Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Efficient Local Government Begins With YOU!

Residents For Efficient Special Districts (yes, we know, we know) Posts Call To Action

Today in Newsday, Executive Director of Residents for Efficient Special Districts (RESD), Laura Mallay, has an extensive op-ed piece that discusses four pieces of legislation that are currently being considered in Albany to lower property taxes and reform special taxing districts (see link to article below).

RESD is encouraging concerned citizens to contact their elected officials in Albany today and let them know this legislation needs to pass before they adjourn at the end of June. The window of opportunity will not remain open for long. If this legislation is not voted on before Albany adjourns, we will have to wait until the fall before this is considered again. We need you to take action today!!

Tell your elected officials that enough is enough.

RESD has developed a letter that is available on our website which you can use to send to your Assemblyman and Senator along with the email addresses of all Assemblymen and Senators from Long Island. It is very simple to do and won't take more than five to ten minutes of your time. Politicians react when they get a lot of emails, letters and phone calls on any given issue.

Let them know lowering property taxes is important to you and urge them to pass the legislation. Just click on the link below to go the page on the RESD website.

Feel free to forward this email on to others who are interested. We thank you for your support and hope that you will help us in this effort to bring back an affordable quality of life to Long Island.

Newsday Op-Ed Article by Laura Mallay

RESD Letter to Elected Officials in Albany

Tony Brita
Director of Communications
Resdients for Efficient Special Districts (RESD)

What's In Their Wallets?

New Watchdog Website Tracks Public Payroll, Pensions

Now, in addition to tracking who is spending our tax dollars where and on what [Project Sunlight], New Yorkers can keep tabs on who's on the public payroll.

A new Internet website dedicated to news and analysis about state and local government employment in New York has been unveiled by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

The website,, will feature daily commentary on government workforce issues, news stories from around the state, and related links. Lise Bang-Jensen, senior policy analyst with the Empire Center, will provide the site's commentary.

E.J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center and senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, said the website "is part of our effort to shine a stronger spotlight on an area with important financial and managerial implications for every level of government in New York State."

"Personnel costs are a major element in New York's sky-high taxes, yet New Yorkers are often unaware of important developments on the government labor relations front," McMahon said.

"The goal of the Payroll Watch website is to inform the public by illuminating the issue."

To visit NY Public Payroll Watch, go to:
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Our Memorial Day message, Waving One Flag, was posted before the release of former White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan's book, What Happened?, further exposing the "culture of deception" that enshrouds the Bush administration.

That Bush, and those who ill-advised him -- among them, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Condi Rice, and "The Architect" of deception himself, Karl Rove -- lied to the American public, and perpetuated the lies through a propaganda campaign that continues, even today, is not a shocking revelation.

We all knew it, and everyone with barely functioning neuro-pathways realizes that this White House had concocted and, even now, perpetuates, the biggest lies and cover-ups in America since, well, Watergate.

Only these lies have cost America hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of young lives, and the loss of respect in the eyes of the entire free world.

"Disgruntled," Mr. President?

Yes, we are all disgruntled, and with every right to be.

For not only have you lied to us, time and time again, disgracing not only the office you hold, but the very honor of America, you, and your cohorts in crime, who now have to backpedal, yet again, to cover their tracks (and possibly avoid indictment), refuse to so much as admit that you have made mistakes -- on anything -- and to own up to those mistakes.

You should resign from office, Mr. President, effective immediately. And you should take that sneering war profiteer Dick Cheney with you.

Maybe FoxNews can find a spot for you both, right next to Karl Rove. Perhaps they can give you your own prime time slot. They can call it, The Liars Club!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tag, You're It!

MTA Board Members -- Past And Present -- Get Free Ride (For Life)

Imagine never having to pay a toll on any bridge, tunnel, or roadway in the EZ-Pass system, or riding the subways FREE, for the rest of your natural days, without having to hop the turnstiles?

Well, as it turns out, members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Board -- current and retired (perhaps even deceased), who are supposed to serve without compensation (yeah, right), apparently have as a "perk" free passes to ride the rails and buses, as well as free use of the EZ-Pass. for life.

Now, with all the toll hikes and fare increases these folks impose upon us mere mortals, isn't it nice to know that these folks -- presumably serving "the public good" out of sheer benevolence -- don't have to share (let alone, feel) our pain?

Why, these officially-sanctioned toll-evaders are no better than those special taxing district commissioners, who use their official SUVs (paid for by and gassed up on our dime) for personal errands, and collect lifetime health benefits for a no-show, part-time job.

Of course, we never held New York's public authorities, vestiges of the era of power-brokering laid upon us by Robert Moses, in very high esteem.

They saddle us with debt, are beyond legislative oversight, and, as is custom and practice, answerable to no one other than themselves.

Imagine if MTA Board members -- past, present, and future -- had to pay their own tolls and carfare? Why, they might even entertain a decrease the next time tolls and fares come up for a vote!
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From The New York Times:

M.T.A. Board Will Fight for Its Free E-ZPass Tags
By William Neuman

For years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has given its board members free passes to drive across its bridges and tunnels without paying tolls and to ride the subways, buses and commuter railroads without paying a fare. And when the board members retire, they are allowed to keep the passes for life.

On Wednesday the authority said it will go to court to defend the practice in the face of a challenge by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who said that giving E-ZPass tags to board members violates a law that they must serve without compensation.

Mr. Cuomo sent a letter to the authority this week calling for it to rescind the passes after The Daily News reported that 21 current board members and 37 former board members have free E-ZPass tags. Some have multiple tags, including the former chairman Peter S. Kalikow, a millionaire with dozens of cars, who reportedly has eight tags.

The authority’s chairman, H. Dale Hemmerdinger, said on Wednesday after a meeting of the board:

The practice of providing board members free access to the system they oversee dates back at least to the 1950s. We believe the M.T.A. has acted in a manner fully consistent with the 1992 law referred to by the attorney general. The practice was not questioned when the law was passed and has not been legally challenged in the 16 years that have ensued. But given the newly stated view of the attorney general which is contrary to the M.T.A. position we are going to seek a declaratory judgment and allow a court to determine whether or not this constitutes compensation. We have never seen it that way and we don’t see it now but were going to let a court make this decision.

Mr. Hemmerdinger said the authority would ask for a ruling on both the free E-ZPass tags as well as the practice of giving board members a free ride on subways, buses and commuter trains.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Waving One Flag

Raising Another

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. -- John F. Kennedy

Memorial Day. Time to honor God, Country, and the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of both, not to mention to make the world safe for democracy.

