Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ra, Ra For The Lighthouse Project

Hempstead Town Attorney And His Local Republican Club Reap Contributions from Consultant Hired By Town To Study Environmental Impact of Lighthouse Project

If isn't all in the family for Town of Hempstead officials, then, certainly, its "pay it close to the vest," with contributors to the GOP cause -- and the local Republican Club -- securing lucrative town contracts.

Hasn't that always been the case? A Quid Pro Quo, of sorts? You scratch my back, and.... Well, you get the picture.

And so it is with the consultant hired to review the environmental impact of the proposed Lighthouse project, F.P. Clark, which firm, just coincidentally, is a regular contributor to Hempstead Town Attorney, Joe Ra, as well at the Franklin Square Republican Club, of which Ra is leader.

Ah, keep your friends close, and your contributors even closer!

Not that there's anything illegal in these shenanigans -- although Ra is said to be returning monies received from Clark, post-Lighthouse project retention -- but the appearance of impropriety alone emits a stench that makes the effluent flowing from the Cedar Creek sewage treatment plant smell like roses.

The Town Attorney tells Newsday that Clark has been doing consulting work for the Republican-controlled Town of Hempstead for the past 25 years.

No doubt. And for how many years has the consulting firm been a donor to Joe Ra and his Republican Club?

And why is the Town Attorney, who should, at least in theory, be above the political fray, leading a local GOP Club? [A rhetorical question. We suppose it is much for the same reason that said Town Attorney had been, for many years, simultaneously on the payroll of the Town of Hempstead and the Town's Sanitary District 6, wearing the hat of Counsel. Does that mean two pensions, Joe? Hmmm.]

Okay. One hand washes the other. We understand that.

But whatever happened to competitive bidding and independent review? And where's the transparency we, the people, have been promised, from the State Capitol to Hempstead Town Hall?

When will the residents of Hempstead Town, particularly those who bother to vote, finally say, "no more"?
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From Newsday:
Consultant fee complaints prompt focus on GOP donations

When Lighthouse president Michael Picker complained to Hempstead Town officials last May that the environmental consulting firm's bills for the proposed Nassau Coliseum project were "unfair," Town Attorney Joseph Ra responded that the fees were "reasonable and necessary in all respects."

In his letter, Ra did not tell Picker he was a longtime friend of the president of the consulting firm, David Stolman, or that Stolman's firm, F.P. Clark, had made thousands of dollars in contributions to Ra's Republican Club in Franklin Square.

Under state environmental law, all land-use applications must be reviewed for their environmental impact. The local municipality selects the consultant who does it, while the developer pays the bills. The Lighthouse group has deposited more than $550,000 in an escrow account held by the town for those bills.

State campaign filings show that Westchester-based F.P. Clark, selected by the town board in April 2008 as its consultant on the Lighthouse project, has donated $2,420 to the Franklin Square Republican Club, of which Ra is leader, since April 2006.

In an interview, Ra defended the contributions as "perfectly legal," but later said he would refund some of them and stop accepting them from the firm in the future.

Although there is no law barring such contributions, "There should be a rule that the town attorney is not involved in political clubs," said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Group, a nonprofit organization that monitors campaign activities.

Picker first complained to Ra - who is the town's point person on the Lighthouse project - about at least $350,000 in bills May 12, calling them "inequitable and unfair."

Two weeks after Picker's complaint, Stolman contributed $455 to Ra's Republican club. A little more than a month later, on July 1, Ra defended Stolman's bills in a letter to Picker.

In an interview, both Stolman and Ra said they had been close friends for more than 30 years. Ra said he was not involved in selecting Stolman's firm for the work and that Stolman's political contributions were "not unlike anything that doesn't happen anywhere else in the state."

Ra said Town Supervisor Kate Murray, also a Republican, and town board members were not aware of the relationship, and that the firm had done consulting work for the town on other projects for 25 years.

In a later interview, Ra said that the relationship might have the appearance of impropriety and said he would refund all contributions, or a total of $910, made after he took over the project for the town in September 2008. According to a letter Ra sent to Stolman on Sept. 8, he did so.


Who's Watching Out For The Special Taxing Districts?

Karl Schweitzer, We Presume!

Yes, Karl Schweitzer, President of the Long Island Special Districts Association. [Did you even know that such an organization existed? A union of special districts, banded together? For what, you ask? Why, to insulate and protect themselves from us, the taxpaying public, of course.]

Anyway, on the heels of a report of a Nassau County Grand Jury, condemning pension abuses among the county's special districts, Mr. Schweitzer and his ilk will likely have some 'splainin' to do, should our dysfunctional State Legislature up in Albany ever decide to seriously take up the issue of pension reform, special district reform, and/or property tax reform.

Apparently, no laws were broken. But there oughta be a law!

Pedro Espada, reformist extraordinaire. Where are you when we need you?

But we digress. Back to Karl Schweitzer. He and his colleagues at LISDA opposed the legislation, signed into law earlier this year, that will permit residents -- as well as county government -- to commence a process that could, ultimately, by referendum, allow for the dissolution or consolidation of special districts -- namely, water, garbage, fire, and the like. [School districts are, unfortunately, exempt from the law, notwithstanding the fact that school taxes account for more than 60% of the property tax in most Long Island districts. So who's counting?]

Seems the special taxing districts don't care much for change, unless its the change that's coming out of taxpayers' -- primarily, homeowners -- pockets to fill their coffers for cars, junkets, orthodontics, and 52" HDTV monitors.

As for Karl Schweitzer -- who, by the way, is Chairman of the Board of the Hicksville Water District, as well as president of the Nassau-Suffolk Water Commissioners Association-- he is watching out for his special district pensioneers, whom he shall, some day soon, hope to join. You know. The folks who double and triple dip, without a single time sheet to show that they actually did anything for anyone other than themselves.

Yes, this band of brothers, under banner of the Long Island Special Districts Association [we wonder which Republican Club they run out of], is watching the pot. [That is, when they're not being paid for playing golf.] A pot into which millions of taxpayer dollars is poured, annually, never to be seen by the public eye again -- yet alone accounted for by boards, commissioners, and their "local government" cohorts, who say they have the best interests of the public (that's us, in case you had a brain freeze there) at heart.

Really? Could have fooled us. They didn't, of course, fool a Nassau County Grand Jury!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hey Big Spender. . .

And You Thought We Didn't Need Campaign Finance Reform

With the general election a little over a month away, the money flows out of the campaign war chests like water down the Hudson River to the sea.

And may the biggest spender win!

Here's the tab for expenditures, to date, for the incumbents in the races for Town Supervisor in Oyster Bay, North Hempstead, and Hempstead, respectively:

John Venditto $50,194.47
John Kaiman $140,753.49
Kate Murray $199,685.89

And the winner is? As if you didn't know. [Only fitting that the biggest spender should find herself in America's biggest township, where there really isn't any challenge this year, to speak of. Hey, you think all those signs, placards, and mailings come cheap? Wait. We forgot. No campaign funds have been used for the mailing of those Murraygrams. That's your tax dollars at work!]

These are local races, mind you, where the opposition has been, at best, nominal, if not non-existent.

Even the money spent in the race for Nassau County Executive can be telling, where incumbent, Tom Suozzi has outspent challenger, Ed Mangano, by some $357,513.32 to $28,862.74, not to mention outraising his opponent (albeit in a race that is virtually no contest) to the tune of $1,127,358.50 to $78,759.10.

Okay. So there's nothing unlawful about amassing money in a campaign war chest, and then simply outspending your opponent (or, in the case of Michael Bloomberg in NYC (whose expenditures, through July, have been $36,645,273.82, outspending most developed nations in the world).

Maybe, just maybe, to level that playing field -- in the hope that the most qualified candidates (and not the biggest spenders) may win -- it just ought to be.

Time to take another look at campaign finance reform and the public financing of elections? You betcha!
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To Search the NYS Board of Elections Campaign Finance Disclosure database by candidate name, click HERE.

