Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Your Tax Dollars At Work

In The Pockets Of Nassau County Legislators

First it was top GOP aides in the Nassau County Legislature, getting raises even before the Republicans officially took over the hen house. Then it was Town of Hempstead officials, giving themselves yet another increase for a job they say was well done. And now enter Peter Schmitt and the Republican majority on the Nassau County Legislature, voting themselves a hefty 47% boost in salary without so much as public debate.

Glad to see we're in the money in good 'ol Nassau County, where 10% unemployment can be trumped by self-absorbed politicos, and the will of a dumbed-down electorate gives way to the want of a just plain dumb lebgislative body.

How far do in we let these greedy, self-serving bums stick the knife and twist before we boot them out of office? How long before we say, "we've had more than enough of this Schmitt?"

Meanwhile, recently elected Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos -- the fella who's supposed to be watching the pot where our tax dollars are churned into fodder for political hacks and their ilk -- has refused comment on the legislative raises.

And along the very party lines that picks from one pocket (ours) to put into their own, Maragos has appointed the Town of Hempstead Comptroller John Mastromarino of Valley Stream to become the Maragos' deputy comptroller for accounting, payroll, claims, and health benefits.

Yup. That's cleaning house, all right. With the same filthy machine that sweeps everything under the rug in Hempstead Town!

Rejoice, Tea Party revolutionists. You've gotten exactly what you've asked for. Too damn bad for the rest of us, who deserve a heck of a lot better for our money!
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Mangano orders another look at GOP raises


As Nassau Legislative Democrats vowed Tuesday to seek a reversal of Republican-approved overall raises of 42 percent for Nassau's top county legislative leaders, County Executive Edward Mangano said he would ask his county attorney to look into the matter.

At a news conference in Mineola, Minority Leader Diane Yatauro of Glen Cove, a Democrat, said she was "appalled at the shameless grab for money" exhibited by presiding officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), who proposed the raises. Yatauro said she asked that Mangano, a Republican, "direct the county attorney to put a stop" to the pay hikes.

Mangano responded in the early afternoon with a news release that he "had referred the question of the legality of the raises to the county attorney's office for review."

On Monday, Republicans, in an 11-8 party-line vote, increased the compensations of Schmitt, from $67,500 to $99,500, a 47 percent hike; Deputy Presiding Officer John Ciotti of North Valley Stream, from $62,500 to $84,500, a 35 percent increase; and Yatauro, from $63,500 to $90,500, or 42 percent more. Other legislators did not get raises.

Yatauro said she would not take the raise; if forced to take it, she would give it to charity.

Democrats contend that the proposal - clocked in at 9:45 a.m. and voted on at 10:20 a.m. - violated the county charter's mandate to notify the public first.

"That's clear," said Yatuaro.

Schmitt fired back in a release, saying Yatauro had been informed on Friday about the raises and that they would be put on Monday's legislative agenda.

"I put it forth in the full light of day . . . and I stand by my decision," Schmitt said, also calling the Democratic minority "ethical hypocrites."

He added, "All I did was what former presiding officer Judy Jacobs tried to do three times. I didn't see the Democratic legislators holding news conferences against her. . . . Nor did I see Democratic indignation when they voted to increase former County Executive [Thomas] Suozzi's salary by 60 percent."

When Democrats controlled the Legislature, they also voted for a large pay increase for county officials. In 2007, they increased then-County Executive Thomas Suozzi's salary by 60 percent to $174,614. Suozzi had gone without a raise for about five years. The comptroller, district attorney, clerk and assessor each received pay raises.

Jacobs denies allegation

But Jacobs later lashed out at Schmitt, saying she never tried to do what he did.

"I never put any raise proposal for legislators to a vote," she said. "And the proposal for Suozzi and others came from a [recommendation by] a bipartisan, blue ribbon panel when the economy was better."

Under Jacobs' leadership as presiding officer from 2000 through 2007, Democrats raised the issue of pay hikes for all legislators three times. But the Republican lawmakers would not support the move because Democrats didn't have all 10 of their lawmakers on board and the measure never came to a vote.

Five other Democratic legislators and a dozen others, including Tea Party members, participated in the news conference. Among the latter were Bob Pendleton of Merrick and Claudia Borecky of North Merrick.

"We helped put the Republicans into office, and we can take them out," said Pendleton.

Borecky said: "People are very smart, and they know when they have been lied to."

Anthony Santino, a spokesman for Joseph Mondello, whose legislative candidates campaigned last year on cutting spending, said the Nassau GOP chairman had no comment on the raises. Nassau's new Republican comptroller, George Maragos, also said he had no comment.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Places To Grow On Long Island

Long Island Index Maps Out Potential For Revitalizing Downtowns

A new report compiled and issued by the Long Island Index entitled, Places to Grow, analyzes the possibilities of not only bringing back our downtowns from the brink, but more, giving new life to what, in many instances, have become the graveyards of suburbia.

Transit-oriented housing in close proximity to the community's business district. Mixed use development. Higher density. Greater walkability.

Hmmmm. Now where have we heard all of this proposed before? Oh yeah. Right here on The Community Alliance blog! [Smarty pants...]

Anyway, as  Rauch Foundation (the folks who routinely finance such studies) President Nancy Douzinas asserts, “The region must find a way to achieve this balance.”  “Managed growth in the downtowns has been a revenue generator in other parts of the country with greater job growth, lower property taxes, fewer cars and better environmental outcomes. Long Island could certainly use all of that!”

Yup, we certainly could.

The report provides information about more than 100 Long Island downtowns and LIRR station areas, highlighting the potential for growth opportunities through, among other tools, an interactive map. [So that's what we've been missing. A map!]

From Albertson to Yaphank, comparisons are drawn, numbers are crunched, and the road map to renewal and, more than this, sustainability, is drawn. [About the only things missing are the artists' renderings.]

Cases studies (you always need case studies, you know) of communities that could serve as experiential lessons for transit-oriented growth are cited, including Fairfax, VA, South Orange, NJ, and, closer to home, Mineola, NY.

With an eye toward land preservation and keeping what's good, the report ponders the prospects of a smart growth environment; one that incorporates affordable housing, mixed commercial, retail, recreational and residential use, and a rail station or downtown center, as means to create "strong downtowns" with a "sense of  culture and community."

Ahh. A sense of community. Now they're talking our language.

Of course, talking about transit-oriented development and actually building sustainable communities with vibrant and vital downtowns are two different animals, indeed.

Millions on studies, reports, and high-falutin' plans go for naught if barely a dime is spent to commit taking that which is on the drawing board to the streets of Long Island.

Whether it's the dawning of a new day in Elmont by replacing the old Argo movie theater with a much needed supermarket, the end of an era of infamy in West Hempstead through the demolition of the Courtesy Hotel as entree to transit-oriented housing, or the broader, county-vaulting cornerstone of the Lighthouse Project as renaissance for the entire region, we can continue to study, debate, and consider -- while the blight of the  brownfields consumes us all -- or we could very well do something -- today, and not tomorrow (or the day after that) -- to truly make Long Island not only a place to grow, but the showplace of suburbia we always knew it could be.

To quote Nike (do you think they have any studies or reports on point?), Just do it!
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Click HERE to read the full report, Places to Grow.
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For sure, the clock is ticking. . .

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Aftershocks In Massachusetts. . .

. . .Can Be Felt Right Here In New York

A growing dissatisfaction with the status quo. A candidate who lacks popular appeal. A lackluster campaign without broad support or organizational penache. In short, the formula for political disaster.

Could it happen here in New York? You betcha!

Of course, if the voters in New England had truly had enough of too much government, the could have voted for the Libertarian candidate, whose name happened to be Kennedy -- just not that Kennedy!

Yes, revolution is in the air, folks -- and not only on the right -- voters having had their fill of waiting for evolutionary change.

Revolution may have its place, but do we really want to reunite with empires past?

Don't for a minute be fooled by change you can be deceived in!
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Now, Governor Paterson, about those proposed cuts, fees, and taxes. . .
Click HERE for details on the Governor's proposed NYS Budget for 2010-11
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From The New York Times:

Paterson Seeks Huge Cuts and $1 Billion in Taxes and Fees


ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson proposed on Tuesday what would be the largest cut to school aid in more than two decades and nearly $1 billion in new or increased taxes and fees as he unveiled his budget, a plan that is likely to be the first chapter in a prolonged battle with the Legislature.

Searching for new sources of tax revenue amid a fiscal crisis, the governor proposed legalizing mixed martial arts, allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores, taxing bottled soft drinks, taxing cigarette sales on Indian reservations and deploying speed-enforcement cameras in highway work zones.

He even proposed charging fees to many families that enroll in an early intervention program for children with autism, attention deficit disorder and other special needs, and delaying one of his signature achievements — a plan to increase monthly welfare allowances.

