponement of Sanitary District 1 election, currently set for this Friday evening from 6 to 10 p.m.
Community leaders objected to holding the election on the Jewish Sabbath at a time precluding Jewish families from participating. In addition, many non-Jewish families will be vacationing out of town and unable to cast their ballots.
Levinson said that almost no people were adequately informed about the election, and that the only public notification was an obscure legal notice published in the Herald newspaper.
The firm of Cohen, Tauber, Spievack and Wagner LLP will be seeking an injunction in Nassau County Supreme Court.
“Holding such a poorly timed and ill publicized election shows the lengths to which a wasteful political machine will go to prevent open debate. This election was designed for one thing: to give an inefficient, self-perpetuating district the least possible scrutiny. It just doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Levinson.
“I call upon the Sanitation District to have a open and honest and fairly publicisized election. Designing an election with a goal of minimizing voter participation undermines our democratic process.”
Sanitation District 1 has an annual budget of over $15 million, with over $5 million paid in salaries and wages. The budget faces no independent review or meaningful oversight.
Critics say that the same level of service could be achieved in District 1 with greater taxpayer saving, and that the political bureaucracy should be cut. Supporters of special taxing districts, such as Republican Town councilman Tony Santino, contend that a “vast majority” of residents are willing to pay for the higher rates (Newsday, June 16, 2005).
The Republican political machine has benefited from these undemocratic election tactics.
Politically connected Superintendent Phil Mistero, brother of Republican leader Jesse Mistero, was paid $152,000 from the district in 2003.
Levinson also noted the irony of such a poorly publicized election. The GOP political machine has spent thousands of taxpayer dollars criticizing Levinson in lavish four-color mailings, but failed to publish anything notifying residents about the Sanitation District election.
“$15 million dollars at stake and the patronage machine still finds it more important to spend taxpayer dollars attacking me rather than getting the word out about this election. It’s another example of how a wasteful patronage machine puts their own interest above the interest of taxpayers.”
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Click Here to Check Out Newsday's Editorial.