Plenty of flag waving across this nation, at parades, at cemeteries, at political rallies, and in front yards.

And so it should be.

For all of the shortcomings of a flawed nation-state (such is the human condition) -- from deceit and arrogance in the White House, to much of the same at Town Hall -- these United States of America remain the best hope of millions, yearning to be free of tyranny, of hatred, of the yoke of oppression (and that's just in New York).

We love America, and we proudly wave the stars and stripes, without wrapping ourselves in that flag as if some cloak of invincibility or shield from dissent.

That said, we find it essential, in an America that speaks of a cherished freedom and rests upon a foundation of storied liberties, to raise a red flag, this in the face of restraints of liberties here at home, and the diminution of the prospect of democracy abroad.

We haven't done a very good job -- in fact, it has been an awful run, of late -- in making this world safe for democracy, let alone in promoting free will and fair elections abroad, or in preserving liberty where it may, in one form or another, appear.

Perhaps, in part, this stems from our failure to keep the torch of freedom aglow here at home.

Patriot Act. Rendition. The export of torture as an accepted means of fact-finding. The suspension of habeas corpus. The rebuffing of allies. The making of enemies.

Hate-baiting. Fear-mongering. Helpless and hapless, but for steering a course in a single direction, rudder locked in place, compass headed always south.

Maybe this is the way some perceive a nation's greatness, the citizens of Sean Hannity's America, where smug war profiteers serve as vice president and chief puppeteer, where "fear itself" and "see something, say something," have supplanted "spacious skies" and "e pluribus unim," the likes of Limbaugh, Beck and O'Reilly offering their own renditions of half-truth without consequence.

Frankly, we've had quite enough of that America, and so, we believe, have you.

Of course, it can all change, seemingly with the flick of a switch -- or, more aptly, the flip of a lever in that voting booth.

We will continue to proudly wave that star-spangled banner, not "right or wrong," but rather, to right the wrongs, here at home, and around the world.

We will also, consciously and consistently, raise that red flag, as warning to all who refuse to bear witness to the frailties of democracy.

Raise those flags, fellow Americans, and carry forth that torch of liberty, the glow from which "will truly light the world!"

From The NYS Commission On Property Tax Relief

Report To Follow

"The Commission on Property Tax Relief, in consultation with the Governor's office, has agreed that the Preliminary Report of the Commission will be issued on June 3."

Stay tuned. . .

Friday, May 23, 2008

What Can Big Brown Do For Elmont?

Elmont's Stake In The Triple Crown

The Belmont Stakes. The third leg in the legendary Triple Crown, and Big Brown, with the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness already under his saddle, poised to leave the field in his dust on June 7th at this annual Elmont classic.

Clearly, Big Brown's run at the Triple Crown will be a boost to horse racing, much needed after the recent falls -- literally and figuratively -- from grace.

Will Big Brown's appearance, and possible purse, at Belmont, be as big a boon for the communities that surround this historic park?

Hard to say.

Talk of revitalization abounds, like so much fodder in the feedbag.

An infusion of money from Albany. The possibility of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) ala Yonkers and Monticello. The much touted compact between Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead, designed, in theory, to bring Elmont back from the brink.

So far, the talk is just that, talk. Little action beyond what may take place on the track's oval, with the hoopla in the winner's circle about all there will likely be to cheer about on Elmont's race card.

Yes, the words -- of community groups, of not-for-profits, of elected officials -- sound as sweet as the bugle's call at post-time. The artists' renderings, as lovely as that shot of Big Brown wearing a horseshoe made of roses.

Still, would that the enthusiasm that will undoubtedly consume the Belmont throng spill out onto the streets of Elmont, Floral Park, and beyond, and that, in terms of converting lofty words into well-planned action, we'd hear someone shout, "And they're off!"
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Feedback from the Elmont community:

May the community of Elmont be saved, if such a thing as VLTs enter Belmont Park. Just like Monticello, where(the surrounding community) is going bankrupt, and trying to see if it can survive financially.

Imagine how the gambling industry will be hit, when the economy continues to go down, and the price of gas continues to go up. Tropicana went under, and they are a major component to the operations of Yonkers as well.

Then think about a new casino at Aqueduct, and a few more in CT, and PA.

Clearly, someone did not do so well in economics. More is not always better.

Then there are the social ills, the increased expenses in police, roads and bureaucracy. Imagine having to deal with the effects of a Racino in a community, and then having these same politicians with more money! Do you honestly think that will bring positive change?

What major plan of revitalization did some of these politicians want for Elmont? A Racino and a hotel. Not only do they want a Racino, they want a hotel, which, in all honesty, is designed to replace the Courtesy Hotel. Clearly, it is hypocrisy at its finest.

For years (dare I say decades), the community, including past Presidents of the Elmont Chamber of Commerce, thought to revitalize Belmont, with a greater sense of community, by constructing a museum/cultural center.

The idea has fallen on deaf ears since. Much to the same, of the safety concerns of Hempstead Turnpike to our state representatives.

On June 7th, regardless of how financially successful the day, or week maybe, it helps to serve as a reminder of what Historic Belmont Park really stands for. Whether you enjoy horse racing or not, it is what it is. What is left standing in our town that represents the history of the Hempstead Plains? Let me tell you what that day really means. It is a day that helps us to remember passion, culture and history. That is something that money can't necessarily replace.

Xavier Rodriguez
Elmont, New York

The writer serves as secretary of the Locustwood/Gotham Civic Association in Elmont. The views expressed are his own.
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Thank you for writing, Xavier.

We certainly agree that we need more in the way of history and tradition in our hometowns, with a smattering of forward-looking vision that will help bring community into the 21st century.

On the VLT front, we couldn't agree with you more.

If anyone believes that revenues generated at the track will spill over into the local economy, we would simply ask them to take a drive through Yonkers or a stroll in downtown Monticello, such as it is.

Yonkers may be undergoing a renaissance, of sorts, having nothing to do with the VLTs at the raceway.

As for Monticello, Broadway, the main drag, is a a virtual ghost town, with economic revival as distant on the horizon as the Indian reservations are remote to the proposed casinos.

Throwing money at the problems -- be they of cities or suburbia -- rarely solves them, as we should have learned from the failures of many of the Great Society initiatives of the 1960s.

We can mask the symptoms -- be they the blight along the turnpike or the happenstance of aging facades -- but the underlying disease remains largely untreated.

For there to be a jewel in Elmont's claim to the Triple Crown, there must not only be a viable plan to revitalize and re-energize, there must also be summoned the courage and the wherewithal to take that plan to the streets.