Facing a $7.4 billion deficit this year, the governor is presenting a relatively lean budget by the standards of a state government accustomed to unrestrained spending. His office also delivered more sobering news, projecting that the state’s income will not return to the levels seen before the financial crisis until 2013.

The overall budget, including federal matching funds, would grow to $134 billion, up $787 million, or 0.6 percent, from the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31. State spending would increase $745 million, or 0.9 percent, to nearly $80 billion.

“This is not a budget of choice; this is a budget of necessity,” Mr. Paterson said in a speech to the Legislature on Tuesday morning. “Ladies and gentlemen, the days of continuing taxation and the days of continuous spending have got to end,” he added. “The era of irresponsibility has got to stop. The age of accountability has arrived.”

Several dozen lawmakers skipped the speech, which took place in a large egg-shaped auditorium here, and those who did attend greeted the governor’s remarks with polite, if tepid, applause. Mr. Paterson has had a tense relationship with fellow Democrats, who control the Legislature, sometimes by design as he has sought to capitalize on voter discontent with the array of scandals emanating from Albany.

Lawmakers expressed a mix of caution and skepticism on Tuesday. “Some of the stuff is retreads from last year that never quite made it, and I imagine they’ll probably meet the same fate,” said Senator Diane J. Savino, a Democrat representing Brooklyn and Staten Island, who singled out the soda tax and the proposal to allow groceries to sell wine.

Senator Malcolm A. Smith, a Queens Democrat, said the governor should not have allowed for an even modest rise in spending. “I don’t think we really should be increasing it at all,” said Mr. Smith, the Senate president.

Senator Dean G. Skelos, leader of the Senate Republicans, said, “The greatest danger” was “the one posed by Assembly and Senate Democrats who no doubt will push to further increase spending and taxes just like they did last year.”

The leaders of the Legislature — Senator John L. Sampson of Brooklyn and the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver of Manhattan — said they needed more time to review the proposals.

As he faces an uphill election battle, Mr. Paterson’s budget is also a break from the typical practice of robust budgets in election years. With no money to throw at preferred interest groups, Mr. Paterson is betting that voters will reward him as a responsible steward instead of punishing him as a Scrooge.

His plan would cut school aid by 5 percent in a state with the highest per-capita spending on education. It would also slow the growth of spending on Medicaid, reduce by $1 billion spending on state agencies and eliminate $300 million in undesignated annual aid to New York City.

But Mr. Paterson avoided harsher medicine. He has made no significant cuts to the state’s work force and even assured union leaders that he would not seek layoffs this year, a risky move as the state faces huge deficits in the coming years.

His plan also assumes that there will be a significant recovery this year in the state’s tax collections and relies on a number of recycled proposals. A new tax on sugared sodas, $1.28 per gallon, would yield $465 million, similar to a proposal that Mr. Paterson made last year but dropped amid resistance from the Legislature and companies like PepsiCo Inc., which is based in Purchase, N.Y.

Mr. Paterson is also proposing an increase in cigarette taxes, raising the tax per pack by $1, to $3.75, a change that would bring total taxes in New York City to $5.25 per pack.

One of the most controversial measures is Mr. Paterson’s proposal to slash school aid. Under the plan, wealthier districts would be hit hardest, a strategy that has long been fought by the State Senate, especially by senators from Long Island. Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, called it “a colossal reversal of New York State’s commitment to providing every child with a real opportunity to learn.”

Mr. Paterson is also seeking to shrink the state’s troubled youth prison system, which is facing federal scrutiny and a class-action lawsuit. He wants to close perhaps the most infamous institution, Tryon Boys Residential Center in Fulton County, where a 15-year-old boy died in November 2006 after workers pinned him to the floor. Mr. Paterson also proposes consolidating or shrinking three other youth centers.

Another proposal would introduce fees to a state program that provides early intervention services for about 74,000 special-needs children. Families would be charged on a sliding scale, with fees starting at $180 a year for those with a household annual income of at least $55,126 and topping out at $2,160 a year for those earning at least $198,451.

Mr. Paterson is also proposing new assessments totaling $240 million on the state’s powerful health care industry on top of the nearly $1 billion in cuts in payments to health care providers.

He would close two tax loopholes, including one that allows people earning severance packages to avoid paying state income tax if they move out of the state. And he is proposing to restructure the state’s property tax relief program, known as Star, to make it less beneficial for the wealthy.

Budget watchdogs had a mixed reaction, although most said that the governor’s proposal lacked the gimmickry that had characterized many previous budgets.

“It looks pretty clean,” said Elizabeth Lynam, a deputy research director at the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit organization. “On the whole, I think it makes a reasonable down payment on the problems the state is facing.”

Edmund J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a conservative-leaning research group, said the governor was still proposing to spend too much.

“What they’re saying is, ‘Look, we’re below inflation now — isn’t that great?’ ” Mr. McMahon said. “The problem is you were several multiples of inflation ahead of personal income during one of the steepest recessions in recent history and you’ve got a lot of catching up to do, so this isn’t good enough.”

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rolling With "Roll Back The Raises" In Hempstead Town

Petition Drive In Full Swing; TOH Residents Urged To Get On Board

The wrong message at the wrong time!

Perhaps that best describes the raises Town of Hempstead officials gave themselves after their most recent victory at the polls.

Unemployment soaring. Businesses closing their doors. Property taxes eating away at the tattered wallets of Long Islanders. The economy's recovery barely visible in New York. Residents hurting, badly.

And with this, the Hempstead Town Board voted itself, along with the Town's other elected officials, substantial raises. Raises that we, the struggling masses yearning to stay afloat financially, are paying for out of our own, thinly lined pockets.

As we reported recently, a grassroots organization, Rollback The Raises, has initiated a Petition drive to hold a public referendum on the Town of Hempstead raises, and asks for the support of all Town of Hempstead residents in signing -- and getting friends, family and neighbors to sign -- the Petitions.

Hey, it's your money! [Or at least it was, until your local government took it away...]

Without further then, here's the word from our friends at Rollback The Raises.  Pass it along to everyone you know in the Town of Hempstead, and then, take action.

This, fellow community advocates, is your opportunity to say "no" to too much government at too high a price. This is your chance to fight back!

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From Rollback The Raises:

As you know, the TOH Supervisor, Clerk and Town Board have given themselves raises every two years since 2001.Most taxpayers say that it is not right to give salary increases during hard economic times when unemployment is high and people are having difficulty in making ends meet. Even more people are enraged when they discover that these raises are routinely passed every two years AFTER the general election.

Furthermore, the opportunity to legally challenge these raises in a referendum takes place during the busiest time of the year when people are spending time with family and friends. It is really done in a sneaky and underhanded manner.

BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS! For the first time citizens are openly challenging these raises by getting petitions signed to put these raises before a public referendum to let the people decide.

Enclosed in this grassroots petition packet is everything you need to help out. It is truly a non-partisan effort as as both major political parties are the recipients of these raises.

We encourage everyone to get involved to send a message to our TOH government. As you collect signatures at supermarkets, train stations, and other high traffic areas, you will feel very satisfied at the overwhelming positive response the voters and taxpayers give you when they sign the petitions People have had enough and are more than willing to voice their objections.

What is this all about ?

TOH Salary Flyer View the raises and print out copies to inform the people who are signing the petitions

Salary and Tax Graph- See how much Town of Hempstead Salaries and taxes have gone up.

How Do I Collect Signatures ?

PETITION INSTRUCTIONS - It is fun and easy .Complete instructions for everyone to get involved.

What do I say to get people to sign ?

Sample Petition Dialogue- Sometimes people have reservations about how to talk to potential signers. This is a sample people have used to collect thousands of signatures. Do whatever works best for you. The people are smart and realize that you are out there helping them.


Rollback The Raises
Organizing Committee

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Men Of A Certain Rage

Or, Ed And Ted's Assessment Misadventure

Ever get the feeling that as a county, if not as a country, we're taking one step forward and two steps back? That regressive narrowmindedness has supplanted anything resembling progressive thought? That we've somehow fallen into a black hole, warping us back to a time where the likes of a certain Senator Joseph McCarthy pointed fingers, fed off of fear, and sought to make us all safe from imaginary threats from within?

Not that a proposed freeze of Nassau County's assessment is akin to Communisim, but maybe what we need in the county, if not this country, is health care that provides universal coverage for Palinectomies, a media that understands the difference between fact and opinion, and a government that thrives on an educated electorate.

If ignorance is bliss, Nassau County residents, and, apparently, Americans at large, must be considered delirious. Content to be mired in yesterday's failed ideas. Fooled by those who pass off the tired and old for the shiny and new. Moved to dubious rebellion by the very folks who helped create the mess we now find ourselves stuck in.