For a spreadsheet of 2009 campaign spending by the incumbents in the races for Town Supervisor in Nassau County, e-mail The Community Alliance at

Monday, September 28, 2009

There Are None So Blind. . .

. . .As Those Who Still Do Not Embrace The Dire Need For Health Care Reform

If you can watch the following video, published by the St. Petersburg Times at, and conclude that our health care system is on the right track, and drastic reform, largely to hold costs in check and the drug and insurance complex accountabily, we'd suggest a visit to your own doctor (you pick up the tab) to check your pulse.

That we allow this abuse -- and make no mistake, it is abuse -- to go on in America, the wealthiest nation in the free world, is simply unconscionable.

That we pay any mind to the boneheads who scream "death panels," "socialism," and "you lie," is simply beyond belief.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The 'New Suburbia' Comes Into Focus

90/10 Master Plan Presented By Nassau County Executive

We're not convinced that 90/10 is quite the right mix, as we meander down Hempstead Turnpike, turning the corner at the intersection of Ugly and Blighted.

Still, turning the corner -- from downtrodden to upscale, from the 1950s to the 21st Century -- is what its all about!

With this in mind, Nassau County Exec Tom Suozzi unveiled -- perhaps for the second, or is it the third time -- his Master Plan for the New Suburbia, the so-called "90/10 Solution" (which, hopefully, is not the year of its intended implementation).

Can Elmont or Hempstead Village have "Cool Downtowns?"

Will Belmont Park ever reach its potential as a community-builder?

Can we afford to build the megaprojects highlighted in the Master Plan? Can we afford not to?

And why doesn't Tom ever include The Community Alliance as part of his "teamwork to make the dream work"?

Yes, "re-imagining suburbia" has a whole new look to it.

Granted, it will take lots of "re-imagineering" -- from Disneyesque re-imagineers -- to bring much of Nassau County (or at least that 10% as envisioned by the 90/10 Coalition), from blight to delight.

Will this plan truly, realistically, feasibly, relieve us of high property taxes, the flight of young Long Islanders, traffic congestion, pockets of poverty, among other ills of an aging suburbia?

Time, effort, energy, and a will to get the job done, will tell.

Of course, we have to start somewhere, and sometime. Let that somewhere be America's first suburb. Let that sometime be now!

When Legislators Write Us On Our Dime

Its All About Them, Seldom About Us

This blogger received the most recent District Report (timed for release just prior to the upcoming election) from his Nassau County Legislator. A Report which, as we all know, but our legislators apparently forget (or is it that they just don't care?), is paid for with taxpayer dollars.

The entire first page, of this four page, full color newsletter, is little more than a rant against the folks who, figuratively, sit across the aisle.

"Their budget is flawed. We voted against it." "The Assessment is broken. They call it 'fair and accurate.'" "The county is borrowing tens of millions of dollars." "They spend too many hours considering trivial laws (e.g., a law to ban the sale of candy cigarettes)."

Forget, for the moment, that the County's finances, as rough a road as is traveled upon in these difficult economic times, is far better than it was when those who now complain brought Nassau to the brink of fiscal ruin.

Never mind that the Assessment process was "broken" when you had it under your watch, that a Court, not the opposition, ordered the reassessment, and it was, at the outset, your team, then in the majority, that had the ball to carry.

And talk about trivialities. Is parental consent to get a little rose tattoo on the ankle any more trivial -- or less significant, depending on point of view -- than is banning candy cigarettes?

Point is, nowhere in the missive that is the District Report -- this rude, petty, finger-pointing at "the other guy," self-aggrandizing rag -- is there any suggestion of a viable alternative course, or, for that matter, anything whatsoever signifying a record of accomplishment by the legislator who sent it.

Accomplishments? You want accomplishments? Isn't berating the majority, followed by two pages of glossy photos of our County Legislator attending street fairs, holding a shovel at a groundbreaking, or denouncing the State MTA tax, "accomplishment?"

Sorry, but showing up (for a photo op) at a pancake breakfast or a pasta dinner is not a legislative coup (use of the word not intended to conjure up flashbacks of what our State Senators "accomplished" earlier this year).

Having your name appear under your picture in the local papers, week after week after week, is not an accomplishment.

And wasting hard-earned tax dollars on what amounts to campaign literature turned hate mail, to rant about your fellow legislators and the other party, is certainly not accomplishment.

As this blogger's mother often said, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything." [Not that I ever listened. Then again, I am not an elected official, and no tax dollars were used to publish and disseminate this rant].

Perhaps that line should be, "If you haven't actually done anything positive yourself, keep the malcontent in check, and stop using public money as part of your re-election campaign war chest."

More aptly, it is better for legislators to keep their mouths shut, and appear to have done little to improve the quality of life in our community, than to open them, and remove all doubt!

It is evident that our legislators just don't get it. The question is, "When will we?"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Journey Of A Thousand Blogposts. . .

. . .Begins With A Singular Passion For Community

Without Goliath, David would just have been some punk throwing rocks.
--Billy Crystal

A milestone, of sorts, here at The Community Alliance blog. Our one thousandth -- count 'em, 1000 -- blogpost.

And to think, it all began when a locally elected official, of the party we often rant about, suggested over lunch, "Why don't you start a blog?"

Thank you, Kate Murray! LOL

So, why a blog, and does what we write here, and what, at least according to internal stats, you read here (in great numbers, we might add), really make a difference?

The answer to the first part of that question (Why a blog) is simple enough.

Through this blog, and our occasional e-mail blasts, we are able to reach people -- lots of people -- in the communities and neighborhoods where advocacy and activism regarding quality of life issues matter most.

That we reach folks beyond Long Island (with subscribers as far away as Oregon. No. Really.), that which impacts on one -- whether high property taxes, financing public education, the lack of affordable housing, or that pothole down the street -- gives reason for all of us to be concerned and get involved.

It is our passion for community that is the impetus for the written word found on this blog, emanating into the vastness of cyberspace and onto your computer screens and Blackberries. And it is your commitment to community that keeps you coming back to these pages -- some of you, to be sure, just to see if we've mentioned your names -- for information, insight (okay, a touch of incite, we admit), opinion, and the occasional belly laugh or guffaw.

This blog is not about us, mere conduits of what's good, and what could be better, in our community. Its about YOU -- the folks who pay those tax bills, fight the blight, vision for the future, and hold the very key to the success of our mutual endeavors to make Long Island -- and re-make Long Island -- the model of suburban life.

The answer to the second part of the query (does it make a difference, in case you forgot), well, we suppose, ultimately, that's something you'll have to decide for yourselves.

We believe that this blog, as silly and inane as it may seem at times, and the work of The Community Alliance, in your neighborhood and behind the scenes, does, if only in a small, perhaps immeasurable and almost imperceptible way, make a difference.

We are reminded of a story that evolved from The Star Thrower. In this parable, a young (but certainly not small) girl, Sara, is throwing a beached starfish -- among thousands that had been washed ashore -- back into the sea, when a passerby, puzzled and astonished by her action, asks: "Why do you bother? There are so many starfish washed up on the beach. Throwing back one can't possibly make a difference."

"It makes a difference to that one," declared Sara, as she prepared to hoist yet another starfish into the vast ocean.

It makes a difference, indeed!

If we -- that's us and you -- have made a difference to just one person, on one block, in one neighborhood, in a single community, well, the journey would have been well worth it.

And now, having completed the journey of a thousand blogposts (boy, are my fingers tired. Should have sought out those corporate sponsors!), we begin our trek down the road. Perhaps toward the second thousand. Perhaps in a new direction.

Either way, we thank you for accompanying us on this long, and often strange trip, and look forward to having you along by our side wherever this communal sojourn may next take us.

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Make a difference. Be a part of your community. Write us at

The Community Alliance
Common Sense Solutions For Common Community Concerns
New Visions For America's First Suburb

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Morning After The Lighthouse Hearing

Legitimate Concerns And Unreasonable Delay

Traffic congestion, the likes of which we haven't seen since, well, the last time we drove down Merchants Concourse near Old Country Road.

