Monday, March 31, 2008

Congestive Pricing Failure

Why Long Islanders See Plan As Throwing Them Under The Bus

And Why The Community Alliance Advocates Public Transit, Bicycling, And Walking

This blogger travels into Manhattan -- what Long Islanders call "The City" -- regularly, and mostly, by LIRR and subway.

The mass transit route is, to me, convenient, and Manhattan itself, for the most part, walkable, at best, and a short subway ride to any point, at worst.

So why do Long Islanders look with disdain at the proposed Congestion Pricing Plan, advocated by Mayor Bloomberg and supported by Governor Paterson?

Yes, its the added cost of having to pay what is, in effect, a tax for driving below or above certain streets, this on top of high prices at the pump and rising tolls. And with many middle class Long Islanders now turning to food pantries in these economically depressed times, do we need to add to the financial burden?

But more than this, it is the psychological hit of separation anxiety -- that which distances the Long Islander from his beloved automobile.

Perhaps if Long Island had a workable, efficient, and reliable system of mass transit, or even walkable communities built around transportation hubs, where LIers weren't forced into their cars to buy a quart of milk, take out a book from the "local" library, or get to the railroad station, we'd be at least somewhat amenable, and perhaps more accepting of a plan that compels us to leave the car at home.

Once we're in the car -- and we do love our cars, $3.55 a gallon gas, rising tolls, and poorly maintained roads with ill-advised street signs notwithstanding -- woe to the wicked who try to pry us out.

We'll sit in traffic, battle the fumes, leave behind a carbon footprint the size of what was once the polar ice cap, but please, dare not tell us we can't drive into the city.

And drive Long Islanders will, Congestion Pricing or not.

Sure, some may leave their cars in the garage -- or at the curb, paying no heed to street sweeping days -- bowing to the pressure on the wallet, if not to a cleaner, safer, less crowded midtown Manhattan, but most, even if begrudgingly, would rather pay the price than switch to mass transit (which, here on Long Island, is, alas, virtually nonexistent).

Of course, most Long Islanders haven't exactly rushed to the side of advocates for improved mass transit, alternatives such as light rail and bus rapid transit, even in the limited area designated to serve the Nassau "hub", having met with indifference, if not outright resistance.

And, if we're already in the car to go to the station, well...

The mindset of Long Islanders -- too often narrowed by a myopic and unrealistic vision of suburbia -- calls for the next fifty years to be much like the first: An era (or is it, error?) of cars (lots of cars), corralled around single-family houses with white picket fences (and illegal basement apartments), in low density, mall-centric, Smart Growth-challenged communities. And did we mention cars?

As for Congestion Pricing, well, we, at The Community Alliance, support the idea, sneers, jeers and looks askance aside.

A Greener, Greater New York benefits every one of us.

We've blogged -- some would say, "ad nauseum" -- on the issues of sustainability, walkable communities, Smart Growth, and the elimination of suburban sprawl as a precursor of brownfields and the destruction of Long Islanders' sense of place, the very essence of community. Isn't it time we hit the pavement with our feet, rather than with rubber?

In theory, Congestion Pricing is good for the environment, creates a more livable, maneuverable, manageable city center, and clears the streets of the dreaded automobile, the great consumer of fossil fuels and, in many respects, that insular chamber of isolation that separates every man, woman, and backseat child (buckle up!) from the one thing that should hold us all together -- community.
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From the Newsday Editorial Page:

The federal government has to get smarter about encouraging metropolitan areas to be more competitive in this global economy. That was a key message of a Brookings Institution presentation at a conference yesterday at Hofstra's National Center for Suburban Studies.

In New York City and Albany, lawmakers have a chance to take advantage of just such a smart federal incentive for innovation, offered by the Department of Transportation. All New York has to do to get $354 million from the feds is to adopt a congestion-pricing plan. It would reduce traffic delays and pollution by making motorists pay a fee to enter Manhattan's central business district in its busiest hours. The fees would generate nearly $500 million a year to upgrade mass transit in the city, on Long Island, and elsewhere in the region.

But the clock is ticking. The City of New York had thought it had until March 31, but the feds helpfully pointed out recently that the actual date is April 7. And it really is a drop-dead deadline - far more inflexible than the traditional April 1 date for passing the state budget. This is too good a deal to lose. As Brookings correctly argues, our national ability to compete rests on the vitality of metropolitan areas like New York. And we need congestion pricing to thrive.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has advocated well for the plan, which is an alternative that a state commission produced after studying his original version. Gov. David Paterson has embraced it, and it's working its way through the State Legislature. It's time to iron out the few remaining kinks and get agreement between the two houses, and for the City Council to formally ask Albany to pass the bill.

That's a lot of work. Meanwhile: tick, tick, tick.
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What are YOUR thoughts on Congestion Pricing? Are you willing to leave the car at home, or pay the price for driving into Manhattan?

And will that $354 million from the feds -- as well as all the monies generated by drivers who ante up $8 or $9 per car as the price of admission -- actually find its way to mass transit, or be diverted elsewhere, as with past funding, "earmarked" for mass transit, but diverted to other projects?

Post your comments to this blogpost and, by all means, write us at

Friday, March 28, 2008

Town Of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Offers E-z Reminder Service

E-Mail Service To Help Taxpayers Avoid Late Payments

If there's two things in life that are guaranteed -- death and taxes -- we all know which of the two is more frightening, especially here on Long Island.

TAXES, of course!

And if you should ever find yourself stranded on a desert island -- long or otherwise -- you can be assured that one of two people (or both) are guaranteed to find you -- the County's Assessor of Taxes and the Town's Receiver of Taxes.

As concerns the latter, Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes, Donald X. Clavin, Jr., is trying to ease the homeowners' burden, if not by reducing taxes (yes, we know. The Town does not set either the assessment or the tax rate), then by offering an e-mail reminder service to residents who pay their property taxes directly (not as part of a mortgage payment).

"For the convenience of taxpayers, I am pleased to announce that Hempstead Town offers a tax payment e-mail reminder service," said Receiver Clavin. "E-mail reminders can help you to remember to make your tax payments on time and avoid being assessed a penalty for a late payment."

Once you subscribe to this service, you will receive an e-mail reminder approximately ten days prior to each of the General and School Tax payment due dates, four times each year (on or about Feb. 1, May 1, Aug. 1 and Nov. 1).

You may sign up for this service by visiting the town's website at, clicking on the Receiver of Taxes link button and then scrolling down to the bottom of the page to click on the Payment Reminders link button.

Once you have submitted your e-mail address, you will receive a confirming e-mail. You must open that e-mail and click on the link provided in order to be added to our mailing list. This process ensures that your address will not be added without your consent or knowledge.

Reminders will be sent to your e-mail address whether or not you have already paid your tax bill. You may unsubscribe to this service at any time.

This service is a courtesy only; the Receiver of Taxes is not responsible for any undelivered e-mails. Property owners are responsible for payment of all tax bills in a timely manner whether or not reminder notices are received.

Payment of your tax bill may also be accomplished online through the Town of Hempstead's website by clicking on the online tax payments link button located on the Receiver of Taxes page.

The Town of Hempstead is committed to preserving your privacy when visiting our website. [In fact, they may disavow your very existence in matters not concerning the collection of taxes. :-)] Your e-mail address is not collected for commercial marketing purposes (Kate Murray will NOT be sending you e-mails, but do check your Junk Mail regularly, just in case LOL) and Hempstead Town does not sell or distribute your e-mail address for any purpose.

"I encourage you to take advantage of this unique service offered by our Receiver of Taxes Office," concluded Receiver Clavin. "The task of paying taxes should be easy and convenient, and the Receiver of Taxes Office is committed to helping taxpayers in any way that it can."
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NOTICE: This concludes the obligation of The Community Alliance blog to say something nice about the Town of Hempstead at least once, annually. We are now good through March, 2009!

Community On A Continuous Loop

Or, If It Seems Like You've Heard This All Before, YOU HAVE!

Last night this blogger attended a civic meeting. It was in West Hempstead, if that matters. May as well have been in Bosnia, for all the sniper fire over head (as in, "Will we be inconvenienced if Hempstead Avenue is reconstructed?" DUH! As if constant flooding and crevices the size of Moon craters haven't been inconveniences lo these many years. Maybe we just ought to scrap the whole project, it being so inconvenient and all).

And if bickering from the peanut gallery wasn't enough, those in attendance had to duck and run for cover lest we be hit by the barrage of rhetorical bullets that flew out of the mouths of elected officials.