Meanwhile, keep those cards and letters coming, folks. Write us at

Thursday, May 22, 2008

While Over 90% Of School District Budgets Passed. . .

. . .Less Than 10% Came Out To Vote

The big news is that the vast majority of school district budgets, at least here on Long Island, and presumably, all across the Empire State, passed muster on Tuesday, the few who braved foul weather giving the thumbs up to referendum designed to keep our schools in the black.

The sad news, and not quite as widely reported -- if reported at all -- is that only one in ten (that's a rough guesstimate, looking at the turnout versus registered voters in a handful of districts across the island) actually bothered to come out to the polls, whether in support of school budgets, or, as is their right, to simply say "no."

Of course, that's a vast improvement over voter turnout in other special district elections, such as water, fire, and sanitation, where the numbers hover somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-5%. [And that's registered voters. Include the eligible, but not registered, and, well, we're probably talking about a 1% turnout, if that.]

Even the last general election produced, on average, a paltry 19% voter turnout, the election of County Legislators and Town Supervisors (as local as local government gets next to that Sanitary District Commish you didn't vote for) notwithstanding.

So much for taking local control!

Do we really wonder why few things change in our hometowns -- the blight gets more blighted -- and why our "elected" officials spend more time in front of the camera (smile, and spell your name exactly as it should appear on page one) than confronting our problems?

They know -- oh yes, they really know -- that most of the few who do come out to vote, won't concern themselves with the issues, assuming they have a clue as to what the pressing issues of the day may be. No, they'll pull the levers on those antiquated voting machines as they have for years -- by party, by name recognition, or by eenie-meenee-minee-moe.

More than this, the folks who the few (too often erroneously referred to as "we") put in office, are counting on the fact that 75, 80, or even 95 percent of registered voters will do what they do election day after election day -- stay home.

Yes, it is true: Bad politicians are elected by people who do not vote!

Seems that here, in the land that "talks" democracy, and pays flag-waving tribute -- as we will next week on Memorial Day -- to those who gave their lives for that cherished vote, we've disenfranchised ourselves in ways that no voter suppression effort could ever come close to.

In many places around the globe, they dodge bombs and bullets, coming out in droves to cast that privileged ballot.

Here on Long Island, sadly, most of us aren't even willing to dodge a few raindrops.
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Not registered to vote? Click HERE, and take the first step toward making a difference in your community.

For New York voter registration, click HERE.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Affordable Housing Bill To Get Legislature's Nod

. . .And A Wink

There is no denying that the affordable housing crisis in New York, and most particularly, on Long Island, is just that -- a crisis.

For years, proponents of affordable housing legislation -- requiring, among other things, that developers set aside a defined percentage of all units built for moderate income households -- have seen measure upon measure languish up in Albany, much to the dismay of those who cannot afford homes of their own, as well as the exasperation of existing homeowners, who must, invariably, bear the burden (and we mean, "tax burden") of illegal accessory apartments, the outgrowth of the dearth in affordable housing.

Now, the NYS Legislature stands ready, at long last, to pass what has been designated as an affordable housing bill -- a bill that, in reality, looks more like Swiss cheese than the cheese wheel needed to set in motion much-needed housing relief.

That the proposed measure may be too little, too late is an apparent overstatement, the emphasis on the "too little," New Yorkers having become well accustomed to "too late."

A developer building in, say, Great Neck or Manhasset, could, under the pending legislation, build luxury houses in those wealthy communities, while sealing a deal to set aside 10% of the units built as "affordable," not in Great Neck or Manhasset, mind you, but rather, in poorer communities, such as Hempstead or Roosevelt.

And while the legislation would create an additional housing stock -- somewhere, but not necessarily here -- of, perhaps, 200 homes per year (we're being generous), other measures floated (including a more comprehensive plan favored by Suffolk County Exec Steve Levy) would likely create thousands of new units, easing the crunch on both the overtaxed homeowner and the would-be homeowner.

We applaud State Senator Dean G. Skelos for sponsoring the present legislation (as well as the more compelling Levy bill), and for garnering the votes necessary to pass the measure through the GOP-controlled State Senate.

Its a weak bill, to be sure, but it is a start.

It remains for the Legislature, however, if not in this session (and it won't be), then, certainly, in the next, to pick up where this year's affordable housing bill leaves off.

The affordable housing crisis calls for relief beyond the quick, symbolic fix.

Hopefully, as Senator Carl Marcellino told Newsday, "We're going to get one (affordable housing bill) passed and we're going to move the process forward."

Here's to moving faster toward affordable housing in New York.
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From Newsday:

State set to pass LI affordable housing bill

After several years of stalled efforts, the state Legislature is poised to pass a bill that would require 10 percent of Long Island housing developments to be affordable.

The inclusionary zoning measure, which could pass as soon as next week, is sponsored by state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), and has bipartisan support.

The Long Island Association, Long Island's leading business group, has long championed this bill and says its passage is a political breakthrough for the region. But some housing advocates are not so sure. In a bid to get Nassau village officials to drop their longtime opposition, they contend, sponsors have so watered down the measure that its value is mainly symbolic.

The bill, which gives builders a density bonus for affordable units, now allows those units to be built on a different site owned by the builder in the same municipality, or pay a fee that will be used to build affordable housing in another municipality by mutual agreement. Or the money can go to the Long Island Housing Partnership for housing and down payment assistance.

"This has to happen before any other progress is made on workforce housing on Long Island," said Matthew Crosson, president of the Long Island Association. "You have in place a bipartisan consensus that this problem is real, and it needs to be solved urgently."

But the new language has dismayed many in the large coalition that had backed the bill.

"The concern is that this will perpetuate patterns of racial and class housing segregation," said Richard Koubek, Catholic Charities coordinator for the Mobilized Interfaith Coalition Against Hunger campaign. "Wealthier villages ... could get around the law by negotiating a deal with less wealthy villages to literally sell off their housing obligation. ... There are quite a few loopholes."

So while not opposing this bill, Koubek and other advocates are now working to pass one backed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and his chief deputy, former housing advocate James Morgo. That measure, covering seven downstate counties, would spell out how many homes should be built in each community, and offer incentives to governments that build them.

"The inclusionary bill is a good symbolic message, but would ultimately only get you about 100 to 200 units a year being built," said Levy, who nevertheless believes it should pass. "The downstate bill could lead to thousands and thousands." Already, he said, several Long Island municipalities have passed inclusionary zoning laws tougher than this bill.

But while Skelos also has sponsored Levy's favored bill, lawmakers say it is nowhere near passing, because it is new, complex and would require some $87 million in support.