One-bedroom apartments from $234,000 (with units priced at more than $1 million). Certainly no way to ease the housing crunch in Nassau County, and not an inducement to keep our college grads and young workforce on the island.

Charles Wang and Scott Rechler -- the main forces behind the Lighthouse Project -- woefully unprepared to answer the simplest questions posed by the Hempstead Town Board, whose concerns, from traffic, to housing, to jamming 20 pounds of bologna into a 10 pound bag, certainly had merit. [What? Wang and Rechler couldn't afford to hire Barry Nelson?]

Yes, the Lighthouse Project, as with any initiative of such magnitude, drew at least as much criticism as it did praise at the Town's public hearing.

Questions that beg for answers, on the one hand, and a demand that we find practical solutions, and move forward, on the other.

Traffic congestion? Absolutely. And where in Nassau County, from the main thoroughfares to the side streets clogged with parked cars, is there no snarled, bottle-necked, and slowed to a crawl traffic.

Until officialdom deems it essential, and the public is willing to eject itself from the driver's seat, there will be no viable mass transit alternatives (ala light rail), and the immovable roadways will persist.

Affordable housing? Clearly, a one-bedroom starting at $234,000 is nowhere near affordable. Sorry, Charlie (and Scott). This is not Manhattan.

Okay, you're in this to make money, and you will take what the market will bear -- and then some. Still, an affordable housing component is a must for a project of this scope and breadth. You owe at least that much to the core of people who have supported this project since Day One -- the young Islander fans who, if forced off Long island by out-of-reach housing, may just follow the hockey team to Kansas City, or wherever.

The environment? The impact on Long Island's water table. Run-off and waste finding its way to our storm sewers and leaching down to our aquifers. Geez. Since when does anyone on Long Island -- where we've been abusing our water supply for two generations -- give a hoot about that?

"Just Build it!," as supporters of the Lighthouse proclaim, is no more a panacea for Nassau's long-awaited and much needed renaissance, than "slow and steady, wait and see," as propounded by Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, is a prelude to smart growth.

As for "Just Zone It!," another catch phrase thrown in the mix, well, why not? Seems that the Town's Zoning Board zones everything else -- or at least carves out an exception for it.

The Lighthouse Project needs to move forward, and well before we pass from the first decade of the 21st Century into the next.

That said, Nassau County, indeed, all of Long Island, and its taxpaying inhabitants, must not be so willing to move forward in haphazard haste, without regard to the consequences, lest this centerpiece of the New Suburbia envisioned by Tom Suozzi, be doomed to failure -- the brownfield of the next generation -- even before the first shovel hits dirt at the Coliseum.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Re-Elect Kate Murray Town Of Hempstead Supervisor. . .

. . .When:

1. The Town of Hempstead gives the green light to the Lighthouse Project;

2. The revitalization of Grand Avenue in Baldwin is delivered, as promised;

3. The former Argo movie theater in Elmont is razed, and replaced by a supermarket;

4. The rebirth of Nassau Road in Roosevelt is more than just a Welcome banner, brick pavers, and those Victorian-style street lights.

5. The infamous Courtesy Hotel in West Hempstead is demolished, and ground is broken for Alexan at West Hempstead Station.

Not a chance that any, let alone all of the above will be accomplished by Election Day (Tuesday, November 3)?

Well, then, you'll just have to cast your lot with the other gal. Why? Because the status quo is never good enough!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Light Rail Essential To A Sustainable Long Island

Success Of Light Rail Amidst Phoenix Sprawl Quiets Critics
Advocates Hope To Spur Nassau County To Take A second Look

Maybe you can get there from here. Trouble is, you need a car to do it.

The automobile is choking us on Long Island, from the polluted air we breathe, to the major arteries -- and now, even back roads -- that are clogged with traffic, no matter the time of day.

Need to go shopping? Hop in the car. To the movies? Car. Mall? Car. School? Car. Anyplace further than the end of the block? Car. Car. Car.

So reliant have LIers become on their cars that they have, in effect, become appendages. We can't leave home without 'em!

What about the bus? Has anyone actually taken LI Bus lately? If so, you know how unreliable that is -- and you're still stuck in the same traffic with those *^%$#@! cars!

Walk? Bike? If you can, you should. Not always practical, though.

How about light rail?

Yes, light rail.

The clean, simple, and smart answer to getting around the sprawl of suburbia.

The notion of light rail on Long Island has been floated before, quite seriously, in fact. Of course, as with almost everything else worth doing in these parts, it gets shouted down by the naysayers and the NIMBYists, whose vision of suburbia is mired in the 1950s.

Light rail has been a successful mode of transport elsewhere in the U.S., enabling the heretofore auto-centric to leave the cars at home, easily, conveniently, and inexpensively getting from here to there.

Recently, The New York Times showcased a light rail network in Phoenix, Arizona. At first bemoaned by residents and lambasted by critics, the Phoenix light rail is now praised, almost universally, by the thousands of riders who can now enjoy an effortless ride from here to there, the businesses that have emerged and thrived along the line, and the environmentalists, who see a smaller carbon footprint.

Not the intrusion it was portended to be, but a boon to the local economy as well as a conduit for residents who could, if not abandon their cars entirely, at least relinquish their unfettered reliance for an hour, the evening, or an entire day.

Imagine hopping on a light rail car to visit friends, to get to business centers, or, dare we say, to venture to the Coliseum without having to navigate the Turnpike.

Some interesting light rail facts:

1. Light rail vehicles are less expensive in the long run, with useful lives of 40 to 60 years. Reconditioned LRVs from the 1950s are still running in San Francisco and Philadelphia. Where do you see a 40 year old bus in regular service?

2. Light rail vehicles have better acceleration than buses do, and can run a route much faster than buses. This means that you need fewer LRVs and fewer drivers to cover the same route.

3. Light rail vehicles can run in much narrower lanes than buses can, so they take up less space. This is especially important in crowded urban areas.

4. Light rail vehicles only use energy when they are accelerating. When they decelerate, the momentum is turned back into electric energy. When they’re at rest, their motors use no energy at all. Most buses use energy continually, whether they are accelerating, decelerating, or standing still.

5. Light rail vehicles give a smoother, bump-free ride far superior to the bouncing around bus passengers are subject to.

6. Operating expenses for light rail vehicles are significantly less than for buses, according to the Federal Transit Administration’s 2001 National Transit Database. Boston’s light rail line had costs of $1.25 per trip vs. $2.04 for buses. If you want the figures expressed as costs per passenger mile, Boston spent $0.51 for LRVs and $0.71 for buses.

7. In city after city (St. Louis, Denver, Phoenix, Boston, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas ……) people prefer light rail to buses. Ridership on the entire transit system increases when even a single light rail line is opened.

8. Light rail stations often spur development around them that doesn’t happen around bus rapid transit stations.

For extensive information about and insights into the benefits of light rail, go to

There is no question that transportation is a major issue on Long Island, and that, as we are about to embark on the second decade of the 21st century, we need to consider alternatives to the automobile as modus transportus.

Light rail, having been moved to the back burner, should once again be brought to the fore, a part of any discussion to redevelop, revitalize, and re-energize America's oldest suburb.
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By the way, even Hanoi, Vietnam, has a light rail system. This while America's first suburb still tries to reinvent the wheel!

And assuming that wheel is reinvented in our lifetime, and its not square, what chance will it have (try snowball's chance in Hell) getting past Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, and the vast black hole of Blightsville we know as the Zoning Board of Appeals?

Lighthouse Hearing Tuesday, September 22

Come Out To Support Nassau's Future

On Long Island, we not only save lighthouses, we build them!

A public hearing before the Hempstead Town Board has been scheduled for the Lighthouse project tomorrow and all supporters are needed to attend. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, September 22nd at the Adams Playhouse, on the campus of Hofstra University.

