Monday, April 30, 2007

Moratorium, Schmoratorium

Prospect Of Helter-Shelter Zoning, Enforcement Puts Damper On Hempstead Town's Building Moratorium

The cheers went up among residents of Hempstead Town when Supervisor Murray and the Town Board announced the passage of a six-month building moratorium on one and two-family homes.

The town attorney has been asked to quickly find solutions to residents' complaints that too many variances are approved allowing the building of oversized houses -- so-called McMansions -- on properties smaller than town code permits.

Aside from the fact that neither Town nor Town attorney ever moves "quickly," and a moratorium of "no more than six months" is hardly enough time to examine the problems, let alone to come up with practical solutions, there is the foreboding reality that, regardless of measures that may be codified by the Town Board, absent oversight by the Zoning Board and enforcement by the Building Department, nothing will ever change.

The Town of Hempstead is notorious for passing legislation that has either no legs, or is simply ignored, both by residents and Town officials.

Take, for instance, the illegal accessory apartment crisis -- one that first came to light in the 70s, and which the Town has promised to address ever since.

Just a few years ago, the Town, with enabling legislation from the State, enacted legislation designed (at least in theory) to weed out unlawful apartments in single-family homes.

There was the new "nail" provision as applies to service of the summons. Then there were amendments to the Building Code, allowing indica of illegality (i.e., multiple mailboxes or multiple utility meters) to serve as prima facie evidence of an illegal apartment.

Sounded good on paper. Truth is, without enforcement, all the new laws on the books did as little to stem the tide of illegal accessory apartments as the old laws, and today, the problem is worse, not better.

It has become customary at Hempstead Town Hall to maintain a Helter-Skelter approach to community issues. With respect to zoning, building code enforcement, and the housing crisis in Hempstead Town, call it Helter-Shelter!

A building moratorium with a view toward changing the law, and then applying (without variance) and enforcing it, is a good thing. A building moratorium just for the sake of having a six-month respite from zoning-gone-wild isn't worth the paper the legislation was written on.

"I am going to do everything in my power to ensure that overdevelopment does not turn the suburban dream into the urban nightmare," declared Hempstead Town Supervsor Kate Murray.

Kate, its already a nightmare in Hempstead Town. Time for the folks at Town Hall to wake up to that sad fact, and for residents to begin to take back their town!
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On April 26, 2004, The Community Alliance sent the following letter to Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray concerning the illegal accessory apartment crisis:

. . .We all agree that the proliferation of illegal rental apartments is one of the greatest threats, if not the foremost affront to our quality of life here in the Town of Hempstead. From their negative impact on essential services such as police, fire and sanitation, to the overcrowding of our classrooms, illegal rentals burden our limited resources as well as our wallets. In the case of basement/cellar apartments, life itself is often put at risk and, in fact, has been tragically and senselessly lost - by fire, by carbon monoxide poisoning, by our collective neglect as a community. It is with the overriding concern for the welfare of our neighbors, the stability of our neighborhoods and the value of our houses, that we have sought your guidance, your assistance and your stewardship as the Supervisor of America’s largest township.

At our meeting of April 14, we agreed, at least in principle, that specific measures, defined and significant, would be required in order to educate the public, discourage deviation from the law and to identify, prosecute and punish violators. Toward that end, we have touched upon certain salient directives to be viewed as “marching orders” in the battle to take back community from the evils of urban sprawl. These include, as our initial assault, the following actions to be taken by the Town of Hempstead:

(1) The initiation of a dedicated public relations campaign, including mailings to every Town resident, same to detail (a) the law concerning the rental of accessory apartments, (b) the obligations of homeowners under the law, and (c) the methods by which, the steps taken and measures to be undertaken by the Town regarding enforcement of the law in order to assure compliance;

(2) The enactment and/or amendment by the Town Board, and implementation and enforcement by the Town’s departments and agencies, of such Ordinances and regulations as shall give the existing law "teeth." This shall include, among other things, (a) the establishment of penalties and fines for violation that exceed by far the cost of dong business (i.e., a fine calculated as a multiple of the monthly rent as charged and/or advertised, then multiplied by a factor. So, for instance, a "landlord" charging $1000/month in rent would pay a base fine of, say, $16,000 - the equivalent of 12 months rent plus 1/3 of the annual rent); (b) requiring the homeowner to restore the premises to remove all violations; (c) docketing and recording of fines as money judgments which would be attachable as a lien against the property; (d) holding the homeowner responsible for all costs associated with relocating any tenant required to vacate the premises; and (e) making it illegal for a public utility to install and/or maintain more than one meter on a single family house (as designated in the Certificate of Occupancy);

(3) The Town shall undertake, by all means necessary and with all deliberate speed, appropriate measures to enforce both existing and newly created Code provisions relating to and governing the rental of accessory apartments, making public all evidence of action taken to enforce, to prosecute and, where fines are imposed, to collect.

In view of the import of this concern, and the time already lost in pursuing a reasonable and prudent plan to solve the illegal rental problem – which can now be measured in years, if not decades – we are asking that you respond to our call to action within thirty (30) days of the date of this letter, presenting a realistic game plan, subject to a defined timeline, so that, together, we can engage and defeat this notorious foe of our suburban way of life.

And what has been the response from Hempstead Town Hall? A single mailing, by way of Murraygram, announcing a Quality of Life "Initiative," and, frankly, not much else.

Call us skeptics or realists, but between us residents of Hempstead Town, we wouldn't expect too much in the way of protecting the suburban dream to come out of the building moratorium of 2007.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Nassau County Legislator To Host Meetings On Special Taxing Districts

Residents for Efficient Special Districts to Join Forum in Levittown

Residents for Efficient Special Districts (yes, we know. Oxymoron), has been invited by Nassau County Legislator Dave Mejias to join him at a public meeting on Special Taxing Districts.

This meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 2 @ 7:00 PM at the Jonas E. Salk Middle School in Levittown, located at 3359 N. Jerusalem Avenue.

You -- being the public -- are invited to attend and to partake in the discourse.

RESD is hoping to get a good turn, and to generate both discussion and action. If you or any of your friends or neighbors can make this meeting, it would be a great help to the cause.

Additional public forums, dubbed "Fight High Taxes" meetings, will be held on May 3 in Farmingdale (7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at the Farmingdale Public Library, 116 Merritts Road) and May 10 in Plainview (7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at the Plainview Old Bethpage Public Library, 999 Old Country Road).

Legislator Mejias will be holding additional meetings in the coming months. Please check RESD's website for details, or call the office of Dave Mejias at 516-571-6214.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Corbin Catapulted From County Seat

Jacobs (Judy not Jay, no relation) Boots Corbin As Second In Command

Let no one say that payback isn't a bitch.

Yes sir. Call him ineffective, not a team player, a spoiler, or an obstructionist, and show him the door, but truth is, Nassau County Legislator Roger Corbin has been ousted (as in "don't let the door hit you on the way out") from his post as Deputy Majority Leader because, quite frankly, he just doesn't play well with others.

For those with relatively short memories, Corbin and his then-cohort, Legislator Lisanne Altmann, tried to upset the balance of power in Mineola in late 2005, early 2006, bucking the party leadership -- and bringing County Government to a complete standstill for a couple of months while everyone played games in court -- in what has to have been one of the most incompetently orchestrated attempted political coups in history.

Corbin and Altmann snubbed their own Democratic party (the party that had elected them), instead playing footsie -- and trying to make backroom deals -- with that wiley coyote himself, Minority Leader Peter Schmitt.

County government ground to a halt, as John Q. Public watched the circus from the peanut gallery. After the show, the taxpayers of Nassau County got hit for the hefty admission fee.

What a fiasco!

So, why seemingly forgive and forget at the time, only to strip Corbin of his power now -- just six months before the next election?


Lisanne Altman has already announced that she will not seek re-election. She'll go for that cushy, full-time job at LIPA (where former consumer/community advocates seem to go in the political afterlife).

One down.

As for Roger Corbin, who continues to act like that whiney, sniveling, spoiled child whose mother told him he couldn't have that lollipop before dinner, he's being set up for the kill.

Watch for him to be "primaried." Look for him to seek advice of counsel (Fred Brewington already has the retainer in hand, no doubt). And wait for the war of words to begin and the race card to surface.

"They want me out because I'm black," Corbin will protest, doing his darnedest to articulate a rationale in a light most favorable to himself.

No Roger. This isn't black or white. It never was.

This isn't even about being an independent voice on the Legislature, something that is ordinarily accepted (sporadically), and universally acclaimed (in public). This isn't about the color, or the thickness, of your skin.

This isn't even about your recent abstentions on votes that prevent the Legislature from doing the people's business. Well, maybe it is.

Your self-dealing -- something we've come to despise the Peter Schmitts of the world for -- cost the taxpayers of Nassau County plenty.

Your hobnobbing with the GOP -- more than a mere crossing of the aisle in the spirit of bi-partisanship -- warrants stripping you of the power, prestige, and money (an extra $23,000 per year) that comes with the privilege of being the Deputy Majority Leader. [Remember, Roger, that "majority," duly elected, is in favor of the Democrats.]

