Thursday, May 31, 2007

Realtors Now Liable For Illegal Rentals In Islip Town

Local Law Holds Realtors Accountable For Illegal Apartments

We all know the routine. Homeowner, with illegal basement apartment, retains Realtor to sell house. Realtor turns blind eye to kitchen, bath and living accomodations in the cellar, and, with a wink and a nod, moves the sale forward.

The same goes for so-called mother/daughter homes where the "daughter" unit is, without permit, utilized and leased, with the Realtor's tacit consent, as a rental unit to a non-family member.

Even the outright rental of basement apartments by Realtors -- as well as other areas of houses whose Certificates of Occupancy clearly state "one-family" -- without permit, in clear violation of local building codes, is the practice, not the breach.

Now, at least in Islip Town, Realtors will no longer be able to turn the other cheek, in essence, reaping a handsome commission from the sale and/or lease of an illegal accessory apartment. The Islip Town Board has enacted code provisions that hold the Realtor liable -- by means of the imposition of fines and jail time -- for offering for sale or lease premises that are openly and notoriously used as multi-unit dwellings in contravention of the law.

In short, instead of the oft unspoken, "we both know that cellar apartment is illegal -- wink, wink -- but you can up the asking price, make the house more desirable by providing an income-producing accessory apartment, and no one will be the wiser," if Realtors see something (and we all know an illegal apartment when we see one), they will have to say something -- or face possible monetary and penal sanctions.

Sure, Realtors don't like the new law. After all, it could cut into their commissions. Still, requiring Realtors to check for permits and C of O's, and to open their heretofore blind eyes to the obviously unlawful, is not so onerous a burden that Realtors will be running away from the sale.

At the very least, the law will keep most Realtors on the up and up, no longer willing accomplices in the proliferation of illegal accessory apartments.

A few years ago, when The Community Alliance was still the Tri-Community Alliance (Elmont, Franklin Square and West Hempstead), the push, along the same lines of the Islip Town Ordinance, was to have the New York Secretary of State -- responsible for the regulation and licensing of real estate brokers and agents -- hold Realtors responsible for the sale/lease of a premises that harbored an illegal accessory apartment; fines to be imposed for offenders, and tickets pulled for the most egregious abuses.

Not much happened up in Albany other than the typical banter from the usual suspects. Perhaps its time for the Secretary of State to take another, more serious look at this issue -- one that truly imperils suburbia as we know it -- and to take strong, remedial action (the objections of the Realtors' lobby notwithstanding).

In the meantime, Islip Town's more stringent Ordinance, following that of the Town of Riverhead, and similar statutes enacted in villages from Malverne to Farmingdale to Patchogue, is a good start -- at least on paper, with the prospect of observance by local Realtors and appropriate enforcement by the Town.

Hitting them where it hurts -- the "them" being both the homeowner who rents unlawfully and the Realtor who knowingly joins the homeowner, profiting from the ill-begotten gains -- coupled with strict and unrelenting enforcement, is one of the most effective ways to eradicate the scourge of illegal accessory apartments.

Other townships, including Hempstead Town, with the largest base of illegal accessory apartments on Long Island, should follow suit, doing everything possible [clearly, what has been done -- again, mainly on paper, actual enforcement being vitually nil -- not yielding much in the way of beneficial results] to stem the tide of illegal rentals, this while there remains something of suburbia to salvage.
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Law holds Realtors responsible for illegal rentals
By Denise Bonilla

Real estate agents are up in arms over a change to the Islip town zoning law that, they say, holds them liable for code violations in properties they list, lease, rent or sell and threatens stiff fines and potential imprisonment.

A first offense can cost up to $2,000 and 15 days in jail according to the code, approved by the town board 5-0 on May 22. Three or more offenses in five years means up to a $5,000 fine.

Councilman Steven Flotteron, who says the change merely holds them responsible for illegal rentals, said it's an attempt to get a hold of a growing illegal housing market.

All town rentals are required to have an occupancy permit, which is good for two years and certifies the apartment is up to code. Under the changes, anyone who acts as an agent, broker or even posts fliers in supermarkets advertising a rental must make sure the property owner has a rental permit."All we're asking Realtors, if they're going to be listing, is to make a simple phone call [to the town] to make sure [property owners] have a rental permit," Flotteron said.

But agents said it's not that simple and plan to hold a protest Thursday at Islip Town Hall.

Long Island Board of Realtors president Linda Bonarelli said the language of the revised law requires them to act as building inspectors and enforce town code, which they are not trained to do, on both rental and sale properties.

"It places an unfair burden on Realtors," she said. "It's making us the code police."

Bonarelli said agents would have to ensure all listings are up to code.Flotteron disagreed, saying since the town rental statute was changed, the new law requires agents to only confirm owners have a rental permit."They're not expected to look at the electrical panel and these other things," Flotteron said. "We're just saying see if there's a permit. If they don't, then they're part of the problem."At issue is language in the ordinance that says agents who sell any "dwelling unit" must make sure it is in "full compliance with the Code of the Town of Islip."

Flotteron said the ordinance was modeled after Riverhead's town code, revised in January 2006. Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale said there were no objections by agents there, and no agent convictions for listing illegal housing.

Carlos Arvelo, a Brentwood real estate agent, said the revised code will only hurt a struggling housing market and make owners hesitant to approach agents.

"If I lease a home today and there are no apartments in it but then they build one, why should I be liable for something I had nothing to do with?" he said.

Brentwood Fire Department Chief John Carney praised the new law. "I've had calls at houses, we brought the town in, they were issued summonses and then six months later the house is sold and they still have illegal occupancy," he said.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Anti-Broadwater Rally & Lobby Day

Join the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Anti-Broadwater Coalition in Albany, Tuesday, June 12, 2007 to tell Governor Spitzer to protect Long Island Sound—

Stop Broadwater!!!

Governor Spitzer is undecided on Broadwater. We need your help in sending a clear message that Broadwater is unwanted, unneeded, & unnecessary.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment will be organizing 2 buses. The first bus will leave from the Town of Brookhaven town hall at 6:30 am. The second bus will leave from the Town of Huntington at 6:45 am. There will be an 11:30 Rally & Press Conference on the 3rd floor of the Albany Legislative Office Building, followed by a lunch reception. There will be scheduled meetings with Senators and Assemblymembers. The buses will return at 8:00 pm. Space is limited, please call Kasey or Maureen at 516-390-7150 to reserve your seat and receive a detailed itinerary.

Cost per person for the day is $10, includes transportation & lunch.

Bring Posters and Signs for the rally!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Denise Ford, Democrat

And Republican

It was announced last week by Nassau County Democratic Chair, Jay Jacobs (not related to Judy, Jane, or my old collegeg buddy, Mark) that County Legislator Denise Ford -- a registered Democrat who was elected, and serves, as a Republican -- will be cross-endorsed (is that like being cross-pollenated?) by the Democrats.

That will give Denise both major party lines in November's election, and the Democrats, hopefully, at least the prospect of some breathing room, not having to be held hostage, with their slim 10-9 majority, to the egotistical whims of the likes of a Roger Corbin -- he who withholds votes like a 2-year old has temper tantrums, and much for the same reasons.

True, Denise Ford, intensely popular -- and you'd have to be, running as a Republican in a Democratic district -- would be hard to beat. [Frankly, viewing the field of candidates that the Dems feebly muster year after year as a whole -- individual exceptions (and they will be e-mailing us later) aside -- would be difficult to beat, under the best of circumstances. And Denise says she will continue to caucus with the GOP -- which may delight Peter Schmitt, or, assuming Denise maintains her independent stance on the issues, voting conscience and community over party, as she has done in the past (though not as regularly as we would have liked), give the red-faced Minority leader agita, if not cause for consternation. Sure, Denise votes with the GOP more often than not. Not surprising. The Mondello camp paid for her prom ticket. She at least owes them the dance. An endorsement from the Dems this time around, however, at least gives Denise Ford the option to pick and choose her dance partners.

Denise Ford is a Democrat. Denise Ford was elected as a Republican. Come next legislative session, Denise Ford will have the opportunity to fully exercise her independence as a representaive of all the people, without the typical and customary political labeling, posturing, finger-pointing, and game-playing.

