Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Community Alliance Takes Gold In Snow Shoveling Event

Neighbor Helping Neighbor Is Key To Community

Yesterday, after the snowflakes stopped falling, We, The People at The Community Alliance, together with friends and family, were out shoveling paths and driveways of our neighbors, most notably, the elderly and homebound.

Today, we are making the rounds and hitting the stores, picking up necesities for those who cannot get out of their homes, and for those who would otherwise walk to the supermarket or drug store.

Helping one's neighbor is an essential building block of community; the very essence of what brings us together as Long Islanders.

Please check up on your neighbors today, particularly seniors. If nothing more, offer a friendly smile, some warm-hearted conversation, and, perhaps, a hot cup of cocoa.

Today, digging out from the lastest winter storm. Tomorrow, victory in the deicing finals.

Onward and upward!

The Community Alliance
Proud Sponsor of Long Island's Hometowns

Friday, February 26, 2010

Who Will Speak For Us?

Family Health Care Decisions Act Gives Voice To Those Who Cannot Speak

Hooked up to a ventilator. Unable to communicate. Determined by a physician to be incapacitated and incapable of making decisions. No health care proxy. No directive on the witholding of life-sustaining measures.

What happens next?

Today, in New York, removal from life support is generally forbidden absent the "clear and convincing" evidence from the patient as to his/her intent.

Next week, that quandry is likely to change, after years and years of effort by caregivers and health care providers alike to give voice to the incapacitated through family, domestic partner, or court-appointed guardian.

The NYS Senate has passed the Family Health Care Decisions Act -- finally -- by an overwhelming vote of 55-3.


Now, if we could only get such bipartisanship on other significant -- or even seemingly insignificant -- measures that impact upon the lives and livelihoods of all New Yorkers.
- - -
From the Albany Times-Union:

Who speaks for those who can't?

Bill permits kin, friends to make decisions for incapacitated loved ones
By JIMMY VIELKIND, Capitol bureau

ALBANY -- With the legislative session approaching its third month, lawmakers on Wednesday did something rare: They passed a piece of significant legislation that Gov. David Paterson has indicated he will sign.

The Senate approved the Family Health Care Decisions Act by an overwhelming bipartisan vote in a chamber not recently known for agreement. The bill was first introduced 17 years ago and was originally carried by Republicans who controlled the chamber.

If signed by Paterson, the bill would allow family and friends to be involved in health care decisions for loved ones who are determined by a physician to be incapacitated. Currently, state common law forbids the withdrawal of life support without the presence of "clear and convincing evidence" such as a health care proxy, do-not-resucitate order or living will.

"Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of people in our state sign health care proxies," said Sen. Tom Duane, D-Manhattan, the bill's sponsor. "This legislation will protect those people who are unable to make decisions for themselves, if they're in a hospital or in a nursing home."

Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Long Island, said the measure makes more sense now as the population ages and baby boomers begin to enter nursing homes.

"We're going to face a lot of complications in years to come," Hannon said on the Senate floor. "When the idea of this law began, we didn't really talk about hospice, we didn't talk about palliative care, we didn't talk about end-of-life decision-making."

The bill is supported by the Alzheimer's Association, American Cancer Society, Hospital Association and New York City Bar Association.

Once a doctor determines a patient lacks decision-making capacity, a "surrogate" is selected from a court-appointed guardian, spouse or domestic partner, or adult son or daughter. That person then makes decisions about care going forward.

The Senate vote was 55-3. The bill passed the Assembly earlier this year.

An aide to Paterson indicated he would sign the measure once it's delivered to his desk.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

To The Victor Go The Spoils

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

Winning elected office typically means jobs. Jobs for political allies. Jobs for friends. Jobs for those who helped you along the way, stood by you, and have shown undying allegiance.

And, as a rule, that's a good thing. After all, but for keeping them closer, who else are you going to appoint and reward, your enemies?

The question isn't so much about patronage, which, like it or not, has existed, in one form or another, since time immemorial. It's a matter of qualification for the job, and, of at least equal moment, a question of whether there is really a job to be done.

Yes, Nassau County needs a Parks Commissioner, but two -- each "earning" the same six-figure salary?

And what qualifications does the most recent Park's appointee, Carnell Foskey, have to serve as Commissioner? His predecessor, Jose Lopez, was a former Health Ed teacher. At least that has something to do with recreation, right? Perhaps that's why they kept him on.