Our pockets, as taxpayers, are somewhat lighter, Roger -- and now, so are yours -- because you selfishly tried to tip the balance of power in the Nassau County Legislature in your favor, for your gain, without regard either for your colleagues or your constituents.

What goes around comes around.

For Roger Corbin, its coming around again!

A Government Of The People?

Maybe. It Just Depends Which People You're Talking About?

Supervisor Kate Murray of Hempstead Town may get it (or at least she's savvy enough to know that the electorate isn't as dumb as the likes of Councilman Tony Santino would have us think), but clearly, town Board members, in Hempstead and Islip, haven't quite figured out that, ultimately, the loyalty they owe is to us (as in "We, the people"), and not to either the leaders or patrons of the party.

Did those public officials who voted to keep the costly perks for part-timers like Kat D'Amato think that no one -- not even Newsday -- would notice?

Oh, they know their vote was wrong, against the public interest. The know, as well, that there's alot of time between last Tuesday and the first Tuesday in November.

Just another day at the Town Board. Just another opportunity to say, "let the public be damned!"

We really wanted to say something witty and poignant here. Joye Brown at Newsday beat us to it. . .
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8 on town boards who voted against the taxpayers
Joye Brown

Damn the taxpayers, full speed ahead.

That, exactly, was the message sent by a majority of the town boards in Islip and Hempstead on Tuesday. We've yet to hear from Oyster Bay and Huntington, where officials were quick to say they would review the outrageous practice of gifting part-time, appointed and politically connected board members - and their families - with expensive health, dental and vision benefits.

But Islip council members Pamela Green, William Rowley and Steven Flotteron, who, for the fourth time, killed a measure pushed by Supervisor Phil Nolan, the lone Democrat, to do away with benefits for the select few, made their choice.

So did Hempstead council members Anthony Santino, Edward Ambrosino, Gary Hudes, James Darcy and Angie Cullin. They killed a similar measure offered up - to the consternation of Republican Party higher-ups in Nassau County, sources tell me - by Republican Supervisor Kate Murray.

The eight voted to side against taxpayers and with fellow party members, fundraisers, contributors and others so politically connected. Reality check: Elected officials and political leaders, no matter their party, need all of the above to get into office and maintain power. It's the way the American political system works. (Or doesn't, depending on your good-government view.) But on Long Island, some of the worst political abuses are practiced as high art. And its worst form, corruption, seems almost a byproduct of the way politics is carried out.

Half of Long Island's town building departments are under investigation by the Nassau and Suffolk district attorneys' offices.More than a dozen school districts, town or other officials have been charged - or pleaded guilty - with corruption or other allegations in the last two years.Half of the revenue generated by special taxing districts in New York State comes from Long Island. No wonder. Nassau and Suffolk have 340 such districts, too many of which have become havens for politically connected people who need jobs and expensive benefits.

Long Island has a shadow government, which taxes residents just as surely, just as steadily, as any other governmental entity does.

Pulling money out of the public's pocket to fund benefits to politically connected people who are appointed to part-time boards works well for politics.

It does not work for people. In Nassau and Suffolk counties, an increasing number of residents are suffocating under the burdens of high taxes, a rising cost of living and stagnant wages.

Yesterday, school district officials put forth the smallest proposed tax hike in eight years. That would be considered a good start, unless, of course, you consider that their budgets also will include a level of state aid that probably won't be there next year.

But on Tuesday, a majority of town board members in Islip and Hempstead tried their best to ignore the reality of what it costs to live here. Instead, council members tossed out excuses as lame as they were silly.The supervisor didn't give us the information on time, said Flotteron, over in Islip, as a proposal to kill the practice died a fourth time, despite protests from a vociferous crowd. (And hundreds of telephone calls and e-mails received by council members.)

The zoning board works a lot of hours, said Santino, over in Hempstead, who voted against Murray's proposal but then offered a successful amendment to kill the perk - for the civil service commission, not the zoning board.

Guess which group includes Katuria D'Amato, a lawyer and wife of former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.


I wonder what would have happened had D'Amato served on the civil service commission?

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kat Keeps Her Kitty

Town Supe Shows Backbone In Voting Against Health Benefits For Part-Timers

Its not often that we give kudos to Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, but this one deserves more than a pat on the back.

Supervisor Murray offered a resolution before the Town Board eliminating costly health benefits to part-time employees -- including the wife of former Senator Al D'Amato, who just happens to sit on the Town's Zoning Board.

In steps Councilman Tony Santino, henchman for party Chairman Joe Mondello, introducing an amendment scrapping the benefit for members of the Town's Civil Service Commission, but keeping the perk intact for the part-time members of the Zoning Board. Here's to your health, Kat D'Amato!

Whether a matter of conscience, or simply political convenience, Supervisor Murray, siding with the Town Board's lone Democrat, Dorothy Goosby, voted against the proposal as amended.

The idea behind the original proposal was that no part-time town employee should receive fully paid health benefits -- period. Bravo, Kate, for sticking to your guns here.

Of course, let's not read too much into Kate's magnanimous vote. It would have been tantamount to political suicide for Kate to vote in favor of free bennies for Kat and her cronies on the Zoning Board. She knew the vote would be in the bag, anyway, the Town Board passing the resolution, as amended, 6-2.

True, Kate Murray played to the audience -- or at least to the press. In this instance, however, in the typically monolithic, self-serving process that pervades Town Hall, she did the right thing.

And Kate Murray voting with a Democrat? Wow! That has to be a first in the annals of Hempstead Town Hall.

The forerunner of better things to come, where people over party is the norm and not the aberration? We can only hope.

As for Tony Santino, and the five other Town Board members who voted with him, shame on you. You will no doubt have the thanks of the D'Amatos. From the rest of us, you get a big Bronx cheer.

Yes, There Is A Long Island Idea Factory. . .

. . .But Will It Qualify For Tax Credits In Nassau County's Empire Zone

Surfing the web for Long Island blogs can be a dizzying experience. Actually finding one, and fathoming its meaning, can be downright mind-boggling (or is that, "mind-blogging?").

We stumbled upon The Long Island Idea Factory (we were looking for a pretzel factory), the brain child of local attorney and former Town of Oyster Bay Councilman, Louis G. Savinetti, Esq.

If you can get beyond the flow charts (what do all those concentric circles mean, anyway?) and the techno-talk, there's some great stuff in there. [A nice article by Jerry Kremer, for instance, on too much -- and too costly -- government.]

If we are grasping the thrust of the blog, the idea is that we Long Islanders need a commonality of communication, not only to endure, but to thrive.

The downside here is an apparent failure to communmicate -- or at least to communicate effectively in terms that your average Long Islander (with reading skills of a 6th grader, and analytical ability comparable to that of a frozen pea -- apologies to frozen peas, wherever they may be) -- can comprehend.

What the heck is a "semantic web?" Are we anti-semantic in not knowing this? Suddenly, we feel as though we've inadvertently walked in on a combined advanced metaphysics/geothermal conduction class being taught in ancient Aramaic by a computer geek.

As with any message you are trying to convey, if you want it to stick, KISS -- Keep It Simple, Stupid!

We're all for creating greater governmental efficiencies and bi-county commission projects, but when you need to consult a rocket scientist -- or worse, a lawyer -- to have an inkling of what is going on, your message (as significant as it may be) is lost.

The goal for all of the blogs out there -- and we will limit this to New York blogs concerning themselves (in reality or the abstract) with quality of life issues -- should be to enlighten, perhaps to entertain, and always to educate.

The light, as they say, is lost, if it is hidden under a bushel.

Now, it could be that the Long Island Idea Factory (do they have a variance for that?) blog ain't fer us ordinary folk. It may be a primer for Long Island's IT professionals, or those enamoured with charts and diagrams enough to make your head spin. [Why is it that, in all of these charts, the "general public" is so far removed from the center of things? Then again, so is "government!"]

Dig deep -- you almost have to here -- and you will find the blogger's treatise on Oyster Bay 2000 [the crux of which is still a part of today's dialogue]. Trouble is, you make us dig too deep -- taxing the brain of the already overtaxed Long Islander.

A Long Island Idea Factory may well be an idea whose time has come. Indeed, in one incarnation or another, it will have to be if we, as Long Islanders, are to overcome and triumph as a community. Those ideas, however lofty and ideal, go for naught if they are buried in metalabeling, brushed with hyperlocalism, and scattered into cyberspace.

So keep those ideas coming. Just present them to us in a way we can all understand!
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Louis G. Savinetti presently serves as Commissioner of Human Resources for the Town of Oyster Bay.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Spitzer Creates NYS Commission On Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness

Focus On Elimination Of Waste, Consolidation Of Services, And Savings For Taxpayers

As promised, Governor Eliot Spitzer has delivered -- not with a "ready-to-go" plan to get a handle on the multitude of special taxing jurisdictions in New York that just might keep a few bucks more in the pockets of homeowners -- but rather, with a commission to study the problem and offer prospective solutions.