We have always believed, and often opined, that locally, at the village, town, and county levels, the designation, if not affiliation, of party -- be it Democrat, Republican, Conservative, or Working Family -- is misplaced, and certainly misused.

With rare exception, the issues upon which local legislators are called upon to act -- community-based matters like maintaining roads, sewers and parks -- do not fall one way or the other along ideological lines. There are no Conservative ways to cut the grass or Liberal means of picking up the garbage. Local legislators are not making decisions on the death penalty or abortion, but rather, whether our downtowns will be revitalized, our young workforce will be housed, and whether parking on the side of a particular street will be restricted.

Indeed, party affiliation locally, while serving, sometimes, as a cohesive force vis-a-vis the voting block, is more often than not an obstruction to serving the best interests of the local community.

Our interests, no doubt, would be best served by local legislators not bound to vote along party lines, regardless of the issue (where 10 to 9, or whatever the majority to minority mix is at the moment, is the norm, and independence, or the appearance thereof, is the aberration), but rather, by local legislators free to use their own minds (borrowing Peter Schmitt's is dangerous to one's health and sanity), voting solely on the merits.

Would that there were no Republicans or Democrats in our county legislatures and on our town boards. That all of the locally elected were "blanks" -- or at least clean slates with open minds beholden not to party or favor, but only to the residents they were elected to serve -- might just be a good thing for community, with natural leaders, rather than annointed ones, setting the pace, and the spirit free to move, at least slightly, away from the dysfunction of what can be viewed as a creeping dystopia -- a totalitarian tendency toward party loyalty, unwittingly expressed, through word and deed, as community disloyalty.

Having Denise Ford, Democrat elected and serving as a Republican, elected to the Nassau County Legislature, as both a Republican and a Democrat, may stem more from the political shell game than from an endorsement of the best person for the job. And cross-endorsement, by its very nature, in narrowing -- or eliminating entirely -- the people's choice, is seemingly undemocratic (how anyone could garner both the Conservative and the Liberal lines always gave this blogger pause). Still, in this cross-endorsement of Denise Ford, the door is at least opened slightly to a less partisan, more open-minded, and hopefully somewhat more productive county legislature. That would be a very good start!

In its first of the campaign season (has it started already?), The Community Alliance is pleased to endorse Denise Ford, Democrat -- and Republican -- for Nassau County Legislator, 4th District. She is, we believe, the best person for the job!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Honor The Fallen

Remember Those Still In Harm's Way

Something unusual from The Community Alliance, and this blogger in particular -- a moment of silence.

Let's take some time this Memorial Day -- as we bronze at the beach and put another burger on the bar-b -- to reflect upon those who selflessly gave their lives in service to their country.

And let us consider, as men and women in the armed forces continue to place themselves on the front lines, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in hotspots the world over, our role as citizens, a whole lot safer than the folks in uniform but perhaps no less selfless, in giving of our time, our talents, and our energies in service to our community.

Another week dawns at The Community Alliance blog. Keep on reading, and give a thought or two to actually writing. Your comments, your opinions, your Guest Blogs are not only welcome, they are necessary if the message of community is to be given both meaning and moment.

Let us hear from you. Make some noise. Send us an e-mail.

As we often paraphrase (before too long, the quote will have been attributed to us), "In the end, we will remember not the words of community's enemies, but the silence of its friends."

Stay safe. Don't drink and drive. Buckle up. And don't forget the sunscreen!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day On Long Island

Parades, Bar-B-Ques, Reflection, And Remembrance

On Memorial Day we honor armed services personnel who died serving this country. Memorial Day is always on the last Monday of May, which this year falls on May 28th. There are parades taking place across Long Island. Here are just some of them:

Begins at 11 a.m at Foster Avenue; ends at Argyle Park on Montauk Highway where there will be a ceremony.

Begins at 10 a.m. on Linden Street; ends with a ceremony at Silver Lake Park.

Bay Shore
Begins at 10 a.m. at Lanier Lane and Main Street.

Bellmore and North Bellmore
Begins at 10 a.m. near North Bellmore Library and Newbridge Road School; marches south to the Bellmore Fire Department headquarters and Veteran’s Monument.

Central Islip
Begins at 10 a.m. at Irving Street, north on Carleton Avenue to the Alfano Building for ceremony, hosted by American Legion Post 1039.

East Hampton
Begins at 10:30 a.m.

Begins at 11 a.m. and travels along Main Street and Route 25A.

East Williston
Begins with a ceremony at 9 a.m. behind the American Legion Hall on Willis Avenue; the parade steps off at 10 a.m., travels west on Hillside Avenue, north on Park Avenue and to Village Hall for another ceremony.

Assemble at 9:30 a.m., Step off at 10:00 a.m. Assemble at School Road and Atherton Avenue. Parade proceeds North on School Road, East on Hempstead turnpike, North on Covert Avenue, and ends at the Covert Avenue School where the big ceremony will take place. Following the parade a smaller group will march from the school, South on Covert Avenue to Hempstead Turnpike and stop at Veterans Square where another ceremony will take place. Elmont American Legion Post 1033 is hosting the parade.

Begins at 11 a.m. and travels down Main Street. Hosted by the Holbrook Lions Club.

Kings Park
Begins at 9 a.m. at RJO School, travels west on Old Dock Road and then east on Main Street; ends at Veterans Plaza where flag ceremonies will take place.

Begins at 8:30 a.m. at Breslau Cemetary.

Massapequa Park
Begins at 10 a.m. on Front Street; then travels west to Park Boulevard, north to Clark Boulevard, west to Broadway and south to Klestinec Park for a ceremony.

Begins at 9:30 a.m. at Merrick Avenue and ends with a wreath ceremony at the Veterans Memorial at Lee Avenue. Sponsored by American Legion Merrick Post 1282.

New Hyde Park
Begins at 10 a.m. on Lakeville Road and travels east on Jericho Turnpike to New Hyde Park Road where there will be a ceremony at Village Hall; the parade will continue heading north on New Hyde Park Road and then west on Lincoln Street to New Hyde Park Memorial Park where there will be an observance.

Begins at 10 a.m. at Foxhurst and Long Beach Roads, continues to Oceanside High School at Skillman and Brower Avenues, ceremomies begin at 11 a.m., sponsored by VFW Post #5199

Plainview-Old Bethpage
Begins at 9:30 a.m. on Old Country Road.

Port Washington
Begins at 10 a.m. on Campus Drive; travels down Main Street and ends with a ceremony at Sousa Band Shell.

Begins at 10 a.m. at Dawes Avenue continues to Veterans Memorial Park, Underhill Boulevard, sponsored by American Legion Post 175 and Syosset VFW.

Valley Stream
Begins at 9 a.m. at Rockaway and Wheelers Avenues; parade travels down Rockaway Parkway to Rockaway Avenue and then onto Valley Stream Blvd. into the Village Green.

Starts at 10 a.m. at Beltagh Avenue, ends at Park Avenue for ceremony, hosted by American Legion Post 1273.

West Babylon
Begins at 10 a.m. on the corner of Arnold Avenue and Karen Street; ends with a ceremony at Sgt. John Sardiello Post 1634 of the American Legion located at 10 Bruce Street.

West Hempstead
Begins at 10 a.m. at Hempstead Avenue and Nassau Boulevard (parking lot of St. Thomas Chapel_; parade travels east along Hempstead Avenue to Roosevelt Boulevard, then left onto Roosevelt Boulevard to Echo Park for ceremony.

West Islip
Begins at 9:30 at Udall and Roderick Roads.

Other Memorial Day Observances

Reading of the Names
Bald Hill Amphitheater and Cultural Center
Annual event to remember area residents killed in Vietnam, hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Suffolk County Chapter 1:15 p.m.

World War II Memorial Dedication
Bartlett Pond Park, Middle Island
Dedicated to the WWII veterans who grew up in the Longwood community. The dedication is followed by a barbecue behind the Middle Island Fire Department, 31 Arnold Dr. Begins at Noon.

At Nassau County Parks and Museums

USAF Thunderbirds At Jones Beach State Park

Town of North Hempstead Fireworks, Bar Beach Park, Port Washington

This listing is by no means all inclusive. Check your local paper, American Legion Post, or civic association for a Memorial Day Parade near you.