Not that bright, determined, dedicated people, such as Foskey, can't "grow" into the job. Many with little or no experience in their anointed fields have, through savvy and hard work, proven themselves worthy of their appointed positions.

Still, did Carnell Foskey get the nod because of his aptitude? Or, as we suspect, was it merely a matter of political connection -- who you know (and your party affiliation), rather than what you know?

We suspect the latter.

Patronage has its place in our political system, abuses notwithstanding.

Go ahead and give that job to a friend, colleague, or political ally, as long as that person has what it takes to do the job (and he's not your father, brother, or third cousin, twice removed).
- - -
From Newsday:

Government patronage jobs: Time to stop pretending


Of all the convicted felons in Nassau County, County Executive Edward Mangano deemed only one worthy of a second chance - and a $90,000 job on the Nassau County payroll. And residents are supposed to believe it's a coincidence that Herberth Flores, the lucky felon, also helped the county executive wrangle the Latino vote during the campaign?

Coincidentally - or not - the county's also hired Flores' sister, who also helped Mangano's campaign, as a $40,000 administrative assistant.

Across the county border in Suffolk, of all the lawyers in the Town of Huntington, only one was deemed uniquely qualified for a part-time, $50,000-a-year post (with health care benefits and public pension) to join the town's legal office - at a time when the budget is so fragile that there's a townwide hiring and salary freeze on nonessential positions.

And residents are supposed to believe it's a coincidence that Democrat Stuart Besen, the lucky lawyer, also just happens to be a newly defeated council member in a Democrat-run town?

Back in Nassau, we hear that only one resident had the skills to rise to become the county's new parks commissioner.

That lucky fellow, Carnell Foskey, will be making the exact same salary - $130,625 - as the guy he replaced. The former commissioner, Jose Lopez, it turns out, is a very lucky guy, too. Despite a demotion to deputy commissioner, he'll keep making commissioner money. Which means that Nassau is getting two parks commissioners for the price of - ta-da! - two.

And yet Nassau residents are supposed to believe that Foskey's appointment had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the longtime Republican lost re-election to Family Court last year. Or that Mangano, as he promised, is leaving no stone unturned in a quest to reduce the cost of government.

It's been painful watching for two weeks as elected officials in Nassau and in the Town of Huntington - actually, it's been their spokesmen - twisted into pretzels trying to explain how business as usual isn't really business as usual.

The fact is that all four appointments are blatant patronage appointments.

On Foskey, nobody could explain Wednesday why two parks officials were making the same salary. When his appointment was announced, Mangano, in what read like a canned statement, said his goal was to restore county parks to their "former glory."

He also praised Foskey, but didn't address what skills Foskey - or, for that matter, the highly compensated Lopez - had to do the job.

In Huntington, Town Supervisor Frank Petrone's spokesman, A.J. Carter, pointed out the town had filled a number of other necessary jobs despite the freeze, from plumbers to $70,000-a-year supervisory positions.

And he repeated what he had said about the appointment two weeks ago: Besen is qualified, especially since he had the job before being elected to office.

No one expects elected officials to say, hey, this guy scratched my back, so I'm going to scratch his. Or, hey, these guys are good Republicans or Democrats, so we're going to help them out, especially since it's so tough to get a job these days.

That might be a little too honest, since patronage hiring always has been the reward for political work.

Still, trying to pass bears off as butterflies is worse.

So stop it, already.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Cool Downtown" Concept Gets Icy Reception

Has The Revitalization Of "Main Street, Nassau County" Been Snowed Under By New Administration?

"Cool Downtowns."

An idea with the promise to take Nassau County's forgotten, neglected and often blighted downtown business districts from doom and gloom to boom, as postulated (often ad nauseum) by former County Exec Tom Suozzi.

Gone from the pages of the county's website, and, most notably, from newly-minted CE, Ed Mangano's repetoire (where talk of the repeal of the Home Energy Tax is still front and center), is any mention of Cool Downtowns, or such other programs as may serve to usher in the revitalization of Main Street.

Yes, there's still the old and time-honored "visioning" process, for places like Elmont, Farmingdale, and Hempstead Village. Hamlets that have been "visioning," mostly in the dark, and with little prospect of seeing light at the end of the tunnel, for years now. Still more "visioning," with eyes wide closed, perhaps, for the likes of Baldwin, Roosevelt, Uniondale and West Hempstead, where residents hold out more hope of turning water (courtesy of the local water district) into wine, than they do of transforming vision into reality.