There's a "seesaw effect" in assessment? When assessed values go down, tax rates go up? A "freeze" does little if anything to reduce the dreaded property tax? Really? Why didn't anybody tell us?

Folks, we've been trying. One would think we would, by now, have figured out that "it's not the assessment, stupid," it's the spending! One would think...

Maybe what this county, lo, this country needs is not a Tea Party, but rather, a good old-fashioned coffee clotch -- with extra caffeine. It's time that we all woke up and started to pay attention!
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From The New York Times:

Dealing With a Tax Burden


FACED with a property tax bill that will top $11,000 this year, Bernalda Fritton and Robert Joyce are thinking about selling their $350,000 Wantagh home and relocating to Nebraska, where Ms. Fritton grew up. In 2008, their taxes were $9,800.

“Our taxes are really astronomical,” said Ms. Fritton, 35, a nursing student who works at Huntington Hospital. “I almost have to work the entire year for us to pay our taxes.”

In Nebraska, she said, their cost of living would be reduced, allowing them to afford more than the four-bedroom two-bath home on a 60-by-100 lot they now reside in.

Complaining about Long Island’s property taxes — among the highest in the country — is a frequent pastime these days. Some, like Ms. Fritton, are weighing whether to relocate; others are downsizing. Still others are staying put, accepting the status quo in exchange for top-rated school systems, which are bankrolled by tax revenues.

The anger over taxes and the assessment system used to determine them was strong enough to unseat Thomas R. Suozzi from his position as county executive after eight years; Edward P. Mangano made good use of the issue in his victorious campaign.

“The broken assessment system was a tremendous reason I decided to run for county executive,” said Mr. Mangano, adding that as a county legislator he had been “asking for a review of the current system for years.”

As the county Department of Assessment mailed out its January tax roll notices of tentative assessed value for the 2011-2012 tax year, using values from 2010 and noting their change from 2009, Mr. Mangano detailed a plan to reform and repair the property tax assessment system.

“This system is crushing Nassau County,” he told reporters at a press conference he had called to announce his “assessment review team.”

“If it is not fixed, Nassau’s taxpayers will continue to shoulder an unhealthy financial burden.”

Mr. Mangano said that incorrect property tax bills had “created a $1.2 billion debt for assessment errors alone, and another $100 million of taxpayer money will be spent for past mistakes.” That represents about half the total county taxpayer debt, he said.

“If those errors could be eliminated and residential assessments corrected,” he added, taxpayers would save about 16.4 percent. The county could reduce the $1.23 billion in outstanding bonds it issued to reimburse overcharged homeowners.

Instead of the annual assessment, which has been in place for the last seven years, Mr. Mangano is proposing to freeze tax rolls at 2010 values and do assessments cyclically every four years. Some of his proposals would require state legislation.

But Diane Yatauro, the Democratic leader of the Nassau Legislature, said she was unconvinced that “a freeze or a conversion to cyclical assessment will provide any real tax relief to property owners,” and even said it might “raise false hopes that tax relief is imminent.”

Ted Jankowski, the tax assessor, expressed similar doubts. He said declining real estate values and assessments would not necessarily translate into lower property tax bills. The system, he said, works “like a seesaw.” If values come down, the tax rate will go up as the tax burden is redistributed, so that the county can maintain constancy in the amount of money it receives.

The assessment represents each homeowner’s proportional share of what a taxing jurisdiction, like a school or water district, judges it will need in the upcoming year.

Taxes are high, Mr. Jankowski said, “but it is not because of the assessment. It is how much an individual taxing district wants to spend.” (There are 322 separate taxing districts using the county assessment rolls.)

In Nassau, 64 percent of property taxes go to school districts. The county pays the refunds on behalf of school districts and other tax jurisdictions in the county.

Mr. Jankowski did acknowledge that tax challenges — which can be made in Nassau County from Jan. 1 to March 1 — are “zapping resources from the system.” That is because the money to pay for the refunds “has to be raised from taxes.”

Linda Petralia, an associate broker with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s Syosset office, says that one of the first questions people ask when being shown a home is how high the taxes are.

Sometimes the amount is a deterrent, though more often buyers proceed anyway, she said.

An exception these days, however, is big houses on large lots. A number of sellers “are downsizing primarily to get away from taxes” that often exceed $20,000, she said. One example is a five-bedroom four-and-a-half-bath farm ranch on 1.1 acres in Woodbury, which according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island is listed at $1.57 million and has taxes of $26,674.77.

“When people come to look at the house,” Ms. Petralia said, “the comments you get are, ‘The taxes are high.’ ”

Riina M. Friedrich, a broker at Friedrich Real Estate in Babylon, seconded Ms. Petralia, saying “a primary motivation for selling” was lower taxes. Sellers who are clients of hers are scaling down, buying condominiums and looking for smaller homes — “something with a lower tax base.”

Cammie and Robert Kaiser of Sayville recently listed the four-bedroom two-and-a-half-bath English Tudor where they have lived for 33 years. They are asking $569,000, and the annual taxes are about $10,000, Ms. Kaiser said. With the children grown and on their own, the couple are trading in their location a half block from the Great South Bay for a lakefront property in Salem, S.C.

“My taxes down South are half of what I am paying here and the house is bigger,” Ms. Kaiser said. They are nearing retirement, and will be on a fixed income, so “taxes played a big role” in their decision to relocate.

Bernard Janowitz heads the Janowitz Group, which is developing Stone Hill at Muttowntown, a gated community where the property taxes range from $30,000 to $50,000. He offered another viewpoint: Acknowledging that the taxes were a deterrent to home shoppers from Manhattan and other places off the Island, he said local buyers were “used to paying high taxes” and would bite the bullet to be in the top-rated Syosset school district.

“The taxes here are just insane,” he said. “But if you want the best schools, the resale value and the best police, that’s why you live in Nassau County.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

Aiding The Haiti Relief Effort On Long Island

From Elmont East, LIers Open Hearts, Wallets
Elmont Haitian Community Kick-Off Haiti Earthquake Relief Drive

Surrounded by hundreds of Elmont residents, Bishop Fernando Rodriguez, Reverend Alan Ramirez, students from Elmont Memorial High School and Haitian community leaders, Assemblyman Tom Alfano kicked off a Haiti Earthquake Relief effort with the Elmont Schools and Elmont Memorial High School on the front lawn of Elmont Haitian leader David Duchatelier.

The gathering to kick off the food, clothing and medical supply drive attracted hundreds drove and walked blocks to come and listen to the logistics of the operation being outline by Alfano, Duchatelier and Bishop Rodriguez in Elmont on Friday. Police cars blocked streets and the Elmont Fire Department brought personnel and an engine to show their support of the effort. Crowds gathered, prayed and talked about the tragedy that has touched thousands personally throughout Elmont and the greater area.

Alfano called the drive an effort where people are helping people in a time of tragedy. “The Haitian and Caribbean community in Elmont has been deeply moved by this crisis and won’t sit idly by and watch television and do nothing. It’s efforts like this where we show what a strong, vibrant and caring community Elmont is. Again, the young people in Elmont lead the way and show us all by their work in this effort,” said Assemblyman Alfano.

Word of the food drive was spread by word of mouth, fliers walked by residents in neighborhoods, Facebook, the Elmont School District, Elmont Soccer Club and Elmont Memorial High School. The streets around Renfrew Avenue in Elmont were packed with people dropping off supplies, coming to listen and lend a hand. Throughout the weekend volunteers packed barrels, collected items, donations and clothing to be sent to orphanages in Haiti.

Joining Alfano at the press conference was Bishop Fernando Rodriguez, Reverend Alan Ramirez, Haitian officers of the Nassau County Police Department, Elmont Fire Department Assistant Chief Prince, Elmont Memorial High School students, Key Club, SADD, County Legislator John Ciotti, Councilman Ed Ambrosino, Supt. Al Harper, Supervisor Kate Murray, Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, former Elmont School Board Vice-President Elsy Mecklembourg Guibert, Elmont Soccer Club VP Richard DeBrosse, Sandy Smith representing Senator Dean Skelos, Elmont East End Civic President Pat Nicolosi and CCC President Joyce Stowe.

The crisis has caught worldwide attention which Assemblyman Alfano has called “a tragedy that has united people throughout the world.” Alfano led a similar food drive last year to address the starvation crisis in Haiti where 40 barrels of food, clothing and medical supplies were sent to Haitian orphanages throughout the country.

At the kick-off, well over 40 barrels of clothing alone were collected and nearly 50 barrels of food and medical supplies have been collected so far. According to Assemblyman Alfano, Dutch Broadway, Alden Terrace, Covert Avenue, Stewart Manor, Gotham Avenue and Clara H. Carlson schools have collected “classrooms full of supplies” to be sent.