What galls me most -- though few others seem to really take notice -- is that we can be told the same thing, year after year, decade after decade, be made the same promises and shown the same drawings, mostly by the same people, and not even bat an eyelash although absolutely nothing -- other than that constant background noise and the always-reinventing of the wheel -- ever happens.

"The Hempstead Avenue Project is in the budget and out for bids."

Hmmm. I recall, sometime in the early 90s, attending a Nassau County scoping session on this project, and then being told, and told again and again, as if an annual rite, "the reconstruction will soon be underway." [Yes, and the Messiah is coming. The only questions being, will He/She be able to make it down Hempstead Avenue? And why the heck would the Messiah want to come to West Hempstead in the first place? Personally, my pick would be West Palm Beach, but that's me. LOL]

But I -- much like the politicos -- digress.

If the Avenue was the only cause for concern; the sole obsession of our dismay.

Consider that pesky Hall's Pond Park restoration. You remember, the repairs and upgrades that were to come -- having long ago been approved -- out of the 2004 Environmental Bond Act.

Oh yeah. That, too, has been sent out to bid (obviously, the County's own Parks Department is incapable of restoring a gazebo to specs, fixing broken railings, and upgrading a million dollar boondoggle of a filtration system that, literally, hasn't worked since the Gulotta administration).

And this bid isn't for actual work, mind you. Its for DESIGN.

Sure, more artists renderings for us to ponder, comment upon, and hold up to the light, as Hall's Pond Park falls further into disrepair.

But look, they're working on it.

From County Execs on magical, mystery economic development bus tours (only the fares have changed), to Town Supervisors' photo-laden mailings attesting to the benefits of sunscreen, the talk, if not cheap (we have the tax bills to prove it), is, at least plentiful.

As for the substantive stuff -- the nuts and bolts of what it takes to actually take a project from drawing board to the street -- well, what can we say? They're working on it!

Never seems to bother us -- or enough of us -- that they've been "working on it" (whatever that "it" may be -- in West Hempstead, its reconstructing the Avenue; restoring Hall's Pond Park; closing the infamous Courtesy) since time immemorial (or since Magellan first set out to circumvent the globe. You choose). Good government takes time. [So what's these guys' excuse?]

Sure, they have to study it, think about it, prepare an RFP, convert it to a PDF, obtain the opinion of counsel, create a special taxing district, and then add a pinch of community dissent to give these seemingly simple projects an air of "local control." And then, well, "We had no money, have no money, don't plan on seeing any money. Now, about those raises..."

Build roads and bridges in Baghdad? Sure, no problem. Nary a brownfield left for Al-Sadr's army to destroy.

Fix those roads and bridges in Nassau? "Ah, we're working on it." Shades of Coxey's Army when it comes to getting things done in these parts.

My God. if Thomas Edison's inventions had to pass muster of any legislative body -- whether County Legislature or Town Board -- we'd all still be sitting in the dark.

I did like the comments of County Legislator Dave Denenberg, who was gracious enough to speak at the West Hempstead gathering as Chair of this legislative committee or that, to the effect that Code enforcement is everything.

From illegal accessory apartments to filthy sidewalks, oversized signs to entire buildings that stand in defiance of code, how difficult is it to actually enforce the law, rather than to turn the other cheek?

Dave, you could have been shouting from the rooftops of Basra rather than speaking to the converted at West Hempstead Middle School. You're one hunderd percent correct. Its Code enforcement, stupid. They hear you. We hear you. Trouble is, no one -- either the elected or the electorate -- is listening.

But hey, give 'em credit. They're working on it.

After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. And word on the street has it that our local elected officials will be rolling out the artist's renderings of the Coliseum (Rome's, not Nassau's) any day now.

Cue the balloons, and alert the Zoning Board.
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So, what are they "working on" in your community? Write us at We'd all like to know.

To Close NY's Budget Gap, Tax Trump

Or At Least Insist That Millionaires Pay Their Fair Share

If you think the Donald should rant less about his money and pay more of it into the State's coffers, raise your hands.

As we suspected.

This blog post isn't about Donald Trump -- we've said enough about his antics here, and, frankly, would be delighted if we saw less of what his money can buy, at Jones Beach, and elsewhere on our Long Island -- but it is about tax dollars, the budget gap, and the burgeoning State deficit (which we can't blame on Trump, as we can on those who have spent our money as if it literally grew on trees).

As New York's April 1st budget deadline looms (anybody want to take bets?), the question becomes, "how do we cut spending without eliminating services or scaling back on much needed aid to health care, education, and basic quality of life concerns?"

One group -- New Yorkers For Fiscal Fairness -- has a few ideas. You've heard the radio spots. Now, perhaps, its time to take a closer look.

One proposal that's been bantered about but never seems to grab hold (probably because those who make the decisions too often fall into this privileged class) -- Tax the millionaires to keep the ship afloat and save the fiscally overburdened working and middle classes.

Now, we don't think for a minute that The Donald would take a hankering to paying more in taxes -- or at least his fair share -- but hey, haven't the rest of us, sans the benefit of tax loopholes and the capacity to set up off-shore accounts, been carrying these folks for far too long (and paying proportionately more of our incomes than the wealthy as our share of the tax burden)?

We think so.

What follows are a few of the recommendations set forth by New Yorkers For Fiscal Equity.

Mind you, we, at The Community Alliance, do not necessarily endorse any or all of the espoused positions, but surely, at least a few of them are most worthy of the Legislature's and the Governor's consideration.

Who could argue, after all, that New Yorkers wouldn't benefit from competitive drug pricing or a bigger, better bottle bill?

And if the adoption of any of the suggested remedies should lead to The Donald having to shed a few more of his many beloved dollars in favor of the people of the State of New York, well, we can certainly live with that.
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From New Yorkers For Fiscal Fairness:

To grow New York’s economy we must invest in New York’s working families.

A healthy state economy requires well-educated New Yorkers, safe communities, affordable health care, affordable housing and a sound transportation infrastructure.

In recent decades, state budget policies have placed increasing pressure on local property taxes and local sales taxes.

And the state government then came to the rescue with a program that provides rebate checks to all homeowners, regardless of need, and not enough to those who are truly overburdened by the increases in local taxes.

The Governor and the Legislature must work together to ensure that the 2008-09 state budget is fair to New York’s families by balancing the state budget in an equitable manner that makes the state tax system fairer and begins to actually reduce the pressure on the local property and sales tax bases rather than shifting more of the tax burden onto the backs of low and middle income New Yorkers.

We can promote tax fairness, strengthen local economies and help struggling families by:
Creating a Tax System that is FAIR to all New Yorkers: The wealthiest New Yorkers’ pay a much smaller percentage of their incomes in state and local taxes than low and middle income working families. Seniors on fixed incomes, working families and young couples are among the New Yorkers who suffer from the inequities in the current state-local tax structure. New York’s policymakers must take the pressure off the property tax by restoring some of the income tax system’s lost progressivity and closing corporate tax loopholes that allow some of the nation’s largest corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Strengthening Local Communities:
Rather than putting increased pressure on the local property and sales tax bases and then providing “relief” to local taxpayers in the form of state rebate checks, New York State policymakers must work together to reduce the pressure on local property and sales tax bases by restoring the state’s commitment to “revenue sharing” with its local governments and having the state government take over a greater share of local education and healthcare costs. And the state’s STAR programs must be targeted to provide adequate relief to those families that are most in need.

It’s time for New York State to end the special treatment of the favored few by:

-Closing loopholes that allow large, profitable corporations to avoid paying their fair share of state taxes.

-Stopping sweetheart deals with high-priced consultants who are being overpaid to do jobs that state workers can do better and cheaper.

-Lowering drug prices for state and local governments by using New York’s purchasing power to get a fair deal from the drug companies.

-Reforming economic development programs by improving the effectiveness and accountability of Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs), the Brownfield Clean Up Program (BCP) and the Empire Zones program.

-Enacting the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill and making the beverage bottling industry return unclaimed bottle deposits.

-Making New York's tax system fairer and more equitable by increasing the top marginal tax rates on the highest income households.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

News12 To Broadcast March 27th Broadwater Town Hall Meeting

Be A Part Of The Action To Stop Broadwater

From our good friends at Citizens Campaign for the Environment:

Live News 12 Broadwater Town Hall Meeting this Thursday, March 27th!


7:00- 8:30PM at the Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville.

Please email to let us know you’ll be there. This event will be huge and only a couple of weeks before Governor Paterson's decision, so we need to make sure we fill the room. We hope you can join us!

Thursday, March 27, 7:00 to 8:30 PM - Please arrive by 6:30PM so that you can be seated before the live broadcast begins. Since it is a live broadcast, you may not be able to come in after 7:00pm.