The meeting will run in two sessions. The day session will run from 9 am to 5 pm with a one-hour break from 1 pm - 2 pm. The night session is scheduled to run from 6 pm to 9 pm.

This next step makes all the difference to those who want to see the Nassau hub revitalized, and the dream of a new suburbia become a reality.

At the last public hearing, those in attendance had the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the environmental impact of the project. This upcoming sessions will focus on the zoning of the entire project.

Why is it important to have a multi-use development plan at the Coliseum site? What are the benefits of smart growth? Why does Long Island need this?

This is your chance to tell Supervisor Kate Murray and the Town Board what you think.

You may also submit your comments to the Town in writing by clicking here, by emailing or sending a letter to Lighthouse Comment, One Washington Street, Hempstead, NY 11550.

A strong showing at this hearing is necessary to demonstrate public support for the Lighthouse project.

For more information, please visit or the official blog of the Lighthouse Development Group, The Light Post at

Follow the Lighthouse on Twitter at

The Community Alliance supports the Lighthouse Project.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Join the 90/10 Coalition Today

Be Part of the Future of Nassau County

“New Suburbia”, County Executive Tom Suozzi’s plan for the future of Nassau County, is ready to be unveiled to the public next week. In order to gauge support for the plan, the 90/10 Coalition was born – a group of individuals, businesses, organizations, elected officials, and others who support the County Executive’s view that future growth in Nassau County should be encouraged in 10% of the County. The rest of the County should continue to preserve and enhance all that is currently good about the County.

Click HERE for a summary of the 90/10 Coalition. Please look over this material and agree to be part of the solution today. Email the County Executive at and say, “I want to be part of the 90/10 Coalition.” Give your name and you will added to the list.

The County Executive will hold his next meeting on the Master Plan on Wednesday, September 23 at 11 a.m. on the lower level of Nassau Coliseum. All are invited to attend; however, seating is limited. Please email ( or call (516.578.5447) and let the 90/10 Coalition know if you will be able to share the morning with the County Executive.

At this meeting, the County Executive will explain the 90/10 Solution and announce the charter members of the 90/10 Coalition -- those people, organizations and businesses that have already told us that they are willing to say, “I support the 90/10 Solution to Nassau’s Future”.

We look forward to seeing you on the 23rd and hope you will join the 90/10 Coalition.
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QUESTION: Rather than keeping 90% and changing 10%, might we consider revising the percentages, particularly for the unincorporated areas of Nassau County, and largely in the Town of Hempstead, where 90% of what residents have -- blight, brownfields, declining downtowns, among other byproducts of neglect -- is prime for future growth?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Have The Dems Given Up On Hempstead Town?

The Invisible Campaign For Town Of Hempstead Supervisor

The Town of Hempstead, officially, America's largest township, goes by many names: The Town That Time Forgot; The Land Of Make Believe; America's Most Blighted Township; Home of the Murraygram.

Now, it may be proclaimed that the Town of Hempstead is The Town the Democrats have Forsaken.

In a town where, for more than a century, one political party has ruled the roost, it would appear, from all indications (note the eerie silence), that Nassau Democrats have bailed on the race for Hempstead Supervisor, with nary a lawn sign -- none, in fact, that we have seen -- to show for Kristen McElroy's nearly stealth campaign.

Kristen who?


Yes, Kristen McElroy. The official nominee of the Democratic Party for Town of Hempstead Supervisor.

Never heard of her? You are not alone.

Indeed, search the web, and the only site you are likely to find associating Kristen McElroy with a run for public office is McElroy for Senate, a remnant of last year's effort to unseat NYS Senator Kemp Hannon.

Is McElroy preparing to take another shot at Hannon, a veteran of the old guard in Albany who may call it a generation next year?

A Facebook page, perhaps? Not this Kristen McElroy. Twitter? Not a tweet.

How difficult would it have been to change "Senate" to "Town of Hempstead Supervisor," tweaking the McElroy website to reflect the fact that she is on the ballot this year -- for a different office?

Are there no personal appearances, save a few cameos at local Democratic Clubs?

And if you're going to be in the race, shouldn't you be in it to win -- even if you won't?

Sure, we all know that the Town of Hempstead, the last remaining stronghold (or is it, stranglehold?) for the Republicans on Long Island (if not the world) is a tough nut to crack. Toppling this entrenched GOP machine, where everyone and her father is on payroll, and the tentacles reach far and wide into every crevice, is a near insurmountable task.

And then, there's Kate Murray's insufferable smile, winning the hearts of seniors, little leaguers, and those with both short and long term memory loss. [Where's Dot Goosby, when we need a good "You Lie" from the gallery at Hempstead Town Hall?]

So, do you just give up? Doesn't say much for democracy in the Town of Hempstead, does it?

Okay. It boils down to a matter of money. Not being able to raise enough to mount a formidable -- or even a lighthearted -- campaign. Putting the party's scarce resources to where they can best be used, as in races that are close and perceived to be winnable.

Still, where does that leave the residents of Hempstead Town, many of whom see through the facade of streetscape improvements (read as, Victorian-style street lamps), and hear the emptiness when the Supervisor says, with mock pride, "We are all Islanders"?

What does that say to those who, over these many years, have carried the banner and stood fast on the front lines, fighting to eradicate illegal accessory apartments, to increase the number of affordable housing units, to rebuild our downtowns and revitalize our "Main Streets," to plan with more than myopic vision, to zone responsibly, to relieve us of the burden of the special taxing districts, to improve the very quality of life which, in so many respects, defines the dream of suburbia?

The word "abandoned" immediately comes to mind. We're certain you can think of others.

We always knew that, but for a bone tossed the way of those who reside in the Town's unincorporated areas, there was short shrift from the top of the ticket at Hempstead Town Hall.

And yet, though a far cry from the cavalry riding to the rescue, we could always count on a reasoned -- well, mostly -- and boisterous outing during the campaign season from the Democrats, the loyal if but under-represented opposition giving the Town clowns a run for it.

A fight well fought, even if in defeat.

Not this year, apparently. Seems the stage has left the station in Hempstead Town, with Jay Jacobs (Nassau County, and now, State Democratic Chair) and Kristen McElroy aboard.

Harvey Levinson, where are you when we need you? [Oh, we forgot. In Florida.]

No cavalry. No bugle calls to advance. No rallying of the troops. Not even a good bumper sticker.

No, we, the people of the Town of Hempstead, are destined, at least for the foreseeable future, to hold the fort on our own.

May God, if not Kristen, be with us!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No "New" Property Taxes For Nassau

Yes, But What About The "Old" Ones?

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi makes that "read my lips" promise of no new taxes. Terrific. As if Nassau's taxpayers, pockets already picked clear down to the lint (why, they've even taken the lint), could bear yet another tax, fee, or surcharge.

The fodder of the campaign trail notwithstanding, truth be told, County taxes account for only 18%, give or take a percentage point, of the total property tax bill, Town taxes (including special districts), 20%, Library, 6%, and -- guess what -- school taxes, a whopping 56%.

Yes, your school property taxes account for more than half -- in some districts, well over 60% -- of the property tax bill.

That's an outrage, and a blatant affront to Nassau County's homeowners, who bear the brunt of government's malaise in making over a system of school financing that is, to say the least, fundamentally flawed.

Holding the line on County property taxes is great. We'd expect, and should demand, no less, particularly in this economy.

But when will lawmakers -- from the County Seat to Albany -- take up the cause, with more than mere rhetoric, of school finance reform?

When will folks in the State Legislature pay more than lip service to a problem that threatens to bankrupt the middle class, living up the the mandate of New York's Constitution to "provide for the maintenance and support of a free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated"?