Not that this is a bad idea, but folks, hasn't the inefficiency, waste, and outright corruption and ineptitude of the special taxing jurisdictions (a/k/a local government) already been studied to death? [Why, we've even blogged on the issues ad nauseum, so much so, that we're tired of hearing our own rant.]

We know what the problems are. We even know what the remedies must be. So why a commission -- as esteemed a panel as it is -- to tell us what we already know, or to merely give validity to plans that have been floated before us time and time again?

Why? Because that's the way government operates -- by creating more government (and by the looks of the panel, it is a government from the government and of the government) to solve problems government itself has created and perpetuated.

Okay. Enough of the cynicism. At least we now have bodies -- and, in most cases, faces -- we can look to for a consensus, and a Governor who we can hold accountable for putting the commission's recommendations into play.

As to the commission itself, its good to see Long Island -- where special taxing districts outnumber by far all other government entities combined -- represented ably and responsibly by the likes of Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman and newly-minted Assemblymember Craig Johnson. [Somewhat more than parenthetically, we would have liked to see Harvey Levinson, the Nassau County Assessor who got the ball rolling (back in 2005) here on Long Island on the hidden costs of the special taxing districts, named to the commission as well. (Harvey, at least you won't have to travel to Albany in the dead of winter, and we're sure you'll be sticking in your two cents every chance you get, anyway.)].

Also serving at the Governor's pleasure are a couple of former Lieutenant Governors (so this is where old Lieutenant Governors go to die, eh?), current and former legislators, and the owner of the Albany River Rats AHL hockey team of Niskayuna, New York.

Missing from the list of commissioners (do they get pension credits, by the way? How about paid health insurance?) is anyone from the rank-and-file. Not a single community advocate. No one from a civic or taxpayer watchdog group. John Q. Public is conspicuous by his/her absence from the commission, and this is most unfortunate.

Citizen representaitives would certainly add another dimension, if not fresh, front-line perspectives to the commission, and would give this assemblage of what can be characterized as the governmental elite -- true blue bloods for a blue ribbion panel -- greater credibility in the minds of the taxpayer. [Don't worry. The taxpayer doesn't expect too much to come out of this conclave, anyway, having seen the antics of the special taxing districts held up to the supposedly cleansing light of day, with little if any resultant change in either method or madness.]

As for our recommendations to the commission (yes, they want YOUR ideas), first off, read The Community Alliance blog (a search therein for "special districts" would be a good place to start). Then, check in with local groups, such as Residents for Efficient Special Districts (yes, we know -- oxymoron) here on Long Island. Pick the brains of those whose pockets are being picked by the tentatcles of local government.

Watch for the commission to hold hearings and forums across the State -- after all, that's what commissions and Blue Ribbon panels do! Yes, it will be deja vu all over again, but only to the extent that we allow the commission to saunter when it should gallup. [Join the commission's e-mail list for updates.]

Bottom line: Let's not spend the next quarter century talking about the problem. Let's actually devise and implement a practical, workable plan to eliminate it. [Hmmm. "Eliminate." Now that's an idea, as concerns inefficient and uncompetitive local government, whose time has come!]
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NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness

Governor Spitzer today issued an Executive Order creating the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, which will address the issues of local government merger, consolidation, regionalized government, shared services and smart growth. A letter was also sent to county leaders and local government officials across the State, asking them to identify at least one major initiative in these areas that is either already underway or can be initiated this year.

As a local government official or other interested party, you received this e-mail for your convenience in accessing information about the Governor’s Executive Order, his letter to local officials, and the new Commission. That information is available on the Commission’s website, where you can also access a number of resources on local government issues and submit your ideas for local government reform. The website has an option for adding e-mail addresses to the Commission’s ‘list-serve’ for future communications about its work (e-mail addresses that received this note are already on the list, but additional e-mails may be added).

The Commission’s website is:
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READ the Governor's letter to local officials

Keep New York Beautiful

"Clean Week" Initiative Underway By State DOT

If that Indian who appeared in those "Keep America Beautiful" commercials of the 70s was alive today, he'd be crying a river.

With all the trash and litter along New York's roadways, even the "Give A Hoot, Don't Pollute" owl would have flown the coop!

Clearly, we haven't learned a darned thing from those public service announcements -- or maybe we've just forgotten them -- as we continue to throw litter out of car windows and drop our coffee cups and newspapers on the sidewalks, dumping on New York with abandon.

Perhaps the State, Counties, Villages and Towns need to start enforcing the NO LITTERING/NO DUMPING LAWS, and begin to hand out hefty summonses to those who use the roadways, sidewalks, parks and beaches as trash recepticles.
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LI roads undergo cleanup this week
By John Valenti

Think twice before tossing that next cigarette butt, fast food wrapper, coffee cup, napkin or other piece of trash out of the car window.

Because officials at the New York State Department of Transportation said it cost approximately $2.2 million to clean up all the trash tossed onto state roads on Long Island in 2006.

Guess who footed the bill? Yup. You, the taxpayer.

This week, in an effort to make drivers more aware of how much that discarded napkin really costs, state transportation officials are sponsoring "CLEAN Week '07." CLEAN stands for Create a Long Island Environmentally Aesthetic and Neat.

The title may be unwieldy - and a bit of a stretch. Then again, so is all the garbage. Highway debris and litter not only have an affect on aesthetics, dirtying the roads, but they can be dangerous as well.

Besides being an eyesore, larger pieces of garbage -- such as discarded trash bags, bottles, mattresses -- can lead to accidents and injuries. Smaller pieces of trash, such as discarded coffee cups, can become breeding grounds for disease, carrying mosquitoes. Trash can also cause fires.

In conjunction with Earth Week, maintenance crews will be out in force this week cleaning trash from state roadways. The "CLEAN Week" initiative will be coordinated with law enforcement agencies, who will be ticketing offenders, as well as with construction contractors, Adopt-A-Highway and Sponsor-A-Highway groups. The American Red Cross will utilize their Community Service Patrol, compromised of court-mandated service workers, to help pick up litter.

The hope is that motorists will get the message and stop littering.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Is The Party Just Starting On Long Island?

Who Is Bill Corrigan, And What Does The Long Island Party Want From Us?

Another blog in blogdom.

This one, The Long Island Party blog, is part political, part promotional, with a decent smattering of the issues -- if not opposing viewpoints -- mixed in.

Bill Corrigan, who labels himself an independent, is running for Congress in Long Island's 3rd CD. [That's the seat held by Peter King, for those who are CD numerically challenged.]

He lives in North Massapequa, graduated St. John's University, and is a Hibernian -- not that there's anything wrong with that.

On the issues, suffice it to say that this blogger, consistent (in whole or in part with the official positions of The Community Alliance), agrees on some points (say, making tobacco products illegal), and begs to differ on others (as in, "We don't believe that there was wholesale deception with regards to Iraq." Of course not. It was RETAIL deception).

No matter the points articulated on the blog [can you still stay "articulate?"], issues that concern all Long Islanders -- from windfarms to global warming, immigration to Internet safety -- are raised and open for discussion, debate, and comment.

Whether you agree with Bill and his Long Island Party, or characterize his musings as the rant of a present-day "wrong-way Corrigan," give him credit for putting the issues of the day out there, and for offering the opportunity to, at the very least, think about them.

Besides, anyone who would run against Pete King can't be all bad, right? :-)

Bill Corrigan is trying to woo Democratic voters. This may be a hard sell, given his views on such issues as the war in Iraq (in line with those who still believe we won the war in Vietnam), civil confinement (which we diss on Constitutional grounds, not as cheerleaders of more sexual predators on our streets), a woman's right to decide what to do with her own body and her own health (though we do agree that education, not legislation, is the answer), prayer in public schools, and the privatization of social security.

Then again, it is not entirely clear from the blog whether the professed viewpoints have hardened into positions beyond campaign rhetoric, and, who knows, through discussion, debate, and the communal learning curve, Bill may just be ripe for both personal and social growth.

By no means is this blogpost an endorsement of Bill Corrigan for Congress, nor is it meant to either espouse or adopt the views of the Long Island Party.

We're just putting the content and the information out there for you to explore, examine, think over, and talk about.

And, in equal time to Peter King, there is now a Bill Corrigan Watch in the works, giving credence, perhaps, to his campaign -- or poking fun at it.

One thing we do like -- and whether novel or a novelty, we give Bill a high-five for it -- the intent to allow residents in the 3rd CD to direct the Congressman's votes on the hill by their own votes on the issues, this through a "proprietary" Congressional voting system. [Hmm. We thought that we had such a system in place now, fully accessible to the public. Its called "write, phone, fax or e-mail your Congressman!" If anyone is interested, we, at The Community Alliance, would be willing to sell this technology to you. :-)]

As Bill says in his blog, he's an open-minded guy (unlike Pete King, who is, more or less, mindless), and he'd just love to hear from you. You can contact Bill at

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hug A Tree!

Earth Day Across Long Island And, Er, Around The World

Today, we pay homage to Mother Earth, take a few minutes to appreciate what may still be gren, clean, and pristine, reflect on the future -- perhaps the very existence -- of Planet Earth -- and, just maybe, take a few small steps of your own to clean our global house.