"Compromises have to be made," insists Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), a co-sponsor of the inclusionary bill. "We're going to get one passed and we're going to move the process forward."

The debate has strained relations between Morgo, who was critical of the inclusionary bill but thought both could pass, and Crosson, who had lobbied to stop the filing of the downstate bill at all.

In letters, phone calls and heated exchanges at meetings, Crosson argued the downstate bill would "derail" five years of work. He wrote to the Regional Plan Association demanding it "immediately cease" its work on the bill. In February, Crosson wrote to LIA directors saying Morgo was behind efforts to "undermine" and "misrepresent" the inclusionary bill.

This month, Crosson dismissed the frictions, saying his fears have not been borne out. "That's past, and we're moving forward," Crosson said.

But the LIA still does not endorse the bill Levy and Morgo drafted together with the other suburban counties. "I think the bill is complicated and difficult for people to understand, and needs to be simplified," Crosson said.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You Have No Right To Complain. . .

. . .Unless You VOTE!


Monday, May 19, 2008

The Ultimate In Chutzpah

Sanitary District 1 Attorney To Sue State Over Pulled Pension

Imagine that!

Nat "let them eat matzo" Swergold, longtime counsel to the beleaguered Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 1, plans to sue the State of New York over the State Comptroller's recent decision to terminate his most questionable public pension.

Gee, Nat, do you really believe you are entitled to a pension for "work" performed for the district as an independent contractor, while maintaining, at the same time, a full time law practice?

Sure. Why not?

If the hand feeds you while the eyes are looking elsewhere, take it. And if anyone tries to take that meal ticket away, well, bite the hand that feeds you!

Nat, your arguments hold about as much weight as those flimsy kitchen trash bags residents place at the curb -- or, in Sanit 1, at the back door -- instead of properly sealed garbage cans, and the trash you're slinging smells just as bad.

Retire. Move to Florida. Take away Nat Swergold's gravy train, and let him eat bread.

And by the way, Nat, don't forget to take the trash with you on your way out the door.
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From The Franklin Square/Elmont Herald:

Comptroller eliminates FS school attorney's pension

Attorney Nat Swergold, whose membership in the state retirement system was recently revoked, has decided to lead a legal battle to do what he believes is a chance "to undo a wrong."

Swergold, a Cedarhurst-based lawyer who represents Sanitary District 1 in Lawrence, said a lawsuit will be filed this week in Albany against state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The lawyer was informed of the news through a letter sent last week from DiNapoli's office. Swergold's letter was one of six sent by DiNapoli's office -- including Attorney William Cullen of the Franklin Square school district and Accountant Sal Evola of Sanitary District 1 -- to those who were determined to be wrongfully listed employees in the public sector. Cuomo is also conducting a similar, but separate investigation of employment status's in local government.

Unlike Swergold and Cullen, Evola was not removed from the state retirement system. Instead, he was deducted about nine years' worth of pension credits he earned as a part-time treasurer for Sanitary District 1. Evola will continue to earn pension credits for his full-time position in the Village of Cedarhurst and a part-time position in the Inwood Fire District.

Swergold, who has been listed as a part-time employee of the sanitary district since 1972, expressed shock and anger at the process used by the comptroller's office. He contends that DiNapoli's actions are illegal, citing law from the state constitution and from past court decisions.

"Without opportunity to be heard and without any semblance of due process, the Office of the New York State Comptroller has unilaterally determined that my 36 years of continuous Tier 1 membership in the New York State Employees' Retirement System is to be rescinded on grounds contrary to the New York State Constitution and the Comptroller's very own regulations," Swergold said in a statement that he plans to use in his lawsuit.

Swergold's former status as a Tier 1 member of the New York State Employees Retirement System was only available to those who joined on or before June 30, 1973. Tier 1 members receive full-time pension credit, even for individuals like Swergold who do not have a specified work day and receive an "annual salary," state documents show.

The Tier 1 regulations also specify that "annual salary" must be passed through a law or resolution. In Swergold's case, the sanitary district's board of commissioners sets his salary through an annual resolution.

During an interview at his Cedarhurst office, Swergold pointed to the 1958 case of Birnbaum v. New York State Teacher's Retirement System as one basis for his argument. In that decision, a judge for the New York State Court of Appeals cited a section of the state constitution adopted in 1938 that says after July 1940, members of any pension or retirement system on a state or local level are to be considered a "contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired."

"This is wrong as to me and wrong as to others," said Swergold, 73, who planned to retire and begin receiving his pension at the age of 75. "Therefore I am going forward with the lawsuit. The constitution is very clear."

Emily DeSantis, a spokeswoman for DiNapoli, explained that the comptroller has the authority to revoke membership in the state and local retirement systems because his office administers it.

Those whose memberships are revoked have the right to schedule an appeal hearing with the comptroller's office, which was specified in the most recent letters, she said.

According to DeSantis, Swergold and Evola were mentioned in an audit of Sanitary District 1 released in January 200. That audit recommended that the attorney (Swergold) and accountant (Evola) should be considered independent contractors, instead of part-time employees with benefits. Those recommendations were not followed through until last week.

"These two particular individuals [Swergold and Evola] were pointed out in an audit of this office in 2005, so we followed up to see if corrective action had been taken as the audit recommended and it had not, " DeSantis said.

Evola remains in the retirement system as a full-time village administrator for the Village of Cedarhurst and as a treasurer for the Inwood Fire District. Until this year, Cullen was listed as an employee by the Franklin Square schools, and as a part-time employee by the Brentwood and Half Hollow Hills libraries. Cullen's attorney Kevin Keating did not specify his client's course of action, but acknowledged that he would fight the comptroller's actions.

"We are weighing all of our options," Keating said. "We are convinced that Bill Cullen did nothing wrong and was fully entitled to service credit in the retirement system." As an employee for the aforementioned districts, Cullen "had a myriad of duties and responsibilities with each of these entities," Keating added.

Like Swergold, Keating said the comptroller's decision to rescind membership in the retirement system is not based on statutes.

For now, DiNapoli's staff is continuing its ongoing investigation and expects more findings in the near future, DeSantis said. Despite Swergold's intent to file a lawsuit against DiNapoli, the comptroller and his staff continues to stand behind their actions. "Our thorough review of the individuals whose retirement service credit has been revoked found these individuals were not entitled to that service credit because they acted as independent contractors, not employees," DeSantis said. "We are confident that our determination will be upheld."

Comments about this story? or 516-569-4000 ext. 210.

©Herald Community 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Tax Whisperer

Why No Hullabaloo Over Special Districts, Double-Dipping, And The Ever-Burgeoning Property Tax?