Why does New York continue to pour millions of tax dollars into private and parochial schools -- far beyond money for transportation -- when that same NYS Constitution specifically prohibits such public funding? ["Neither the state nor any subdivision of there shall use its property or credit or any public money, or authorize or permit either to be used, directly or indirectly, in aid or maintenance, other than for examination or inspection, of any school or institution of learning wholly or in part under control or direction of any religious denomination, or in which any denomination tenet or doctrine is taught but The legislature may provide for the transportation of children to and from any school or institution of learning."]

When will the archaic State School Aid formulae, which favors upstate districts, while penny-pinching Long Island, be repealed, this in favor of full public funding of our public schools?

And when will our elected officials (as in, "why do we keep electing them?") finally eliminate the onerous and regressive property tax in favor of more fair, equitable, and progressive means of utilizing tax dollars to pay for public education?

Face it. Freezing (slashing would suit us better) County taxes, Town taxes, even those pesky Special District taxes is a good beginning, but frankly, it won't even make an appreciable dent in that humongous property tax bill.

Unless and until we -- through the common sense austerity of our local school boards, and the mandate of the State -- bring school spending under control, consolidating services, trimming costs, lowering (not capping) tax rates, our property tax bills will continue to hover at, or above, the unaffordable.

Our government has no problem taxing its citizens, or, for that matter, spending our money. The time has come (in fact, its long overdue), for that government to tax less, and spend more wisely.

New Yorkers, including Nassau County homeowners, should insist that school finance reform top the political agenda.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just How Safe Is Long Island's Drinking Water?

New York Ranks High On List Of Clean Water Act Violations

Far from the pristine watersheds of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, where clean water flows from crystal clear reservoirs to the boroughs, the aquifers that supply water to 2.7 million Long Islanders -- for drinking, cooking, and bathing -- lay far below the sand, the rock, the shale that is Long Island.

A Long Island landscape that, for more than 50 years, has had its share of pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic, possibly carcinogenic material -- not to mention MTBE -- laid upon the land, leaching down, down, down into the life-giving aquifers that gather water below us.

Yes, naturally filtered, and then, cleansed and treated yet again once pumped to the surface, but is Long Island's water supply really clean, safe, potable? Or is the water into which we've been running off everything from PCBs to motor oil, fertilizers to detergents, hazardous to our health?

The State of New York, which supposedly monitors such things as water quality, tells us that our water is safe to drink. Reassuring?

The local water districts, which routinely test our water for everything from Arsenic to Zirconium, report that whatever is lurking in our H2O, be it naturally occurring or some man-made additive, is at "safe levels." [So, there are "safe levels" of Mercury, Lead, and other toxins? Hmmmm.]

Not to sound alarmist, or to have Long Islanders holding that glass of water up to the light, but... Hey, its not paranoia when someone is really following you!

The New York Times, in its series Toxic Waters, reports on "the worsening pollution in American waters and the regulators' response."

Here in New York State, not altogether surprisingly, it appears that out of 4606 facilities that have permits to discharge pollutants [you mean they're allowed to do this?], 1675 have one or more violations (many have hundreds) of the Clean Water Act (or other environmental regulations), 856 of these facilities (51%) are out of compliance. As for formal enforcement actions by State or local authorities -- Count 'em -- 55.

Click HERE to view the water polluters in New York.

By the way, this list doesn't include the illegal polluters of our streams, rivers, watersheds, and aquifers, New York's Superfund sites, or the more than 5200 (as of February, 2008) gasoline spills, leading to MTBE contamination, all of which contribute to the degradation of our water supply.

On Long Island, numerous polluters are redefining water quality, right under our feet -- literally.

Here are but a few instances:

Continental Villa in Locust Valley -- 240 violations; no enforcement actions; $0 fines

Jurgielewicz Duck Farm in Brookhaven -- 237 violations; 3 enforcement actions; $0 fines

Riverhead Foundation Research -- 89 violations; no enforcement actions; $0 fines

Port Jefferson Sanitary District #1 -- 70 violations; 1 enforcement action; $0 fines

Village of Great Neck (Water Treatment) -- 55 violations; 2 enforcement actions; $1,100 fines

City of Long Beach (Water Treatment) -- 25 violations; no enforcement actions; $0 fines

And the list of polluters -- including the folks who are supposed to be keeping our water safe -- goes on, and on, and on.

All of this, of course, does not take into account the tons of contaminants that Long Island's home and commercial business owners dump into storm sewers, onto lawns, down their drains, most of which, given time, find their way into the aquifers, our island's sole supply of drinking water.

No, we haven't seen children born with two heads, or mutant squirrels bounding about, but those "cancer clusters" are certainly of great concern.

Aside from the proclivity of Long Islanders to accept such banes upon our quality of life as outrageous property taxes, costly and outmoded special taxing districts, and politicians who perennially promise, but rarely, if ever, deliver -- it would appear that "there must be something in the water" is a whole lot more than mere rhetoric.

Shouldn't we all be asking, "What's in our water?"

Monday, September 14, 2009

Excitement Builds In Elmont

Assemblyman Tom Alfano Has High Hopes For Elmont's Resurgence

We are pleased to bring you an Op-Ed post by Assemblyman Tom Alfano, whose 21st AD includes Elmont.
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Step Up. Clean Up. Take Pride In Elmont.

Excitement is building. Momentum is going our way. Consensus grows. The will is there. That’s how you could describe the continuing work surrounding Hempstead Turnpike and the vision that has been developed and nurtured.

When you look at Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont, you can’t help but be very bullish on its future. Unlike many communities where NIMBYISM reigns to the detriment of progress, Elmont says “let’s hear what you have to say.” Where some places you get shouted down at the mere mention of economic development, Elmont listens.

What exactly is happening in Elmont? In a word, progress. But there are many challenges ahead that call for creative solutions. The foundation for Hempstead Turnpike’s success can be found at Belmont. The ideas and interest from developers have caught the imagination of everyone. The State’s economic feasibility study is in its final stages, community input has occurred, recommendations from stakeholders have been taken into account, and a plan that is viable, and makes sense, is being developed for the property.

The goal of this new Elmont renaissance can be simply stated. We need to create good paying jobs, expand the tax base and attract business that will rejuvenate the entire Hempstead Turnpike corridor. To make this plan work, the Belmont property and surrounding area must be shovel-ready and have a “can-do attitude.” It also needs elected leaders to rise above partisanship to get the job done.

Over the past couple of years, over $5 million dollars has been channeled to the community through the Restore New York grant process. These two grants have been targeted towards the Argo Theatre and Hempstead Turnpike Streetscaping programs. Both projects are complimentary in nature and will provide a necessary facelift to the area. But more needs to be done.

We need to clean-up the area. That means businesses and people have to take renewed pride in their community. We need to pick up the trash, clean up the graffiti and have a zero tolerance for any action that lessens the quality of life.

There must also be renewed, consistent code enforcement, state and local, that is proactive in nature that sends the message that the Elmont community is reclaiming its neighborhoods. Buildings can no longer fall into disrepair and be ignored while the community at large is forced to look the other way to avoid disgust.

Absentee landlords have to clean up their properties and understand that Elmont is not a cash cow where you just pick up the check and drive away. The days of landlords irresponsibly renting and selling properties to non income generating entities must end. In Elmont’s case, homeowners can’t continue to have properties come off the tax rolls and have the tax burden shift to them any longer.

Government must play an active role as well. The Governor must renew the Empire Zone legislation and the Senate and Assembly must pass it without delay. Empire Zones are a critical piece in the economic development puzzle that help foster job creation and attract business. Empire Zones help business with building, energy and construction costs and tax incentives. Further, they assists expanding businesses with employee costs and expansion planning and development.

Next, the Governor, Senate and Assembly have to end the turf battles and allow the free market to reign by allowing Video Lottery Terminals not only at Aqueduct, but also at Belmont. Let developers, in concert with communities, put together development plans that create good paying jobs, fulfill a community need, and, in the case of Belmont, cross pollinate and help horse racing.

Unlike many issues where communities draw the line in the sand and protest issues, a general consensus has been built in the case of Elmont. This consensus was forged through the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development and through a visioning process that took input from every corner of the community.