Whether you set out today to grow your lawn organically, to clean up a beach, a park, or merely your own back yard, or to simply sit on the front stoop appreciating (but not taking for granted) this gorgeous day, we hope you reaffirm your commitment to the environment, to yourself, and to future generations by doing your part, as guardians of our planet, to make this world a better place than it was yestrerday.
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Celebrate Earth Day with The Nature Conservancy

Earth Day Is For The Birds

Make A Difference on Earth Day

Blogging your way to a greener tomorrow at

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hot Times At The Fire Districts

If You Don't Get The Playboy Channel At Home, Try Your Local Firehouse

As if extended stays in Vegas, departmental race cars, and excesses disguised as training weren't enough, now they're watching porn at the firehouse on the taxpayers' dime.

Okay, more like $615 for a subscription to the Playboy channel, but hey, boys will be boys -- and besides, their wives won't let 'em watch smut at home.

Look, its stress relief. Or maybe just another opportunity for firefighters to practice with their hoses.

When will such abuses of the taxpayers' trust -- not to mention the squandering of your money -- stop?

As soon as you say "enough!"

Maybe its time to fight fire with fire. Give that firehouse back to the people. Have district budgets disclosed line-by-line, and let residents vote them up or down.

Keep those audits coming, Mr. DiNapoli!
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Audit: Fire district paid for Playboy channel
By Jennifer Barrios

Four Long Island fire districts spent taxpayer money on pornography, trips for guests at conferences and extended hotel stays at conferences after they were over, according to a report released Wednesday by the state comptroller's office.

The audit examined the Syosset and Manhasset-Lakeville fire districts in Nassau County, the West Islip and West Sayville-Oakdale districts in Suffolk County, and two fire districts in upstate Monroe County -- Barnard and Spencerport.

It found "significant disparities" in how much each district spent on travel and entertainment costs, and in some cases, found inappropriate spending.

For example, the West Islip Fire District spent $615 of taxpayer funds on a subscription to the Playboy channel at the firehouse and movie channels that included adult entertainment, the audit found.

"[\S\]uch expenditures, regardless of the amount, erode the public trust," the report read.

The comptroller's office, headed by Thomas DiNapoli, recommended that the fire districts establish internal controls and guidance on spending. The report noted that "district officials generally disagreed with our recommendations."The boards of directors of the six fire districts have 90 days from Wednesday to issue a plan of action in response to the audit.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"If You're A Nassau County Legislator, Dial 'Zero'"

Dialing "D" For "Dumb" Is Hallmark Of County GOP; Republican Legislators Give Residents X-Rated Mailing

You know, even we can't make up stories like this!

Imagine how red-faced County Legislator Peter Schmitt, the Minority Leader, must have been when he finally realized -- AFTER the mailing had beeen sent out by his Republican colleagues -- that the telephone listing he thought was a toll-free number for the New York Sex Offender Registry turned out to be the number for a sex chat line.

That no one on the GOP side of the aisle proofreads (or at least picks up the phone and dials)comes as little surpirise, given that literacy is not a requirement of service -- on either side of the aisle.

What does surprise us, time and time again, is that the supposedly intelligent and informed electorate habitually returns these bozos (with profound apologies to Bozo the Clown) year after year after year.

Must be something in the water!

Sure. Mistakes happen. We all goof up at times. To err is human.

When, however, the mess-ups are blatant and frequent, and come at the expense of the taxpayers, to forgive would require more than divine intervention.

Clearly, there is a receiver off the hook at the Nassau County Legislature [like we didn't realize that when Roger Corbin and Peter Schmitt were foolishly wheeling and dealing to be top cheese (make that limburger)].

Is there a story behind this story? [At The Community Alliance blog, there always is!]

Was it human error, a mere inadvertance, in directing residents to a "pay-to-play" sex chat line, as Schmitt & Company suggest, or was that sultry voice on the other end of the line -- the "hey there, sexy guy" girl, none other than someone who got a patronage plum from the GOP?

Kat D'Amato's house of pain, perhaps? Or was it Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray's "Helpline?"

Folks, we only report. You'll have to decide this one for yourselves! :-)

Now, what was that phone number again?

Oh yeah. 1-800-STUPID-IS-WHAT-STUPID-DOES. [Hmmm. Must be a long distance call.]

Operators and Nassau County Legislators are standing by. . .
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Nassau pol sends callers to sex chat line
By Celeste Hadrick

Call it 1-800-OOPS.

Seven Nassau Republican legislators, led by Minority Leader Peter Schmitt, had good intentions when they urged constituents to call a toll-free number to be notified when convicted sex offenders move into their neighborhoods.

"Nassau County Legislator Peter J. Schmitt wants you to be protected from sexual predators," said the headline on the postcard his office mailed in cooperation with Parents for Megan's Law, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of sex abuse.Unfortunately, the 1-800 number printed on the card prompts callers to another 800-number -- a sex chat line.

"Hey there, sexy guy," says the sultry recorded female voice that answers the phone. "Welcome to an exciting new way to go live, one on one, with hot horny girls waiting right now to talk to you."

Republican spokesman Ed Ward acknowledged, "Apparently there was an error in the phone number."

Instead of 1-800, it should have been 1-888, he explained. Ward said he didn't know who made the error or how it was made.

Constituents alerted Republicans to the problem soon after the mailings went out late last month to all but two of the nine Republican districts, Ward said. At that point, dialing the 1-800 number put callers directly onto the sex talk line for a fee. Ward said Schmitt's office was able to get the prompt to another number so that unsuspecting callers wouldn't be dumped into the chatroom without notice.

"The intent was to alert homeowners and parents to join the Parents for Megan's Law e-mail alert program," Ward said. "They could go on the computer and get an alert if a sex offender lives on their block or in their neighborhood."

Constituents were asked to phone or e-mail the organization. The e-mail address, was correct, he said.

"As a result of that mailing, we've seen a significant increase in number of registrants in Nassau County," said the organization's executive director Laura Ahearn.

She said the U.S. Justice Department made a similar error two years ago when the Office of Victims of Crime had mailed the same wrong 1-800 phone number to victim service providers across the nation."It is a common mistake that is made," Ahearn said. "We just hope no one was inconvenienced."

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

A Small Step Toward Affordable Housing

Hempstead Village Revamps Apartments; 130 Units Available; Half Mil From County To Assist Buyers

Could it be that it really does take a village?

Maybe so, as the incorporated Village of Hempstead moves forward with a major assualt upon upon the lack of affordable housing on Long Island.

An old apartment building renovated. A conversion of rentals to co-ops. An infusion of money giving residents a major stakehold in the community as homeowners. And voila! We have affordable housing, right in the heart of Nassau County.

An instance of local government, county government, affordable housing advocates, and private developers working together for the good of community.

Back in 1986, Long Islanders were talking about affordable housing. Here we are, nearly a generation and ten-fold increases in housing costs later, still talking.

Let the Cedar Valley project in the Village of Hempstead be but the beginning of major inroads designed, at long last, to bring affordable housing to our island!
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Nassau unveils first 'affordable' complex
By Sid Cassese

Nassau's first "affordable" co-operative complex -- Cedar Valley Apartments -- was dedicated Tuesday in Hempstead by a private developer, a not-for-profit housing group and County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

Suozzi announced a federal fund of more than $500,000 to be administered by the county to help 20 first-time homebuyers in lower income categories with purchase costs.

"Cedar Valley is where opportunity and value meet. This is a very attractive product at affordable prices," Suozzi said, adding that it is a different approach to his affordable housing initiative.The Long Island Housing Partnership -- a Hauppauge-based developer, sponsor and advocate of affordable housing -- will administer the funding program for Nassau.

Partnership president Peter Elkowitz called the program an example of "government, private and not-for-profit sectors" jointly providing affordable housing in Nassau County.

The complex at 20 Wendell Street is a pre-existing structure with 239 units for renters and owners. Developer Myles Horn purchased 130 units and spent $2 million renovating them, as well as common areas of the six-story complex to create Cedar Valley. "We're pleased to be selling upscale housing at affordable prices," he said.

Prices for the units, many with balconies, range from $75,000 to $85,000 for studios, $97,000 to $120,000 for 1-bedrooms and $128,000 to $160,000 for 2-bedrooms. Comparably sized units elsewhere in the county would cost more than twice as much, Elkowitz and Suozzi said. But taxes and maintenance fees could run $500 to $1,100 a month, Elkowitz added.

"You can own a studio for $900 a month," Suozzi said.

Families seeking Nassau's help must meet county guidelines of incomes below 80 percent of the area's median of $93,800, which for families of one, two, three, four and five, respectively, are $52,550, $60,050, $67,550, $75,050 and $81,050.Some units are already near closing, but about 100 are still available at both market price and with county assistance. The partnership can be reached at 631-435-4710; Cedar Valley at 516-505-5800.

Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall called Horn's renovation a new start in upgrading village housing, which includes 130 large apartment buildings, the most in Nassau.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Guns Don't Kill People. . .

. . .People With Guns Kill People

In the wake of the massacre on the campus of Virginia Tech, we are compelled to ask, "How many more senseless deaths resulting from gun violence in America?"