With the recent final report having been issued by the NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness, the yanking of state pensions for those who have their hands in every pocket, and the findings and recommendations of the NYS Commission On Property Tax Relief due out in a few short weeks, we wonder why -- other than a few stirrings in the media outlets -- there hasn't been much more than murmurs on the street, let alone boisterous calls to action before the state and local legislatures.

Are we missing something?

Is the public so shell shocked and beaten down that they can do little more than shrug at any suggestion that might actually keep more money in their pockets?

Or could it be that we've all been down this road before, with the commissions, studies, recommendations, and promises yielding little in the way of actual relief?

Whatever the underlying cause of our reticence, with but a month or so left in the session for the New York State Legislature -- which, in its entirety, is up for election this fall -- there is scant time to set in motion the wheels that turn recommendations into legislation, and legislation into law.

The talk on the street -- and at community forums, far and wide -- should be centered on how we can put in play the proposals of commissions and comptrollers alike, with a rather loud shout out to the folks in Albany to heed the call or, come November, take the fall.

The time to start making noise -- and lots of it -- on the special district/property tax front is now, lest we maintain our self-destructive silence on these monumental issues, content to "wait 'til next year" (or the year after that) for any real relief.
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Governor David Paterson has proposed omnibus legislation that would adopt some of the recommendations made by the NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness, which includes prohibiting special district commissioners from being compensated for their services, and transfers to town boards most of the managerial responsibilities for the special districts that provide sanitary, refuse, and garbage services.

Commonly known as Program Bill #52, the legislation is multi-sponsored by 64 members of the Senate and 148 members of the Assembly.

Query as to whether this measure has made it out of the catacombs of the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission and into a Senate or Assembly committee, let alone onto any committee's agenda that could -- by the good graces of Senator Bruno and Assemblyman Silver -- move the measure onto the floor for a vote.

Call your State Senator and Assemblymember today, and tell them you support Program Bill #52, and so should they!
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NYS Senate
NYS Assembly
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The NYS Assembly will hold a public hearing -- in Buffalo -- on the Commission's recommendations, this Friday, May 16th.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

When The Voice Of Community Falls Upon Deaf Ears

Island Park Residents Clamor To Close Local No-Tell Motel; Town Hall Shrugs
The Town of Hempstead, for all of its Supervisor's raves about building better communities, is nothing if not consistent.

Unfortunately, the consistency is, and has been for quite some time, nothing short of the hobgoblin of little minds.

Over in Island Park, another unincorporated outpost on the great Town of Hempstead plain, neighbors have been rallying to close the seedy Long Beach Motor Inn, the locus of sundry criminal acts, and home to the homeless.

As per the Town's spokesperson (would that Ed McMahon could choose another), the Town of Hempstead has the authority to close the motel -- if it really wanted to -- "but it depends on what's going on there - it has to really be extreme circumstances."


As in the case of a similar unsavory hotbed of criminal activity, West Hempstead's Courtesy, whose sordid history goes back more than a dozen years -- with residents battling Town officialdom for all of those years -- where rapes, assaults, weapons caches, prostitution, and kidnapping are apparently not "extreme" enough to move the Town to action.

Anyway, back to Island Park.

Nassau County Legislator, Denise Ford, has picked up on the mood of residents who envision a senior center in place of the seedy motel.

Of course, Ms. Ford also sees a parking lot as a viable alternative to the sleaze palace. Not quite paving paradise, but not exactly visionary, either.

It seems abundantly clear that establishments such as Island Park's Long Beach Motor Inn and West Hempstead's Courtesy should be shuttered -- and could be closed by the Town of Hempstead, with great immediacy, if only they wanted to.

After all, they closed down the Oceanside Motel with what appeared to be deliberate speed. [We still remember Town Supervisor Kate Murray and her cohort, Councilman Tony "They Enjoy Paying Twice As Much" Santino, donning hard hats and taking turns swinging the wrecking ball, as the walls of the Oceanside Motel came tumbling down.]

"Deliberate," as in the midst of a heated election campaign, and "speed," as in the expediency necessary to get votes.

We suppose that the good people of Island Park are getting a whiff of what residents of hamlets the likes of Baldwin, Elmont, Roosevelt, Uniondale and West Hempstead have been smelling for nearly all of the 100 year reign of one party rule -- something stinks at Hempstead Town Hall, and sense or senses aside, what the good people of our communities think, want, or need, just doesn't mean diddly squat to the folks running the show.

Summon up yet another "blight study," Kate Murray. Devise another unwieldy urban renewal plan, the signature dish served up by Hempstead Town as the be all and end all, undercooked and smothered in a soupy mush passed off as hollandaise. Paint a rosy picture, Kate, with all of those artist renderings, now faded from years of display.

Tis springtime in Hempstead Town, after all. The season of renewal.

Promise them anything, Kate -- Everything, in fact. Just give them blight, and call it a new day in Hempstead Town.

Ready the mailings and Murraygrams, and slather on the sunscreen. On cue, the Town of Hempstead is strutting upon our stage once again, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Cue the cameras. Fade to red. . .
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From The Oceanside/Island Park Herald:

Concerned about the future of the Long Beach Motor Inn in Island Park - specifically what it will be used for now that the homeless are apparently being moved out - about 100 neighbors met with county social services administrators last week.

A standing-room-only crowd filled the Island Park Public Library on Wednesday, April 30, receiving further assurances from Department of Social Services Commissioner Dr. John Imhof that the county is doing all it can to remove the few remaining homeless families. Last month, the Herald exclusively reported that the county has joined forces with the non-profit Community Housing Innovations (CHI) to find more permanent housing for the homeless, while the county pledged to cease using motels as temporary shelter for them by the end of the year.

At the time, Imhof said that since Jan. 1, the number of families living at the Long Beach Motor Inn has decreased from 17 to six, and the number of individuals from 23 to 12. But residents were still skeptical and worried about rumors that the motel would be turned into a permanent homeless shelter or used for low-income Section 8 subsidized housing. Some say converting it into Section 8 housing may be too costly since kitchenettes would have to be installed in each room.

The April 30 meeting was called by the Island Park Civic Association in an attempt to put residents more at ease. "The community was very nervous about what will happen with the motel, such as Section 8 coming in," said Patti Ambrosia, president of the Island Park Civic Association. "And we also wanted to make sure that they were removing all the homeless."

Karen Garber, program coordinator for social services, who attended the meeting along with Imhof, called the April 30 face-to-face with residents a success. "We felt that from our vantage point, it was a very positive and productive meeting," said Garber. "Residents seem to understand the efforts we've been making."