Gone is the grand vision of the New Suburbia and the 90/10 Solution, replaced, on the great information highway, at least, with This page cannot be found, or, worse still (because the former intimates that the content may still be out there, somewhere), the apologist's regret.

Okay. Maybe Ed Mangano needs a little more time to get acclimated in his new job, and to thoroughly acquaint himself with how Nassau County government works -- or does not work. After all, with a mere fourteen (count 'em, 14) years under his belt as a County Legislator, we could hardly expect him to hit the ground running on Day One, let alone to come forward with fresh and innovative ideas. [Even the old, rehashed ideas need time to come to the fore, right?]

Seriously, though, if Ed Mangano and his administration are contemplating any move -- or, at least, the prospect of a relevant sound byte, whether or not it is to be given legs -- on the downtown upturn front, a consideration of more than mere allusion to the concept of Cool Downtowns is definitely in order.

"The idea of 'Cool Downtowns' is critical to the future course of Nassau County," said Muzzio Tallini, a developer with the Signature Organization in Elmont.

"How many more young people are going to leave Nassau County before we start doing something about it? It puzzles me that we spend so much money on educating children, and then fail to take the necessary steps to keep those educated children here in Nassau County, when the cost of keeping them here is next to nothing. In fact, keeping our young people here in Nassau County will only expand our tax base, and breathe some much needed fresh air into our stagnant downtowns. I hope the new County Executive as well as the various Town Supervisors and Village Mayors re-assert their commitment to the Cool Downtown's initiative."
Indeed, Cool Downtowns and the New Suburbia, by any name or incarnation, are worthy programs, if but for reviving the discussion of how we can breathe that new life (or at least get us off life support) into our many withering downtown business districts. [Besides, such initiatives make for great press releases and amazing artists' renderings!]
We're hoping that Ed Mangano and his team, in the spirit of his election campaign to move Nassau forward, will take up, if not continue outright, the challenges as well as the promises offered by Cool Downtowns and the 90/10 Solution, if not in name, then, by all means, in deed.
To see such initiates wither on the vine, only to disappear from view -- perhaps in the hope that they be vanquished from our collective memory, would be a true shame. Shades of Operation Downtown, which, during the waning, painful last months of the administration of Tom Gulotta, fell off of the radar screen, and into the abyss.
Keep your eyes peeled for a press release from the County Exec, any day now. . .
- - -
Meanwhile, speaking of icy receptions, freezes, and being snowed under --
Over at Town Hall, employees remained glued to their 52" HDTVs, watching the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Not to be outdone by skaters, skiers and lugers, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray -- that energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulb going off over her head yet again -- called a press conference to announce the township's bid for the 2030 Winter Games.
With Joe Mondello, now Chair of the International Nassau-Hempstead Olympic Committee (Joe Ra, Treasurer) -- IN-HOC, for short -- at her side, Murray proclaimed America's largest Town as "absolutely the best location for the Winter Olympics."
"We have more snow than Vancouver," said a smiling Murray, whose caricature will become the symbol of the 2030 games, "and our team of wise and impartial judges, GOP Committeemen all, are rearin' to officiate."
According to Murray, perfect winter weather is guaranteed for the games, a permanent "freeze" to be in effect through 2032, the year her brother is expected to retire from the Town and start collecting a pension for the next 100 years.
"Why, we wouldn't even have to spend a dime for facilities," declared an effervescent Murray. "Every venue (to be referred to as 'special districts,' seperate and collectively) is already in place."
The Nassau Coliseum -- yes, very much as you see it today -- will host the opening and closing ceremonies, both to be held at the same time, as well as hockey, figure skating, and short track.
Mount Trashmore in Oceanside will be the site of downhill skiing and slalom.
Hempstead Turnpike, as it wends its way from Hempstead to Elmont, will be covered in ice, serving as host to events such as cross-country and biathalon. [Bystanders must provide their own guns.]
Island Park's Long Beach Motor Inn and West Hempstead's Courtesy Hotel (both kept open for the next twenty years by unpopular demand) will become the Olympic Village, housing hundreds of athletes (and many more sex offenders, rapists, and violent criminals) from around the world.