Sure, guns don't kill. It's the crazed lunatic who just happens to get his hands on a semi-automatic weapon -- or a 9mm gun with a reloadable semi-automatic clip (of the type that HAD been banned before Congress, with a nod and a wink from President George W. Bush, allowed the sun to set on the Assault Weapons Ban).

No, you'll never be able to weed out, let alone make college campuses, high schools, or offices, safe from the lone nut case bent on destruction.

Still, arming them (as is their NRA-given right) with, say, a pea shooter, would be far less destructive than giving them easy access to assault rifles and semi-automatic clips, America's answer to weapons of mass destruction.

In Virginia, where the V-Tech student purchased the guns used to mercilessly murder 32 and wound another 29, you don't need a license, there is no waiting period, and the background check is so minimal that Charles Manson could have cleared through. In fact, its as easy to walk into a gun shop in Virginia, as it is in many states, and purchase a gun, as it is to walk into a supermarket and buy a bunch of bananas.

You can't legislate morality, let alone sanity. Nor do you want to turn college campuses into armed camps. And liberty, at its very core, subjects us all to certain inalienable risks. You can, however, make it much more difficult for the immoral, the insane, and the inhuman to carry out their dastardly deeds.

A Constitutional right to bear arms? Okay, fine. You've got us there. Let's arm every man, woman, and college student in America -- with the notable exception of Dick Cheney -- with a sling shot and a handful of pebbles. Maybe they'll take out an eye, or two, but few will be felled, let alone massacred, by a single, rampaging slingshotter.

The gun lobby, like big tabacco, is killing our kids, ladies and gentlemen. And not one at a time, but en masse.

The President, wearing the same blinders that keeps Americans dying in Iraq, tells us that the debate on gun violence will continue, but just not now. When, Mr. President? How many more Virginia Techs? How many more Columbines? How many more Nickel Mines? How many more senseless killings on the wrong end of the gun before we lose that thirst for blood, our irrational attachment to assault weapons? How many more children must die before you, Mr. President, put an end to America's culture of gun violence?

Charlton Heston has left us, folks. It is time to pry that gun from his "cold, dead hand," and for all of us to say, "no more!" We owe those gunned down on the campus of Virginia Tech, and those who survived the onslaught, at least that much!
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A Message from Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy

Today’s shooting in VA is most deadly campus shooting in US history

Earlier today, tragedy struck the campus of Virginia Tech. Young people just beginning to make their mark on the world have been killed in a senseless act of gun violence. Not only have they been robbed of their future, but society as a whole have been stripped of any future contributions they may have made to make our world a better place. My heart goes out to the families of those lost in this heinous act.

It has been more than a decade since meaningful legislation that would prevent gun violence has been signed into law. This pattern must change. For too long Congress has stood idle while gun violence continues to take its toll. The unfortunate situation in Virginia could have been avoided if Congressional leaders stood up to the gun lobby.

It is imperative that Congress acts now and to fully protect our homeland. It is reprehensible that it takes tragedies like today’s events for Congress to stand up and act. I offer my sincere sympathies to the families and will remain committed to passing common sense legislation to prevent further acts of gun violence.
- - -
Contact members of Congress and tell them to enact a total ban on assault weapons

School Shootings in America

Gun Violence in America

Ending Gun Violence in America

Ending Gun Violence in New York

READ the Newsday Editorial, TO FIGHT THE MONSTERS
We can't allow worst-case fears to chip away at individual rights

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tax Out Cancer In Our Lifetime

Nassau County Cigarette Tax Good For Your Health, And For Your Wallet

Okay. The Coalition of Nassau County Cigarette Smokers is headed over to the offices of the New York Civil Liberties Union claiming that the civil rights of smokers would be violated by yet another tax on smokes.

Yes, those slowly commiting suicide through the inhalation of toxins are heard to complain that their nasty little habit -- which already costs society millions in health care, insurance premiums, and lost work hours -- may cost them more per pack, if the State Legislature gives Nassau County the right to place a $2/pack tax on cigarettes -- a tax similar to that already imposed in New York City, where it cost $1.50 more as down payment to the Grim Reaper.

Breathe easy, you budding emphesymics and future lung transplant candidates. In a State Legislature that can't even pass a bigger, better bottle bill, it is highly unlikely that they'll get around to hiking the tax on cigarettes.

And that's a real shame, not so much that we want to save the lives of those who puff away with abandon -- let alone harbor a willful disregard for those of us who have to endure that second-hand smoke -- but because we all would benefit [as in lower health insurance premiums, healthier children, fewer hospital stays, lower incidence of cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, and more money in the county coffers] by the sheer economics of a cigarette tax.

Make it $10 a pack. $20 a pack. $100 a pack. If you are going to kill yourself, spare no expense!

Will increasing the tax on cigarettes cut down on smoking? Well, surely some would forego eating or paying their rent for that nicotine fix. Others, astute enough to run the numbers -- or who have had the misfortune of watching a friend or relative come to a painful end by way of lung cancer -- may find that this is just the incentive they need to finally kick the habit. And for some -- like our children -- perhaps that sticker shock would mean they won't ever start!

There is no benefit to smoking, efforts by big tobacco to convince us otherwise. Even ardent smokers can't make a poignant argument in favor of taking a drag, this in between trying to catch their breath and get the stale stench of old stoggies out of their clothing.

There are, however, clear benefits to a cigarette tax, if not from the smokers' clouded view, then certainly from ours.

What does a pack of cigarettes cost a smoker, the smoker's family, and society? One longitudinal study (The Price of Smoking) on the private and social costs of smoking calculates that the cost of smoking to a 24-year-old woman smoker at $86,000 over a lifetime; for a 24-year-old male smoker the cost is $183,000. The total social cost of smoking over a lifetime -- including both private costs to the smoker and costs imposed on others (including second-hand smoke and costs of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) -- comes to $106,000 for a woman and $220,000 for a man. The cost per pack over a lifetime of smoking: almost $40.00.

You do the math. Smokers and non-smokers alike pay the price.

As for the New York State Legislature, someone among the ranks ought to calculate the cost before tabling Tom Suozzi's cig tax proposal.

The smoke-filled rooms in Albany may be gone, but the very real dangers of smoking -- be they physical or fiscal -- are not!

Yes, smokers will admonish us for preaching. Hmmm. Would they rather we preach now, or deliver the eulogy at the funeral?
- - -
Long Island
A Tax to Clear the Air

Thomas Suozzi, the Nassau Executive, has taken a step from Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City in pushing county government to be a lot more aggressive in promoting the health and well-being of its citizens. A few years ago, Mr. Bloomberg raised the city tax on cigarettes to $1.50 a pack. Mr. Suozzi wants to make it $2 a pack in Nassau, and is urging the New York State Legislature to give him permission.

He made the plea this month not just on Nassau’s behalf, but on behalf of seven other counties surrounding New York City — the thought being that what’s good for the city is good for the region, and that suburban counties should not become tobacco havens for jittery New Yorkers crossing borders to stretch their nicotine dollars further.

Mr. Suozzi’s idea hasn’t exactly taken off. There doesn’t even appear to be any bandwagon to jump on — no other county’s leaders have risen to second the Nassau motion. And the odds of the plan’s succeeding in Albany are indeed long if Nassau cannot get one of its Republican state senators to sponsor a bill in the Republican-controlled Senate. One senator, Kemp Hannon of Garden City, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, immediately made it clear that he thinks it’s a bad idea. He supports programs to help people quit smoking, and would raise the minimum age for buying tobacco to 21, but he doesn’t want a new tax.

That’s unfortunate. Mr. Suozzi and his allies, Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper of Hempstead and Judy Jacobs, presiding officer of the Nassau Legislature, are right on this one. Some critics have made predictable arguments about Big Brother — or Big Nanny, if you prefer — picking taxpayers’ pockets for a moral crusade. But government should be able to use its power to influence behavior in a way that promotes public health. It is true, and frustrating, that this power is wielded in a highly inconsistent way, that the same officials who want you to quit smoking also want you to throw your paycheck down the toilet of a state-sanctioned lottery, casino or racetrack. But sin taxes like the ones Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Suozzi support are generally good public policy.

The benefits Mr. Suozzi is seeking are not only medical. He figures that the tax could raise about $26 million to $31 million in revenue that Nassau badly needs. That is a decent argument, but far from the best one. Smoking is declining in New York City, for a lot of reasons that surely include the increasingly daunting cost of a pack of coffin nails. It is encouraging news for anyone who breathes, and officials from Nassau up to Rensselaer should join Mr. Suozzi in doing what they can to keep that good trend going.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
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Click HERE to read articles on the real cost of smoking.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Protect Your Children From Online Predators

[No, Not The Community Alliance Blog]





"How to Keep Our Children Safe from Cyber and Sexual Predators."

Are Your Kids On-line?

THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2007 AT 7:15 PM
Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library
1125 Broadway, Hewlett

All Welcome ● No Admission Charge ● Bring Your Friends

A Building Moratorium In Hempstead Town?

"Upzoning," "Downzoning," And No Zoning At All In Hempstead Town

Can America's largest township regain (or gain for the first time) control over what has been characterized as zoning gone wild?