Brookhaven Town Hall
One Independence Hill
Farmingville, NY 11738

Thank you for your action. Together we make a difference.
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Click HERE to watch the YouTube video!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dinosaurs That Refuse To Die

And The Jurassic Park Mentality That Gives Rise To Health Insurance For The Dead

The Special District Commissioners say, "It ain't broken, so don't fix it."

State Senators, who have legislation before them that would end pay and benefits to Special District Commissioners, say, "Wait and see."

And, Kate Murray, Supervisor for the Town of Hempstead -- the Special District capital of the world -- says, "The State shouldn't tell the Town what to do." [No, of course not. Only the Town of Hempstead, which espouses no control over anything, can tell everyone else -- from the County on Assessments to the public on what is best for their own communities -- what to do.]

Does anyone really care what the taxpayer has to say?

There's only one reason to keep the Special Districts -- Frankenstein monsters all -- alive. PATRONAGE, as an age-old means of keeping a stranglehold on power.

Enough with the talk, the stalling, the balking, and the politics as usual that empties homeowners' pockets and signifies nothing.

The time has come for the Special taxing Districts and their tax-dollar sucking cadre to go, and for those who are elected to represent the taxpayers to do just that -- REPRESENT US!
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From The New York Times:

A Skeptical New Look at Special Tax Districts

BEING dead was no obstacle to receiving health benefits from Hempstead Sanitary District No. 1 in Lawrence, one of 24 special sanitation districts in the Town of Hempstead.

An audit by the state comptroller’s office last year found that the district, which picks up garbage in the Five Towns area and parts of Valley Stream, continued to pay health insurance premiums for a former employee for three years after the employee’s death — in all more, than $16,000.

That is small change compared with tax increases that some fire districts have been seeking for new firehouses.

But taxpayers, weary of paying hefty property tax bills during tough economic times, are beginning to send loud messages that enough is enough.

Last week, taxpayers in Lindenhurst rejected a request for a $7.5 million bond to build a new firehouse. A few days before, voters in Setauket overwhelming defeated a $12. 9 million bond issue.

And local officials are beginning to hear from taxpayers that they want more accountability for special districts of all description, including sanitary, water and library districts and even once-sacrosanct volunteer fire departments.

For homeowners in Setauket, the cost of the fire district bond that they rejected on March 11 would have been about $88 a year in additional taxes for the average homeowner over 25 years. In Lindenhurst, the $7.5 million fire district bond would have cost the average homeowner nearly $60 a year for 20 years.

“There was a time when these districts operated under the radar and people who were happy with the services didn’t care what was going on,” said Howard S. Weitzman, the Nassau County comptroller, whose audits of sanitation and water districts beginning in 2005 touched off calls for reform. “But that’s over.”

There are some 340 special districts in Nassau and Suffolk Counties providing garbage collection, water, fire protection and library services — a bewildering array of subgovernments with direct access to the public’s pocketbook. The district’s commissioners are elected in low-turnout and often uncontested elections in what Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, has called a crazy quilt of election dates.

Special district taxes show up on property tax bills and, particularly in Nassau, are part of the reason property taxes on the Island are among the highest in the country. Special districts cost Nassau homeowners an average of $946 in property taxes and Suffolk homeowners an average of $512, the state comptroller’s office said in December.

Mr. Suozzi has sought a plan for consolidating or eliminating special districts; his Suffolk County counterpart, Steve Levy, asked the Long Island Regional Planning Board to study how special districts could be consolidated. And State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli proposed measures to make special districts more accountable.

Meanwhile, the Weitzman audits have detailed dozens of examples of what they called questionable payments, lax accounting, lavish pay and benefits, political cronyism and nepotism in some sanitation and water districts that cost taxpayers millions. (The audits did not include fire districts.)

There is often minimal public involvement in the decisions to spend money in the special districts. For example, a tiny fraction of eligible voters in the Riverhead Fire District, which covers about 21,500 residents, approved, by a 393-to-117 vote, a $14.7 million bond last March to build a new firehouse.

The 43,000-square-foot, 12-bay firehouse, which is now under construction to serve a department of 220, is nearly three times the size of the current firehouse. The average Riverhead homeowner will pay about $85 extra a year for 20 years for the firehouse, which the district said was necessary to house larger trucks and equipment and improve fire safety.

Mr. Weitzman’s office said that the more than 200 commissioner-run special districts in Nassau alone levied more than $491 million in property taxes last year, and the figure does not include fees paid to water districts. In Suffolk, the property tax levy from special districts was $169.5 million, said the governor’s office, which estimated that other New York counties levy an average of $7.7 million.

Nassau leads the state in the number of paid, benefits-collecting commissioners in sanitary and water districts. They typically receive $80 to $100 for meetings but also health insurance, including for family members, and credit toward state pensions.

Payrolls, per diem payments, benefits, trips and new firehouses are now all under scrutiny, and major changes could come as soon as April 1.

That is the earliest date for adoption of the 2008 state budget, which includes proposals by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer to end pay and benefits for special district commissioners, encourage towns like Hempstead to take over sanitation districts and make it easier for voters to dissolve high-tax fire districts.

With Mr. Spitzer’s resignation, the prospects for his proposed changes became uncertain. The new governor, David A. Paterson, who grew up in Hempstead, has pledged to carry forward Mr. Spitzer’s broader reform agenda.

But two Republican state senators from Nassau County said any changes in special districts on Long Island should await a full debate after a report due April 15 from the State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, which Mr. Spitzer created.

“This is going to take some analysis,” said State Senator Carl L. Marcellino, a Republican of Oyster Bay. “Why don’t we just wait for the report?” A spokesman for State Senator Dean G. Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Centre who is the Senate deputy majority leader, said Mr. Skelos also wanted to wait for the report.

Mr. Weitzman, a Democrat from Great Neck Estates and a member of the commission, said special district reforms in the Spitzer budget had been recommended by the commission and would be in the report.

Laura K. Mallay of South Hempstead, executive director of Residents for Efficient Special Districts, said the group would campaign for special district changes even if the Spitzer proposals faltered. “There are definitely solutions out there,” she said. “The problem is not that people don’t care, it’s that they don’t know, and our goal is to make sure every taxpayer on Long Island knows.”

Mr. Weitzman said that under the commission’s recommendations, the greatest savings would be in Hempstead, where a town takeover of garbage collection in special districts would save taxpayers about $18 million a year, or $168 for an average household.

Kate Murray, a Republican who is the Hempstead supervisor, has said she opposes any state effort to force the town to take over from the districts, said Michael Deery, a town spokesman.

“We don’t think state government should impose the governor’s will on the people,” Mr. Deery said. He said there had been no outpouring of sentiment from residents in special garbage districts asking for the town to take over collection.

Water and fire districts are also opposing the changes Mr. Spitzer proposed.

“Why are we going to fix something that is not broken?” said Karl Schweitzer, a commissioner of the Hicksville Water District.

Mr. Schweitzer said he collected about $8,200 last year for attending district meetings. Mr. Weitzman’s office, which found overspending in the district in a 2007 audit, said Mr. Schweitzer received more than $26,000 in health and dental benefits in 2004 and 2005, the years the audit covered.

Earlier this month, in a broadening of the special district inquiry, Mr. Weitzman said his office would review hiring practices for lawyers, accountants and consultants in 44 commissioner-run special districts in Nassau, including five library districts. Mr. Weitzman said he would share his findings with Andrew M. Cuomo, the state attorney general, who is conducting a similar investigation statewide.

The inquiries follow reports in Newsday about five school districts classifying an outside lawyer, Lawrence Reich, as a payroll employee, enabling him to qualify for employee benefits including a state pension. The state comptroller’s office issued an opinion that Mr. Reich should repay pension money he had collected since September 2006.

Reports of the practice prompted investigations by Mr. Cuomo, the Internal Revenue Service and the F.B.I. A spokesman for the Nassau district attorney’s office, Eric Phillips, said there were active investigations by that office into several special districts.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Friday, March 21, 2008

Feds Give OK To "Fraudwater"

Shell Can Rejoice At Latest Blunder Of Bush Administration

It is official, folks.

The Federal Energy Regurgitory Commission (FERC) has given final approval for the natural gas boondoggle formally known as Broadwater, a move that, should this project come to fruition, would undoubtedly make FEMA's screw ups in the gulf coast look like child's play.

Yes, the wink and nod approval of the very people who, once they leave office (which won't be soon enough, as far as we're concerned), will be getting hefty paychecks from Shell, Exxon-Mobil, and the other gas and oil conglomerates that have made profiteers like Dick Cheney and George Bush very, very wealthy men.