She said that since Jan. 8, when the county's partnership with CHI officially took shape, the number of individuals living in the motel has been decreased by 57 percent and the number of homeless families by 92 percent. She added that the county has adopted a case management program with CHI to help the homeless find suitable housing. "I believe the meeting was called because of the future use of the motor inn," said Garber. "There were rumblings that we would turn it into a homeless shelter, even though we never had any intentions of doing that."

Residents were told that the county may continue to use the motel "on a small scale," only in cases of an extreme emergency, such as when a fire forces a family to relocate.

After listening to social services officials at the April 30 meeting, Island Park resident Chris Fabris said, "I believe social services is doing its best to get them out [of the motel]. I feel that social services is telling the truth, taking the correct measures to put homeless people in the safest and most positive environment - something a motel is not."

Some residents such as Fabris said they will not be completely satisfied until the motel is shut down, because "it has a bad reputation for a history of drugs, sex and violence." He said with the homeless now almost completely out of the picture, the focus has shifted from the county to the Town of Hempstead, which had slapped the Long Beach Motor Inn last year with 53 summonses for such violations as overcrowded rooms, cooking appliances in sleeping areas and some homeless staying beyond the 30-day limit.

Susie Trenkle, a town spokeswoman, said the case is in the hands of the district court, but the motel management has filed repeated motions, apparently delaying action on the case. The town has the authority to close down a motel, as it did in the case of the Oceanside Motel, "but it depends on what's going on there - it has to really be extreme circumstances," said Trenkle.

Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), who attended last week's meeting at the library, said replacing the motel with senior citizen housing or a parking lot are two viable options. "We hope that whatever happens there is something that the people in the community can live with," said Ford, who added that she is willing to sit down with the motel owner to discuss possible options.

"We're hearing that the place has been a problem for a long time," said Ford. "Meanwhile, the owner is trying to make a living. But when you hear about the motel, it tends to be about drugs or violence or something very negative and the neighbors want it shut down."

Legislator Jeff Toback (D-Oceanside), whose representative Kathy Sadowski attended the meeting, said officials will continue to monitor the motel. "If a number of crimes are committed there..., and if that is in fact the reality, we have to take measures to stop it. One should not live with that in their backyard," said Toback.

Ambrosia said concerns about the motor inn have brought the community closer together for a common purpose. "A lot of Island Park people are really coming together," said Ambrosia. "We want our community back and our quality of life back, and this is a start," Ambrosia said.

Neither the owner of Long Beach Motor Inn, Charles Goldgrub, nor his attorney, William Bird, returned calls for comment.

Comments about this story? or (516) 569-4000 ext. 210.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It Takes A Train Station To Raise A Village

Or To Revitalize One

In many respects, America was built around the railroad.

Wherever the train tracks tread, towns, villages, and entire cities sprung from the prairies, the badlands, across great divides, and amidst the bramble.

Indead, it has always been access to transportation that has spurred the growth not only of this nation's economy, but of the great urban centers that developed along mighty rivers, beside the trackbed, and, yes, sprawled for seemingly endless miles along that vast ribbon of highway, ushering in the era of suburban sprawl.

Now, the trend in urban planning, or so those doing the planning portend, is to harken back to the days of the golden spike and lonely train whistle, designing communities around transportation centers. The so-called "transit village."

Not exactly a novel idea, but certainly, one that has worked for centuries.

And in this era of $4+ for a gallon of gas, anything -- and everything -- we can do to create a well proportioned mix of residential, retail, commercial space, all centered around a mass transit-oriented lifestyle -- one in which we bike, train, or actually walk, rather than hop into our cars -- is truly a step in the right direction.
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Station Site Envisioned as Village

A TRANSIT village consisting of an estimated 1.2 million square feet of commercial, residential, retail and industrial development, tied together by a new Long Island Rail Road station, is being explored for the Route 110 corridor near Republic Airport.

“We are going to develop a comprehensive vision plan that would make sense from an environmental, housing and economic development perspective,” said Steven C. Bellone, the supervisor of the Town of Babylon, which includes the site in East Farmingdale. “By taking this comprehensive approach, we can get more people on board.”

A previous plan to encourage the Long Island Rail Road to reopen the Republic station, which was closed in 1986, had called for the development of a transportation hub at that site.

That hub drew criticism from residents who feared worse traffic congestion, and railroad officials said they were reluctant to reopen the station until this more extensive plan was proposed.

“In the past, we looked at that station as an attractor for customers” going to New York City, said Elisa Picca, the railroad’s chief planning officer. But the new plan would also make Republic a destination station for those who would live and work along the corridor, she said.

The railroad formerly had a stop near Republic Airport that was created to serve employees of the Fairchild Republic Company’s aircraft factory. That plant was closed in 1987, putting hundreds out of work.

To study the feasibility of reopening the station, the railroad plans to spend $3.5 million in its next capital program. Ms. Picca said that should be before 2010.

Frank P. Petrone, the Town of Huntington supervisor, said that until the railroad study is completed, the towns intend to do preliminary work of their own. (The northern section of Route 110 is in Huntington.)

Among the things the towns will consider is creating a bus route that would loop around the Route 110 corridor, taking passengers to their homes and work. Mr. Bellone said he envisioned buses making a five- to seven-mile run up and down Route 110.

“This would be the one place on Long Island that would have a north-south mass transit connection,” he said. “We will be studying whether to have a dedicated lane for the buses and studying the cost.”

Although 125,000 people work in businesses along the Route 110 corridor, Mr. Petrone said that there was room for growth and that efforts would be made to attract more businesses.

Representative Steve Israel, a Democrat from Huntington, said, “The real beauty of this project is that it is not one of these sprawling developments where we would need to bankrupt ourselves to buy gas getting there.”

He said the transit village, which officials say would be the first one on Long Island, would be self-contained. “As oil prices continue to climb, such developments are all the more important,” Mr. Israel said.

Pearl M. Kamer, chief economist of the Long Island Association, a business group, pointed out that the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park on the campus of Farmingdale State University along Route 110 was expanding and needed housing for its employees.

Ms. Kamer, who is a board member of the park, said that a second incubator for bioscience companies would be opening later this year on the campus.

“Once we develop a bioscience cluster, it will spill over into the general business community along the Route 110 corridor and we will need housing for them,” Ms. Kamer said.

Mitchell Pally, a board member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent of the Long Island Rail Road, said that if a Republic station was opened, it would be a new station on Conklin Avenue.