What needs to be done now is simple. From the Governor’s office, to our Town and County, leaders have to take off their partisan uniforms and remember that in this game we are all on the same team. The team is Elmont and we cannot afford to lose this once in a generation opportunity.

Tom Alfano,
Assemblyman, 21st AD
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Have a view to express, about Elmont, or points east on our Long Island? Well, if it concerns our quality of life, it concerns us at The Community Alliance.

Write us with your thoughts, comments, and suggestions at Guest blogposts, expressing all viewpoints, are most welcome.

The Community Alliance
Common Sense Solutions For Common Community Concerns

Long Island Breakfast Club To Host Evening In Tuscany

Okay. Its Actually An Evening In Westbury, But The Smells, Sights, And Sounds Will Say Italy.

From our friends at The Long Island Breakfast Club, yet another opportunity to connect, network, volunteer for the good of community, and, of course, eat:


Do you Need an Italian Music Fix? The Taste of Exquisite Olive Oil? A week in Italy? Micheal Castaldo, an Italian born Canadian, has offered up all these things to the Long Island Breakfast Club in preparation for the big Italian Event on October 29th at the Westbury Manor. As stated by Micheal Castaldo, “Life is not a cup to be drained but a measure to be filled”. Everything Micheal has done includes sharing the very best Italian music, the freshest olive oil from his famililies Groves! A live auction stay at his enchanting villa will be auctioned off at this very special event.

The Long Island Breakfast Club Announces an Italian Heritage Day Event entitled “An Evening in Tuscany” to be held on Thursday October 29th, 2009! The Long Island Breakfast Club is proud to salute the 2009 Honorees who have significantly distinguished themselves in the Italian Community, and continue to inspire and impact individuals by paying it forward on Long Island. LIBC is proud to announce the 2009 Honorees to:

Michéal Castaldo
Italian Cultural Ambassador & Entrepreneur

Carol Donato, L’Ape Regina
STALCO Construction Contractors for Kids

Rocco Iannarelli, Il Marchigiano of Town of North Hempstead

Lisa Siano, Esq., Bongiorno Principessa
Long Island Mediation Group

“An Evening in Tuscany” promises to be a fun filled evening of networking, classic Italian songs, fabulous food, olive oil tastings, raffles and prizes all in an atmosphere enjoying the joy and the art of living a day in love of the Italian culture reminiscent of music and traditions that warms the heart and full enriches the soul – Italian Style that is so simple yet full of rich and delightful touches!

The event will be held at The Westbury Manor, Jericho, NY from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm. “An Evening in Tuscany” will be a spectacular evening and will include a reception, dancing, silent auction prizes, Neapolitan auction raffles and much, much more!

Information on ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, journal advertisements, prize donations and auction donations can be obtained by visiting The Long Island Breakfast Club website at and clicking on October event listings. Tickets are available at $85.00 per person. This fundraising event is sponsored by

The Long Island Breakfast Club, a career advocacy organization for mature professionals. This organization provides advocacy, support, career and employment counseling and referrals to prepare mature individuals for productive employment. Our motto is EXPERIENCE COUNTS!

2.4 Million Dollars For The Fence. . .

. . .Or Is It For Brick Pavers, Decorative Benches, Stylized Trash Receptacles, And Victorian-Style Street Lamps?

Governor Paterson recently handed the Town of Hempstead a check for $2.4 mil, via a State grant, fought for by Senator Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Tom Alfano, intended to revitalize an underutilized commercial strip along Hempstead Turnpike -- that twenty miles of ugly -- in Elmont.

So, what exactly is Town Supervisor Kate Murray's "vision" for Elmont's revitalization, and her intent for spending those millions of taxpayer dollars?

Not the vision of the good people of Elmont, that much we know. More like a return to 1950 Levittown, where the white picket fence was but a metaphor.

And those great, innovative plans for re-energizing Elmont's business district? Surprise, surprise. The old Town of Hempstead streetscape passing for Smart Growth, "brick paved walkways, Victorian street lighting, decorative benches, new trees and plantings, stylized trash receptacles and informative directory kiosks". [Directing us to where or what, we wonder...]

Even the Supervisor's press release regurgitates the same old, same old -- "I am excited about the future of downtown Elmont and we are starting to see the fruits of our labors," said Murray. "Elmont's future is bright, and we will continue to work with Elmont neighbors and business owners to ensure that this great community realizes its fullest potential."

Substitute any other community -- Baldwin, Uniondale, West Hempstead -- for Elmont, and you have the sum and substance of the Murray Plan for bringing Hempstead Town back from the brownfields and into 21st Century suburbia. Brick pavers and Victorian-style street lamps.

Don't get us wrong. Streetscaping is a good start. We could all use an upgrade of our Main Streets and Downtowns. And those Victorian-style street lamps (perhaps harkening back to a time in which the Supervisor still lives), add a quaint touch.

Still, we choke and gag when a smiling Kate Murray declares that she will "continue to work with Elmont neighbors and business owners..."

True, suppressing the will of the people of Elmont could be considered "work," but it hardly qualifies to "ensure that this great community realizes its fullest potential."

The potential is there, Madam Supervisor. If only you would stop standing in the way -- a roadblock at every turn -- of the significant work that needs to be done, not only in Elmont, but throughout the Town of Hempstead!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Joe Wilson's War

The Decline Of Decency, Character, And Reason In Post-911 America

A recent survey, taken for whatever these polls may be worth, showed that only one-third of Americans believe that our nation faces an imminent attack by terrorists.

Unfortunately, the apparent two-thirds of Americans who think we are safe -- in our homes, on our streets, as that great bastion of democracy and freedom -- are, sadly and dangerously, wrong.

The threat from those who would not only strike fear in our hearts, but rip the very hearts out of all that these United States embodies, is real, is insidious, and is literally at the door.

Even as we blog, extremists, seized with convoluted and myopic views -- world view, national view, local view, you name it --and armed with words of hate, fear, and, yes, even the overthrow of our government, threaten the very fabric of democratic society as we know it.

Proponents of the Big Lie. Obfuscators of the truth. A formerly fringe element, now having co-opted a major political party, no longer simply somewhere "out there," to the right of right, but suddenly, bolstered by the boisterous and belligerent screams of a fourth estate heinously transformed into the fourth Reich, now at the very center of the main stream.

This isn't Al Quaeda or the Taliban, mind you, from whom we'd expect the worst. The hostilities not engineered by some diabolical mad men secreting themselves in a cave in the hills of Afghanistan. No, these weapons of mass deception are the arsenal of more subtle, but no less sinister fear-mongers, those who plot to undermine our democracy from the halls of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Not the lunatic fringe we once scoffed at and poo pooed. Not some lightweight loon from South Carolina or a former governor from Alaska whose epitaph is "I Quit". The Bainers, the Boehners, the McConnells, the Cantors, all joining forces with the Birthers, the Death Panelistas, the "you'll be forced to have an abortion" set, the "illegal immigrants will get health insurance" crowd.

Sure, they're fast to claim -- albeit entirely without basis in fact -- that health care reform will pull the plug on grandma, but for a party itself on life-support, the egregious deviation from the truth, and the reckless yet all-consuming embrace of the lunatic right, imperils more than the future of the GOP.

Mindless, callous, ill-reasoned, and destructive -- to both party and nation -- perilous, even subversive thoughts, echoed through hollow and misspoken words, egged on by the rant of ersatz journalists -- the Becks, the O'Reillys, the Hannitys -- whose mockery of a mantra is "fair and balanced."

Its not the shout out of "you lie," or even the disrespect of the office or the man, that troubles us -- and, by all reason, should worry every American.

No, our democracy thrives, actually, on dissent and debate. Although Joe Wilson's childish taunt -- the verbal equivalent of tossing his shoe at the President -- was misplaced, if not irresponsible, such assaults, and the right of every American to an occasional tantrum, demonstrate the freedom that is the very foundation of our democracy.