More Memorial Day Resources
American Legion Posts in Nassau County
American Legion Posts in Suffolk County
Origins of Memorial Day

Honor those who gave the last measure of devotion for their country by devoting yourself to your community. Join and support your local civic association. Be an involved citizen.

A safe Memorial Day weekend to all from The Community Alliance.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Where "Pay To Play" Is The Order Of The Day

Donations To Town Of North Hempstead Supervisor Show Need For Campaign Finance Overhaul

Wow, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor, Jon Kaiman, made front page of Newsday today.

As Eden Laikin (we thought you were covering Hempstead Town, not North Hempstead. All of the Hempstead stories must have played out :-) writes, nothing illegal about it, but clearly, the potential for conflicts of interest abound, and there is no avoidance here of the appearance of impropriety.

In the political arena, the rules of “pay to play” have become a part of the landscape – so much so that when it comes to what is now an institutional norm, the public airing of everything from payola to patronage draws little more than a collective yawn from John Q. Public.

Are sweetheart deals tied to campaign donations? Maybe yes, maybe no. Still, the atmosphere created through a system that not only tolerates, but encourages, a pat on the back with one hand, and a padding of the pocket with the other, while not necessarily tantamount to a bribe or a payoff, is conducive to favoritism and cronyism that supplants open, transparent, and competitive government functions and processes.

Was Jon Kaiman wrong to accept donations from those who do business with the Town of North Hempstead. Well, not in the legal sense. Perhaps not in the moral sense, either (morality being more or less subjective these days). Maybe not even in the practical sense, given the premise that if you cannot contract with those who make political donations – and every business worth its ledger books makes such donations, often to both parties and opposing candidates – there would simply be no one left to do business with!

We have absolutely no doubt that the Kaiman situation is not unique. Certainly, it is nothing new, albeit definitely newsworthy. [Front page? Maybe on a real slow news day. But hey, ya gotta keep the circulation up!] Guaranteed that in every township in America, from the largest (which just happens to be on Long Island), to the smallest (we don’t know what town holds that distinction. You’ll have to Google it and let us know), there is at least an aura of “pay to play.”

Like it or not -- and we don't like it -- there is a quid pro quo when it comes to the business of government.

Until what amounts to the private sponsorship of public office – just a step above money under the table – is banned through the adoption of effective campaign finance reform (i.e., the use of public monies, sans private donations, to finance election campaigns), not only the process, but also the players, will remain suspect.

That Jon Kaiman was today’s “target” of Newsday [watch out – tomorrow it may be you] is not so much a reflection on the ethics of the Supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead. It was more of a reflection on a system that, left in its own primordial stew, has evolved into an all-consuming – of both money and morals – ogre; one that threatens to undermine, or at least uproot, the very core of democracy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hempstead To Neuter Local Democrats In Effort To Keep Control Of Town Hall

Town Teams Up With Paws For Free Dem Spay/Neuter Program

Supervisor Kate Murray announced that Hempstead Town has teamed up with Pioneers for Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) to offer residents free spaying and neutering for all registered Democrats residing in the township during the month of June 2007.

"Through the efforts of this all-volunteer organization, spaying and neutering of Democrats, which might normally be a financial burden to many families (particularly those with patronage jobs), not to mention the GOP's designs to hold on to Hempstead Town Hall for another 100 years, is offered at no cost. Furthermore, spaying and neutering helps to reduce the number of unwanted Democrats that wind up in shelters, on Town Boards, and needlessly running for public office, and helps these unfortunate souls to lead longer and more productive lives, hopefully as born-again Republicans," said Murray.

As for Democrats who have already found their way into Town Hall, such as Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, the Supervisor intimated that the spay/neuter program would not apply.

"Once these pests are in the house," said Murray, "spay and neuter is out of the question. Too messy. Might ruin the carpets."

Murray suggested that the Town's Nuisance Law might be applied in such instances, citing that the ordinance is rarely utilized, and that, unfortunately, euthanasia of popularly elected Democrats might run afoul of prevailing law.

"Town Attorney, Joe Ra, is looking into all options," declared Murray. "The Town of Hempstead, with its brick pavers, Victorian-style lampposts, attractive plantings, stylized benches, distinctive fencing and accent lighting, is an absolutely wonderful place to live and raise a family," announced Murray, grinning ear to ear. "Without Democrats to ruin this party we've been having since 1903," chortled Murray, "the Town of Hempstead will become even more inviting and vibrant."

PAWS has the largest free spaying and neutering program in our area with over 30 participating veterinarians and thousands of cats, dogs and politicians altered each year.

"We are delighted to help PAWS promote this important program and hope that Hempstead Town residents take advantage of this opportunity to curtail the Democratic population," concluded Murray.

To obtain a spay/neuter voucher, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and the number, gender and age of Democrats to be altered, to PAWS, P.O. Box 861, Hicksville, NY 11802-0861. The voucher for a participating veterinarian will then be mailed back.

Please note that a limit of three Democrats per household applies during this promotion period. No Independents or "blanks" will be harmed in the process. PAWS will pay for the surgical procedure only; any other mandated fees (i.e., shots for distemper, from which Democrats are known to suffer -- or so claims Town of Hempstead Surgeon General, Dr. Kat D'Amato) are the responsibility of the client.

Additional information about PAWS can be obtained by visiting their website at or by calling (516)364-PAWS.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tote That Barge

As Far Away From Long Island Sound As Possible

Broadwater, the folks who want to float a liquified natural gas (LNG) facility 9 miles off Long Island's north shore -- pluck in the middle of the Sound -- took reporters on a field trip yesterday to the proposed site.

Broadwater said the proposed floating natural gas tank is safe. The tankers that will visit the station and ply the waters of Long Island Sound are safe. The environment, and the delicate ecosystem of the pond, are safe. And Long Islanders, from the lobstermen to landlubbers, have absolutely nothing to fear. Its perfectly safe!

Apparently, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concur with Broadwater. The proposed Liquified Natural Gas Terminal sitting in the open waters of Long Island Sound, just offshore from hundreds of thousands of folks like you and I, is safe.

Hmmm. Didn't FERC certify Three Mile Island as "safe?" We wonder whether FEMA has a plan to evacuate when, heaven forbid, "safe" turns out to be not so safe.

Is the Broadwater terminal really safe from all possible causes of failure, whether by design, by disaster, or by accident?

Hey, they said the Hindenburg was "safe" too, didn't they?

Look at it this way. You have this gigantic propane tank sitting in the middle of the Sound like, well, like a duck on steroids. What if there was a terrorist attack? How about a natural disasiter, such as a hurricane? A tanker mishap? Or maybe a faulty valve or other technical malfunction?


What happens when -- not "if," but "WHEN" -- something does go terribly wrong at the Broadwater Liquified Natural Gas terminal anchored precariously in our Long Island Sound?

Man, that will be one helluva Bar-B-Q!

Sure. In theory, the proposed Broadwater facility is safe. On paper. The odds of an accident, an attack, or, dare we say, a leak (pitty the poor baymen) are remote.

Its not even unsightly -- unlike LIPA's proposed windfarm in the works for the south shore of Long Island, whose turbines will, if nothing more, forever change the Atlantic seascape.

Still, do we, as Long Islanders, want to take that risk?

We think not.

The benefits of an LNG facility literally in our backyard swimming hole aside [and we haven't been convinced that there are any real benefits for Long Island], the risks are simply too great to take that chance.

Frankly, this isn't even one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Braodwater proposal is fraught with danger and undue exposure for the entire region. Imagined doomsday scenarios are frightening enough -- even to those who do not scare easily -- that we do not have to postulate the unthinkable "what ifs" in concluding that this project should be nixed.

Civic and environmental groups, including the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, the Long Island Citizen Action Network, and the New York League of Conservation Voters, have lined up in opposition to Broadwater. Newsday, in a front page banner, once referred to Broadwater as "SHOREHAM AT SEA."

We, at The Community Alliance, join in that chorus.

The Governor, the legislatures of the State and Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, and the good citizens of Long Island -- not to mention Connecticut -- should all stand fast and SAY NO TO BROADWATER!