So what if we foul up the environment?

Who cares about placing a bull's eye in the middle of Long Island Sound?

Never mind the conflagration that would follow an accident, the proportions of which could make Long Island the next Three Mile Island, or worse yet, Chernobyl.

What does public opinion matter, anyway?

Its all right. We have the assurances of the United States government, after all.

Yes, the same morons (and we use that word meaning no disrespect to morons everywhere) who brought you the invasion of Iraq, the collapse of the dollar, and with it, the American economy, leave every child behind, and a national debt that your great-great-great-great grandchildren will still be paying off.

"On Monday," writes Newsday, "Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell wrote to Kelliher asking him to postpone the commission vote until Paterson makes a decision. Asked about that Thursday, (FERC Commissioner) Kelliher said he would write to Rell and added,'I didn't realize she had that level of concern for New York and New Yorkers.'"

Arrogance and ignorance from FERC, typical of an administration that has lied and blundered its way through the past 7 1/2 years.

Yes, we need the energy. No, we do not need the ticking time bomb posed by a floating powder keg, endangering life, property, and our precious Long Island Sound, which, as a practical matter, is likely to produce little in the way of savings to local ratepayers.

Dick Cheney and his friends at FERC may not care about the court of public opinion. Let's hope Governor Paterson will.

We urge NY Governor David Paterson to say NO to Broadwater, and New Yorkers to contact their State Legislators to register their opposition to what has rightfully been called "Fraudwater."
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From Newsday:

Feds OK Broadwater gas barge for LI Sound

Approving the Broadwater liquefied natural gas barge Thursday, federal energy regulators took swipes at political leaders in New York and Connecticut who want to keep it out of the Long Island Sound and tossed a hot potato directly into the lap of newly-minted Gov. David Paterson, whose administration can approve or kill it.

The unanimous decision by the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission came with more than 80 stipulations that Broadwater must take to reduce the environmental and safety impacts of what would be the nation's first floating liquefied natural gas processing plant.

"Our environmental review shows that without increased natural gas supplies in the region, consumers will experience higher prices and reduced reliability of natural gas supply," commission Chairman Joseph Kelliher said in a statement before the vote. "That is certainly the case on Long Island and in New York City and Connecticut."

He also said that local political leaders opposing Broadwater -- a long list, but none of whom he named -- "have chosen to exploit and inflame public fears," adding, "these public officials have done a great disservice to the citizens of the region, which is regrettable."

Primary responsibility for approval of the giant barge rests with the commission -- there is no appeal process, except the courts -- but the proposed site in New York waters allows any of three state agencies to block it. Former governor Eliot Spitzer was to have decided by April 12 whether state permits should be issued. But Paterson said on March 13 he might postpone a decision for further study.

The state environmental conservation department is to consider air and water quality impacts, and the state Department of State would determine whether the project conforms to federal coastal zone protection guidelines. The state Office of General Services has to agree to lease the Sound bottomland to Broadwater.

Citizens Campaign Executive Director Adrienne Esposito, a leading Broadwater opponent, said any delay by Paterson will be brief and that he could take the matter up as early as next week. "The [state] agencies have reviewed this for three years and a new governor doesn't really change the way this project does or does not conform to state and federal laws," said Esposito, who had talks this week with Paterson environmental officials.

On Monday, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell wrote to Kelliher asking him to postpone the commission vote until Paterson makes a decision. Asked about that Thursday, Kelliher said he would write to Rell and added, "I didn't realize she had that level of concern for New York and New Yorkers."

Rell didn't comment on that yesterday but in a statement said, "FERC's decision is ... an insult to the people of Connecticut and New York, a discourtesy to [Paterson] -- who has been in office less than a week -- and an assault on the most precious environmental asset our two states possess: the reinvigorated Long Island Sound."

Broadwater Energy, a partnership between Shell and TransCanada that wants to site the 1,200-by-200-foot floating plant about nine miles north of Wading River, said after the commission vote, "Without new energy supply, energy consumers will continue to face volatile and increasing natural gas prices in New York and Connecticut."

Gary Hale, a Broadwater lobbyist in Connecticut, said project delays are expected, saying opponents "will probably appeal this in the courts."The developers, and business groups and labor unions who support it say the project would help mitigate rising energy prices and create jobs. But politicians and environmentalists on both sides of the Sound say it would decimate local fisheries and ecosystems, mar the visual landscape and present an easy target for terrorists.

If New York approves the project, opponents can seek to block it in court and both Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal have said they might go that route.

"I will fight this project at every agency and in every court up to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. Next stop: the D.C. Court of Appeals," Blumenthal said yesterday. "The battle has just begun."

Through a spokesman, Levy said, "We will continue to look to the governor to intercede. As far as a potential lawsuit goes, we are keeping our options open."

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

Out Of Blight, The Promise Of A Revitalized Downtown

If They Can Do It In Patchogue, Why Not Hempstead Town?

The Incorporated Village of Patchogue, in Suffolk County, Town of Brookhaven, is poised to make a great comeback, its blighted downtown and broken Main Street not the vacant talk of revitaliztion -- so familiar to those of us who hail from Nassau County's forgotten South Shore (read as, the Town of Hempstead) -- but rather, the shovel-into-the-dirt kind of action that has brought the forces of village, county, town and private industry together to rebuild, re-energize, and re-create the suburban vision.

One project alone, in the hands and under the moniker of Downtown Patchogue Redevelopers, is "in the process of developing a mixed-use project which will include 250 rental apartment units, 32,000 sf of ground floor retail, 32,000 sf of second floor office and a 100 room limited service hotel."

Patchogue, no stranger to blight, brownfield, and the dismay of a downtown whose best day was thirty years ago, is fast becoming the little village (population, 11,500) that could. And Brookhaven, long associated with political corruption ("Crookhaven") and governmental malaise, is now taking a strident lead in bringing smart growth initiatives to the streets of its villages and hamlets.

They seem to have lost the fear of building vertically, of increasing density, of actually acquiescing to the will of the people (imagine that), demonstrating that a representative government, obliged to do more than offer broad platitudes and broken promises -- the stuff that the Town of Hempstead's faded "artists renderings" and hapless Urban Renewal Plans are made of --can actually accomplish something for the good of the community, and in this lifetime.

As Patchogue has taken the lead, we say that other municipalities, townships, and the county to the west should pull up their bootstraps, round up the wagons, and follow.

This little village along the shores of the Great South Bay is on the rise once again. [Why, it even has its own blog --]

And what they're doing -- and, apparently, doing well -- in Patchogue should serve as impetus for others -- especially those who preside ("govern" would be a misnomer) over America's largest township -- to take heed and, yes, take action.

The road ahead may not always be easy, or, for that matter, smooth, but at least the governed and those who govern have begun the journey. Well, in Patchogue, anyway.

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From the Editorial Page of Newsday:

Solidarity in Patchogue
This unopposed election is a good sign

On the theory that people should have choices at the polls, this page normally frowns on uncontested elections. On Tuesday, however, Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri and the three trustees running on his Patchogue First ticket won re-election without opposition, and we're fine with that.

The reason it doesn't rankle is that Pontieri and his village board have been leading the way as a model for the revitalization of Long Island's downtowns, conquering even the suburban fear of taller structures. Their plans for shops, hotel rooms and residences at the village's main corner, anchored by a building as high as nine stories, would provoke outrage in many parts of Long Island. But Pontieri and the board have presented it so surefootedly that objections are scarce.

Patchogue, like all downtowns, has gone through tough times in the era of the suburban mall. Now it's coming back to life. Villagers like that new sense of optimism so much that no opponents surfaced - a first for Patchogue. The mayor says he actually missed the competition. "Elections require you to look at what you did and to answer to the public about what you're going to do," he says. But this year's election shows that the public knows very well what he's going to do - and approves enthusiastically.

The solidarity probably means that, of all the major proposals of regional significance for mixed-use development and downtown revitalization, the rebirth of Patchogue is likely to be the first to cross the finish line.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

"Bay Park Is Not Nassau County's Toilet!"

Of Course Not. Elmont is Nassau County's toilet.

Or was that Roosevelt? Uniondale? West Hempstead? Archstone at Moldbury? Or any of the other unincorporated hamlets that, not conincidentally, just happen to be situated in the Town of Hempstead, America's most blighted township, and Nassau County's largest sewer.