What is unacceptable, and worse, an impending imperilment of the very core of America's values, if not democracy as a whole, is the ceding of decency, of character, and of reason itself to the malevolence, deceit, hate-mongering, and, yes, call for revolution against the very government of the United States, that comes not from outside our borders, but, oddly enough, from within.

As we commemorate, with solemnity and reflection, the atrocities of 911, we should not yield to the outrage of those, under color of the right and righteous, whose 912 March on Washington is but an affront to the dignity of every life lost on that fateful day eight years ago.

We are all, as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "entitled to our own opinions." We are, however, "not entitled to our own set of facts."

As for decency, character, and reason, well, for the moment, that "kinder, gentler nation" eludes us still.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

The Hobgoblin Of Little Minds

"NO!" : Its Not Just The Credo Of Washington Republicans

If you think the "just say no" folks are only obstructing in the halls of Congress, well, you'd better think again.

In Albany, the Senate GOP leaders -- the great reformers who coup coup cachooed all New Yorkers for several months before packing their empty bags and calling it a farce -- managed to have the lock-step Republican Senators block an Ethics Reform measure, which was before that less than illustrious body sitting (on their hands) in special session.

Closer to home, Hempstead Town's Republican Supervisor, hiding behind a smile that launched a thousand lies (and counting), has found yet further reason to muster support for Kate Murray's delay of the Lighthouse Project -- prelude (as in postscript), no doubt, to short-circuiting any and all redevelopment of America's most blighted township, beyond the brick pavers, decorative benches, stylized trash receptacles, and Victorian-style street lamps.

Of course, ethics is a four letter word in Albany, on both sides of the aisle, while in Hempstead Town, Smart growth -- be it in terms of the magnitude of the Lighthouse Project, or small potato streetscapes in the town's unincorporated areas -- is about as scarce as Kate's missives, Murraygrams, and maladjusted vision of suburbia are plentiful.

Clearly, there is a trickle down (more like deluge) of "NO" from Washington, to Albany, to Town Hall, where the inflamatory and the incendiary -- in words and deeds -- stifle even the best intentions of those who would revive and embelish the great suburban dream.

Uniquely Republican? Certainly not.

Still, when a party chooses the status quo, stands pat on false and flimsy premise, and has lost the ability to lead, well, should not we, the people, say "no more?"

Election Day. Your chance to get even, and JUST SAY NO!

Kate Murray's Thriller. [Be afraid. Be very afraid...]

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Get Smart

Town Zoning Board Nixes "Smart Growth" Redevelopment In Elmont

As proponents of the principles of Smart Growth, we often scratch our heads and wonder how localities -- in this instance (as in so many others), the Town of Hempstead -- can routinely "talk" smart growth, while giving such short shrift to any undertaking that invokes such developmental linchpins as mixed use, eco-friendly, and sustainability.

The talk of the town of late has been Elmont, the gateway to Nassau County, where the word -- by way of news conferences, press releases, and personal appearances by Town Supervisor Kate Murray -- is all about smart growth rejuvenation.

Visioning, followed by planning, on the heels of yet more talk, and still, little progress toward rebuilding infrastructure beyond the tribute of brick pavers, wrought iron benches, and Victorian-style street lamps, the hallmark, and, too often, the end-all of the Town's streetscaping initiatives.

When plans -- real plans; shovel-ready plans; community-supported plans; eco-friendly plans; sustainable revitalization plans -- are offered up, the Town habitually rejects them, sets up roadblocks to derail them, hoists red flags to rile up those who would oppose them, and conjures up the most mind-boggling schemes to nip them in the bud, acquiescing, if at all, only when besieged and bludgeoned by the community at large.

No, its not just in Elmont that the vexxing of smart growth is so prevalent. We have seen it, and blogged on it, in Baldwin, in Roosevelt, in Uniondale, and, most recently, in West Hempstead (where the Town, after a battle celebre, lasting more than a dozen years, finally relented to the will of the people, in agreeing to the rezoning of property which will lead to the eventual razing and redevelopment -- as residential, recreational, and retail space -- of the infamous Courtesy Hotel).

And back in Elmont, where so-called Blight Studies have only confirmed what residents and merchants have known for decades, the Town of Hempstead continues to say "no" to viable, workable, meaningful plans, to raise that community from the ashes of neglect and decline.

Indeed, one such project -- a proposal which would recast a part of Hempstead Turnpike (that "twenty miles of ugly") with the preferred mixed use of retail and much-needed residential space (replacing the current mixed bag of blight, neglect, and decay) -- was unanimously denied by the Town of Hempstead's Zoning Board (cum Planning Board) of Appeals (to which there is typically no appeal), notwithstanding tremendous community support, including that of the Coalition for Sustainable Development, the Elmont East End Civic Association, and the Elmont Chamber of Commerce.

So much for government by, for, or of the people in Hempstead Town!

In the developer's (Muzzio Tallini -- an Elmont native son -- of Signature Homes, Ltd., Elmont, NY) own words:

We originally met with Councilman Ed Ambrosino over 3 years ago (August, 2006) to discuss this project. At that time, he advised me to hold off on the project so that Elmont could draft its Vision Plan. We would wait and see what the community had to say prior to moving forward.

Fast forward to June, 2008 with the publishing of the Elmont Vision Plan. We read it many times over, and noticed mixed-use development was mentioned numerous times (at least 7 by my count) throughout the Vision Plan as the type of development the community wanted for the Hempstead Turnpike corridor. We immediately went to work on preparing proposed plans consistent with the Vision Plan.

The project consists of 5 retail ground floor units and 10 upper level (2nd & 3rd levels) residential duplex apartments.

At that time, we also reached out to Pat Nicolosi, President of the Elmont East Civic Association, and a member of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development, and asked him to work together with us so that we can design a project that everyone was in favor of. He agreed, and we made a presentation to the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development in October 2008.

The Coalition's Zoning sub-committee was asked to look at the project (this project would be a pilot project of sorts, the first to be submitted consistent with the Vision Plan and with the support of the Coalition). The Zoning sub-committee included Pat Nicolosi, Julie Marchesella (Elmont Chamber of Commerce), Lyle Syclair (Sustainble Long Island), and, coincidentally, Councilman Ambrosino. We presented the renderings to the Zoning sub-committee, and the members were enthusiastically in support of the project, and in fact, wanted to see the project move forward quickly. With their support, we prepared the necessary drawings and filed same with the Town of Hempstead at the end of December 2008. We also committed at this time to build this development LEED certified. This project would have been the first LEED certified mixed-use development in all of Long Island.

Our hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals was scheduled for July 8, 2009 (yes, it took us 7 months just to get a hearing). While we waited, we were sure to meet with Councilman James Darcy (the project is actually in Darcy's district) to get his support as well, which he did provide.

Our hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals went as smoothly as any I can remember in recent memory. We talked about the Vision Plan and the LEED aspects of the project. My impression was that the Board appeared very interested in the project and we had community support, evidenced by residents who showed up and spoke at the actual hearing. There was some miscellaneous opposition, but I'm convinced that if Mother Theresa herself proposed a project on Long Island, there would be opposition. In fact, the opposition praised the overall look and design of the project as well as the "green" features of the development.

In August, the Board issued their decisions unanimously denying the project. While the Board did not state a specific reason for the denial in their decision, my attorney advised me it was because of the mixed-use aspect of the project. Also interesting was the fact the Nassau County Planning Commission supported this project by issuing a resolution of "local determination".

The decisions by the Board caught everyone completely by surprise. How could a project so unilaterally supported and consistent with the principles of smart-growth be unanimously denied? In addition, how could the Board completely disregard the Vision Plan (which the Town paid half of) in this case, when the Town so warmly embraced it at the Argo site, where they could get their hands on 2.5 million (in State funds)? Moreover, what does this denial say for the future redevelopment of Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont? Developers will not touch any part of Hempstead Turnpike if they know they cannot get any approvals from of the Town. And lastly, if we can't get this project through the Town, what makes anyone think that Argo or Belmont can be approved?