Former Elmont School Board Vice-President Elsy Guibert spoke out and encouraged the community to continue to work on the drive and discussed how her son is in Haiti and his staying on the island to help rebuild the country. Guibert had left Haiti just hours before the earthquake hit and lost family members in the earthquake. “For a whole day I couldn’t call my son and I prayed. He’s safe and I have talked with him. He hs written to me and told me that he feels he needs to stay in Haiti to help. I’m very proud of him and know that he will make a difference.”

Bishop Fernando Rodriguez said, “this effort put together by Assemblyman Alfano and Elmont Memorial and the Elmont school district is truly moving. The young people out in this audience have no idea the impact they will have on a child.”

Reverend Alan Ramirez added, “we are working together to make a difference and the young people in Elmont are showing us the way.”

SUNY Stonybrook student and Elmont Memorial graduate Vladimir Crevecoeur talked about the feeling of helplessness that many people have felt in this tragedy in wanting to help. Crevecouer related that he has lost family members from the earthquake and wanted to be a part of the effort that has truly taken off in Elmont. “This effort today truly reflects the saying on the flag of Haiti which translated in english is ‘strength through unity’ and I want to thank our schools and my friend Tom Alfano for making this happen.”

“Elmont is the home of thousands of Haitian Americans who wanted to do something. They wanted to get involved and this grassroots effort has mobilized everyone from the kindergartner at Dutch Broadway School to the Junior in Elmont Memorial High School. People have been coming here all afternoon from every walk of life to drop off things because they wanted to help. That’s why this driveway is filled and the backyard is packed, Alfano said.

Senator Dean Skelos said, “I’m very proud to be a part of the effort being spearheaded by the Elmont Schools and Assemblyman Alfano. The supplies colected will help countless people in Haiti. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who have lost a loved one and are still waiting to hear from others.”

County Executive Ed Mangano said, “the effort in Elmont being organized by the schools and Assemblyman Alfano is unbelievable. The response is incredible and Nassau County will be there to help transport and assist this effort in any way possible.”

County Legislator John Ciotti said, “this is an outstanding show of community support for our Haitian neighbors. I’m proud to not only lend a hand to the food and clothing drive, but will continue to work with Assemblyman Alfano on this humanitarian effort.”

The food drive is a collective effort that will entail collections in schools, churches and local businesses throughout the area. To make donations, simply drop off food, clothing and medical supplies to Elmont schools, Elmont Memorial High School or Assemblyman Tom Alfano’s office.

“The effort so far has been extraordinary,” said Principal John Capozzi of Elmont Memorial High School. “We’re really making a difference. I want to thank all of the students at Elmont Memorial, Assemblyman Alfano and the community for being so supportive of this effort during this crisis.”

Councilman Ed Ambrosino noted, “we wanted to help and this is a great way to do it. Our thoughts and prayers are with Haiti now and I want to thank the community for this incredible outpouring of support.”

"I want to thank Assemblyman Tom Alfano and the Elmont Schools for working closely with our local Haitian community and all of those who are committed to helping our Haitian brothers and sisters who are suffering in the wake of a heart wrenching tragedy," said Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray. Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin noted, “At a time of such a horrific event, I am proud to stand with the entire Elmont community to extend our prayers and provide whatever assistance we can.”

Assemblyman Alfano noted that donations are needed but certain staples are needed more than others. “Our prime emphasis in this collection is to collect two basic meal staples that are desperately needed- rice and beans. Additionally, medicine like aspirin, band aids and simple first aid supplies are what is critically needed. That is what we need the most and I hope that residents will respond with,” Alfano said adding, “if you can’t donate that’s ok too, but you can still say a prayer for the people of Haiti.”

Residents who want to get involved with the effort should contact Assemblyman Alfano’s office at 437-5577, or through Facebook (simply friend request Tom Alfano), or email him at
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Do we detect an air of political opportunism from some of the elected who so gladly jump on the bandwagon (or go only so far as to snare a soundbite on a press release)?  Of course, but at least it's for a good cause!

Pick up your cell phones and text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to the Haitian relief effort of the American Red Cross. The donation will appear on your cell phone bill.
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Just so you don't think we totally ignore or have complete disdain for the right (tea parties notwithstanding), here's a piece about what Mike Huckabee (of Fox) had to say:

Mike Huckabee, past and likely future candidate for president of the United States, has praised American efforts in and for Haiti, and lashed out at critics and enemies of the United States who stand by and do nothing. The former Arkansas governor's remarks brought out in bold relief how Israel’s disproportionate aid to Haiti is ignored by the world.

Speaking on his FoxNews television program, Huckabee noted that “once again, in the face of a horrible human tragedy, it’s Americans who show up first, do the most, and expect the least in return.”

“When it comes to a time of human tragedy,” Huckabee continued, “it’s the United States that will export its most precious commodity – its generosity. Within hours of the horrific earthquake that hit Haiti, Americans were pouring record donations into the relief efforts… The U.S. military dispatched ships, planes and thousands of personnel… American relief workers lined up to go to Haiti and risked death and disease to help people they don’t even know.”

“I realize that other countries are helping and providing resources – but the next time some pipsqueak punk politician like Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez or Iran’s nut job of a president Ahmoud Medinajad  whines about how evil we are, we ought to tell them to put up or shut up.”

“… When the earthquake struck, American went to Haiti. As for our critics, they can go to hell.”
As for Israel’s relief efforts to Haiti, they include the following: A field hospital, the only hospital in operation, with 40 doctors, 25 nurses, paramedics, a pharmacy, a children's ward, a radiology department, an intensive care unit, an emergency room, two operating rooms, a surgical department, an internal department and a maternity ward. The hospital can treat approximately 500 patients each day, and in addition will perform preliminary surgeries. A search-and-rescue team, which has rescued about five people from under the rubble. 220 personnel in total. Dozens of truckloads of medical and logistical equipment Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, one of the richest countries in the world, has sent a message of condolence to Haitian President René Préval. Some Arab countries have “pledged” help, such as $1 million pledged from both Kuwait and Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates says it will “shortly” send a plane with humanitarian assistance. Qatar, with the third largest gas reserves and the second highest GDP per capita in the world, has dispatched 50 metric tons of aid to the hundreds of thousands of homeless and injured Haitians.

Latest reports are that the IDF Medical Corps have treated some 200 injured people in Haiti, performed ten life-saving surgeries and saved the lives of 140 others. On Sunday night, a resident of Port-au-Prince gave birth to a boy at the Israeli field hospital. In appreciation and gratitude, his mother decided to name her new son “Israel” in honor of the country that helped her.

"What Are You Doing For Others?"

MLK, Jr. Day: A Day Of Service, Not A Day Off

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

With the people of Haiti in our hearts, and the continuing trauma of recession here at home on our minds, there is one thing that each of us -- no matter our station in life -- can and should do to help those in need: Volunteer our time, our expertise, our energy.

For volunteer opportunities in your community and beyond, visit one or more of the following websites:

Or contact your favorite charity or local service organization and ask, "what can I do to help?"

And if volunteering for the sake of helping others isn't sufficient reward, visit to find out how you can turn a day of volunteerism into a ticket to a Disney theme park.
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"...Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
--I've Been To The Mountaintop, April 3, 1968

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now Is The Time For All Good People To Come To The Aid Of Haiti

Haitian Relief Effort To Kick-Off In Elmont

When: Friday, January 15th, 4:30 pm

Who: Assemblyman Tom Alfano, Haitian Community Members and Leaders, Bishop Rodriguez, Councilman Ed Ambrosino, County Legislator John Ciotti

What: Kick Off of Haiti earthquake Relief Effort-in Nassau County’s Largest Haitian Community-Elmont

Where: 2081 Renfrew Avenue, Elmont, home of Haitian Community Leader David Duchatelier

Contact: Scott Cushing, Assemblyman Alfano
Cell: 516-445-6327

Relief Effort operation for Haiti in Elmont. At the collection point, Haitian community leaders will discuss the Haiti relief drive, personal stories and ongoing efforts to get aid to Haiti. Also on hand will be Haiti community members with family in Haiti. Bishop Rodriguez will also be on hand to discuss relief efforts.

This is the second relief drive Assemblyman Alfano has sponsored. Medical supplies, clothing and food distribution will be discussed.

Event kicks off at 4:30 pm at 2081 Renfrew Avenue, Elmont.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Because Community Doesn't Stop At The Nassau County Border. . .

Lend Your Support To Haiti Earthquake Relief

Here are the links to but a few of the organizations through which you may help the victims of the devastating Haiti earthquake:

American Red Cross
The American Red Cross' primary focus during the initial response of an emergency is feeding, sheltering and supplying any other basic needs. To donate: Go to, hit donate now button at top and then International Response Fund. You also can text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to the International Response Fund. The money will go directly to relief efforts in Haiti. Or call 1-800-Red-Cross.