“This is the way the railroad is working with local government on transit-oriented development,” he said. “There is some transit-oriented development in Great Neck, Huntington and other areas, but this would be the first time we would be integrating a station into a brand-new development.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Friday, May 09, 2008

Pension For Sanit 1 Counsel Gets Trashed

Nat "Extra Trucks To Collect The Leftover Bread During Passover" Swergold Loses NYS Pension

Seagulls Come Home To Feast On Sanitary District 1 Garbage

We can't say we feel particularly sorry for Nat Swergold, who, for what seemed liked three lifetimes, served as counsel to Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 1, accruing credits in the State pension system, while, at the same time, working, full-time, in a private law practice.

The recent surfacing of "pensiongate" among attorneys who claimed to be full-time employees of school districts -- in fact, of several school districts, simultaneously -- proved to be the undoing of two special district mainstays at Sanit 1, Nat Swergold, of foot-in-mouth fame, and Salvatore Evola, the district's accountant/treasurer, who claimed pension credits for full-time employment by the Village of Cedarhurst, since 2003, part-time employment by the Inwood Fire District, since 1999, and part-time employment by Island Park school district from 2001 to 2006, this in addition to his alleged part-time job Sanitation District No. 1 since 1995.

Swergold, who is 72, has held his position as counsel with Sanitary District 1 since 1972.

Great work, if you can get it, eh?

Could this be the end of the double-dipping (triple-dipping?), benefit-grabbing, soak-the-taxpayer antics for which the special districts have become infamous?


For now, let's call it the beginning of the end of one of the greatest rip-offs known in these parts -- special taxing district perks.

As for Nat Swergold, well, it looks like he'll have to keep working until he's 92, 'cause John Q. Public won't be financing his retirement!
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LI accountant, 2 lawyers lose state pension credits

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has removed two Long Island attorneys from the state retirement system and rescinded some pension credits of an accountant from Long Island after finding the three had been improperly reported as public employees, spokesman Dennis Tompkins said yesterday.

The action affects Franklin Square school attorney William Cullen and, for the first time, two people reported as employees of a special district - attorney Nat Swergold and accountant Salvatore Evola of Sanitation District No. 1 in Lawrence. The action follows a series of Newsday stories detailing how private attorneys - already paid thousands of dollars in legal fees - were able to get into the state retirement system by being improperly reported as public employees.

Newsday also has reported on the generous salaries and benefits paid to employees of special districts in Nassau County.Since the stories, the state attorney general, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service and Nassau district attorney all have launched criminal and civil investigations.

"We are moving forward, case by case," DiNapoli said in a statement. The comptroller also took action yesterday against three upstate attorneys, revoking the retirement system membership of two and taking away some pension credits from a third.

None of those affected by the action have begun collecting pensions.

The state comptroller's office would not estimate the amount of pensions the six individuals would have received, but they are believed to be tens of thousands of dollars annually. Swergold and Cullen each plan to fight DiNapoli's decision. Swergold, 72, who was criticized in a 2005 Nassau comptroller's audit for being paid as both a public employee and a consultant, had accrued nearly 36 years in the retirement system.

"Is a convicted felon entitled to greater protection than Nat Swergold?" he said of himself, referring to a Newsday story Tuesday about former Roslyn Superintendent Frank Tassone, who is collecting an annual $173,495 state pension while in prison for embezzling $2.2 million from the district. "This is craziness."

Cullen's attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, said his client, too, would fight the action. "Bill Cullen is fully entitled to the service credits, and we will be fighting this," Keating said.

Cullen, 56, will lose approximately 18 years of pension credits. He recently sent a letter to the comptroller asking to withdraw from the pension system, but Keating said he wrote it only to avoid the appearance of impropriety and as a reaction to "adverse publicity."

Evola, 42, has accrued nearly 20 years of credits but will lose 9.7 years, Tompkins said. His employment status was also criticized in the county comptroller's audit.

Records show Evola has been employed by the Village of Cedarhurst, Sanitation District No. 1, Island Park School District and Inwood Fire District at the same time. He also worked as a partner in a private accounting firm. Evola said he has left the Island Park School District and no longer maintains his private practice.

Upstate, the comptroller revoked the pension membership of attorneys Maria Massaro, 39, of Niagara Falls, and M. Cornelia Cahill, 51, of Schenectady. The office also rescinded some pension credits of attorney Maureen Harris, 38, of Slingerlands. Harris, a former partner of the influential Albany law firm of Girvin and Ferlazzo, couldn't be reached for comment. Although she is losing one year of credit she got through the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES, she will keep credits she has earned as a commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission, Tompkins said. Cahill and Massaro couldn't be reached for comment.

Newsday previously reported that Harris and Cahill are under investigation by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has criminal jurisdiction, for possibly improperly obtaining pension credits from an upstate BOCES district. In addition, the paper has reported that Cullen has been offered a settlement of his case by Cuomo's office.

Staff writer Robert Kessler contributed to this story.


WILLIAM CULLEN, 56, Lloyd Harbor private attorney
He was reported as full-time by Franklin Square schools (until February 2008); part- time by Brentwood library (until February 2008); part-time for Half Hollow Hills library (until 2002).Action: Revoked retirement system membership; lost 18.2 years of pension credits.

NAT SWERGOLD, 72, Woodbury private attorney
He was reported as full-time by Sanitation District No. 1 in Lawrence since July 1972.Action: Revoked retirement system membership; lost 35.7 years of pension credits.

SALVATORE EVOLA, 42, Woodmere accountant/treasurer
He was reported as full-time by Village of Cedarhurst, since 2003; part-time by Inwood Fire District, since 1999; part-time by Island Park school district from 2001 to 2006 and part-time by Sanitation District No. 1 since 1995.Action: Lost 9.7 years of pension credits (reported by the sanitation district.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The NY Gas Tax Holiday, Er, Ah, Hoax

State Senate Passes Gasoline Tax "Holiday" Bill
Don't Look To Save At The Pump Any Time Soon

This is an election year, after all, and the pols -- especially up in Albany -- don't want us to forget it.

And so, the State Senate, willing to do and say virtually anything to keep that chamber in GOP hands, has picked up where John McCain and Hillary Clinton left off -- the faux relief of a gasoline tax holiday.

Passed by the Senate, the "holiday" -- said to cut about 35 cents per gallon, attributable to State taxes -- is more like one of those Chevy Chase misadventures than a summer on the French Riviera.

The State cuts the tax (which is paid by the oil companies). The oil companies pocket the 35 cents per gallon (adding to their profits). The comsumer continues to pay the same price at the pump (until the so-called "holiday" comes to an end in the fall, at which time big oil will, no doubt, simply add that 35 cents on top of what they were already gouging you for before the "holiday" went into effect).