There is enough volatility here on our island without adding a liquified natural gas terminal to the mix.
- - -
Click HERE to read, The Living Legend of Superman: Miracle Monday, Chapter
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1944: CLEVELAND, OHIO (pictured above)
This incident virtually stopped all development of the LNG industry for 20 years. The accident incinerated one square mile of the city. The spill that created this blast was approximately 5 per cent of the volume held by a modern LNG tanker. The explosion destroyed 79 houses, two factories, and 217 cars. Its heat reached 1000 degrees, killed 130 and injured 275. It also left 680 people homeless.

1971 LNG ship EssoBrega, La Spezia LNG Import Terminal
This is the first documented "LNG rollover" incident. The tank developed a sudden increase in pressure, and LNG vapor discharged from the safety valves and vents. The LNG did not ignite. Rollover” refers to the rapid release of LNG vapors from a storage tank caused by stratification. The potential for rollover arises when two separate layers of different densities due to different LNG compositions that exist in a tank.

An explosion occurred within an electrical substation at the Cove Point, MD receiving terminal. LNG leaked through an inadequately tightened LNG pump electrical penetration seal, vaporized, passed through 200 feet of underground electrical conduit, and entered the substation. Since natural gas was never expected in this building, there were no gas detectors installed in the building. The natural gas-air mixture was ignited by the normal arcing contacts of a circuit breaker resulting in an explosion. The explosion killed one operator in the building, seriously injured a second and caused about $3 million in damages. Although the NY fire Department listed this as a non-LNG accident, LNG was involved and a major factor in the resulting damages.

1988: Boston Spill Accident
30,000 gallons of LNG spilled in an accident in Boston. A vapor cloud hung around for hours due to the fact that there was no wind. By an act of a greater power, the gas did not ignite.

January 2004: Algiers LNG Plant Accident Caused By Gas Vapor Leaked From Pipe (source: Mobile Press Register)
A newly released document provides important insights into the chain of events that led to the January explosion of a liquefied natural gas facility in the African nation of Algeria. Several scientists who specialize in LNG research said the document indicates that a similar accident could occur at LNG plants like those proposed for Mobile Bay and elsewhere in the United States.

A PowerPoint display titled "‘The Incident at the Skikda Plant: Description and Preliminary Conclusions’ indicates, instead, that a large amount of liquid gas escaped from a pipe and formed a cloud of highly flammable and explosive vapor that hovered over the facility. The cloud exploded after coming into contact with a flame source.

"‘The fact that there was a vapor cloud is huge," said Bill Powers, an engineer based in California who has studied LNG terminals, siting issues for both onshore and offshore proposals. "We don't know if it was an LNG vapor cloud or an LPG cloud or a mix of both, but, either way, it means it is the kind of accident that could happen here.’"

Powers also felt it was noteworthy that Halliburton had conducted a major renovation of the Skikda plant in 1999, updating all of the key safety equipment and computer systems.
A Halliburton Co. Web site touts the revamped LNG terminal as a model of modern American workmanship.

Debris was flung four miles away from an LNG explosion at an industrial park 20 miles outside of Belgium. Fifteen people were killed and 120 injured, many severely burned.

2005: LNG Tankers Leak
A fleet of new ships built for BG and other companies to meet Britain's growing energy needs by bringing in liquefied natural gas (LNG) from abroad has been hit by leaks and safety scares. The problem is worrying the industry because no one has yet discovered what the exact causes of the problems are and there are fears of a design problem that could affect up to 20 vessels.

As was first reported by ABC Northern Territory, as of May 11, 2006 a Conoco Phillips plant in Darwin is still leaking gas from its LNG plant. This news comes after more than two months from the time the problem was first identified.

Source in this report: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); California Department of Energy; Surfer Magazine; Applicance Magazine;; Guardian Unlimited; The Center for Energy Economics, Austin Texas

Monday, May 21, 2007

Is Long Island Burning?

From Brownfields To Toxic Plumes, The Fire Next Door Gets Closer To Home

The New York Times recently ran a most interesting review of Joan Quigley's “The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy”.

It chronicles the fate of a mining town, Centralia, PA, which, owing to underground coal fires, started in the 60s and, believe it or not, still burning -- and spreading -- today, went from thriving community to eerie ghost town; its inhabitants relocated, and every last one of its buildings bulldozed.

No, there are no coal fires burning below Nassau and Suffolk -- at least not that we know of -- nevertheless, the fire below is real, is spreading, and threatens to drive many Long Islanders out of their homes and off the island.

Let's take a look at the aquifers, Long Island's primary source ( other than Poland Springs) of drinking water.

For more than two generations, since the advent of Levittown, we've been pumping pesticides, herbicides, sewage, and waste of all kinds into our groundwater.

Yes, the big corporations have their share of blame, dumping everything from oil to radioactive material into the ground -- creating so-called Superfund sites that, when mapped, dot the island like a bad case of Measles -- but we, as homeowners, with our fertilizers, weed killers, and now-banned chemicals used to treat our lawns and gardens and to kill termites, must be called at fault as well.

Add to this the "plumes" created by spills of gasoline and the carcinogenic additive, MTBE, attributed to leaky underground storage tanks, and it is no wonder that the environmental studies of our drinking water read like a who's who of non-naturally occuring minerals and heavy metals, and that Cancer rates on Long Island continue to soar.

Above ground, skyrocketing property taxes, the lack of affordable housing, and a steady decline in our quality of life, continue to light fires under many a Long Islander -- the hotfoot as prelude to transporting both family and the dream of suburbia out of New York.

The island's infrastructure is aging and, in many cases, decaying. Parks, recreation facilities, and public amenities, decline in both number and in stature. Maintenance, repair, general upkeep fails to keep up with the creeping deterioration that threatens to consume the last of the green, open spaces.

So we ask, which will come first -- our last gasp for air above the ground, as we choke on the congestion, coughing up whatever change may be left in our pockets to pay for garbage collection (necessary to fill the dumps with still more waste to leach into our ground water), or that poisonous drink of water we take from the tap, filling our bellies with toxins linked to birth defects, breast cancer, and a whole host of ailments we won't even begin to frighten you with.

In 1962, it would have cost only $30,000 to put out the subterranean coal fires and save Centralia, PA. No one did anything. Not the feds. Not the State. Not local authorities.

In 1983, as the fires raged on beneath Centralia, it was estimated that the cost to extinguish the conflagration would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $663 million.

The Department of the Interior spent some $3 million on innefective containment measures, and then, some $42 million to relocate most of the town's remaining residents.

The fires under what was once Centralia burn on, as does the firestorm that threatens lives, livelihoods, and a way of life here on our Long Island -- both from above and below the ground.

As we consider the costs associated with fixing the fine mess we've gotten ourselves into on Long Island -- from remediating brownfields and Superfund sites, to creating an equitable, workable form and structure for school financing, to providing affordable housing and relief from burdensome property taxes -- we should stop to think about the greater cost, to all of us, of doing nothing.

Centralia may have been in Pennsylvania, the heat of those coal seam flames far removed from the once idylic suburbs of Long Island. The fires on -- and under -- Long Island, be forewarned, are closer and hotter than you may think. What we need here is not more in the way of fire below, but more fire in the belly -- from local advocates as well as elected officials -- to extinguish those fires, to salvage a way of life, to save our Long Island.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Number One On Your Hit Parade

The Hits Keep Coming At The Community Alliance Blog

A record 93,648 "hits" on Long Island's premier quality of life blog last week -- a new high (and we weren't even sniffing anything at the time).

The Community Alliance Blog has been called "provocative," "insightful," and "a humorous romp through political minefields," with at least one local politico saying, "residents would gladly pay twice the going rate to enjoy reading this rant."

93,648 "hits," and, yes, we're still standing, battling, and giving community's enemies that hard swift kick in the groin they so unabashedly deserve.

Thank you for making The Community Alliance Blog the Number One quality of life mouthpiece north of what's left of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

93,648 "hits" (and a good 12 1/2 "reads"). Were you one of them?

Make The Community Alliance Blog a part of your day, every day. You never know. We may be blogging about YOU!

If You See Something. . .

. . .Get Up Off Your Butt And Do Something About It!

Community activism, however varied the meanings and perspectives, requires more than just a silent nod or the backgound din of a frustrated grumble. It requires, um, activisim.

"Activism." Defined by Webster's as "a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue."