This nonprofit disaster relief organization delivers medicine, medical supplies and aid to people in crisis around the world. To donate, call 1-800-486-HELP or go to Donations will go toward medicine and medical supplies and for expenses for providing that medical aid.

This humanitarian organization's main focus is to fight global poverty, specifically by empowering marginalized women and girls. To donate to the Haiti relief fund effort, go to or call 1-800-521-CARE. Money will go toward food, water and sanitation, shelter and emergency health response.

Direct Relief International
Direct Relief provides medical attention to those in need on an ongoing basis and in emergencies. Monetary donations go toward medical aid, supplies and equipment in Haiti. To donate, go to or call 805-964-4767 and 800-676-1638, or go through Google Checkout.

Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)
The humanitarian organization delivers medical care to people caught in crisis. Donations to its Haiti relief efforts will go toward repairing the obstetrics and trauma hospitals in Haiti that were damaged in the earthquake. They also will go to transporting an additional 70 doctors and medical supplies to the island in an effort to set up makeshift emergency medical response centers. To donate, go to or call 1-888-392-0392.

International Medical Corps
This emergency response agency focuses on health in emergency situations. Monetary donations go toward purchasing medical supplies, medicine and emergency kits and transporting these supplies. 1-800-481-4462 or go to

Medical Teams International
The Christian global health organization sends volunteer medical teams and supplies to those in the midst of disaster or poverty. Monetary donations will go to supporting the medical teams being sent to Haiti and to the cost of shipping the medical supplies donated by corporations. Donate by going to and clicking on the "Donate Now" button, or call 1-800-959-HEAL (4325) or send a check to Medical Teams International, P.O. Box 10, Portland, OR 97207.

Mercy Corps
The organization provides humanitarian assistance and economic opportunities in the world's toughest places, specifically those dealing with poverty, conflict and instability. To donate, go to Money will go toward immediate humanitarian needs in Haiti, which may include, food, water and temporary shelter.

Operation USA
The international relief agency provides funding for reconstruction and development aid to communities that have experienced disasters, disease and poverty. For its Haiti relief efforts, the agency plans to use donations for health care materials, water purification supplies and food supplements. To donate, go to or call 1-800-678-7255, or mail a check to Operation USA, 3617 Hayden Ave., Suite A, Culver City, CA 90232.

Save the Children
The independent organization focuses on children in need in the U.S. and globally through programs for health and nutrition, child protection and education. To donate, go to, or call 1-800-728-3843 or 203-221-4030. Donations will go toward purchasing relief items, such as hygiene kits, family kits (pots, pans, food preparation items) and tarps.

The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army's mission is to provide food, shelter, clothing and spiritual comfort during disasters. To donate money, go to or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. Make sure you designate the donation for "Haiti Earthquake." Money will go to the Salvation Army in Haiti, which will determine the country's immediate needs, including water, food, medicine and transportation.

The nonprofit delivers boxes of supplies to families of up to 10 people. The boxes contain a tent and essential equipment to use while individuals are displaced or homeless. To donate, call 941-907-6036 or go to

U.S. Fund for UNICEF
The national committee for UNICEF is responsible for the organization's fundraising. UNICEF uses the money for health care, clean water, nutrition, education and emergency relief. To donate, go to or 1-800-4-UNICEF.

World Food Programme
The food assistance agency's main focus is to fight hunger worldwide. The organization is working to bring food to Haiti. To donate, go to

Yele Haiti
This organization, founded by Wyclef Jean, creates projects to improve the quality of education, health, environment and community development in Haiti. To donate to to its Haiti relief efforts, go to or text YELE to 501501 to donate $5.

For additional resources, go to CNN's Impact Your World.

Know before you give. Only make donations through organizations known to you to be legitimate.

The human toll in Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere, is nothing short of horrifying and shocking. To stand by and do nothing would only add to the tragedy.

Please give what you can to support relief efforts. Thank you!

Elmont to TOH: The Ire Of Community Is Upon You!

Does Boisterous Civic Meeting Pose Threat To Town Politics As Unusual?

Oh, they get it in Elmont, all right. The blight. The neglect. The Empty promises. The endless array of artists' renderings signifying absolutely nothing.

One question, though. At the recent meeting of the Elmont East Civic Association, where was kate? You remember. Kate Murray, Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead. Surely you've seen her name on those signs posted along the roadways -- and at your local sanitary district.

Oh, we forgot. The election is over. Kate Murray wins yet again, and now retreats into the rabbit hole (gee, how does she fit down there, anyway?), not to be seen again for another two years, and leaving Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino (one of the few in Hempstead Town who actually give a damn about our communities) to take the heat in Elmont.

Ed, let Kate know (not that she really cares) that the rumbling in Elmont is but the undercurrent of unrest flowing east throughout the unincorporated hamlets of America's most blighted township.

No, it's not only the property taxes, the special district fiefdoms, the crumbling infrastructure of Main Street, the moon-like roadscape of local streets, and on and on ad nauseum. It's the devil may care attitude of those who talk a great game of magnificent gain for community, then snub their noses at us all.

Indeed, you can fool some of the people all of the time. Just not in Elmont!
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From the Elmont Herald:

Hostility Toward ToH Evinced at East End Civic Meeting

Guest speaker Town Councilman Edward Ambrosino, always a welcome friendly face at the Elmont East End Civic Club, felt the heat Tuesday evening at its January 5th general meeting. Residents attending the meeting pelted him with complaints about the Town’s lack of response, lack of code enforcement, poor road conditions, lack of snow removal in this last snow storm, general deterioration, and proliferation of store-front churches along Hempstead Turnpike that take properties off the tax roles and therefore negatively impact the economy.

There were some new faces among the almost 50 attending the meeting held at the Elmont Public Library. “We have a new County Executive, Ed Mangano, who wants to re-energize the County,” began Ambrosino. He shared that a new zoning resolution specifically targeting Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont from the Cross Island Parkway to Lucille Avenue has been shared with The Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Growth for its input and that it will be available to the public prior to a Town Board vote. The proposed zoning resolution process will take 4-6 months, and it includes commercial and recreation areas, and is designed to create a uniform esthetics in the commercial property along the Turnpike. If passed, the zoning would affect renovations, remodels and new construction.

When he opened up discussion to the audience, residents were quick to lodge their complaints and dismay. One after another hands went up to complain about illegal apartments, residences being used as commercial auto repair shops, parking in no parking zones, double parking, lack of code enforcement, political signs from the November election still lingering on telephone polls, vacant gas stations, and the very poor snow removal effort during the most recent snow storm. “Three days later they’re coming down our block with the plows,” said one resident.

The discontent was palpable and seemed to grow as the meeting proceeded.

“I put in a complaint to the Town about an illegal basement apartment,” said one resident attending the civic meeting for the first time, “and I got a very nice letter from Kate Murray [Town Supervisor] saying thank you for taking the time to complain, but nothing was done about the illegal apartment.”

“If I call the Building Department,” said another concerned resident, “I get directed to Code Enforcement, or Sanitation or somewhere else.”

“Doesn’t anyone in the Town notice sidewalks that need to be repaired?” demanded another resident. “Why aren’t business owners cleaning up in front of their businesses?” asked another.

“Code Enforcement was unable to gain access to a property I complained about,” said Attorney and Developer Muzzio Tallini. “I was advised that we could file an affidavit with the Town Attorney regarding that property, but the Town Attorney hasn’t called back.”

“How long can a gas station be left vacant?” inquired another visibly annoyed resident who resides near one.

“Don’t call the Hot Line or the Building Department to report illegal housing or illegal rentals, etc.” suggested Ambrosino. “Call my office directly 812-3179 and we’ll try to get it resolved for you.”

The complaints were like complaints of civic meetings past. “Listening to the concerns expressed tonight is like being at a meeting from 5 years ago, 10 years ago, and yes, 20 years ago,” said Elmont Herald Editor Cathy Ferrigno. “Doing the same thing over and over again, (like complaining to the Town) and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity,” she said. “And, there’s something systemically wrong with Town Government when we have to call you, the Councilman whose job it is to write legislation, to get Town departments to do their job.”

“I can’t change the system alone,” Ambrosino said, “but I want to be able to help solve and address residents’ individual problems.”

Ambrosino mentioned that he introduced legislation that would prohibit a gas station from being left vacant for more than 90 days.

Frustration and discontent mounted as one after another residents registered complaints that have negatively impacted their quality of life in Elmont that should have been addressed by the powers that be and the departments within the Town of Hempstead.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Cottage Industry On Long Island?