Award ceremonies will take place within the cozy confines of Elmont's old Argo theater, each medal to be sold at discount for 99 cents or less.
As for the Olympic flame, upon its arrival at Mitchel Field (by bi-plane flown by the Supervisor herself), it will be carried by relay -- Tony Santino, as Senior Councilman, having the initial honor of carrying Kate's torch along Merchant's Concourse -- to the Olympic cauldron, ceremoniously perched atop the Covanta incinerator cooling tower, still, in 2030, the tallest structure in Nassau County.
Of course, before you get your Olympic hopes too high (and start scalping those halfpipe tickets for the event at the skate park in Levy Preserve), Hempstead Town will have to beat out other contenders for the 2030 Winter Games, including Debuque, Iowa, designated in 2007 as one of the Best 100 Communities for Young People (so that's where all of our kids are going), and, in 2008, the Most Livable small city in America. [Hey, we're the Most Blighted Town in America, so there!]
Debuque, a Democratic stronghold. Hempstead Town, a bastion of Republican autocracy since 1903. As Joe Mondello would say -- in fact, he has -- "Go stuff that in your duffelbag..."
And so, we leave you, much as we found you (in repose, on your couch, wondering who ate all the chips), with a touch of humor, a heap of sarcasm, hope for a better, brighter tomorrow for our Long Island, and the knowledge that what happens next is almost entirely up to you.
Swifter, Higher, Raises for Everyone
Kate Murray, Supervisor 

Monday, February 22, 2010

"All things are as they were then, except...

You Are There!"

"...Republicans lead in the wrong direction and Democrats are unable to lead in any direction at all."
--Lincoln Chafee, former GOP Senator and independent candidate for governor of Rhode Island

Partisanship. Stalemate. Hubris. Dysfunction.

Words that ring as true in the halls of Congress as they do through the cold marble corridors of the legislative chambers in Albany.  A theme seemingly central and entrenched from Washington, D.C. to the County Seat.

And where a single party is in control, either at any particular moment in time, as in Nassau, or for the last century, give or take a decade, as in Hempstead Town, still, no forward momentum, no rush to change the status quo, no impetus to do anything more than, at best, stay the course.

Newsday, questioning what has changed here on Long Island over the course of a generation or so -- or, perhaps, springing nostalgic -- asks, "Where are we going?," as they revisit where we have been.

Good question.

Certainly, we've seen vast changes here on Long Island since Newsday first reported from the crossroads back in 1978.

Property taxes soaring through the stratosphere. Traffic congestion snarling. Transportation alternatives stalled. Education, once the crown jewel, too often slipping toward mediocrity. Infrastructure crumbling. Affordable housing unattainable. Blight consuming. Downtown fleeting. Our children, fleeing.

Not the Long Island many of us had in mind when we settled here to raise our families and live the American Dream.

Of course, we can't blame everything on government that has, time and time again, failed us in so many ways.

We, of the NIMBY generation, had our own sorry role to play in keeping this portal to suburbia from moving forward. "Just say no" to anything innovative or imaginative. Nix that which may be "too big," "too tall," "too far reaching," or simply "too grand for little minds to ever possibly comprehend."

Mired, are we, in a mindset of smallness, pettiness, the contrite and contrived of "can't do." Sometimes, or so even a casual observer would conclude, we appear to have just thrown up our hands and quit.

Not so here at The Community Alliance, where we have only just begun to fight for our Long Island.

And what say you?

Perhaps, as Lincoln Chafee opines in his Op-Ed column in The New York Times, we need to adopt and exude a true post-partisan stance, bowing neither to the right or to the left, aligned with neither Democrat nor Republican, capturing "popular, centrist energy" as a means of moving Long Island not merely off center, but toward a bright and prosperous tomorrow.

We need a legislature that is more than a stick in yesterday's mud. A governor who, while as much a victim of economic downside as the rest of us, evinces confidence and hope. And local government officials, both county and town, with more allegiance to serving the public good than to adhering to stodgy political dogma.

More than this, we need citizens -- yes, We, The People of our Long Island -- with a newly found spirit of independence. Independence of thought. Independence of will.  Independence of party.

Bound only by our imaginations. Constrained, if at all, only by the physical limitations of this land bordered by the Atlantic and the Sound. Seized by the mantra of Yes In My Back Yard. With this, all things are possible for the future of our wonderful suburban oasis, Long Island.

We have two choices -- or only one, really, as we see it. We can forge ahead with a fierce and focused independence to reclaim, to rebuild, to rejuvenate, and to revitalize, illuminating our times, or, we can simply hang our heads, turn our backs, and mutter, "Will the last person off Long Island please turn off the lights."