The rampant destruction of open space. The diminution of lot size. The urbanization of suburbia.

What has become a practice in Hempstead Town, of building oversized houses on undersized lots, now comes under the scrutiny of Hempstead's Town Board.

On Tuesday, April 17th, 10:30 AM, the Hempstead Town Board convenes at Town Hall (Meeting Pavilion, 1 Washington Street, Hempstead), and will consider a 6-month moratorium on new construction of single and two-family houses on substandard lots.

Whether the moratorium will result in any substantive change, either in practice or procedure, or, given the proposed moratorium's relatively short six month window, the Town -- which often measures time in eons, not months -- will have either gumption or capacity to act, remains to be seen.

Still, residents will have this opportunity to let their feelings be known to Town of Hempstead officials at Tuesday's regularly scheduled Town Board meeting [scheduled during the day, so most residents will not be able to attend], and well they should on an issue that defines, in many ways, our mindset of suburbia.

Hmmm. We wonder if the Town of Hempstead would consider a moratorium on illegal accessory apartments in single and two-familiy homes?
- - -
Hempstead considers construction moratorium
By Eden Laikin

The Hempstead town board is considering a six-month moratorium on all new construction of single-family and two-family houses on substandard-sized lots.

The move comes in response to years of complaints by residents that developers were overcrowding neighborhoods by subdividing lots, tearing down houses and then building two houses in place of one.

Critics say the practice, called "upzoning," and the influx of oversized houses dubbed "McMansions" have turned their once spacious suburban neighborhoods into dense, city-like areas.

"This is a good start by the town," said Stu Weinstein, vice president of the North Bellmore Civic Association, a leader in the fight against upzoning.

Weinstein said he has argued about a dozen times on behalf of residents opposed to developers' requests for variances to subdivide. He and other members have appeared before zoning boards, armed with radius maps, lot sizes and their knowledge of real estate law. They've instructed other civic groups in the Bellmore area, Merrick, Wantagh, Freeport and East Meadow.

"Generally, we're trying to get some sort of control," said Richard Schary, a member of the North Bellmore group. "We're out of control, we're losing our neighborhoods block by block."

A public hearing on the proposed moratorium will be held tomorrow at Hempstead Town Hall.

"This moratorium will provide the town board with an opportunity to study current zoning laws and determine if, in light of the recent development boom, town zoning regulations should be modified in order to preserve valuable open space," Supervisor Kate Murray said. "This is an important quality-of-life issue that many residents have indicated they would like the town to consider."

Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), whose district covers Bellmore, Merrick and part of Wantagh, said he personally has helped constituents 33 times since 2005 in opposing variance requests for subdivisions or non-compliant construction in a residential area. "Since 2000, I've probably done 150," he said.

From March 2006 to March 2007, Hempstead's zoning Board of Appeals received 84 requests for variances to subdivide properties. It granted 47 and denied 24. The others were either adjourned, withdrawn or dismissed.

The zoning board, an autonomous entity whose members are appointed by the town, must adhere to New York State law in granting variances to applicants requesting to build on substandard-sized lots. The board must consider whether granting the variance "will produce an undesirable change in the character of the neighborhood or a detriment to nearby properties."

When faced with the same issue last year, North Hempstead town amended its building code by changing the way it calculates the square footage of houses. Rather than increasing the required size of the lots, the town decided to include storage space as part of the total size of the house.

In 2005, the Town of Oyster Bay applied a temporary moratorium in the hamlet of Oyster Bay in order to study ways of countering the influx of "McMansions." The proposals that came out of that study will be considered for implementation townwide at a public hearing next month. They include a limit on the total square footage of new houses, a reduced maximum height and a public notice period before approving demolition.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.
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Update: Board Approves Building Ban

Sustaining The Movement Toward A Sustainable Long Island

Register Now for the Sustainable Long Island Conference

On April 20, Sustainable Long Island will host "Rethink, Rebuild, Renew: Creating a Sustainable Future for Long Island," at Stony Brook University. Join large and small business owners, municipal officials, community leaders, architects, and developers as we learn how to make real-world changes that will lead to a healthy, thriving economy and environment for all Long Islanders.

The conference will feature workshops on four major areas of sustainability: Sustainable Business Practices; Sustainable Design; Sustainable Energy; and Creating Sustainable Communities: Business and Government Working Together.

Speakers confirmed to date: County Executives Steve Levy and Thomas Suozzi; Long Island Association president Matthew Crosson; ERASE Racism President Elaine Gross; Long Island Regional Planning Board Executive Director Michael White; Regional Plan Association's Chris Jones; Newsday's Joye Brown; Renewable Energy Long Island's Gordian Raacke; the Neighborhood Network's Neal Lewis; and Julius Walls, president and CEO of Greyston Bakery, one of the most innovative companies in the country.

For more information or to register online, visit Sustainable Long Island's web site,, or call 516-873-0230. Sponsorships and exhibitor opportunities are also available. For information, ask for Caryn Rubenstein, or email

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sanitary District 1 To The Rescue

What Happens In Hempstead Town, Gets Buried With The Trash In Hempstead Town

This is a story that could only come out of the Town of Hempstead. . .

Woodmere Woman Found Trapped In Trash

Of course, things could have been worse.

Had “special trucks” not been placed in service by the Sanitary District to pick up the leftover bread during Passover, Ms. Chiarello (her mother, who is 126, is Jewish), would have also been buried under 2-tons of Wonder Bread.

Sure, the Town of Hempstead declares this poor woman’s house “uninhabitable” and immediately condemned it. Hotbeds of incivility that play host to rapists, prostitutes, drug dealers, and sex offenders, and dangerous illegal accessory apartments, on the other hand. . .

Folks, you just can’t make this stuff up!

It IS Easy Being Green!

Local Business Highlighted on Certified List of LI Organic Landscapers

New 2007 List of Organic Landscapers Now Available for Long Island @

As one additional sign that spring is here, the 12th annual listing of organic landscapers is now available. The Neighborhood Network 2007 Certified List of Organic Landscapers provides information to homeowners about landscapers who use organic, pesticide-free products and practices. There are thousands of landscapers on Long Island, which leaves some homeowners overwhelmed when attempting to find an organic service.

“This certification program provides homeowners with a convenient, easy-to-use list of professional, chemical-free lawn care companies, as an alternative to the typical landscaper who uses toxic, synthetic pesticides,” said Neal Lewis, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Network. “Too many children are needlessly exposed to chemicals in the grass they play on. Long Islanders who want to protect their family’s health and reduce chemical pollution of our drinking water supply are now able to harness their consumer power and bring about market change by hiring one of the eco-friendly companies on this list.” Lewis concluded.

“Do not miss this opportunity to lower your risk of disease by utilizing the services of the landscapers on this list and by making common sense purchases by buying less toxic products,” said Karen Miller, President of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition. Breast cancer groups like HBCAC will be distributing this list to thousands of families who are affected by cancer.

“To me, this is not just about a greener, healthier lawn,” said Seth Bykofsky, former president of the West Hempstead Civic Association and Co-Chair of The Community Alliance. “Its about the safety and purity of the water we drink, and the environment we leave as our legacy to future generations of Long Islanders.”

Homeowners interested in avoiding the use of pesticides can receive a free copy of the list of organic landscapers by calling: 631-963-5454, or by visiting the Neighborhood Network website at: and then choose the link to 2007 Organic Landscaper List.

Local Landscaping Business Highlighted on L. I. List

Proudly one hundred percent organic, Grow Kind Organics in North Bellmore (516-265-5276) provides mowing and fertilization along with design and installation services to Bellmore, Seaford, Wantagh, Merrick, Woodbury, Plainview, Garden City, and Suffolk’s North Shore. Red Post Organic Farms (516-582-5763) serves Oyster Bay, Woodbury, Brookville, and Syosset, with fertilization, tree care, design, installation and non-toxic lawn pest control. Natural Way Organics Landscaping (631-224-3486) a 100% organic care company, located in Holbrook, is ready to design, install, fertilize, and manage lawn pests for those in Suffolk, Nassau, Queens and NYC.

The 2007 Certified L. I. Organic Landscaper Listing Program is administered by the Neighborhood Network, a Long Island based environmental organization. For landscaping businesses to qualify for the list they must complete a detailed questionnaire, sign a contract restricting use of chemical products, and must be trained in organic turf maintenance practices.

“This year’s List has 46 companies from all parts of Long Island. We get many calls from homeowners grateful for this option,” said Beth Fiteni, who is the Issues Program Director for the Neighborhood Network and who oversees administration of the Listing Program. “This is the twelfth year of the program, and this is our biggest list yet! The interest in organics is growing, and this list makes converting as easy as making a phone call.” Ms. Fiteni concluded.

Thousands of Lists Distributed Directly to Homeowners

The effort to reach out to the community with this list of alternative landscaping companies is also supported by many other Long Island environmental and breast cancer action organizations. Thousands of the organic landscaper lists are being distributed to residents throughout all parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties, by mail and through our website.