Post-Katrina Housing Suggests Affordable Alternative

Empty-nesters looking to downsize. College graduates and the young workforce hunting for that first home. Seniors hoping to reduce expenses and lower property taxes, while maintaining their single-family home lifestyle.

Far removed from the McMansions of the 80s and 90s, and not quite the Levitt capes of the 40s and 50s, a new design in contemporary living, the so-called Katrina Cottage, presents a smaller footprint, greater energy efficiency, and at least the prospect of affordability.

Could this be the next wave of suburban housing on Long Island? Quite possibly.

Tear down that McMansion and build a Katrina Cottage...
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From The New York Times:

Lessons From the ‘Katrina Cottages’


LAST June, Nell Bard, a former social worker, was flipping through a Lowe’s catalog, comparing its plans for diminutive “Katrina cottages” with her own 780-square-foot converted summer cottage in the hamlet of Brookhaven.

For some flood victims in the New Orleans area, the cottages replaced post-hurricane trailers.

When Ms. Bard showed the renderings to her boyfriend, Christopher D. Bodkin, the chairman of Islip’s Community Development Agency and until recently a town councilman, she wondered why the cottages couldn’t be the model for “highly affordable, flood-resistant housing for those of us who live here.”

As opposed to public-assistance housing on the Island, which often has a larger footprint, “a tiny house is so much cheaper to live in,” she said.

Mr. Bodkin agreed.

“They are really charming,” he said of the Katrina models, explaining that he had reared two sons, now 27 and 29, in a 625-square-foot circa 1784 cottage with two bedrooms and a little attic in Sayville — and that the elder one still lived there.

The size was always perfectly adequate, Mr. Bodkin said.

At the next board meeting of the Community Development Agency, he passed around the catalog. When he asked why the town didn’t build similar homes, he “expected 10 hands to go up,” so that colleagues could air their objections. Instead, Gene Murphy, the town’s commissioner of planning and development, enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

“Besides its affordability,” Mr. Murphy said recently, “it’s a smaller house and it fits into the community. It is meant as good starter housing to get people out of basements. For what they pay for rent, they can build equity in a house.” Paul Fink, the executive director of the Community Development Agency, said he hoped that eventually 10 Katrina cottages a year could be built to complement the 30 to 40 larger affordable homes that the town erects.

The basic Craftsman-style cottage is 918 square feet, with two bedrooms and one bath. At 26 feet wide and 38 feet deep not including a front porch, it fits undersized lots, like those in older neighborhoods like Sunnybrook in Bay Shore, where the plot for the first planned house is located. Some vacant lots there are 50 by 100 feet. The current zoning minimum is 75 by 100.

“You can still keep decent side yards,” Mr. Murphy said, adding that the compact cottages wouldn’t “impact privacy of neighbors” or “overbuild the site.”

Also, the old-fashioned architectural style “fits in with the context of that neighborhood,” he said, which has housing stock built between 1890 and 1920.

Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County, which received the property last year from the town and has applied for a building variance from Islip’s Board of Appeals, plans to start work on the first Katrina cottage in March, and do three to four more in town by the end of the year. Each cottage will cost about $100,000 to build, using volunteer labor.

Ed Miller, the architect for Habitat, said that although he and his colleagues had used the Lowe’s catalog renderings as design inspiration, the plans for the Craftsman-style dwelling were their own.

“The house is small,” he said, “but it has nice curb appeal, a nice big porch that a family can sit on, going back to the old days when you could sit on the front porch and talk to your neighbors.”

Ornamentation will be different in each case, “to give each house its own unique look.”

Habitat will select a buyer by lottery, from an applicant pool of families making no more than 50 percent of the area median — $40,700 for a family of two. The layout is simple: toward the front, a small foyer with a closet, a living room and an eat-in kitchen; to the back, down a hallway, two bedrooms. The laundry room is in a closet area off the kitchen; the hall bath is wheelchair-accessible. The house is not air-conditioned and has no basement.

Mr. Fink of the Community Development Agency said that the first home would also have solar panels, low-maintenance vinyl siding and Energy Star appliances. Its compact size will help keep utility costs down. “We think this will wind up being less expensive than rent for many of the people who buy the houses,” he said.

Generally the affordable housing built by nonprofits in Islip — 1,100 to 1,200 over the last 30 years, mostly ranches and colonials — runs 1,200 square feet and has three bedrooms and one and a half baths. Comparatively, the original Levittown house was 750 square feet plus an expandable dormer upstairs.

With the 918-foot model, Mr. Fink said, “we are trying to meet the needs of other family sizes. We have single parents, we have single individuals who want to own their own home but a three-bedroom is a little silly.”

“If we look at who is applying to our lotteries,” he added, “we have more and more smaller families over the last few years. We have far more single parents and far more single individuals looking to buy a house.”

Diana Weir, the executive vice president of the Long Island Housing Partnership, which has built 50 to 100 affordable homes in the last two years, said the Katrina cottages were a lot smaller and more moderately priced than the 1,300-square-foot homes that the partnership usually builds, which range in price from $140,000 to $245,000 depending on federal and state subsidies.

The smaller houses are a “great alternative,” she said.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Looking To Put The "Freeze" On Town Of Hempstead Raises

Petition Drive Seeks To "Roll Back" Raises For Town Officials

While Hempstead Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, basks in the warmth of her $150,000 paycheck, angry residents want to do more than merely complain about the avarice and greed of the town's elected representatives. In fact, with the start of a Petition drive, they're looking to place a referendum on the ballot recalling those raises.

Power to the people!

Our friends at Roll Back the Raises report:

Town of Hempstead residents start a petition for a referendum to “Roll Back” the towns pay raises

Town of Hempstead, NY - For the fifth time in a row Town of Hempstead (TOH) Supervisor Kate Murray (R) and the Town Board gave themselves a pay raise after an election. This time the TOH boards raise came in the midst of the December holidays preventing good government activist from organizing in opposition. However resident from all over the Town of Hempstead have joined forces to fight this unfair pay raise.

The all-volunteer organization titled Roll Back the Raises (RBR), began organizing to obtain 25,000 signatures for a referendum question to be put on the November 2, 2010 election ballot. The referendum question will allow the voters to decide if Supervisor Kate Murray, Town Clerk Mark Bonia and the Town Board should get a raise.

“People are being laid off or put on furlough, yet this body of government decides to increase their paychecks,” said Derek Donnelly of the Roll Back The Raises campaign. “This pay raise will come out of the pockets of the tax payer, and we are demanding this pay raise be put to the voter for approval.”

The TOH Pay Increases:

Supervisor Pay Raise: 140,000 to 150,000 (full time)
Town Clerk Pay Raise: 95,500 to 106,500 (full time)
Town Board Pay Raise: 61,500 to 66,000 (part time)

“In this time of great economic troubles for so many residents, our elected officials should be cutting taxes and preventing unnecessary future tax increases that force people out of there homes” said Robert Young of the Roll Back The Raises campaign. “We are organizing to oppose these raises and will let the voices of the people be heard.”

“Pursuant to section 24 of the New York State Municipal Home Rule Law, it is permitted to petition for a referendum any time elected officials give themselves raises, and this is exactly what we are now doing,” said Donnely.

RBR is working toward having all the signatures by January 26, 2010. To help, email
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The Community Alliance supports a voter referendum on the issue of raises for Town of Hempstead officials, and encourages all TOH  residents to contact Roll Back the Raises for purposes of signing the Petition.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Permit Us To Re-Introduce Ourselves

We Are The Community Alliance, Long Island's Premier Quality of Life Watchdog Group

As we usher in the year Twenty-Ten, reflecting upon yesterday's crusades, while focused on tomorrow's causes, we invite you, community advocates and activists all, to step to the fore and march under the banner of The Community Alliance.

We are all about the local Long Island scene, balancing that first class education for our children with the skyrocketing costs of maintaining 124 separate and distinct school districts. We are as concerned as much with preserving the shellfish population and marine life in Long Island Sound and the Great South Bay, as we are angered by the proliferation of that selfish indulgence that pervades Long Island's special taxing districts and local governments.

More than mere observers, we are the protagonists of good government, championing transparency, accountability, and efficiency -- three words known more in the abstract in these parts than in practice.

From affordable housing to zoning, accessory apartments to assessments, smart growth to sustainable communities, we challenge both the status quo and the mindset of indifference.

Ours is also a global vision -- for no man is an island, long or otherwise. Climate change, health care, the plight of the homeless, jobless, and displaced, are part and parcel of Long Island's quality of life.

The gains may, at times, seem small, virtually immeasurable, too often calculated in terms of one step forward, two steps back. Nonetheless, we persevere, strengthened by the knowledge that each of us has a stake in the outcome, and every single one of us can and does make a difference.