Your call. . .

The Consolidation Proclamation

Will New Yorkers Seize Upon Opportunity To Dissolve Special Districts?  

With just one month to go before the Attorney General's Consolidation Bill takes effect, rumors abound over whether this district or that will be dissolved -- like aspirin as cure-all for our property tax headaches.

Will there be a Petition drive to, say, eliminate one or more of the town-operated sanitary districts? Perhaps a district with one of those million-dollar managers, or where town sanitation could do the job, if not necessarily more efficiently, then, certainly, with more cost-effetiveness?

We are reminded, by groups such as the Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC), as to the many reasons for consolidating and eliminating special taxing districts, not the least of which would be to save We, The People, millions in tax dollars.

Political, patronage-riddled fiefdoms run amuck, a major contributing factor to Long Island's burgeoning property tax. [Too bad school districts -- all 124 of 'em in Nassau and Suffolk -- are immune from the consolidation blitz. Check out what we pay to operate our school districts in payroll alone by clicking here.]

But we digress.

The real question is not whether we should consolidate special districts, be they water, sewer, sanitation, or otherwise (frankly, that's a no-brainer to anyone who thinks -- other than those on the public dole), but rather, will LIers have the moxey to petition their grievances, and then, amidst the boisterous incantations of "local control" and "you enjoy paying more for garbage collection than you do for police protection," go to the polls in support of referenda to dissolve and consolidate?

After all, we're not big on change here on Long Island -- other than back to the way we were, warts and all.

We gripe. We complain. We pay through the nose. But to actually do something about it? Is that in the DNA of New Yorkers, let alone Long Islanders?

The power to consolidate, if not to save a penny or two, will soon be in our hands. Getting it was almost easy. [We said, almost.] Doing something with it is the hard part.

To petition or not to petition? Vote to dissolve or to stay the course? Is it the right thing to do? Will we really save money by consolidating?

Decisions. Decisions.

As Moses Maimonides, medieval scholar and philosopher, once said, "The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision."

How true!
- - -
Check out the Nassau County Government Efficiency Project at for more on property taxes, consolidation, and reforming govermnent.

Then, check in regularly at The Community Alliance blog for observations, from the astute to the amusing, on the quality of life on our Long Island.

If it impacts upon you, it concerns us! [And if it doesn't concern you, you're simply not paying attention...]

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rally To Save Long Island's State Parks

Budget Axe Threatens To Close Up To Ten LI Parks

No more kayaking at Hempstead Lake State Park? A $10 fee to park at Jones Beach State Park? The closure of Heckscher State Park, Valley Stream State Park, and Belmont Lake State Park (not to be confused with Belmont State Park, the racetrack, which itself might be closed).

Such is the dismal state of New York's State's finances, where folks in Albany are considering shuttering State Parks throughout the Empire State to offset the $29 million proposed to be cut from the State Parks budget.

A rally will take place this Saturday, February 20 at 11 AM, at Heckscher State Park’s Field 1 in East Islip. At noon Sunday, February 21, State Sen. Brian Foley (D-Brookhaven) and the Brentwood Soccer Club are sponsoring a second rally at Brentwood State Park.

There's even a Facebook page, set up by Malverne resident Allison Lyons, for those who want to register opposition to the proposed closure of State Parks. Long Islanders -- and friends of Long Island -- are urged to join as fans, as well as to contact their State Legislators and call NYS Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation at 631-669-1000 and Governor Paterson's Office at 212-681-4580 to voice concern about closing our State Parks.

Parks that may close by Summer 2010:

Caleb Smith
Cold Spring Harbor
Hempstead Lake
Nissequogue River
Orient Beach
Trail View
Valley Stream

Other proposed cuts:

Closure of pools at Jones Beach, Heckscher and Montauk Downs.
Connetquot: Would close weekdays.
Elimination of cultural, recreational and environmental programs and events.
Bethpage: Eliminate winter sports such as sledding, reduce polo and picnic operations and reduce golf course maintenance.
Eliminate assistance to Walt Whitman Birthplace.
- - -
From the Long Island Press:

Critics Decry Looming NY State Parks Closings

Rally opposing expected parks closures planned for Saturday in East Islip

No nuptials at Niagara Falls? Jones Beach off limits on a 90-degree day? The “Grand Canyon of the East” devoid of campers?