Yes, there is a certain level of activism in American society today -- somewhat less on the more politically conservative Long Island -- but face it, the 60s its not.

Sure, we complain among our small circle of friends and family, and, every once in a while, we actually get out there -- to a community forum, to a meeting at Town Hall, or to a voting booth (if its not too inconvenient) -- but, for the most part, even when we see something disturbing in our own communities (and we're talking about quality of life issues here, not Al Queada terror cells), rather than to actually do something, we're content to just sit there and take it.

"Oh, you can't fight Town Hall," they'll tell you. Damn well you can!

No one said the fight would be easy, or the war less than protracted against an enemy so entrenched and disinterested in the well-being of your hometown. Still, the fight is yours -- not theirs -- to be won or lost.

Maybe its easier to moan and groan about the evils that befall community, rather than to muster the strength to do something about it. After all, we've got other, more pressing matters to deal with -- or so the talking heads remind us on a daily basis.

Natalie Holloway is still missing (bless Nancy Grace and Gretta Van Sustren for reminding us of that each and every evening). Four year old Madeleine McCann, left in a hotel room by her parents while vacationing in Portugal, is still missing. Come to think of it, that Osama Bin Laden fella is still missing. Have we looked for him in Aruba or the Algarve?

We really have no time to debate such mundane matters as skyrocketing property taxes, illegal accessory apartments, the disappearance of affordable housing, and the high cost of education.

No, more important that we chime in on whether a runner, Oscar Pistorius, who happens to be a double amputee, should be permitted to compete in the Olympics, running on prosthetic legs. Yeah, the guy's got to run on artificial limbs, and the International Olympic Committee, considering a ban on such competition, calls that an unfair advantage. Now there's the Olympic spirit!

Or it could be that, in the wake of the news that the Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder of the Immoral Majority -- you know, the guy who blamed 9/11 on the feminists, the gays, and the Teletubbies -- has been called home to God (and not a moment too soon). We're in mourning. You want us to stand up, get out there, and protest something?

Yes, we want you to stand up, get out there, and protest something. Anything, for that matter.

Get out there and protest the government's policy of rendition. Get out there and protest native Indian "nations" not paying millions of dollars in taxes on the cigarettes they sell to the public. Get out there and protest the fact that you pay twice as much for garbage collection as your neighbor across the street.

And if you can't -- or simply won't -- get out there to DO SOMETHING, then, for community's sake, at least take the opportunity (no, make the opportunity) to SAY SOMETHING.

Write a letter. Send an e-mail. Pen a Guest Blog. SOMETHING.

Let those who represent you -- in Washington, in Albany, at the County Seat, and in town and village hall -- know exactly how you feel (and, hopefully, how you will vote come November) on the issues, great and small, that impact upon your quality of life.

Yes, if you see someting in your community that disturbs you -- or ought to -- say something. You can be darn sure that we will!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Get Out There And Vote -- Again!

Super Tuesday Is Behind Us, But There Must Be An Election Out There, Somewhere

We managed to get all school budget elections on the same day every year -- the second Tuesday in May.

So, when do we vote next?

Well, there's bound to be a special election, here or there. Maybe a mayoral contest in a nearby village. And, of course, those Sanitary District elections will be coming up this summer, on a date to be announced -- or not.

Seems that every time you turn around, there's another election. With the Special Districts and their many Commissioners, its almost a shame to put those antiquated voting machines away, the polls being open -- limited voting hours and literally no publicity notwithstanding -- almost every other week.

Governor Spitzer's newly-minted Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness (yes, yes, a misnomer all around), will no doubt be looking at the broader issues, such as where we can consolidate or, better yet, eliminate. Still, the Commission should hone in on some of the more provincial ills -- perhaps more readily remedied -- like a single day for voting in ALL Special Districts (i.e., Fire, Sanitation, Water). We can call it Trashy Tuesday or Waste Wednesday.

We're still baffled by the the fact that a Sanitary District in, say, the Town of Hempstead -- serving 35,000 homes -- requires 6 Commissioners, while New York City's Department of Sanitation, serving over 8 million residents (and, unlike the local Sanitary Districts, is responsible for street cleaning and snow removal, as well as garbage collection), somehow manages to get along just fine with a single Commissioner. [And, by and large, the streets are cleaner in NYC than they are once you cross the invisible border into Nassau.]

If you choose to address the Commission on Local Government using an acronym -- okay, a slightly twisted acronym -- we'd go with New York Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness, NYLGEC -- a somewhat perverted, if not Dyslexic, take on NEGLECT. Just add a "T" for the temerity of local government in perpetuating the myth that special taxing districts serve a public benefit that we, the people, would not be better served, with greater efficiency, and less expense, through other means.

Let's start with the premise that local government is anything but efficient. That's a given. Town Hall is a bastion of failed initiatives -- assuming any initiative in the first place. As for "competitiveness," well, considering where the money has gone in the past, and who gets those "sweetheart" deals, we think you can add "competitiveness" to the garbage heap as well.

Sure, we "enjoy" having 7 collection days per week. 3 for garbage. 1 for recycling. 2 for yard waste. 1 for bulk. Would it matter much -- other than in our wallets (which contain more IOUs than greenbacks) -- if we cut collections by a day or two?

Efficiency and competitiveness, like much in government and politics, is local. The mechanism -- and the desire -- for change must be grassroots. Change, if it comes at all, is not likely to come from a State Commission or a Blue Ribbon panel. [Why are the ribbons always "blue?"]. Change, if and when it does come, will be the byproduct of local, community advocacy and activism. Change -- and no small change, at that -- must begin with YOU!

Please put your trash in tightly sealed containers, placing same out for collection no earlier than 7 PM the night before. And please, don't forget to vote.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Teaching To The Child

If Our Public Schools Don't Succeed, Will Failure Be Our Thing?

Throughout New York State, the vast majority of school budgets passed resoundingly yesterday. That's a good thing.

Still, the passage of budgets in favor of educating our children should not be construed as even a tacit acceptance of the way our schools are financed, as a mandate on unfunded mandates, or as a nod of approval to the one-size-fits all standards of No Child Left Behind.

The debate on the education front will continue -- as well it must.

"Why can't Johnny read?" "Why are our school property taxes so high?" "Should public tax money be diverted from the public schools to pay for private and parochial education?" "Why is Richard Mills still the Education Commissioner in New York?"

And then there's the broader issue of why our public schools are at least perceived by a vast majority of Americans as failing.

As we have often asked here at The Community Alliance blog, is it really our schools that have failed our children, or we, as parents, as guardians, as the trustees of tomorrow, who have failed our public schools?

An interesting and on point perspective appeared in Education Week today, and is republished below for your perusal. It is a worthy read, and, most certainly, fodder for further thought.

This blogger recently began reading a wonderful new biography of Albert Einstein written by Walter Isaacson [Einstein: His Life and Universe]. It is more about the man than the physics, and a must read for anyone seeking true insight not only into the intimacy and humanity of Einstein's life, but also on his marked contempt of what he saw as "rote learning."

Einstein, it appears, found the teaching methods of the day stifling, and compared his teachers to "drill sargeants." He was labeled as a poor student by some, and often an outcast, not merely because he thought outside the small box offered up in the classroom, but because he dared to think at all. [It was interesting to learn that a young Einstein was denied admission, on his first application, to the prestigious Zurich Polytechnic (imagine being the admissions officer who sent that rejection letter), and couldn't land a job as a high school teacher in New Jersey.]

What made Einstein unique, it would appear, is not necessarily his brilliance in mathematics and physics, but rather, his complete understanding that in order to learn, students must be at liberty to think, to question, to be creative, and to explore -- if not reach far beyond -- the bounds of imagination.

Einstein realized, both intuitively and by deduction, that not all children learn in the same way; that there is no "standard" way of thinking.

We wonder what Professor Einstein, were he with us today, would think of so-called NCLB "standards" and "teaching to the test?" And what have we, as parents, as educators, as citizens of the world, learned from this Nobel Prize winner about educating our own children? Not much, we fear.

You don't have to be an Einstein to know that public education, a cornerstone set in the very foundation of American democracy, is ailing, and that, best intentions notwithstanding, the proferred "cures" are simply failing to make the grade.