Sure, the sewage stinks at Bay Park. The facility is aged, and perhaps even inadequate. East Rockaway residents have a legitimate gripe about the operation of the plant and the impact of more sewage on the environment and their community, but this shouldn't cloud their minds -- or further dirty the waters -- with respect to the merits of consolidating sewer districts.

As for the remarks of Town of Hempstead Councilman Tony Santino to the effect that the county shouldn't be dumping on Bay Park, he's absolutely correct.

After all, that's the Town of Hempstead's job, to turn the entire township -- the most populous in the nation (probably based upon the number of illegal apartments alone) -- into one, big toilet.

The backhanded, two-faced, self-serving politics engaged in by Tony Santino -- as in "do as the Town says, not as the Town does" -- is not only counterproductive, it downright reeks like the rotting flesh of too many years of single party, demogogic, rule.

Enough, already.

Santino's rant has at its very foundation a stack of misrepresentations, atop a pile of lies, bundled with that strangling twine of falsehoods -- the stuff that Karl Rove (called "the Architect" by the likes of Sean Hannity) built an entire presidency upon -- conjuring up fear among the populace for the sole purpose of garnering votes from the electorate.

Santino purports to tell one community to "stand up and speak out," while, through his votes on the Town Board (typically away from the cameras and out of the public eye), he tells another community to "sit down and shut up." [We're referring to West Hempstead, in this instance, but feel free to substitute the name of your own, trounced upon, hometown.]

This kind of uttter nonsense from Town Hall has to stop, and the mean-spirited, arrogant, and self-righteous officials, who propogate little minds with shallow rhetoric, have to go.

As for Kate Murray, the propogator-in-chief, please remember to flush on your way out, Kate, and for God's sake, put down the seat!
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Click HERE for a look at the Bay Park saga, sans the shrill shrieks from Hempstead Town Hall.
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East Rockaway residents protest sewage treatment plant

At a raucous public meeting last night, East Rockaway residents who live near the Bay Park sewage treatment plant expressed vocal opposition to a Nassau County proposal to divert sewage there from smaller plants.

Speakers complained of odors and pollution in Hempstead Bay, where the Bay Park plant discharges sewage. Residents said the plan would benefit Cedarhurst and Lawrence, whose sewage would flow to Bay Park under the proposal, at the expense of those who live near the plant, which treats nearly half the sewage in Nassau County.

At times the crowd of 200 or so at East Rockaway High School interrupted County Executive Thomas Suozzi's defense of the plan with shouts and jeers.

Hempstead town Councilman Anthony Santino drew applause when he said the plan would lead to more beach closures, saying "Bay Park is not Nassau County's toilet."

Suozzi, whose team spent the previous hour trying to allay community fears about odor and pollution, called Santino's remarks "completely irresponsible," adding "What do you suggest, we close down the sewage plant?"

The plan was approved by the county legislature in January in a vote opponents said was not fully publicized beforehand.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Am I My Pastor's Keeper?

Race In America: Can We Build Unity And Understanding From Anger And Angst?

Let's just say, "Yes we can!"

Better still, "Yes we will." Lest America continue down the road of the great divide -- that which separates us by race, by gender, by socio-economic standing -- by all that which runs counter to the old E Pluribus Unum.

Like Barack Obama or not, agree or disagree with his positions, denounce or own up to where we have all come from and where we may be headed as a nation, you cannot help but accept the self-evident truths mirrored in the powerful words spoken yesterday in Philadelphia, America's cradle of liberty (if not the city of brotherly love).

Whether Senator Obama's historic and clearly heartfelt speech will set right the transgressions, real or perceived, of Pastor Wright, only time, and the talking heads, will tell.

What rings forth, much like the Liberty bell, with exceptional clarity, is that race is an issue in America, and we can either continue to avoid the discussion as we attempt to mask the consequences, or, as the Senator from Illinois so nobly suggested, deal with the problem openly and honestly, in the hope that America can not only move forward, but beyond.

In terms of the presidential campaign, amidst the cackling of Hillary over Florida and Michigan, and the "Iran is training Al Queda in Iraq" misspeak of McCain (and you thought his cluelessness was limited to the economy), Barack's remarks -- while necessarily political -- were, if not altogether calming and reassuring to everyone, then certainly refreshing and inspiring to most.

Well worth a read, a re-read, or a listen.
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For a quick highlight, read on:

"We have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle—as we did in the OJ trial—or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina—or as fodder for the nightly news.

"We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

"We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

"We can do that.

"But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

"That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

"This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

"This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

"This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

"I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation—the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

"There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today—a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

"There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

"And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

"She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

"She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

"Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

"Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, 'I am here because of Ashley.'

"'I'm here because of Ashley.' By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

"But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Should The Donald Be Permitted To Build Higher?

Absolutely Not!

Trump's Taj Mahal at Jones Beach may not get a basement, but how about a second story -- making the building 15 feet taller than originally proposed?

We at The Community Alliance, in the hope of preserving the landscape, the view, and a sense of historical perspective, say, unequivocally, NO.

This is not Manhattan or the Atlantic City coast, where skyscrapers abound, views are obscured, and the landscape is forever scarred.

This is Jones Beach in Wantagh -- a State park, no less -- still pristine and preserved in its natural state, dunes and all, having avoided a paving over (at least beyond the parking fields) or a building upward.

Long Islanders have long taken pride in what little remains of its open spaces, and, in particular, of its beautiful parks and beaches.

Jones Beach State Park, was envisioned by Robert Moses (love him or hate him), as a public park, free of housing developers and private clubs.

We should not -- no, must not -- allow ourselves to be trumpified, the former Boardwalk Restaurant being transformed into a neon-signed, iconoclastic, oversized honorarium to a man who holds himself out, like the edifice complex he seeks to construct, as bigger than life.

We say, "Not on our beach, Donald, and not on our watch."
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What say you?

Feel free to offer comment on this blog (see below), and/or to write us at
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From Newsday:

Trump's new Jones Beach try: No basement, but taller

Donald Trump is floating a new plan for his troubled restaurant and catering hall for Jones Beach, leaving out the controversial basement but making the structure 15 feet higher.

Under the new proposal, Trump would shift the restaurant portion of the project from the second floor to the first floor. He had earlier moved it to the second floor at the insistence of the state parks commissioner, who wanted patrons to have a better view.

On March 4, a state review board rejected Trump on the Ocean, citing state code prohibitions on building with basements in floodplains.

Trump's team then said he would sue, and he still plans to do so, his representatives said.

Meanwhile, though, in a letter last week to the state, he has suggested the redesign.

The new look would require approval by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which owns the site. The department has said in the past that the rejected design was as big as it was comfortable with because Jones Beach is on the National Register of Historic Places. The new proposal would make the restaurant 43 feet high.

The new plan would increase the restaurant's bottom-floor footprint by 1 percent to 37,700. But the overall size would decrease by 3,000 square feet to about 72,000 square feet.

Trump's new idea isn't making opponents of the proposal much happier. They still say the catering hall is too big and should be scaled back to become a modest restaurant like the facility it would replace.

In eliminating the basement, the plans call for having one large generator instead of two smaller ones and locating it in a sheltered berm on the site. The trash storage that would have been in a refrigerated room in the basement would be reduced and supplemented with dumpsters in an "enclosed paddock" on the site.

Rather than needing a variance from the Department of State -- which Trump could not get in two tries -- and two permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation for building a basement in a floodplain, the new plan would need routine administrative approvals from both agencies, Trump's design firm says.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

Nassau County Civic To Meet

March 25th General Meeting To Feature Marine Corp Vet

We always knew they'd have to bring in the Marines to straighten things out in Nassau County.

Now, if they could only take Town Hall in Hempstead, we'd be in business, and back on the road to democracy!

The next general meeting of the Nassau County Civic Association will be held on Tuesday, March 25, 2008 at 7:00 PM in the North Bellmore Library, 1551 Newbridge Road, Bellmore, NY.

The guest speaker will be Dave Karnes -USMC Veteran.

His story was featured in the film, "World Trade Center" staring Nicholas Cage.

To Learn more about Staff Sgt. Karnes, go to Always A Marine, Defending Our Country.

For more information about the Nassau County Civic Association, visit their website at, or send an e-mail to

Remember, your local civic association is looking for a few good men -- and women. Get involved. Stay involved. Build a better community!
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The views expressed by the Nassau County Civic Association are not necessarily those held or espoused by The Community Alliance or this blog.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Paterson's Patter Brings Humor And Hope

David Paterson: 55th Governor of the State of New York

The following is the address of Governor David Paterson, made before a joint session of the State Legislature, upon being sworn in as the 55th Governor of the Empire State.