Assemblyman Tom Alfano, who represents Elmont and has been a resounding voice in the fight for the area's resurgence, had this to say:

"My focus with Hempstead Turnpike is pretty simple. We need to promote smart economic development and growth. That means we need to promote projects that will help us get to that goal. Right now, Hempstead Turnpike has too many 'for rent' signs, too many out of business signs and is a hodge-podge of development. More disconcerting, is the fact that Hempstead Turnpike is becoming the storefront church capital of Long Island. This is having a chilling effect on positive economic development plans that will help turn around the turnpike. What we need are more small businesses and job generating ideas. What we don't need is for more properties to come off the tax rolls which shifts the tax burden to homeowners. Simply stated, we need to create jobs, put more businesses on the tax rolls and offer progressive housing initiatives. This is not the Long Island of the 1950's."

Perhaps Pat Nicolosi -- never one to mince words -- puts it best:

"You know the story all too well. It's a story about this lady who was elected to be in charge of a large town, but the only things she does is take pictures, confuse seniors, and send out fliers. Oh, I forgot -- hires her father and brother and then hires her father again after he retires. At the same time, communities are waiting for some sort of progress. I told Muzzio (the developer) to change his name to Breslin."

Nicolosi added, "someone needs to be in charge, the buck needs to stop at some desk."

Not with the Town's Zoning Board, apparently, or with the Supervisor, who hand picks the Board's members.

Yes, as we've said many, many times, "sometimes, you have to sweat the small stuff."

And maybe, just maybe, Hempstead Town needs a Supervisor ready and willing to give the people -- as in, "We the people" -- what they want, need, and deserve!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Newsday Slams Local Assemblyman For Failing To Sponsor A Single Bill

At The Community Alliance, We Know Better
Tom Alfano's Representation Is Much More Than The Sum Of Bills Introduced

Chided for not introducing a single bill during this past legislative session -- and the only member of the NYS Assembly not to introduce legislation -- there are those (apparently including Dan Janison of Newsday) who would have Assemblyman Tom Alfano hang his head in shame.

Not us!

But not a single piece of legislation introduced?

So what!

Bill drafting into the abyss that is the NYS Legislature, where most legislation dies in committee, and the rest only makes it to the floor with the consent of the Speaker of the Assembly or the Majority Leader of the Senate, is hardly anything more than an exercise in futility.

The real measure of the man -- in this instance, the Assemblyman representing Elmont, Floral Park, Valley Stream, Franklin Square, Malverne, and West Hempstead -- is so much more than the number of bills introduced.

Frankly, its not about getting your name on a piece of legislation as a sponsor. It has never been about Tom Alfano, grabbing the headlines or taking the limelight.

Its about taking on the issues that impact upon not only his constituents, but all New Yorkers, fighting zealously and moving stridently on the matters we, the people, actually care about.

From access to health care and affordable insurance, to consumer protection, to revitalizing Main Street, it has been Tom Alfano who has stood on the front lines of community, shoulder-to-shoulder with activists, advocates, leaders, and the man and woman on the street, who don't need to see Tom Alfano's name on a bill to know that he is working for them, tirelessly, day in and day out.

They don't need a piece of legislation on which Tom's name is imprinted to know that Tom Alfano is accessible, visible, in the community -- yes, even beyond Elmont's Belmont -- lending an ear and reaching out with a helping hand.

They don't need a bill with Tom's sponsorship to know that the cause of Tom Alfano's tenure in Albany has been education -- offering a hand up to the future of our community, our children -- with money for our schools, innovative programs for our students, and a keen eye, always, toward making a quality education a right, not a privilege, for every child.

They don't need an Act to amend the Domestic Relations Law to know that Tom Alfano is working to strengthen families, to protect the middle class, and to keep more money in the pockets of taxpayers.

When there is a problem or concern in his District, Tom Alfano is one of the first elected officials people turn to for help, for answers, for understanding, and, perhaps most significant, for results.
Why, we could go on ad nauseum, offering chapter and verse, on the accomplishments of Assemblyman Tom Alfano, his steadfast commitment to the communities he serves, and his resolve to bring good government to the people, and good people to government. We could even list legislation co-sponsored by Assemblyman Alfano this past year.

We won't.

We don't have to.

Those who have crossed paths with Tom Alfano, by telephone, through a casual conversation at a community event, on a visit to his District office, up in Albany, at a Women of Distinction ceremony, or maybe even at a 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, already know!

Just Who Is Stalling The Lighthouse Project, Anyway?

Town Consultants Not Being Paid By Lighthouse Group
Final Environmental Impact Report Delayed

Could $80,000 owed be holding up a 3.7 billion dollar project?

Well, so it would seem.

Apparently, the consulting firm (Frederick P. Clarke Associates) retained by the Town of Hempstead to do the environmental impact study hasn't been paid the outstanding sum of $80,000 (out of some $500,000 billed), so, allegedly unbeknownst to the folks at the Lighthouse Project, they simply stopped work as of August 17.

With a public hearing on the project slated for September 22, and the firm's report a necessary component in moving the project forward, just who is stalling here, and what gives on all sides?

Did the Town know that Frederick P. Clarke Associates had stopped work?

Did the consulting firm consult with Charles Wang, et al, informing the Lighthouse Project that work on the Environmental Impact Statement would come to a grinding halt if the outstanding bill was not paid?

And on an initiative of such magnitude, with so much money on the line, why the devil was Frederick P. Clarke Associates not paid in a timely fashion?

And what about Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, who not until recent months, in an election year, showed any enthusiasm whatsoever for the Lighthouse Project? Could she be behind the consulting firm's sudden and secretive work stoppage? [Conspiracy theorists are welcome to comment on this point! ;-)]

Whatever the hold up, everyone, from Clarke to Murray to Wang, needs to get on the ball here, and keep the Lighthouse Project moving forward, this despite the dim (witted) bulbs whose intent to delay this milestone development would leave all Long Islanders in the dark.
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From Newsday:

Payment issue stalls Lighthouse project review

Officials of the Lighthouse project may have slowed down the approval process by falling behind in payments owed to a consulting firm reviewing the mega-project's environmental impact.
The developer is responsible for paying Hempstead Town's consultant for the project, Frederick P. Clarke Associates, and currently owes at least $80,000.

As a result, the consultant has not done any work on the project since Aug. 17 - the day the environmental review's public comment period ended.

And that means the firm hasn't started reviewing the nearly 1,000 comments submitted since an Aug. 4 public hearing. That input will be considered in the creation of a final environmental impact statement, which is required before zoning can be created and approved.

"Anything that's come in since Aug. 17, I've put to the side," David Stolman, president of the Rye-based firm, said Tuesday.

Principals of the Lighthouse Development Group acknowledge that payments have been late since spring.

Stolman and Lighthouse president Michael Picker disagree on how much is owed. Stolman said there is $120,000 in outstanding bills. Picker said it's $80,000.

Picker said the group has paid the consulting firm $432,000 so far and is reviewing the most recent set of bills, which he called lengthy. He said he has kept in touch with the town attorney's office about his review of the bills.

When he was told in July the Lighthouse group owed $300,000, he said, he sent a $150,000 check. A week later, he said, after reviewing more bills, he sent an $82,000 check.

Picker said town officials never told him the firm had stopped work on the project.

"They've billed us nearly $500,000 and they're not doing work because we owe them $80,000?" Picker said Tuesday. "If they would have told me they stopped work on the 17th, I never, never would have let that go. There's no way."

Town Supervisor Kate Murray said this week she is calling for a zoning hearing - the last major step in the town's approval process - for Sept. 22. Town board members will vote on the date at Tuesday's meeting.

Before the board can make a decision on a new zoning designation for the site - which would include what can be built there - the town and its consultants must issue a final environmental impact statement.