We need to retink not only how we fund public education, but the very ways in which we seek to educate our children.

Failure, in education, is simply not an option!
- - -
Public Rhetoric, Public Responsibility, and The Public Schools
By Ellen Condliffe Lagemann

There are vital relationships between public rhetoric and public policy in a democratic society, and I fear that current public rhetoric about public education does not serve us well.
Consider three recent reports: “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” “America’s Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation’s Future,” and “Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.” They are very different reports, in sponsorship, authorship, and focus. All advance findings and policy suggestions worth considering. What matters here, however, is that all are dire in tone and substance.

Each report argues that our nation is in peril because our educational institutions are failing to prepare workers who can compete with workers in other nations. With logics derived primarily from economics, they insist that we are even more in danger today than we were in 1983, when another alarming report, A Nation at Risk, appeared. Despite nearly 25 years of sustained efforts at improvement, according to these documents, the public schools have failed both the children and the nation they are meant to serve.

Is that true? The frighteningly poor performance of U.S. youngsters in international comparisons of educational achievement is well-known. So are statistics demonstrating that an alarming number of young people leave school ill-equipped to enter college or the labor market.

It is no secret that our high school completion rates remain much too low, or that our incarceration rates—especially for young, male African-Americans—are alarmingly high.

So, are reports like these telling us the truth? I think not, despite the evidence I have alluded to. I think the true story is not that our schools have failed us. It is rather that we, as a society, have failed our schools.

We have failed our schools because we have asked them to do impossible things. In urban areas throughout the United States, and in some rural areas as well, we have asked schools to educate children who come to school bearing all the problems this country would prefer to ignore. Some children come to school not knowing where they will sleep that night, because they are homeless. Some come to school from homes without responsible adults able to care for them. Many come to school through streets that are dirty and dangerous. We may offer children living in situations like these some milk and cereal when they arrive at school, but after that we expect their teachers to find ways to hold their attention sufficiently so that they can learn.

I am not talking about children who have well-educated, involved parents and lots of preschool educational experiences at home. They come to school “ready to learn.” We could choose to ensure that all children came to school in that state. But we do not provide decent health care, housing, and public safety for a significant percentage of those who attend our most challenged public schools. It is hardly surprising, then, that some youngsters do not thrive in school. Society has failed to provide the minimal public services that public schools need in order to serve all children well.

Let me be very clear. I do not think the failure of our society to provide the wherewithal that can ensure that all children come to school ready to learn should justify school failure. Not at all. I am also painfully aware that by pointing to the social failures that surround our schools, I can be misunderstood as excusing low expectations, poor teaching, or incompetent school leadership. My point is simply that schools exist in a social context that has a powerful effect on what adults can accomplish with and for children.

There are several reasons why current rhetoric emphasizes school failure without giving equal emphasis to the social failures that often surround the public schools. Policy reports are generally styled for the media. They are designed to win headlines because headlines can bring influence. They tell us starkly that we are in peril, even if a more nuanced reading of the evidence would suggest that, if we are in peril, it is owing to the social choices we have made, and not merely because public schools are failing to accomplish all that they should.

Schools exist in a social context, and that context has a powerful effect on what adults can accomplish with and for children.

I am skeptical of much current policy rhetoric for a second reason. Most education policy reports today reflect logics and ways of thinking that are derived from economics. The implicit model for school success is likely to be a simple, linear model that focuses on costs and benefits. If you spend X dollars, and teachers have Y hours of training, you should get Z outputs. But education does not work that way. Anyone who has taught or observed classrooms closely realizes that. To analyze education accurately, we need more-complicated models of causation than social scientists have yet been able to invent. Lacking models that are sufficiently nuanced and complex, policy reports, of necessity, rely upon the best models currently available. And today, those tend to come from economics.

Economics has become central to education policy analysis for historical reasons. In recent years, the study of human capital has drawn some of the best minds in the discipline. They have been able to work with numerical precision because the inventors of econometrics married economics and mathematics. And these days mathematical precision seems the key to policy relevance—as shown also by the marriage of mathematics and psychology that has given us psychometrics.

Beginning in the Kennedy administration, the Council of Economic Advisers also assumed a primary role in advising the federal government. Over the years, as the federal advisory bureaucracy has grown, economists have come to fill more and more important offices. Beginning with Head Start in the early 1960s, economic logics have therefore come to serve as a primary ingredient in the justification and evaluation of most, if not all, education policies.

Lest you accuse me of not being fair to the so-called dismal science, I should hasten to add that I am aware that others of the social sciences also influence education policy. I should also note that I believe that economics illuminates some problems that are crucial to policy analysis in education. For example, the economist James J. Heckman, a distinguished University of Chicago Nobelist, has provided incisive cost estimates of the investments necessary to achieve greater equity in education. ("Beyond Pre-K," March 21, 2007.) And one could cite other, similarly significant investigations. That notwithstanding, I would still venture that our heavy reliance on economic models and logics has skewed our attention toward the outcomes of education, too narrowly defined, and away from the processes of education.

What might happen if we paid less attention to outcomes, as measured by test scores, and more attention to how children learn, which is one of the most important processes of education? This could force us to attend more sensibly to schooling within the social and cultural contexts in which it occurs. Studying the processes of education could make us think more about relationships between education in families and neighborhoods, on the one hand, and in schools, on the other. Studying the ways in which children learn could help us focus on cultural differences between and among the children who sit in the same classroom, and on how those cultural differences might be used to empower learning rather than to stand in its way.

Our heavy reliance on economic models and logics has skewed our attention toward the outcomes of education, too narrowly defined, and away from the processes of education.

I do not want to venture too far into “what-might-be, if-only-we-did-this-or-that.” I would rather reiterate that I believe that education policy has not been well served by an overemphasis on outcomes and too little attention to the processes of education.

This overemphasis on outcomes has led us to slight all that we must provide children and families, if schools are reasonably to be expected to ensure that all children stay in school and learn to their fullest potential. Because rhetoric both reflects and shapes reality, our rhetoric has led to a sorry imbalance between what we ask schools to accomplish and the support we provide them in fulfilling our demands.

It is sad to say, but the imbalance between what we expect of public schools and offer them by way of support is not different from what we have asked the U.S. military to do in Iraq and what most of us have done to ensure the military’s success—however one would define “success.” We seem more inclined these days to delegate responsibility to others than to assume it ourselves. Outside contractors are playing increasing roles in both our military and educational pursuits, and in a truly democratic society neither function should be contracted out.

What, then, is to be done? We must find ways to stir more profound debate concerning what is and is not public in a society like ours, and what should and should not be private. What do we, as a society, owe to all children? What should we allow families to do for their children without intrusion from the state? What should individuals be able to have, by way of educational and cultural opportunities that will not be equally available to all people?

I do not have a quick, easy solution to the alienation that has led us to accept the delegation of our own public responsibilities to other people. But I am convinced that a first step toward a solution may lie in recognizing that we have misdiagnosed the problem. To repeat: If public schools are failing, it is not their failure, but our own. If we can acknowledge that, perhaps then we can muster the social imagination and will needed to reorient public rhetoric, reinvigorate public responsibility, and renew public commitments to public education.

Reprinted from Education Week.

Ellen Condliffe Lagemann is the Charles Warren professor of the history of American education at Harvard University. In July, she will become a distinguished fellow at Bard College, where she will direct the Bard Center for Education and Democracy.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Are You Smarter Than A Pre-Schooler?

Test Your Reasoning Skills Against Those Of Four-Year Olds

Pre-school children were asked the following question:
"In which direction is the bus pictured below traveling?"

Look carefully at the picture.

Do you know the answer? (The only possible answers are "left" or "right.")

Think about it.

Still don't know?

Okay, We'll tell you.

The pre-schoolers all answered "left."

When asked, "Why do you think the bus is traveling in the left direction?" They answered: "Because you can't see the door."
- - -
Tuesday, May 15th, you get to vote on your School District's budget.

If you think education is expensive, remember that a pre-schooler outsmarted you in a simple test of logic, then consider the cost of ignorance!


Old Soldiers Never Die. . .

. . .They Simply Get Appointed To The New York Guard

Paul Vitello, formerly of Newsday fame, now writing for the New York Times, has uncovered New York's answer to Coxey's Army. The New York Guard.