Godspeed, Governor Paterson. Excelsior!
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Thank you.

Thank you, all.

NPR took a DNA test for me as they did in the program African Lives and they found a number of hits from Ireland and Scotland, so I want to wish you all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I would like to thank the Chief Judge Judith Kaye for administering that oath, the chief judge who I believe will go down in history as one of the greatest chief judges this State has ever had.

I would like to thank Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, one of my dear friends for coming and speaking here today, and also, Monsignor Wallace Harris, my pastor, for delivering that invocation as well.

I would like to thank my colleague in government who I now have forgiven for shooting me with a water gun a few years ago, the Attorney General for the State of New York, Andrew Cuomo.

And I would like to thank a moderately popular comptroller in this chamber, the one and only comptroller, Tom DiNapoli.

The last time I was in this chamber I was gaveling in for the State of the State and Speaker Silver had brought me in here to practice so I didn’t destroy anything in our first year. But in our second year, I said don’t bother, I know how to do this.

Apparently, I was about to bring the gavel down on a glass, like this one.

The speaker at the last second grabbed the gavel away from me and he told me in his own inimitable way, as only Shelly can, I will not allow you to turn the State of the State into a Jewish wedding.

They had a Jewish hit in there too, Shelly. Thank you so much for your hospitality and for having all of us in the chambers today.

I would also like to thank the members of the Assembly with the Speaker for having us, and members of the Senate who are coming to this swearing-in, and their leader, none other than my good friend, the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, Joseph L. Bruno.

The other day we had lunch and he said “Listen, some evening, if you like it you should come out to the ranch and have dinner with me.” I’ll go. I’m going to take my taster with me.

I’d also like to thank the Senate Minority, the conference, from which I first served as a State Senator for 21 years, and their very great leader, the man who has moved the conference beyond any place anyone ever thought it could go, the one and only Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm A. Smith.

And I would like to finally thank the leader of the Assembly Republican Conference in the New York State Assembly. He asked me other day when he came out of office, do you still play basketball, David? I told him, I don’t play basketball, Jimmy. Maybe, you’d like to come by for a lesson sometime. Jim Tedesco, Assembly Minority Leader.

After some very difficult surgery, I don’t know if I am touched by the appearance of anyone else here today than to have back with us our former Governor, George Pataki. The Governor is looking very well, and he’s getting a lot better.

Also with us today is former Governor Hugh L. Carey, everybody.

Please greet former Lieutenant Governor - you know I had to get the former Lieutenant Governors announced - Stan Lundine.

And a very good friend of mine and to all of you, our former Comptroller, Carl McCall.

We have with us today both of our United States Senators, and we would like to present them right now. The senior Senator from the State of New York, and of course, arose from Brooklyn, Charles Schumer.

And the junior Senator from New York who has a lot of places to go these days, and I’m so flattered that she would come join us today, none other than Senator Hillary Clinton.

We’d also like to welcome all of the members of our congressional delegation. We hope that they are here. And we were trying to get the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel, to come. Is he with us today? All right.

Well, he is in our thoughts. He’s recovering from a severe case of the flu, so far has not been able to be here.

We have with us from New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg; former Mayor of New York City David N. Dinkins; and former Mayor of New York City, Edward I. Koch.

And we’d like to thank all of the mayors and county executives and elected officials from around the state as well.

We have some visitors with us today. We are so, so happy to have with us Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey, and Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.

And someone who went through a circumstance somewhat similar to mine has given me advice and come to join me today, Governor Jodi Rell of Connecticut. Governor, how did you do it?

I would like to introduce the former Secretary of State of New York and my father, Basil A. Paterson. My mother, Portia Paterson. And my second mom who serves as Michelle’s mother, Kaye Johnson.

Speaking of Michelle, I want to introduce my wife and lifelong friend, Michelle Paige Paterson.

ichelle and I have a different kind of a marriage. And I learned how different it was going to be about 15 minutes after I got married. I’m sure those of you men who got married, you remember the part about saying “I do,” you remember the part about taking pictures afterwards, and then getting in a limousine, but do you remember sitting next to the woman of your dreams and all of a sudden, a little girl comes and sits between the two of you.

And I said, “Ashley, can I sit next to your mom?” And she said “No, I sat here first.” How do you convince a 4-year-old that you want to sit next to your wife? And I tried one more time. I said “Ashley, I just got married. Can I sit next to your mom?”

She said, “Get over it, David.”

And as I tried to get over it, that little girl has grown up to be my best friend, Ashley Dennis.

And finally, I would like introduce a gentleman who got into the Beacon School which was his first choice this year. My son, Alexander Basil Paterson, who we call Alex.

Ladies and gentleman, fellow New Yorkers. In so many ways, we woke this morning to a not so ordinary day.

But in one way, we woke this morning to a New York dawn that is like every other one that came before it. For today, like we always do, in spite of the obstacles, regardless of the circumstances, we move forward.

Of course, I never expected to have the honor of serving as Governor of New York State. But our constitution demands it. This transition today is an historic message to the world that we live among the same values that we profess, and that we are a government of laws and not individuals. Today we can be proud of our democracy.

Now look folks, this has been a very difficult week. But there have been turbulent weeks in New York’s past, and there will be anxious weeks in our near future. But we move forward.

Today is Monday. There is work to be done. There was an oath to be taken. There’s trust that needs to be restored. There are issues that need to be addressed. And all of us, as we set to us, must be aware of one truth that rise above all else.

It’s that New York families are more challenges today than they were yesterday. And if we are going to build a viable future for New York, we are going to have to help single mothers who have two jobs. We are going to have to give children better schools and families who don’t have health care some redress. I learned about government right here in this Legislature.

I studied the same issues and had the same experiences, hopes, and frustrations as so many other New Yorkers. I am chagrined at the high cost of education for my family. And the prohibitive price of health care. I have talked to New Yorkers for decades about the crumbling upstate economy, the crush of property taxes and the lack of affordable housing. These are issues that we will continue to focus and address, but we can do more.

I have a vision for New York. It’s a New York where achievement is developed only from hard work, where doors are always open and where anyone can achieve no matter where they live.

They call what we do public service for a reason: because it’s not politics. It’s not parties. It’s not power that counts at the end of the day. Those interests can vanish in a moment. It is the service that endures. It is service that is important. It is the service that is our mark. It is our measure. It is our record of performance.

My colleagues, all of you in the Legislature, those who serve in the judiciary, State employees who work in our great agencies, isn’t that what called us to work in government in the first place?

Then let us seize that poignant moment. Let us right here and now, let us grab the unusual opportunities that circumstance has handed us today, and put personal politics, party advantage and power struggles aside in favor of service, in the interests of the people.

With the nation’s eyes upon him in 1964, Robert F. Kennedy once said, “No matter how talented an individual may be, no matter how much energy he might possess, regardless of how much integrity and honest he or she may have, if that person is alone, they can accomplish very little.”

And so what we are going to do from now on is what we always should have done. We’re going to work together.

With conviction in our brains and compassion in our hearts and love for New York on our sleeves, we will dedicate ourselves to principle but always maintain the ability to listen.

And now, we look forward in this great State, we look forward with our eyes very much on the greatness of New York and we move forward, ever forward, together.

To many of you, I am an unknown quantity. But that doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is what we are able to accomplish today, tomorrow and all the days ahead. It’s Monday and there’s work to be done.

There’s a budget that needs to be passed, and we will pass it. We need a plan to put New Yorkers back to work and we will provide it.

We have to battle the obstacle of doubt and uncertainty and we shall overcome it.

Now, all of you in this room, I ask you to pause and focus on the problems or our great nation.

Our economy appears to be headed toward crisis. In just the last 12 hours, one of the major investment houses with a storied career was sold at 10 percent of the price that it would have been worth on Friday.

The Federal Reserve decreased interest rates by a quarter of a percentage in a desperate attempt to half a further meltdown. We are looking at the economy that is reeling, and I must say to all of you in government and all of you in business that you must meet with me in the next couple of weeks and adjust our budget accordingly.

This may serve as bad news. This may be actions that we are often unaccustomed to taking, but our sworn duty is to uphold the interest of the people who sent us here and to make this state whole again.

I believe that we can weather the storm. I have worked most of my life for New Yorkers and fought for New Yorkers. I believe that if we stand together, that our collective talent will bring us to a better period. We don’t know the path yet. But that’s because we haven’t blazed the trail. And I think you all know that I know a little bit about finding one’s way through the dark.

Let me tell you a little about myself.