New York’s state parks system, the nation’s oldest, is facing another round of funding cuts that is likely to result in the first budget-related closures in the system’s 125-year history. State officials say even popular parks at Niagara Falls and Jones Beach, with attendance figures in the millions, could be closed, along with such destinations as Letchworth, a popular hiking and camping spot ringing the rugged Genesee Gorge south of Rochester.

Up to 10 state parks on Long Island are reportedly on the chopping block, which has sparked outrage from parks advocates and politicians. LI is home to more than 20 state parks and historic sites that attract nearly 20 million visitors annually, according the state parks department.

“It’s going to be pretty bad. As bad as I’ve ever seen it,” said Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York, a 25-year-old nonprofit advocacy group.

Peter Humphrey, a member of the State Council of Parks, predicts as many as 100 of New York’s 213 state parks and historic sites could be shut down because of the state’s fiscal problems.

“It’s scary, to be honest with you,” said Humphrey, president and chief executive of Wyoming County-based Five Star Bank.

State parks and historic sites across the country cut back hours, staffing and services last year because of state budgets squeezed by the economic downturn. In New York, 100 of the state’s 178 state parks and 35 historic sites reduced services, from closing pools and beaches to shortening hours of operation. But none of the parks or sites closed entirely.

Carol Ash, the commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, has said park closures are unavoidable in 2010 as the state deals with a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, but has yet to release specifics.

Suffolk County Legis. Wayne Horsely (D-Babylon), who worked for the state parks department for 19 years, is planning a rally in support of LI’s state parks on Saturday. “The parks provide affordable family fun such as hiking, running, and fishing to name a few of the countless activities our park system provides our residents,” he said in a statement.

The rally will be held at Heckscher State Park’s Field 1 in East Islip at 11 a.m. “In an economy where families are looking to save money wherever they can the ability to enjoy New York’s natural beauty is invaluable,” Horsely added.

An online movement is already underway as well. Allison Lyons, a 32-year-old mother of two from Malverne, started a Facebook page for those opposed to the expected park closings — one of three dedicated to the cause — that has attracted more than 1,300 members since last week .

“We can’t let this happen,” Lyons said. “If they board up these parks, they are boarding up our past and future memories.”

Experts were less optimistic that anything can be done. “Frankly, it doesn’t really surprise me,” said Philip K. McKnelly, executive director of the National Association of State Parks Directors. “Even if we start to see the economy turn around it will be a year or more before the budgets start to catch up in the public realm.”

McKnelly said several other states — among them California, Georgia and Illinois — continue to have lingering funding issues with their state parks, while Arizona plans to close 13 parks in 2010 besides the five it closed last year because of budget cuts.

New York Gov. David Paterson’s amended budget proposal calls for cutting $20 million from state parks. When added to budget cuts made in the two previous fiscal years, the agency stands to see its funding reduced by some 40 percent over the span of three years, Ash said.

The parks system will operate with 1,100 fewer people — including lifeguards, cleaners and security guards — than it had just a few years ago, is canceling its park police training academy for the third consecutive year, and will cut park police staffing this summer to 266 full and part-time uniformed officers, about half the number that were on the job in 2003.

“If you don’t have the people, the police and operating funds to operate safe, clean, well-maintained facilities, you’ve got to close them,” said Humphrey, who serves on the panel of volunteers that advises the parks commissioner.

The state parks system’s many jewels include Jones Beach on Long Island, western New York’s Letchworth — the “Grand Canyon of the East” — and Niagara Falls State Park, dedicated on July 15, 1885, making it the nation’s oldest state park. Humphrey and other parks council members fear even those sites, which collectively attract millions of visitors a year, could be closed or have services drastically reduced.

Closing the Niagara Falls park would be a “disaster” for local businesses, said the owner of one of a handful of companies that provide wedding services on the American side of the falls.

“We bring a lot of revenue to the park by bringing in wedding people, really, from around the world,” said Sally Fedell, owner of The Falls Wedding Chapel, which handles between 200 and 300 wedding ceremonies a year in the park.

Ash said she’s working with other parks officials on a list of parks and historic sites that will be recommended for closing and expects to release the list in a couple weeks. Lawmakers will then get a shot at saving their local parks as they hash out details of the governor’s spending plan.

“We’re trying to figure out where we can have the least disruption to our visiting clientele so we don’t cut into our revenue base,” Ash said.

Dropkin and Humphrey pointed out that parks’ $155 million budget isn’t all that much in a state that plans to spend more than $130 billion. Meanwhile, the parks system contributes $1.9 billion a year in economic activity statewide, according to one recent study.