No, its not the National Guard, or even the rear guard -- and exactly what these folks are guarding (other than their egos and a ton of pork) continues to elude us -- but here they are, the New York Guard, a mock-military unit that has about as much to do with serving to protect as the Harlem Globetrotters have with professional basketball. [Not to take anything away from the Harlem Globetrotters, mind you.]

Yes, what we thought of as "the old guard" -- at least in political circles -- is now donning uniforms and garnering titles like "General" and "Colonel."

We told you before, and we'll tell you again, you just can't make this stuff up.

So, here we stand at attention (when we're not doubled over with laughter), and we salute you -- yes you -- General Mondello.

Hey. Isn't that Admiral Pataki? Over there. In the bathtub. With the rubber Duckie. . .
- - -
For This Troop, No Battles but Plenty of Brass
By Paul Vitello

Joseph N. Mondello, the chairman of New York State’s Republican Party, was a corporal in the United States Army when he was honorably discharged in 1958. But now, in the New York Guard, he is a two-star general.

Bobby Kumar Kalotee, chairman of the Independence Party of Nassau County, never served in the military. Yet his official biography lists Mr. Kalotee as a major in the New York Guard — and he has the uniform with epaulets to prove it.

Ralph Arred, the former Yonkers Democratic Party chairman, also never joined the armed services. But before he was sentenced to prison last year for tax evasion, his lawyer pleaded for leniency based in part on Mr. Arred’s service to his country — as a major in the New York Guard.

Not the New York National Guard. Not the Air National Guard. It is the New York Guard, a little-known volunteer corps dating to World War I, whose 800 members serve at the pleasure of the governor and cannot be sent into combat — or serve beyond the borders of the state.

Ostensibly, the New York Guard provides home-front support to the National Guard when the National Guard is busy elsewhere. Advocates say it has become more useful since 9/11, as nearly 6,000 of New York’s 10,000 Army National Guard soldiers have spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But such support activities have largely amounted to spurts of volunteerism during extraordinary events: New York Guard members managed supplies at ground zero, provided some security at National Guard training camps in the months after 9/11 and have often written wills for soldiers heading to Baghdad.

More common are ceremonial events like parades or memorial services, where members often provide color guards. To be sure, there are many loyal members who have attended emergency-response training and helped out on missions like the rescue of a hiker upstate last year. But critics — including some former members — say that among the organization’s main beneficiaries is a small cadre of politicians who rarely show up for meetings but proudly show off their quasi-military honorifics.

“If you are friendly with the governor and you always wanted to be a general, you ask the governor to make you a general, and poof, you are a brigadier general,” said Pierre David Lax, who served as a major general and commander of the New York Guard for several years until 2006, and owns a manufacturing company on Long Island.

In fact, promotions within the Guard are usually approved by the state’s adjutant general, the military officer in charge of the New York Guard as well as the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard and the Naval Militia. The adjutant general is appointed by the governor.

George Liebner, Mr. Lax’s predecessor at the Guard, was unabashed about his recruitment of politicians during the 1980s, not least because the organization depends on annual grants known as member items from the State Legislature for its budget of about $85,000 a year. Guard members like State Senator (and Col.) Dean G. Skelos and former Assemblyman (and Maj. Gen.) Thomas F. Barraga, both Long Island Republicans, have been among the sponsors of such grants; this year, Joseph L. Bruno, the Republican leader of the State Senate (and Guard colonel) delivered a last-minute item of $85,000.

“What could I give these guys except a title?” said Mr. Liebner, a Long Island accountant. “I’m not stupid. If I ask some political guy to join the New York Guard and support our mission, and I offer to make him a private, you think he’s going to join?”

Mr. Liebner recruited Mr. Mondello, Mr. Skelos and Mr. Bruno, who remains on the roster despite having attended few meetings and having passed the Guard’s mandatory retirement age of 68 a decade ago. And he made Alfonse M. D’Amato, then a Republican United States Senator, a colonel (he has since retired from the group).

Mr. Bruno did not return calls for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Skelos, Thomas Dunham, said his boss never considered his Guard membership anything but honorary and “never used it in any public way.”

Like New York, most states had similar organizations during World War I, but many disbanded right after the armistice. There are now 22; those in Georgia and South Carolina sent troops to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; doctor-volunteers in Texas and Maryland have done service on the Mexican border and in Bosnia.

But as for politicians filling the group’s highest ranks, Byers W. Coleman, executive director of the State Guard Association of the United States, said of New York: “Usually, you hear of one or two, but not so many as they have where you are.”

Giulio A. Cavallo, the chairman of the Westchester County Independence Party, is a colonel.

Philip C. Nolan, the Islip town supervisor, is a major. Assemblyman Daniel J. Burling of Wyoming County is a lieutenant colonel. Joseph J. Maltese, a State Supreme Court justice, is a brigadier general.

Members buy their own uniforms, which look like Army uniforms, and pay their own way to events. Clearly, some take their mission more seriously than others.

Guard members assembled for 46 events over the past six months: more than 100 marched in each of two St. Patrick’s Day parades; handfuls attended an emergency preparedness drill in Albany, provided the color guard for a funeral of a fellow guardsman in Flushing or handled security for a veterans’ charity run in Central Park; and one attended a lifesaving course in Cortland, N.Y. Mr. Mondello, the state Republican chairman, said he attended two-week Guard training sessions upstate for “about 10 years in a row,” volunteered at ground zero, and helped write wills for departing soldiers in the National Guard.

“I am proud of the work I have done as a member of the Guard,” he said. “Have some people used it to brush up their résumés? Sure. But most of us, believe it or not, are principled guys who believe in helping our country to be prepared.”

On May 6, when 30 Guard members provided music and speakers at a service in front of the veterans’ memorial at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Westchester, the only elected official among them was Stephen A. Bucaria, a State Supreme Court justice who is a Guard brigadier general and coordinator of pro bono legal services.

“We don’t do some of the things that are the most thrilling examples of what soldiers do,” he explained to about 50 onlookers of the Guard volunteers in their green camouflage uniforms. “We just do what we are called upon to do to make our state and country a safer place.”

Then, with cherry blossom petals whipping by in the morning breeze, the band of the New York Guard played a heartfelt and brassy rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
- - -
This Just In: Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray, has been promoted to Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, New York Guard, Hempstead Division. Quick. Sound the retreat. . .

You, too, can join the New York Guard. WWI may be over -- for some -- but in New York State, and certainly on Long Island, the battles in the trenches wage on!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Civic Associations Of The World Unite?

You Bet!

Every so often, a light bulb goes off over the head of a local civic leader.

"Hey. We have common problems. We air the same grievances. We've got a common cause in the improvement of community. Why not join forces in such mutual aid? Why not an umbrella organization to demonstrate our strength in numbers?"

Such was the thought process behind such organizations as the Nassau County Civic Association, the Tri-Community Alliance (predecessor in interest to The Community Alliance), and the latest in a long line of civic umbrella groups to take the plunge into the turbid waters of community building, the Town of Hempstead Civic Council.

The latter's entry into the fray to better our lot evolves out of the North Bellmore Civic Association, and, more particularly, from a need to stem the tide of so-called "McMansions" as have sprung up over the last decade in the Town of Hempstead. A return to a more reasoned -- and sane -- zoning policy, and, if the group can save a few trees in the process, all the better.

So far, the Town of Hempstead Civic Council is off to an auspicious start. Only in its infancy, the organization, fueled by public sentiment, an experienced, battle-tested leadership, and Town officials grasping at anything in sight, trying to hold on to what little credibility they have left, has already secured a short-term moratorium on new building in the Town of Hempstead.

Possible shortcomings of any outgrowth of this ephemeral moratorium aside, should other civic and community groups in the Town of Hempstead sign on, leaving aside provincial distinctions, parochial partisanships, and, perhaps, philosophical differences? Absolutely.

After all, that's what The Community Alliance is all about, and when it comes to promoting the quality of life of our community as a whole, well, the more the merrier.

We wanted to say something profound here, the "whys" and "wherefores" of banding together as a focused, if not single-minded force.

Searching the archives, this blogger came upon the text of a speech delivered at an early 2004 meeting of the Tri-Community Alliance by one of its founding fathers, Seth Bykofsky, who is a former president of the West Hempstead Civic Association, and, until recently, co-chair of The Community Alliance.