Long Island Pesticide Use is Widespread

Long Island is one of the areas of the State with the highest pesticide use, with Long Islanders apply approximately 10 million pounds of dry and liquid chemical pesticide products annually. Many of these pesticides are associated with health effects such as carcinogenicity and nerve toxicity, which can be especially harmful for more vulnerable subpopulations like children, elderly, asthmatics, or those with chemical sensitivities.

The Certified L. I. Organic Landscaper List Provides True Alternatives

Organic methods work by enhancing the natural systems that support a healthy lawn. Instead of synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers which harm soil life, organic landscapers use products containing natural ingredients, compost, earthworm castings, biological controls, beneficial insects, and oils and soaps, and a variety of non-chemical techniques that work in harmony with the eco-system of a yard or garden such as mowing at 3” or higher to shade out weed seeds.

Every time chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are applied, the number of living organisms in the soil declines significantly.

The list of organic landscapers features the names and contact information for 46 companies and also provides information about the type of services provided by each company, such as mowing, fertilization, non-chemical pest control, tree-care and landscape design. This way, Long Islanders can find the service that best suits their needs.

Wondering Where We've Been?

That's funny. We were wondering the same thing about you!

Community isn't a spectator sport. And still we spend much of our time on the sidelines, waiting and watching.

We wait, as if for that second coming -- or the first -- and we watch, as our quality of life vanishes before our very eyes.

And what of our priorities, not only here on Long Island, but around the world?

While our pockets are being picked by local government -- paying for health care coverage for the likes of the D'Amatos -- we concern ourselves with the paternity of Anna Nicole's baby. [According to Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, "The fight ain't over yet!"]

The racial and gender divide in our country widens -- evidenced by the inane comments of a "shock jock" [The White House issued a statement, President Bush saying, "Not everyone on the team had nappy heads," and Senator Joe Biden took time out of his busy schedule to call the Rutgers women's basketball coach "articulate."] -- and yet, we make hay over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's efforts to at least open a dialogue with world leaders who balk at peace initiatives and act against the will and wishes of people who cherish liberty and human rights. [The next stop on her tour: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.]

Crazy world, isn't it? The President says there's no proof sufficient to connect pollution with global warming. The Pope professes a lack of evidence sufficient to demonstrate that evolution is more than a theory. And Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray apparently spends more time hiding in caves, trying to avoid public scrutiny, than Osama Bin Laden.

Truth is, we've become complacent. Immune to news of what truly impacts upon us, from sub-Saharan genocide and famine to the poisons we apply to our lawns and pour into the aquifers.

Instead of concerning ourselves with that 5-mile wide meteor on a collision course with Earth, and actually doing something to divert it, we are sitting on our family room couches, watching American Idol or the talking heads on Fox, calling to our wives, "Honey, there's no more toilet paper in the hall bathroom."

And speaking of saving the planet, Earth Day is on the immediate horizon. Yet another opportunity to recycle, renew and reuse, and another chance for the New York State Legislature to finally pass that bigger, better bottle bill, so we can begin to reuse all those water and juice bottles that are clogging landfills and piling up on the sides of roadways everywhere.

If we are going to make a dent -- let alone a difference -- in improving our lot as Long Islanders, as New Yorkers, as citizens of the world, we have to get ourselves into the game.

Be a participant in the day-to-day of your community and your town. Empower yourself and your neighbors.

Join your local civic, try out a season or two of organic gardening, voice your concerns to your elected officials about the property tax, hefty lifetime benefits for part-time government workers, and the burden of those special taxing jurisdictions, and for goodness sake, READ THE COMMUNITY ALLIANCE BLOG!

Taking a look is free. Getting involved, PRICELESS!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Its That Vision Thing!

Vision Long Island's 10-Year Plan For "Smart Growth" Unveiled

If it feels like we've "been there, done that," maybe its because we have. Or maybe its simply a matter of having talked about "smart growth" here on Long Island ad nauseum, that the mere mention of the term evokes grimaces and groans.

Okay. We'll lay aside the pessimism for the moment, and come to the table (assuming we're invited) with an open mind.

Vision Long Island, a smart growth planning organization located in Northport, has put forth an ambitious plan intended to implement smart growth initiatives across Long Island.

The plan seeks to tackle many of the issues we've been addressing at The Community Alliance, including housing, preservation of open space, sustainable development, transportation, school taxes, and that ever-elusive regional planning.

In other words, everything is on the table for discussion and debate (the "been there, done that" part), with the hope that these continuing talks will ultimately lead to something akin to smart growth in our towns, villages, hamlets, and, dare we say, unincorporated areas.

We're not holding our breath, here.

As per Vision Long Island's own press release, "These recommendations have been distilled from the presentations of over 200 Smart Growth Summit speakers and from countless meetings across Long Island on Smart Growth and related issues." ["Distilled" being the operative word here. After all this talk, we could use a drink.]

And now, they're all set to talk some more. Actually, they did talk -- guess we weren't invited to stick in our two-cents (tear, tear) -- at the Neighborhood Network in Farmingdale.

We're waiting, with baited breath, to hear what the gathering of smart growth advocates have in store for us, and how they intend to sustain the intitiatives from incubation to implementation. We won't even ask how the planners of tomorrow's communities intend to fund these smart growth projects. [Perhaps we could establish a Smart Growth Taxing District.]

We're glad to see that Nassau County was represented at the Vision Long Island forum, with appearances by County Legislators David Denenberg and Lisanne Altmann, and almost surprised (but delighted to hear), that that Town of Hempstead (where "smart" is too often a four-letter word) had a presence through Town Councilmembers Ed Ambrosino and Dorothy Goosby. [Too bad Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray couldn't find her way to Farmingdale. After all, gaining at least some "control" over what has been more than two generations of lousy zoning and rampant, haphazard development, would seem to be somewhat important, don't you think?]

Then again, for places like Elmont, Franklin Square, West Hempstead, Hempstead, Uniondale, East Meadow, to name but a few of Hempstead Town's havens, heck, we're not even on the map. Well, not on Vision Long Island's map, anyway!

Yes, "over 200 speakers and from over 1,000 meetings." Make that 1,001 meetings! Vision, vision everywhere, but not much to actually show for when when you look around Long Island's communities, particularly on our forgotten South Shore.

Don't get us wrong -- assuming you get us at all. We're all for smart growth, and endorse many of the initiatives called for in Vision Long Island's 10-year plan.

The only thing we're saying is, its time for less in the way of talking, polling, surveying, and, yes, even visioning, and more in getting us from drawing board and artist's rendering to affordable housing, a practical transportation system, walkable, shopable, livable downtowns, and the revitalization of what once was Main Street.

Anyway, to the folks at Vision Long Island, call us -- let's talk!
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Click HERE to read the Vision Long Island press release.

Click HERE to read article in Long Island Business News.

Property Tax Versus Income Tax

The Other Side Of The Taxpayer Coin

For an interesting, although far from unbiased view of a proposed county property tax, take a look at

The information provided, while neither wholely accurate nor even fact-based, makes good reading, and does provide food for further thought.

For a more objective and reasoned approach -- while still casting much doubt upon a local income tax to replace the property tax as a means of school funding, read the report of the Suffolk County Homeowners Property Tax Commission.

And for those who would like to become more intimately involved in the property tax reform arena -- something which we at The Community Alliance wholeheartedly encourage -- there's the Property Tax Reform Task Force , founded by resolution of the Marbletown Town Board (Ulster County) in April 2004.

A grassroots effort, the Property Tax Reform Task Force has now grown into a statewide movement focused on finding ways to reduce burdensome taxes imposed upon already housing poor homeowners.

If you can make it up to Stone Ridge, New York, you may want to attend an upcoming meeting. If not, you can still make a difference and lend your voice by getting involved.

You may want to join forces with local community groups that have championed the cause of property tax reform, or start a local chapter of the Property Tax Reform Task Force in your own hometown. [In Nassau, reach out to Taxpayers Union of Long Island, Inc. 3685 Merrick Road, Seaford NY 11783; In Suffolk, Patchogue Area Civic Tax Watch Organization, Robert Newman, 516-697-6260; North Amityville Taxpayers, Inc., P.O. Box 761, Amityville NY 11701; Idle Hour Taxpayers Association, 12 Consuelo Place, Oakdale NY 11769; Coalition of New York Taxpayers 31 Union Avenue, Center Moriches NY 11934.]

Clearly, there is great need in local communities for the seeding of grassroots property tax reform groups, and for the consolidation of efforts under umbrella organizations such as the Property Tax Reform Task Force.

All over New York, homeowners are faced with the same problem -- skyrocketing property taxes with no end to the escalation in sight.

The time has come for ALL OF US to ORGANIZE & UNITE!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thank You, Dean Skelos!

State Senator, Head of LI Delegation, Spearheaded Budget Fight For More Local School Aid

As is customary, we're going to give credit where credit is due.

In this case, to
New York State Senator Dean G. Skelos, who, along with other members of Long Island's legislative delegation, fought tooth-and-nail, not only to restore cuts in State Aid to Long Island's school districts as proposed in the Executive Budget, but to secure one of the largest aid packages ever seen in these parts.