I was born in the borough of Brooklyn. I was educated on Long Island. Harlem is my home. This is where I learned love for family and appreciation for community. I have confronted the prejudice of race and challenged the issues of my own disability. I have served in government for over two decades. I stand willing and able to lead this state to a brighter future and a better tomorrow.

Let me reintroduce myself. I am David Paterson and I am the Governor of New York State.

Thank you.

I want to thank all of you.

All of you New Yorkers and our visitors, for coming here today and by your presence, giving New York a strength that we need at this time of transition.But we as New Yorkers can achieve.

We are Asian, white, Hispanic and black. We are upper-middle class, and social service customers.

We are homeowners, landlords, tenants, cooperators and even the homeless.We send our children to public and private schools. And yet, New Yorkers, in spite of the perceived problems inherent in our difference, we have an immense opportunity, if we start to look at who we are, what we are, and what we can be.

God bless you all for coming today, and God bless the great State of New York. Thank you very much.

Another Nail In The Coffin Of The Special Taxing Districts

Our Only Question: What Took So Long?

The probe widens, as the Attorney General of New York, the Nassau County District Attorney, and the Nassau County Comptroller broaden the investigation into Long Island's way too many and oh so costly special districts.

Who is getting paid for what? What benefits are commissioners, employees, and their relations getting for part-time or no-time work? Who is double, triple, or quadruple dipping into the NYS pension fund?

Certainly, the questions are not new, and they've been asked before, by groups like Residents for Efficient Special Districts (RESD) and The Community Alliance.

Beginning in 2005, Nassau County Assessor Harvey Levinson started to make serious inquiries, as well as quite a few waves, when he brought to light the outrageous costs to the taxpayer borne as a result of special district operations, as well as the disparity of expenses from district to district.

Few seemed to take notice, and even fewer, amazingly, seemed to actually care.

Perhaps now, with the economy tanking and homeowners losing equity and value by the minute, there is greater urgency in plugging the leaks and keeping a keen eye on the bottom line.

When it comes to hubris, there are few more arrogant, and steadfastly resistant to relinquishing power and its accoutrements than the special district commissioners.

If, indeed, pride cometh before the fall, then clearly, some of the high and mighty are about to take what amounts to a quantum leap off the cliff.

No tears to be shed by the taxpayers of Nassau County, though.

The demise of the special districts, and the greedy and self-indulgent hacks who run them, has been too long in coming, and at much too high a cost to the taxpayer.

To Howard Weitzman, Andrew Cuomo and Kathleen Rice we say, "Go and get 'em!"
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From Newsday:

Editorial: Probing Long Island's special districts

Those bull's-eyes on the backs of Nassau County's special districts just got a little brighter.

There are now three different probes targeting abuses in the crediting of public retirement and health care benefits. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, along with Nassau County's district attorney, Kathleen Rice, and its comptroller, Howard Weitzman, all have different roles to play - from recovering erroneously awarded pension dollars to prosecuting criminal activity.

The end result, however, will be a public accounting of who may have gotten undeserved riches and how much that may have cost all of us.

Cuomo is widening his investigation into payroll abuses by school districts to now include 36 water, sanitary and sewer districts, as well as five library districts in Nassau. This is some of the territory already mined by Weitzman, whose 2005 audits found that some districts had outside attorneys and other professional consultants listed as employees, so that those individuals could get generous state benefits.

At that time, no one seemed to care.

Now the blooming taxpayer revolt against wasteful spending has caught Albany's eye. There's a real possibility that legislation will be passed this year that would eliminate pay and benefits for commissioners in special districts, essentially removing the reason for their existence.

Most of these districts have lingered decades past their usefulness because political parties needed the patronage jobs they supply, as grease for the parties' machines. The results of these probes could make the case even stronger. Most special districts could be eliminated without any effect on local residents - except a lower tax bill.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Two Faces Of Kate Murray

Its Not Only The Sewage That Stinks In Hempstead Town

There is no stench more aromatic than that which emanates from Hempstead Town Hall, permeating the very soul of the unincorporated areas of America's largest -- and, apparently, stinkiest -- township.

Sure, the Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, and her cohort in grime, Councilman Tony Santino, are up in arms over the plight (or was that "blight?") of Bay Park residents, who complain about mores sewage being pumped in to the Cedar Creek treatment plant.

Suddenly, the cause of community is worthy of government's concern, and the voice of the people, which typically falls upon deaf ears at Hempstead Town Hall, now reverberates off of the ear drums of Supervisor and Councilman alike.

Bravo for the good people of Bay Park.

But what, dare we ask, of the concerns of our neighbors in West Hempstead? Why is it that their voices are not heard by Kate & Kompany?

More than 2000 signatures on Petitions to close the infamous Courtesy Hotel in West Hempstead, and to rezone the parcel for private sale, all hand-delivered to Town Supervisor Kate Murray. They must have been flushed down the toilet or tossed into the bay, for it was as if not a single resident raised an eyebrow -- or flared a nostril -- over the Town’s ill-conceived Urban Renewal Plan.

A groundswell of support for the Bay Park faithful (or was it merely an opportunity for Town of Hempstead officials to take potshots at Nassau County Dems, and to appear for yet another self-serving photo op?), but only platitudes (if that) and broken promises for the beleagured of West Hempstead.

As for that “foul aroma of government” Councilman Santino so deplores, we say, “take a deep breath, Mr. Councilman. We have smelled the stench of a ‘government that refuses to address the concerns of the residents it represents,’ and that God-awful odor is coming from Hempstead Town!”

“Thank you, Kate Murray.” Thanks for nothing. And shame on you, Tony Santino. A stench by any other name would surely smell as bad. . .

From the Lynbrook/E. Rockaway Herald:

Amid cries of Don't dump on us, We are not Nassau County’s toilet and Toback, your plan stinks, close to 200 protesters showed up at a Bay Park rally on Saturday to voice their outrage at a county Legislature-approved consolidation of Lawrence and Cedarhurst sewage into the county’s sewage plant in Bay Park.

Waving homemade signs, wearing masks and biochemical garb one participant was dressed as a toilet bowl residents from Bay Park, East Rockaway, Angle Sea, Oceanside, Island Park and Long Beach joined Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony Santino who called the rally to protest the consolidation plan.

Our message is simple, said Santino. Rather than shutting down the plants in Lawrence and Cedarhurst, and spending, by some estimates, $15 million to build a pipe ... that money can be used to rebuild a plant in Lawrence and Cedarhurst ... our cause is right and just.

New York state Sen. Dean Skelos reminisced about fishing for snapper in Reynolds Channel when he was a young man. The reason we live here is quality of life for ourselves and our children, Skelos said. We want to make sure that what you catch is safe to eat. I pledge to work with Santino to see that Bay Park does not get dumped on.

Kristin Octera, spokeswoman for the residents, marveled at the size of the crowd. Look around you, she said as she scanned the small sea of people. We are together on this. We want to tell the county that their decisions affect our lives. We will not be deterred.

Legislator Fran Becker, who joined the protest, recalled the meeting at which the consolidation plan was passed. I stood with all of you, and they shut the microphone off on me, Becker said. Look at all these kids, he added gesturing toward the crowd. Look at what they-re learning. I-m so proud of each and every one of you, and I was ashamed of the way the Democrats took the vote that day. I pleaded with them to table it. It was passed 9-10 along partisan lines. They have shut you and me out.

Becker likened the rally to the Boston Tea Party, and jokingly suggested throwing something into the bay in protest. Someone from the crowd shouted, Throw Toback in!

Mayor Brian Curran attended the rally to show his support. We in Lynbrook care about this issue, and we stand behind you 100 percent, he said.

East Rockaway Mayor Ed Sieban said simply, We will get our bay back again.

In addition to writing to county officials on the sewage plan, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Santino have commenced a petition drive against the plan to increase the sewage that Nassau will pump into Bay Park. To date, the town leaders have collected over 1,000 signatures.

We’re hopeful that Nassau officials will be persuaded to listen to the united voice of hundreds of Bay Park and East Rockaway neighbors, Santino said. Indeed, there is only one thing worse than the stench emanating from Bay Park, and that is the foul aroma of government that refuses to address the concerns of the residents it represents.

Comments about this story? or (516) 569-4000 ext. 202.

Pity The Special Taxing District

Attorney General Probe Likely Of Patronage Fiefdoms

If pride comes before the fall is the hallmark of the high and mighty, then special district commissioners -- and the family members who share the pension and benefit pot with them -- are about to come one step closer to taking that tumble off the cliff.

A little push closer to the edge now comes in the form of an anticipated probe by NYS Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who would like to take a closer look at who's on payroll, who's getting pensions, and how the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars are being squandered -- er, spent -- at Long Island's all too many special districts.