We can, on the blog, in letters to the editors of our local papers, in well-placed Op-Ed pieces, pontificate -- bemoaning what is as we contemplate what might be. All well and good. Yet, the front lines of our battle to preserve suburbia and to improve the lives of every Long Islander, lie not in the written word -- let alone in the vacuous rhetoric of tea party revolutionists -- but in the deeds that are our hallmark as citizen activists, and the actions that will become the legacy of a people who not only see the trees for the forest, but understand that a blight upon any single one of those trees shall, in time, fell every last one of them.

As it happens, it all begins with the discourse. A handful of us in a living room, with a vision. A lone blogger on his laptop, with an idea. A sole dissenting voice that says, "no more."

Without you, however -- through your participation and involvement, in your hometown and far beyond -- it goes no further.

Take a stand for a better quality of life. Lend your voice to the great chorus of community. Be a part of that fraternity that is We, the people.

Reaffirm your commitment to community by supporting the endeavors of The Community Alliance, spreading the word, sharing the insights, seeking the truth, and contributing to the cause of a better, brighter world -- at least this little corner of it!

Write to The Community Alliance with your thoughts, comments, musings, and guest blogs at

Follow us on Twitter at

And, by all means, scroll down (and keep on scrolling) to read The Community Alliance blog, today's rant for tomorrow's Long Island.

New Visions For America's First Suburb
[No Electrons Were Harmed In The Making Of This Blog]

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Many Causes Of Community Are Never Truly Lost. . .

. . . Lest We, As Community Advocates, Simply Choose To Give Up The Fight

Our passion, here at The Community Alliance, is community. Dare to make it yours!
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From The Community Alliance blog, circa yesterday, with a grand view toward tomorrow:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Community: It's What's For Dinner
What's On Your Plate?

At this time of year, we tend to become reflective, pondering, as we re-read this blog from the first post (think of it as a catharsis for the new year), what strides have we made, and what remains to be accomplished, on this journey to bring a fresh, new vision to America's oldest suburb.

At the same time, as we ask ourselves, "what more can we do to improve the quality of life here on Long Island?," we also ask you to consider your involvement (or is it the lack thereof?) in your own community.

What have you done this past year to make your hometown a better place to live, to work, to raise a family? What have you added to the quality of life of that place you hang your hat?

Moreover, we ask you to ask yourself, "what can I do in the year ahead to improve the lot of my neighbors, my friends, and, yes, my family?"

Involvement, to be sure, is a matter of degree. To many, its as simple as joining a civic association, Kiwanis, Rotary, the PTA, and paying those dues. To others -- far too few, we lament -- it is immersing oneself in the lifeblood of community; breathing, eating, sleeping, and, yes, perchance, dreaming of ways we can make great hometowns even better.

The issues we've addressed in these blogposts, and the questions raised -- by us and by you -- help to foster, in this online "think tank" of sorts, an atmosphere where, in terms of community growth and revitalization, all things are possible.

We hope, that through these blogposts, we have created a wave of enthusiasm, if not on the Avenue, then at least on your block, inspiring just a few more of you to action.

We know that for some, the community-building process has taken on new meaning, for better, we hope. And for still others, the "think and suggest" approach of this blog, and our incessant (did you say, annoying?) call to action, has brought to light a new found vision.

Blame it all on us (or thank us later). We can't help it. Community, after all, is our passion. We hope you make it yours as well.

From all of us at The Community Alliance, the very best for a healthy, prosperous, and peaceful new year!
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Thoughts, comments, suggestions? Issues to discuss? Ideas to share with your neighbors?
Hey, it's your community! Write us (or submit a Guest Blog, if the mood should strike) at
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Friday, November 02, 2007
Our Passion Is Community
What's Yours?

Rarely a day passes that someone doesn't ask, "Why do you keep on writing? Where do you find the energy? Does any of this really make a difference?"

The answer to "why" is simple. We write because we care about community -- its people, its prospects, its potential. We write to explore the issues, to examine the solutions, and to ponder the seemingly imponderable. We write to illuminate, to enlighten, and, yes, to provoke your reaction -- whether that reaction is a grin, a grimace, or a rush over to the Board of Elections to register to vote.

We write, because that's what we do. It is a trumpet call to action; a boistrous prayer for relief; a curse at that darned candle that burns our hand as we stumble our way in the darkness.

Where do we find the energy? Well, some of us sleep at night. Others, blog. Besides, it takes a lot more energy to frown than it does to smile, and just sitting there, taking it, is not our style.

Does any of this make a difference? Perhaps not, in the overall scheme of things. After all, the same issues we railed about on Day One continue to confound us. [And no one is rushing to nominate us for the Town's Make A Difference Award.] And yet, clearly, we are making a difference, if only one person, one mind, one perspective, one vote at a time.

One more person thinking. One more person questioning. One more person getting involved in community.

We are reminded of the story of the little girl standing on a beach amidst hundreds of washed up starfish. A passerby sees her throwing one of the starfish back into the sea and asks, "What are you doing?"

"I'm saving the life of this starfish," replied the little girl.

"But there are so many starfish washed up on the sand," retorted the passerby. "Surely, tossing one of them back in the water won't make a difference."

Picking up another starfish and gently lofting it into the waves, the little girl responded, "Well, it made a difference to that one!"

Yes. we're irreverant -- downright over-the-top, at times -- but would you be paying attention otherwise?

No, this isn't journalism (not even yellow). We are more National Lampoon than Wall Street Journal. Want news -- or at least editorial passing itself off as objective reporting? Pick up your local paper (or all of them, as we do). Want to make a difference in your hometown? Then start by reading these blogposts, and pass the message along that each of us, in his or her own way, can contribute to the many causes of community.

Imagine what a difference we could make if only we were all engaged in the day-to-day life of community.

An elected official, upon reading one of our more lighthearted (if not off-the-wall) missives, commented, "You have way too much time on your hands!"

As we see it, we have way too little time.

As our quality of life slips into the abyss, taxes continue to stream into the stratosphere, our children move away because they can no longer afford to live here, we wonder just what legacy, if any, we, as community advocates and activists, will leave for the next generation of Long Islanders.

At The Community Alliance, we believe that, despite the drawbacks of inefficient and ineffective government -- local and otherwise -- and the apparent malaise of the populace, the outlook for the future is bright, and the promise of tomorrow remains for us to fulfill.

When the last blog is written and posted, left to the annals of cyberspace should some Googler of tomorrow chance upon it, let them say that those who saw community as their mission -- who embraced it as their passion -- made a difference; that our suburban way of life is just a little bit better, and that much sweeter, because of those who dared to speak out, take a stand, and stay involved.

Yes, community is our passion. Dare to make it yours!
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The Community Alliance is an umbrella organization comprised of civic-minded individuals and community groups whose objective is to promote and enhance the quality of life of every Long Islander. Visit our website at Join The Community Alliance - its FREE - and help take back YOUR town!

Welcome Home To Hempstead Town

Through The Looking Glass Of Myopia

Well, here we go again. The inauguration of smiling Kate Murray as Town of Hempstead Supervisor. Under other circumstances, the rhetoric would be less pompous; the reality more in line with the blight that is the landscape of many a "Main Street" in America's largest township, the expanse of patronage and cronyism that pervades what is passed off as local government, the undue expense, and corresponding burden, of the Town's all too many special taxing districts, and the failures -- almost too numerous to mention -- of an administration fixated upon self-laudatory preservation, rather than the improvement of the quality of life of the Town's residents.

But we digress.

Let us pay homage to Kate Murray and her ilk, great savior of shellfish -- and Nigerian goats (hope they're not Al Queda operatives); hero to bovine survivors of the slaughterhouse; proponent of smart growth (though we find little evidence of it beyond those beautiful artists' renderings); and purveyor of sleight of hand that would make Houdini's head spin.

Thank you, Kate Murray, for the old Argo in Elmont (still standing); the infamous Courtesy in West Hempstead (still open); the granduer of Grand Avenue in Baldwin (still on the drawing board); the blight designation of so many of the Town's unincorporated areas; the brownfields of our business districts; the illegal accessory apartments in our residential neighborhoods; and, oh yeah (we almost forgot), the Victorian-style street lamps, cornerstones of the Town's revitalization and facade improvement program, that dot the otherwise barren and scarred landscape of the once fertile Hempstead Plain.

Thank you, Kate Murray, for the Town that time forgot!

Yes, thank you, Kate Murray, for including each and every one of the Town's 762,000 citizens as members of your "close-knit family." Does that mean we're all on the Town's payroll now, or next in line as a million dollar Sanitary commish, or destined to run a cemetery into the ground, literally?