Kudos, indeed, to the
dean of the State Senate.

While we have, on occasion, butted heads with the Deputy Majority Leader on local issues -- where it too often seems that all but those in his native Rockville Centre are forgotten stepchildren wearing hand-me-downs -- we bow in praise to Senator Skelos on his aggressive, relentless, and ultimately successful challenge to the Governor's cuts in State Aid to Long Island's schools.

That said, and in all deference to the Senator's negotiating skills and riptide-like pull among his colleagues in Albany, the money Long Island's school districts will see in 2007-08, while maintaining the historic (approximately 12%) proportion of State Aid to education, neither equalizes the distribution of aid among all of New York's school districts, nor solves, in any manner, the inequity or the burden of the Draconian property tax.

Our schools will, barring substantive rather than cosmetic changes in the way we finance education, still be forced to rely most heavily on the homeowner for funding, supplementing the failed STAR program through increased property tax rates and levies. Note, too, that increases in State Aid will be largely offset by cuts in relief our school districts traditionally receive through STAR.

And throwing more money, even at the most deserving school districts, does little to encourage districts to cut costs, let alone to consolidate services.

Yes, homeowners will likely see another, perhaps slightly larger, property tax rebate check this year [remember to reduce, by the amount of the rebate you received last year, the real estate taxes you take as a deduction on your 2006 tax return], but this is merely placeboesque salve on the malignant wound, rather than a cure of the underlying disease.

The politiking, special interest (seldom that of the taxpayer) lobbying, and partisan-rancor in Albany continues, as does the policy of making important decisions -- including how our tax money is spent -- behind closed doors, without input of the rank-and-file.

Long Island's short-term gain comes at the expense of other districts across the state, and the disparity in aid between upstate and downstate is not narrowed by the recently enacted revisions to the State Aid formulae, themselves but poorly applied Band-Aids lacking both adhesive and palliative balm.

Still, for the immediate relief, let's not look a gift horse in the mouth, or fail to acknowledge the extraordinary effort made by Senator Skelos and the rest of Long Island's State Senators and Assemblymembers who, to a person and in true bipartisan fashion, went to bat for Long Island's children.
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Long Island Aid Comes at Westchester’s Expense
By Ford Fessenden

FOR school districts in the suburbs of New York City, there was much to celebrate in the new state budget: lots of new money, for rich districts and poor alike, much more than Gov. Eliot Spitzer had originally proposed.

But the deal that legislative leaders struck with Mr. Spitzer, allowing the budget to be pushed through at the last minute, contained a new formula for what is called high-tax aid.

And this new formula sends shovels full of dollars to Long Island but only spoonfuls to Westchester. It was so carefully worded, and its impact is so lopsided, that Democrats are calling it retribution for the defeat last year of a Republican state senator from Westchester, Nicholas A. Spano.

Republicans, who control the Senate, did not work very hard to dispel that idea last week.

“This would never have happened if Senator Nick Spano was still there,” said Senator Dean G. Skelos, the deputy majority leader from Long Island, during a radio interview in New York City last week.

In a later interview, he insisted that Republicans had not sought retribution but that Westchester’s new senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and her Democratic colleagues “fell asleep at the switch.”

Ms. Stewart-Cousins replied that the deal was made behind closed doors. “When you have Dean Skelos even pretending that somehow I sat in the chamber and said nothing — as if this were some discussion that was open and aboveboard — it is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.

Westchester schools still got lots of money, but in the sibling psychology that prevails in debates over education aid in Albany, there was an outcry over why the county did not get what Nassau and Suffolk got. The Westchester County’s Assembly delegation voted against the budget package, although the county senators did not, and last week vowed to undo the new formula.

“This is a gun that’s being pointed at Westchester today,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat. “If you legitimize this, it could be pointed at New York City or Nassau or Syracuse tomorrow.”

Mr. Spitzer’s budget director, Paul E. Francis, scolded Mr. Brodsky in a letter last week for his criticism of the package, saying that Westchester made out very well in the new budget. Not only will state aid increase, but the county will also benefit from School Tax Relief, or STAR, rebate increases, he said.

The governor’s communications director, Darren Dopp, also criticized Mr. Brodsky and defended Ms. Stewart-Cousins. “He was not talking about Westchester community issues in budget negotiations, but Andrea was,” Mr. Dopp said.

Overall state aid to Westchester schools will increase by 9.4 percent next year, slightly less than the 10.1 percent overall increase that Long Island will get. Many districts that would have received a little new money under Governor Spitzer’s original proposal, which would have increased school aid 5 percent on Long Island and 6 percent in Westchester, will get substantially more.

“What we did, what the Republican senators did, was to drive aid to suburban school districts throughout the state,” Mr. Skelos said.

Casual readers of the budget bill could be forgiven for missing the big Westchester repudiation. The piece of the aid formula that drove more money to Long Island was based on a ratio of the total property tax revenue generated from a county’s residents. This was then divided by the total amount of income all residents reported on tax returns.

Here’s how the formula was written: All school districts in counties in which tax levies were more than 4.2 percent of income would get $147.29 in high-tax aid for every student enrolled. In counties that fell below the cutoff, only certain school districts would get aid, $30 per student.

Westchester has high taxes, but it also has the highest incomes in the state by far — about $300,000 per student in the schools, compared with about $160,000 on Long Island and it fell below that cutoff because of its high average income.

In spite of its many affluent enclaves, Nassau and Suffolk Counties are more diverse than Westchester, and their ratios are above the cutoff. The result is that all Long Island districts will get the higher aid amount, a total of more than $70 million of the $100 million in high-tax aid.

Only some Westchester districts get aid, and it amounts to a total of $1.2 million.

“The goal was giving money to Long Island,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Democrat from Scarsdale. “What they did was figure out a way to manipulate the numbers to make a formula to do that.”

Westchester state lawmakers also saw large amounts of school aid dollars get distributed to neighboring counties: Orange, Ulster and Putnam. Under the budget agreement, they will all get more than Westchester does.

On Long Island, where Republicans hold eight of the nine Senate seats, school officials were happy with their state money.

“We haven’t seen the final numbers yet, but we are very grateful that after many years when Long Island didn’t get its fair share of funding, our legislators worked so hard to get us more,” said Carole G. Hankin, the superintendent of the Syosset Central School District.

But Westchester school officials joined in the outrage. “It certainly does seem like there were some last-minute political deals, which is unfortunate because there was talk about having a formula and sticking to it,” said Lisa P. Davis, the president of the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association.

Both school officials and Westchester Democrats said they would try to undo the high-tax-aid formula.

"The door did not close on this,” Mr. Brodsky said.

Kate Stone Lombardi and Linda Saslow contributed reporting.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
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Fixing the School Aid Formula

The New York State Legislature passed a practically on-time budget last week with a lot in it to be happy about. That good news was obscured almost immediately by rounds of loudly self-serving analysis by lawmakers over the way the budget distributes education aid to the New York suburbs. Neither the complaining (in Westchester) nor the crowing (on Long Island) was entirely appropriate.

It’s complicated, but let’s discuss. One of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s prime directives on taking office was to overhaul New York’s perverse system of doling out school aid. It is called a “formula,” a label meant to give the appearance of mathematical objectivity to what has been a yearly exercise in political scheming and muscle-flexing.

That scheming has long sent disproportionate amounts of aid to districts represented by powerful Republican Senators (i.e., Long Island) while robbing places like New York City of billions of dollars. This year Mr. Spitzer tried to fix the so-called “foundation formula” to take out the politics and to direct more money to the districts that need it.

The outcome wasn’t perfect. In the end, Mr. Spitzer had to add about $100 million in new school aid, and send a fat chunk of it to Long Island, so Republicans there would not sabotage budget negotiations. Because of this deal, sealed behind closed doors, Long Island walked away with about as much education money as it had in the past. Westchester’s share of the new aid was only about $1.2 million, which led lawmakers there to howl about being unfairly singled out by “destructive” tactics made possible by incomprehensible calculations buried deep in the document. Long Island lawmakers, meanwhile, were only too happy to take credit for bagging about $70 million of the $100 million, which was earmarked for high-tax districts like theirs.

Mr. Spitzer’s response to the kibitzing is to point to the overall fairness of the new foundation formula, which increased aid by 9.4 percent in Westchester, 8.6 percent in Suffolk and 13.4 percent in Nassau. The high-tax adjustment did benefit Long Island, but that windfall was offset by a sharp reduction elsewhere: The property-tax relief Long Island gets through the School Tax Relief program, or STAR, was cut by about $50 million.

Westchester, meanwhile, had its own ameliorating budget tweak: an extra $8.5 million for perennially strapped Yonkers.

Mr. Spitzer and the Legislature have clearly not removed all the fiddling from the budget process. You can be sure that Westchester lawmakers will fight fiercely to adjust things to their benefit, as they have every right to do. But the bottom line for this year: Westchester made out O.K. Long Island did better than O.K. The New York City schools did well, and will do better in coming years, and so the rigged process that unfairly brought wheelbarrows of cash to Long Island over the years will not be sustainable. The process of adjusting an unjust system is far from over. But at least it has begun.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company