We are republishing this address here, in its entirety (and with apologies to Seth for, not unwittingly, thrusting him into the limelight once again), because, as you will no doubt concur, we couldn't have said it better ourselves.

The time to band together, to work together, to take back our town together, is upon us.

There truly is no community without unity!
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Why Civic Associations Need To Cooperate With Each Other

A couple of years ago, speaking before a local civic association in Franklin Square, I was asked, by several of those in attendance, "Why do we need to work together to improve our community?" I was taken aback for a second. I assumed, after all, that it would be intuitive. "Strength in numbers. Speak with one, unified voice. Our problems are your problems." Of course, after a few minutes of that 'deer in the headlights' stare, I realized that I wasn't quite hitting the mark. Just as all politics is local, most issues confronted on the "community" level - whether related to code enforcement, business district revitalization, or the clean up of a pond or an abandoned lot - are perceived as local, the province of this or that civic group. "You want to come here and help us? Why?" Suspicious thoughts as "outsiders" are looked upon as unwelcome interlopers. "You stay in West Hempstead and worry about the Courtesy. We'll handle our own problems, thank you very much." Community is, indeed, sacrosanct.

Not long ago, when a Tri-Community Summit was first proposed, a local civic leader told me that he thought such a conclave would be a great idea, but "don't expect too much. They (the civic and business leaders) are like warlords. Very territorial. They are quite protective of their own turf." For a moment I felt as if I had left the security of Elmont, Franklin Square and West Hempstead for the uncertainty of the Afghan frontier. Have we not learned, in this enlightened society, that such divisiveness breeds only destruction? Have we not come to see, after years of life under the fiefdoms and the "clubs," that the real and beneficial changes come - if at all - only when the entirety stands as one? "Yes," I thought. "The whole must be greater than the sum of all of its parts." Silly me.

As I pore over the papers indigenous to each locale - The Elmont Herald, The Franklin Square Bulletin, The West Hempstead Beacon - I sense a common appeal. "Join your civic association. Band together to fight the evils of community. Together, we can make a difference." No less vivid is the call to action, echoed by each group with mounting fervor. "Fight the illegal rentals. Demand greater code enforcement. Bring business back to 'Main Street.'" And yet, this seemingly single mindset, placing us, definitively, on the right track, is often drowned out by the chorus of civic voices. Nowhere is this more evident than in the pages of our tri-community periodicals, The Herald of Elmont, Franklin Square and West Hempstead and The Three Village Times, where the many voices of community come together, if but on paper alone, only to fade into the background without significant impact.

The message of community is often lost in the din. What need be a common voice of the people, a concert in harmony, is, more often than not, singular sound bites from one group or another. The noise, while appropriate and necessary, is but chatter lost in the cosmos. Sure, as "local" organizations, we hold our own. We manage, after long and protracted battle, to close down the after-hours clubs on the Turnpike. We muster the energy to fight the mega gas stations and the car washes. We are most proficient in the piecemeal salvation of the trees, even as much of the forest is forever taken from us. In the more "global" arena, however, in attempting to address the issues that touch all of us, we make few inroads, and see little appreciable progress. Yes, we are on the right track. We must acknowledge, nevertheless, that even those on the right track are going to get hit by that train if they just stand still!

That quality of life which we value, that which we speak of longingly, is what our civic and business organizations most want to preserve and enhance. And yet, it is that very quality of life, that vision of suburbia, which, despite our best efforts and noble intentions, continues to slip away. Illegal accessory apartments proliferate. The condition of our "downtowns" deteriorates. Property taxes rise and aggravate. Elected officials promise to ameliorate. The suburban landscape so cherished, but for the occasional tree we are able to save, erodes before our eyes.

We live, or so it appears, in a dual society. Call it the two Americas, the two Counties, or, for that matter, the two Townships. One is of the privileged; those who seem to get everything they want, often without ever having to ask. The other - and I fear we on the south shore of Long Island, in general, and in the unincorporated areas of the Town, in particular, fall squarely in this category - is of the forgotten.

The forgotten are asked to bear the burdens and endure the hardships, to accept substandard services delivered at exorbitant expense, to witness the intrusion of urban ills, to be content with sprawl and decay, and, above all, to be patient. The forgotten are asked to wait for their roads to be paved, their parks to be maintained, their streets to be cleaned. The forgotten are told, "It won't happen overnight. The wheels turn slowly. We're on your side." The years go by. The names and faces change - and sometimes they don't - and here we stand, amidst the decline of the Turnpike, the Avenue and the Road - forgotten.

The question asked is no longer, "Should we work together?" but rather, "How can we work together effectively to bring about positive change in our collective community?" It is no longer a matter of "talk and walk" with our elected officials, but instead, a call to engage in a true partnership, with all levels of government, to cooperatively and decisively tackle the problems that we share.

The privileged have the time to wait, though they rarely have to. The forgotten, on the other hand, have little time before their voices are silenced, before they are overwhelmed by the insurmountable. The privileged have their special interest groups, their highly paid lobbyists, their monied Political Action Committees. And the forgotten? Well, we have the Tri-Community Alliance to make certain that we're all working together, that our collective voice is heard, that, ultimately, we are successful in getting the job done!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Trump"ing Nassau County Parks

Parks Group Sounds Off On Park Operations

Nassau County, You’re Fired!”
By Bruce Piel
Chairman, Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)

Nassau County, which was established over 100 years ago, included a government designed to provide and improve basic services for its residents. In the last decade that government has become a joke. The county for all intents and purposes is rudderless and spends more time avoiding its responsibilities than meeting them. Perhaps it is time to dissolve the current county government and develop an alternate plan to meet the needs of its citizenry.

After successfully promoting a $100 million dollar bond issue to acquire and improve parklands, Nassau is opting to give most of their parks away. Instead of maintaining and improving county roads, Nassau again proposes to give their roads to the towns. Instead of providing a first class county hospital for all its citizens especially the indigent, the county divested itself of the Nassau University Medical Center by abandoned it to a newly created public corporation and walking away. Two major sewage treatment plants have been allowed to deteriorate through neglect and deliberate under manning. Police protection has been compromised by alienating the professional police officers who provide out security. The list goes on and on.

Our county legislature, through internal warfare, has become an embarrassment. Fights over leadership positions and censuring members for voting on behalf of their constituents instead of along party lines have brought the business of that body to a dysfunctional crawl.

Instead of providing quality day to day services, Nassau government concerns itself with issues like raising cigarette taxes and outlawing trans-fats from hamburgers. This is intolerable. It is time for taxpayers to demand a radical change.

Imagine the tax moneys saved by dissolving the current county government and turning over its functions and responsibilities to the Towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay . Actually, based on populations and size these entities could become counties in their own right. All Nassau facilities and services could be divided based on the geographical boundaries to the 3 towns. Regional services such as sewer treatment could be turned over to NY State. Nassau Police could either be divided up and managed by each town or merged into the State Police. Reduction or elimination of duplicate services between the county and town would represent a substantial tax savings to all residents.

Our initial reaction to the transfer of county parks was to fight such foolish, politically self serving acts that would only deprive county residents of the parks they paid for and incur additional costs to the receiving town’s residents. But on reflection, this might herald the solution to this dysfunctional county government. It is time for all taxpayers in Nassau to say Nassau County, You’re Fired!

Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh, NY 11793
(516) 783-8378
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A bit of partisan flailing, do you think? Do you mean to say that county government during the preceding Gulotta years wasn't "a joke?" Sure. And the joke was on us!

As for our illustrious County Legislature, yeah, it is an embarrassment. Still, does anyone remember the county's Board of Supervisors?

The thought of turning additional government functions over to the local townships, where efficiency is nonexistent and control all but disavowed -- why, even parks are managed as "special taxing districts" -- well, just don't get us started. [We are conjuring up images of Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, pitchfork in hand, digging up the flower beds at our local parks, and rezoning them for illegal accessory apartments.]

Yes, we all want to know what happened to that $100 million dollar environmental bond -- and the $50 million dollar bond before that -- but labeling county government as dysfunctional, and turning matters over to the lunatics who've been running the asylum at the State and in our townships, is clearly not the answer.
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