Closing parks, Humphrey said, would cut off a revenue source while shutting out visitors looking to spend money in local communities.

“This is clearly, purely from an economic standpoint, a lose-lose,” he said.

Lisa Scharey, a Long Island environmentalist and board member of Friends of Massapequa Preserve, said she predicted that there would be more cuts to come after the state parks department closed the East Bath House last summer.

“It’s not fair, these are public lands that we should have access to and they should not be taken away from us,” Scharey said. “There is something wrong here when they’re going to balance the budgets on the backs of the ballfields once again.”

By Chris Carola, Associated Press Writer, and Timothy Bolger with Long Island Press.
- - -

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It Wasn't The Energy Tax, Stupid!

Taxes, Fees, And Surcharges Are Bane Of New York's Utilities

For all the hoopla about the 2.5% energy tax during last year's campaign for Nassau County Executive, turns out that the $2.50 or so per month saved by residential ratepayers as a result of its repeal hasn't made much of a dent in that electric and gas bill.

In fact, although LIPA recently approved a 4% reduction in the Power Supply Charge, the typical bill will still go up for most residential customers. [That's the little guy. Thanks for asking.]


Simple. A 7% increase in property taxes, and a NYS Assessment (not to be confused with the Nassau County Assessment), through which thirteen cents on every dollar paid to LIPA will go the the State. [That it will never come back to taxpayers is yet another sad story.]

Then there's the LIPA-imposed charges, adding fuel to the furnace.

An Efficiency and Renewables charge, equal to about 2% of the monthly tab. [If they're so efficient, why do they have to charge for it?]

Revenue-Based PILOTS (Payments in Lieu of Taxes), accounting for some 11% of your bill. [PILOTS, eh? Up up and away!]

And don't forget the PCA (Pipeline Cost Adjustment), SBC (System Benefits Charge), and Billing charge (Just for the heck of it, we suppose) on your bill from National Grid (Gas).

Add to all of this the State Sales Tax and, before you know it, more than 15% of your utility cost goes for taxes, fees, and surcharges.

Hmmm. Isn't this why we got rid of LILCO?

So much for a public authority saving the ratepayer dollars and cents, or the Public Service Commision (PSC) watching our backs. [What next? A PSC "rubber-stamp" surcharge? Why not?]

Fact is, New Yorkers are being nickeled and dimed by their own government, State-wide and locally, their piggy banks raided daily in ways we may barely notice, but that certainly add up, big time.

It's not taxation without representation, as some suggest. No. It's worse than that. It's taxation by misrepresentation. The utter failure of those with whom we place the public trust to spend judiciously and tax sparingly.

Today LIPA, tomorrow license plates. Thomas Edison -- and P.T. Barnum -- must be turning over in their graves. [If only we could find a way to tax that, too...]

Forget the electric light, folks. Bring back gaslight, where, in the flickering dim, we can all be manipulated, for nefarious reasons, into believing something other than the truth.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Saving New Yorkers From Death By Public Authority

A Second Look At "Congestion Pricing" As Means To Stabilize The MTA

Whatever one may think of charging motorists to drive into and around Manhattan, it is undeniable that so-called "congestion pricing" would raise millions of dollars to subsidize public transit (assuming the money would be so earmarked, and not diverted elsewhere), and would, at least in theory, ward off further fare/toll hikes and service cuts by and at the behest of the beleagured MTA, at least on the immediate horizon.

The folks at the Drum Institute for Public Policy, a non-partisan, non-profit think tank generating the ideas that fuel the progressive movement, suggest, with more than a modicum of supportive reasoning, that congestion pricing may still be the solution to the MTA's woes, as well as ours as riders of the rails and users of the roadways.