It certainly is, as Kate put it, a town government "thoughtful and innovative in their approach to government..." It's what they're thinking, and the utter malevolence of their "innovative" (as in, ignore the masses, and maybe they'll go away) approach, that truly frightens us.

If the American Dream to be embraced encompasses a crumbling infrastructure, biways and commercial thoroughfares that parade as open sewers, ersatz tax freezes that mask wasteful spending, unnecessary borrowing and an ever-escalating bottom line on that property tax bill, then Kate Murray, draped in the American flag as she extols the virtues of community that, so far, exists only in the hobgoblin of the little minds at Town Hall, then, to her credit (exceeded only by the obfuscatory banter of a P.T. Barnum), the future of Hempstead Town is bright, indeed.

If, as we see it, the vision of Ms. Murray is as narrow and nearsighted as that of Mr. Magoo, the proof being not in the hollow words uttered in the hallways of Town Hall, but rather, in the broken promises and missed opportunities that lay strewn along the Turnpike, the Avenue, and the Boulevard -- deeds all yet to be done -- then Kate Murray's "welcome home" to Hempstead Town is little more than vacuous bellowing offered up by Long Island's Wizard of Odd; little more than the plumes that billow from the stack of the Covanta incinerator, or the lighter-than-air gas that fills the tank at the Town's Hydrogen fueling station.

"We have opened the door to a bright future..." Tell that to the folks who, all these many years, have supported the Lighthouse!
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From the Town of Hempstead:

"Welcome Home" To America’s Largest Township:

Murray Inauguration Focuses On Hometown's Future, Santino, Goosby & Hudes Installed To Council, Bonilla As Clerk

Kate Murray, the first woman elected Supervisor of America's largest township, was inducted for her fourth term during a moving ceremony at Hempstead Town Hall on January 5, 2010.

After a stirring rendition of the National Anthem by Trent Kowalik, star of Broadway's Billy Elliot, Murray focused her remarks on the township we call home and its rich culture and diversity. She also spoke about the initiatives she has undertaken for the future of the township, specifically speaking about development, housing, senior citizen programs and efforts to preserve the environment. "As we celebrate 365 years of rich history with 762,000 members of our close-knit family, our town officials will continue to be careful, thoughtful and innovative in their approach to government," said the Supervisor. "We will look beyond the four walls and the bricks and mortar of our houses as we continue to build a place that embraces diversity, provides opportunity and gives all people a stake in the American Dream."

Murray has continued the excellent leadership, bolstering the fiscal stability for which the Town of Hempstead has become known. During her tenure as supervisor, Murray has enhanced services, facilities and programs throughout the town. She has stepped up the town's affordable homes program, opened Hempstead Town's newest nature preserve in Lido Beach and added green energy technology to town facilities. Long Island's first hydrogen fueling station, a wind and solar powered shellfish nursery and a beach grass planting program which stabilizes local beaches comprise an aggressive ecological agenda. In addition, she has upgraded the town's infrastructure, worked to secure grants to bring "green energy" to town facilities and added an "e-cycling" computer recycling program. She has also helped local downtowns, bringing a medical complex and financial institution to re-energize the struggling Nassau Road corridor of Roosevelt. The Supervisor has also recently secured $2.5 million in state grant money to complete new storefront facades and beautify streetscapes along Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont.

The Supervisor spoke of the need to focus on innovative development while preserving the township's suburban character. A newly approved commuter friendly homes complex at the West Hempstead train station will help keep young workers here. The recently approved AvalonBay development in East Garden City includes a mix of rental and purchase homes and features a "next generation" component and houses for wounded vets. Murray also detailed the town's commitment to the development of the area around the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. She mentioned meetings between the developer and government officials focused on an amended development project plan.

A special component of the induction ceremony was a video presentation featuring the hometown feel of Hempstead Town. One of the most poignant moments of the inauguration ceremony was when Supervisor Murray honored a US Army National Guard Specialist who just returned from Afghanistan. East Meadow resident Ricardo Farquharson led the Pledge of Allegiance and was presented with the Town of Hempstead Veteran's Medal in appreciation of his service. Greater Voices of Praise from the Greater Second Baptist Church in Freeport provided uplifting musical performances.

Prior to becoming Hempstead Town's first chief executive, Murray served as the first woman and the first native Levittowner to hold the position of New York State Assemblymember for the 19th district. She was then elected the first woman and first attorney to serve as Hempstead Town Clerk.

Senior Town Councilman Anthony Santino (4th Councilmanic District), Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby (1st Councilmanic District), Councilman Gary Hudes (6th Councilmanic District) and Town Clerk Mark Bonilla were also inducted after being re-elected in the November 2009 election.

"The men and women who are being sworn into office today, along with the rest of the town board, have as their common goal a prosperous future for all residents of the town," concluded Murray. "We have opened the door on a bright future and we are proud to proclaim 'Welcome Home- welcome to Hempstead Town.'"

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The All Too Sorry State Of New York State

Watch The Governor's Annual Message And Hold Onto Your Wallets

That State of the State address came and went, like so many taxpayer dollars, reverberating in the legislative chambers in Albany, full of sound and fury, yet signifying, well, you figure it out.

Here's a follow-up letter from Governor Paterson -- in case you missed what he had to say the first time:

My Fellow New Yorkers,

This is a winter of reckoning. And I write to you today not only about the state of our State, but also the state of our self-government – a fragile instrument of popular will that is breaking under the will to be popular.

All too often in Albany it is easier to deny reality and demand what we cannot afford than to accept that years of living on the margins of our means would one day have to end. Cultures of addiction to spending, power or approval have doomed empires, and now they threaten the Empire State.

But I do not write you today to replay old grievances or reclaim lost ground. We are here to rebuild. Rebuild our State’s economy into a national model of ingenuity and strength. Rebuild our people’s confidence in the stability of our State. Rebuild our manufacturing base to meet the energy standards of this enlightened age. And most importantly, rebuild the trust that the people of New York once had in their government.

In my State of the State Address today, I laid out a blueprint for rebuilding New York – with fiscal reform, ethics reform and an economic development plan that helps businesses put our people back to work.

To watch the speech, and for more in depth information about these initiatives, please visit

Fiscal Reform

To rebuild New York, we need fundamental fiscal reform that makes government more accountable to taxpayers. For too many years, Albany has spent recklessly and without any long-term strategy. My plan for fiscal reform includes real and lasting cuts to the bureaucracy; a merging of agencies that duplicate efforts; the public tracking of agency performance; and a long-term strategy for fiscal planning. In addition, I will deploy EmpireStat, a new program to track the performance of State agencies. And I will continue to advocate for major reform legislation that would cap the growth of State government spending.

Ethics Reform

My Reform Albany Act is driven not by the illegal actions of any one person, but instead by what is still legal and rampant throughout our entire system of government. The corrosive effects of outside influence and inside decay have bred cynicism and scorn from the people of New York. This Act will restore the trust that people expect and deserve.

Economy & Jobs

Fiscal and ethics reform will lay the foundation for our State’s economic resurgence, but to pull all of this together our State needs an economic development program that is suited to the times we live in and the jobs that the people of New York aspire to. My plan will restore New York’s economy to greatness, with a focus on New Economy jobs; a rebuilt manufacturing base; a modern energy infrastructure; and a commitment to helping New Yorkers lift themselves up.

We will replace the outdated Empire Zones with the Excelsior Jobs Program – a collection of three aggressive tax incentives focused on the New Economy growth jobs of the future. This effort will be strategic, cost-effective, and transparent. In order to help maintain New York’s position as the financial capital of the world, I have also proposed a bold initiative to revive the New York Insurance Exchange (NYIE), bringing together buyers and sellers of complex commercial insurance and providing increased transparency and security for everyone in the process. I have also proposed the Sustainable Neighborhoods Project to address the vacant housing crisis in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and other great cities across Upstate New York. Finally, rebuilding New York’s economy means creating opportunities for all New Yorkers which is why I have made investment in MWBE’s a key piece of my overall economic development strategy.

Time and time again, New Yorkers have demonstrated the ability to rebuild and renew – that is the promise of the Empire State. My plan to rebuild New York will strengthen our State, grow our economy, and get New Yorkers back to work.

David A. Paterson
Governor of New York State
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A comment from NYS Assemblyman Tom Alfano of the Long Island delegation. Tom deserves a medal, just for having to sit through the Governor's speech.

"The Governor talked about an economic plan in his State of the State Address but it fell short for Long Island. The Governor said that he wants to create jobs and spur economic development. The fact is, he blew yet another chance to kick start economic development at Belmont. In fact, the Governor could have joined elected officials and announced his support for the Shinecock Tribe coming to Belmont. He didn't. He could have outlined a major initiative to create jobs at Belmont. He didn't. The speech was long on talk, but that was about it."

As we've often said, as Elmont goes, so goes Long Island...