A wonderful -- and typical -- political ploy, yet signifying absolutely nothing that would actually benefit the consumer.

Anyway, the State Assembly, under the thumb of Speaker Silver, is not likely to go along with the Senate's plan, so about as much chance of this State gas tax holiday passing as there is in Exxon/Mobil disgorging $10 billion in profits and donating same to Make-A-Wish.

Would that such tax "relief" came to be, and suffer still the consumer, not only at the pump, but on the road, where that tax money that would otherwise have gone for maintenance, repairs, and improvements of highways, bridges, and public transportation goes instead to Exxon, Shell, and the Saudis.

Of course, they could always raise the tolls or increase mass transit fares to make up the shortfall.

Oh wait. They plan on doing that, regardless.
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NY Republicans' bid for gas tax `holiday' sputters


Republicans in the New York Senate and Assembly say cutting the local, state and federal taxes on gasoline could save up to $10 per fill-up during their proposed "summer holiday" from gas taxes.

But many political and economic obstacles stand in the way of the election-year proposal.

Democratic Gov. David Paterson says he won't reject the push by Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Republican leader James Tedisco. But he says there's no guarantee gasoline suppliers and retailers wouldn't simply jack up the price even if the taxes are eliminated over the summer.

Paterson also questioned if the state can afford the loss of millions of dollars in revenue after years of spending too much and in the face of historic deficits.

Paterson said it's a "leap of faith" that prices at the pump would be cut by the amount of the taxes without some pledge by the industry.

"This is something we could legislate, but not implement," he said. He also said the state can't afford the revenue loss if there no guaranteed cut in gas prices because he predicts state deficits of up to $20 billion over the next three years.

But Bruno said the cut in the state, local and federal tax - or even just cutting the state tax - would likely pay for itself. He said New Yorkers would have more money to spend on groceries and clothes and that the cut could entice more tourism.

He said a summer without gas taxes could save $7.20 to fill-up a car or $10 to fill-up a sport utility vehicle or truck. Gas prices are expected to hit $4 a gallon and more this summer.

"That's the objective here, to stimulate the economy," Bruno said.

The state tax is 32.8 cents per gallon, the federal tax is 18.4 cents and the local tax is 13.9 cents.

If all taxes were suspended from Memorial Day to Labor Day, New Yorkers would see about a 65-cent cut in price to $3.93 per gallon, instead of $4.58 per gallon, said Bruno, a Rensselaer County Republican.

"High gas prices have a negative multiplier effect, driving up the cost of everyday goods," said Tedisco, a Schenectady Republican. "The fastest way to put the brakes on rising fuel, food and other commodity costs is by instituting a much-needed holiday from the state fuel taxes for motorists and businesses."

Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the "Republicans are trying to hide from the failures of the Bush administration."

"I believe that oil companies will simply raise their prices to eliminate any cost savings," Silver said. He said the Republicans should call the Bush administration and demand action to solve the problem.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

LIers Love Their Gas Guzzlers

Give Up Our SUVs? Yeah, Sure. Right After We Trash The Sanitary Districts

Add yet another notch in the totem pole of Long Island's adherence to the culture of, "What us, change?"

Gas is approaching $4 per gallon, headed to $5 or $6, and we cling to our 8 MPG vehicles like a Sanitary District commish holds on for dear life to the notion that lifetime perks for part-time work are endowed entitlements.

Forget that we spend more on gas than for food. Heck, why drive a Prius when an Escalade can eat you out of house and home -- and all the more quickly?

Pay more for garbage collection than for police protection?


After all, what could be more important than having your trash collected 6 days a week (or was that the equivalent of 8 days), or picked up at the back door (talk about lazzzzzzy) instead of at the curb?

Of course, now that we lave the Long Island Index report evidencing LIers' infatuation with their automobiles (like we needed to spend how much money to figure that one out?), surely we'll reflect upon our misguided ways, and trade in our Hummers for Smart Cars.

And just look at that groundswell of support -- from our legislators to the taxpaying public -- for the final report of the NYS Commission on Government Efficiency. . .

Need we say more?

Whether Long Islanders will change their ways is highly dependent upon whether we will change our "leave it alone" mindset -- on everything from special districts to illegal accessory apartments, paying more while getting less -- resisting anything remotely resembling a modification of our long-standing (and, quite frequently, counterproductive) belief that what worked well (or not so) in 1938 will still work today -- or worse still, tomorrow.

Until then, we'll continue to bear the burden of -- or, as some have said, "enjoy" -- digging into our pockets (assuming there is anything left but the hole down there) to pay for the unrealized vision of suburbia.
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Island's move to energy efficiency stops at SUVs

Long Islanders have switched to energy-efficient lightbulbs and adjusted their thermostats, but the region's nascent green revolution may stop in the driveway.

Most residents have no plans to abandon their sport utility vehicles or spacious sedans for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to a Long Island Index poll released Monday.

The survey asked more than 850 Long Island residents their opinions on climate change and energy efficiency.

Results were mixed. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they believe global warming is already happening. But more than half said it would not threaten them or their way of life during their lifetimes.

The poll showed residents were willing to adopt some changes wholeheartedly. More than 90 percent said they would choose an energy-efficient appliance over a cheaper but less efficient model.

But one sacrifice many Long Island drivers appear unwilling to make is swapping a bigger vehicle for a more fuel-efficient model. Conducted amid rising fuel prices in February and March, the survey showed that, while one-tenth of drivers would consider buying a hybrid and 14 percent would consider a compact, roughly two-thirds of drivers preferred something other than a smaller car with better gas mileage.

Nearly three-quarters now drive SUVs, trucks and medium-sized cars such as sedans or station wagons.

Economic, generational and political divides also shaped responses. Affluent, liberal residents tended to show more support for shouldering upfront costs of big investments in future energy efficiency.

All told, 46 percent of all those surveyed said they would pay more on their electric bill if the Long Island Power Authority developed large-scale solar and wind-power projects. Only 32 percent of those making less than $35,000 backed an increase, compared with 57 percent of those earning $100,000 or more.

John McNally of the Rauch Foundation, a Garden City-based nonprofit philanthropic group that funded the survey, called on LIPA to develop renewable energy sources as well as energy conservation programs.

Noting that the utility just announced a 50-megawatt solar power project, LIPA president and Chief Executive Kevin Law said he was committed to "exploring large-scale renewable projects, but I need to balance those desires with the economic impacts such projects would have on our ratepayers."

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.