We wonder how many pensions the counsel and former counsel for Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 6 are eligible for?

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Payroll probes expanded to special districts, libraries

In a significant expansion of the probes into private consultants improperly getting public benefits, the New York State attorney general and the Nassau County comptroller are asking commissioner-run special districts, as well as some libraries, in Nassau to report any such arrangements.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the Nassau district attorney's office subpoenaed records from dozens of special districts in the county, according to sources close to the probe. The district attorney requested time sheets, work diaries, reports to the state retirement system and retainer agreements for accountants, architects, attorneys, chiropractors, dentists, insurance brokers and nurses, the sources said.

Eric Phillips, spokesman for the district attorney's office, declined to comment.

The three probes mark the first time the investigation into consultants being placed on public payrolls has moved beyond school districts. Last month, Newsday reported that five school districts falsely reported private, part-time attorney Lawrence Reich as a full-time employee, enabling him to collect a New York State pension of more than $61,000 and health benefits.

After the story, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo launched probes.

In this week's action, 36 districts and five libraries are being asked to report any individuals carried on their payrolls who are not defined as employees under IRS guidelines. Nassau Comptroller Howard Weitzman said he limited the letters to entities over which his office has audit authority.

"Recent events have shown us that this is much more widespread than we previously realized," Weitzman said. The IRS distinguishes between employees and independent contractors because there are different tax implications for each. It considers factors such as whether the person has set hours, a workplace, time sheets and work that is directly supervised, according to the IRS Web site.

Last week, the New York State comptroller issued an opinion that Reich, of Centerport, had to pay back the pension he has been collecting since September 2006 because the districts improperly classified him as an employee. Weitzman's letter cited several examples, uncovered by his auditors, of districts that improperly classified certain individuals as employees, enabling them to get benefits.

Sanitary District 6 in West Hempstead, for example, carried three attorneys on the payroll while also using five law firms, according to a 2005 comptroller's audit. None of the three had office space or had to document their hours. Currently, only one attorney, John Ragano, remains on the payroll, said district Superintendent Martin Carroll.

Although Ragano has no office, no set hours and no time sheets, he does not "bill for anything extra," Carroll said.Ragano didn't return a call for comment yesterday.

John Milgrim, spokesman for the attorney general, said "We're committed to uncovering the full scope of these problems and putting an end to them."

Special districts examined

April 24, 2007 - Gov. Eliot Spitzer creates a commission to study ways to cut the costs of local government, including special districts. The New York State comptroller's office issues a report on special district taxes.

July - Newsday reports on the most expensive park district on Long Island, the Great Neck Park District.

Dec. 9 - Newsday reports that special districts on Long Island, which collect about $473 million a year to pick up trash, distribute water and maintain parks, spend millions of dollars without close public scrutiny.

Dec. 10 - The Water Authority of Great Neck North votes to give the son of the superintendent a $38,300 raise - to $140,000 - without a promotion. At the same monthly meeting, the authority's board votes to raise water usage rates by up to 50 percent - nearly twice the national average cost of water.

Dec. 16 - Newsday reports on examples of highly paid special district workers, including a meter reader with the Jericho water district making $93,772; laborers in the Oyster Bay sewer district making $101,000 and a recreation aide making $47 an hour in the Fishers Island ferry district.

Jan. 2, 2008 Newsday reports that a select group of public officials in special districts has reaped a bonanza in taxpayer-funded benefits - on top of annual salaries.

Jan. 22 - Gov. Eliot Spitzer recommends that pay and benefits for commissioners of special districts be abolished. In addition, he proposes that towns take over the day-to-day management of independent sanitation districts.

Feb. 8 - Blasting special taxing districts as the "biggest single bane of taxpayers," Spitzer formally calls for overhauling the system.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

Trump Gets Dumped

Long Islanders Storm The Beach To Keep The Donald From The Jonses

It got ugly at the public airing of Donald Trump's application to build a basement in the proposed Trump on the Ocean. At least it did for the Donald.

The Donald, after all, is not accustomed to having anything other than his way.

Now, his attempts to turn an unassuming Boardwalk Restaurant at Jones Beach into the Wantagh version of the Taj Mahal -- and to stand on head Robert Moses' vision of a state park of and for the great middle class -- may signal not luxurious catered affairs and high-priced dinners in a palace by the sea, but rather, years of litigation.

While the Donald looks around for people to sue -- and, no doubt, folks to fire -- Long Islanders can be most proud of their efforts to keep Jones Beach a haven for the public, and a retreat from the city life most of us seek to escape as we head down the Meadowbrook and through the Jones Beach toll booths.

The State of New York made the right decision in denying Trump's application. It is only unfortunate that they opened the door to the Donald in the first place. They must have been blinded by his hair!

Donald Trump is now on the turf of Long Islanders, no pushovers they. He's either going to have to act like a gentleman on our fine shores, or pack his bags and head back to NYC, where money, apparently, matters more than maintaining a state park's place in history and in the hearts of Long Islanders.

Clearly, a line has been drawn in the sand!
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From The Long Island Press:

Trump Trumped
By Tim Bolger

Donald Trump, world-famous developer and star of NBC reality show The Apprentice, has learned a bitter building lesson on LI. On March 4, a state review board denied the controversial variance request to include a basement kitchen in Trump on the Ocean, which would be located in a floodplain. The Jones Beach State Park restaurant and catering hall was scheduled to open on the boardwalk in summer 2009.

Despite his legal team's thorough arguments, there were ominous indicators of the negative outcome of the approximately nine-hour hearing, which heard an appeal of a previous denial of the same request. About 300 boisterous citizens-so many that others had to be turned away-attended this hearing. The meeting started out with a legal showdown between state officials and television news crews over the presence of cameras. And before it began, three members of the review board had recused themselves-without stating why-from the case.

Then there was the hearing's Garden City location, at the Cradle of Aviation Museum's Red Planet Café, which is designed to resemble a similarly difficult-to-build space station looking out on a Mars landscape.

Although Trump himself wasn't present, in a glowing message on the website for the planned catering hall, he stated that the project is "my very special gift to you-a breathtaking new oceanfront venue designed to host spectacular weddings and celebrations." His partner in the undertaking, Steve Carl, who owns the Carlyle on the Green restaurant and catering hall at Bethpage State Park, took a more litigious tone in an interview with the Press, on the day after the variance request was denied.

"We're not going to idly stand by and just take this," insisted Carl, who stopped short of specifying who the duo will sue. He did state, however, that there will be "a number of" lawsuits in weeks to come. He estimated that the team has invested $5 to $6 million on the project.

"As two businessmen who are looking to invest in Long Island, it's terrible that people come out against us on something that we're trying to give to Long Island," Carl told the Press, adding that they "don't deserve to be treated like this."

But since the development is proposed for public land in Wantagh, the two most outspoken politicians against the project-which includes a 25,000-square-foot basement kitchen and office space-were on hand to lend their criticism.

"Jones Beach is the people's beach, yet the people were only asked to comment on a basement, when we should have been involved in this from the ground floor. The public should have been part of the process from the moment the request for proposals was issued," said Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), whose district includes part of the barrier beach.

Denenberg stated that the structure, first approved in 2006, has grown from 46,000 square feet to 76,000 square feet without a new environmental assessment being conducted and with no approval by the U.S. Department of Environmental Conservation. Referring to a problem cited by the board in rejecting the variance, Denenberg noted that there had been no consultation with the Wantagh Fire Department, whose volunteers would have to respond in the event of an emergency.

Harvey Levinson, chairman of the Nassau County Board of Assessors, reiterated concerns about the facility being approved without having to pay county property taxes or payments to the Wantagh School District or Wantagh Fire District. Levinson also expressed doubts over the safety of about 100 employees who would work in the basement. Trump's lawyers argued that since 1936, a basement on the same spot has survived hurricanes. But opponents responded that current state building and environmental codes allow basements in a tidal zone to be used only for storage.

"Despite his wealth and celebrity status, even Donald Trump does not have the power to stop the ocean waves and sea from flooding his basement," Levinson said.

Supporters as well as opponents of the plan were in attendance. Rich Kruse, founding president of ExecuLeaders, a Deer Park-based business trade association, said, "We need this for Long Island." Kruse added that he hopes to hold Long Island's biggest business trade show at the catering hall. "This is going to put a lot of smiles on people's faces," he said.

For now, the only ones smiling are the opponents, who felt as though they were telling the famed tycoon: "You're fired!"
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Click HERE to read Joye Brown's Newsday column, Tide turns against Trump castle in sand