Certainly, the idea of congestion pricing, as salve, if not panacea, is worthy of renewed consideration.
- - -
From Drum Major Institute for Public Policy:

The Urgency of Resurrecting Congestion Pricing in New York

John Petro, Urban Policy Analyst

Introduction and Overview

Unless political leaders in Albany and City Hall intervene and establish a new source of revenue for the region’s mass transit system, the MTA will be forced to cut vital services and to increase fares by at least 15 percent, much more than what has been reported in the press.[1] These measures would have a devastating impact on New York’s economy, where one in three workers in the region and over one half of city workers use mass transit to get to work.[2] Middle-class families would be hit especially hard by these measures: this report reveals that a transit dependent family of four would pay $2,300 more a year in transit fares, and receive far less service in return.[3]

City and state leaders must act quickly to resurrect the idea of congestion pricing,[4] which died a very premature political death in 2007, to stave off these devastating service cuts and fare increases. The report explains why the short-term fixes proposed by city and state leaders are insufficient and why congestion pricing must drive a long-term reinvestment strategy for the region’s mass transit system. Based on the latest data and evidence, it reveals that congestion pricing—an $8 fee on cars entering the central business district during peak hours Monday through Friday—would be the most responsible, equitable, and sustainable solution to the MTA’s budget crisis and ensure that the region will continue to make critical investments in the mass transit system.

Key Findings: What Congestion Pricing Would Do

Offset drastic service cuts and fare increases in 2011.[5]

Allow the MTA to reduce its long-term reliance on costly borrowing.

Create a permanent revenue source for long-term maintenance, repair, and expansion of the mass transit system, the backbone of the regional economy.

Benefit middle-class New Yorkers, the overwhelming majority of whom rely on mass transit if they commute to work in the central business district.

Ensure that all commuters into the central business district would share the responsibility of maintaining the region’s mass transit system.

Reduce traffic congestion and increase travel speeds both within the central business district and in outer borough neighborhoods.

The Context: What Created the MTA’s Budget Crisis

The MTA's long-term budget troubles are the direct result of declining contributions from the state and city. Both have forced the MTA to turn to borrowing to fund its capital needs—the replacement and repair of the tracks, trains and buses that keep the system running. Since 1987, capital funding contributions from local and state government have plummeted while the amount of long-term borrowing has skyrocketed. This borrowing has led to the acute crisis we are in today; as huge debt payments eat up larger portions of the operating budget, the MTA is facing ever-larger budget deficits. In 2009, the MTA paid $1.4 billion dollars in debt service out of its operating budget, and by 2013 that amount will grow to $2.4 billion.[6]

On top of these debt payments, the MTA must balance its budget despite decreased contributions from New York State and declining tax revenue. In December 2009, Governor Paterson announced that the state would cut $143 million in contributions to the MTA. In addition, the 12 county “Mobility Tax” that was placed on payrolls last year to fund the MTA will bring in $700 million less than projected.[7] As a result, the MTA is currently projecting an operating budget gap of $783 million.

The MTA faces enormous challenges moving forward. It must not only overcome the operating budget gap, but must also find funds to continue its capital program. The transit authority’s next five-year capital program is currently under-funded by nearly $10 billion dollars. The revenue from congestion pricing, under Mayor Bloomberg’s plan in 2008, was intended to go toward funding the system’s capital needs and improving transit service. After the crisis in operations funding is eased, the MTA should revert to using congestion pricing revenue for capital needs over the long-term. However, given the widening gap in the MTA’s operating budget, congestion pricing revenue should be used in the short-term to offset drastic service cuts and fare increases.

Congestion Pricing is the Most Responsible Solution to the MTA Budget Crisis

Congestion pricing would provide the mass transit system with a significant source of revenue, approximately $420 million a year, which could be used to prevent future service cuts and keep fare increases to a minimum.[8] This revenue would support the MTA’s operating budget, which would free up other funds for investing in the transit system’s long-term needs, such as maintenance, repair, and system expansions.

The MTA’s budget deficit is currently projected to be $783 million in 2010. Proposed service cuts set to begin in June would save the transit authority $130 million in 2010, leaving an additional $653 million in additional savings needed from other actions.[9] If the MTA were to make up the gap through a fare hike, it would have to increase fares by at least 15 percent.[10] The price of a 30-day Metrocard would rise above $100 for the first time. Any fare hikes of this magnitude would harm current and aspiring middle-class New Yorkers who rely on the mass transit system to commute to work.

Short-term solutions, like relying on a one-time influx of stimulus funds, are not a responsible approach to funding the nation’s largest mass transit system. There is simply not enough stimulus money available to cover the MTA’s widening budget gap. Federal law authorizes the state and MTA to use 10 percent of federal stimulus dollars for operating expenses, which is equal to $121.5 million.[11]

New York’s road system is overburdened during peak commuting hours, resulting in $8.1 billion in waste.[12]Congestion pricing would reduce the amount of automobile traffic within the congestion zone by 11 percent and increase travel speeds within the central business district by over seven percent. After London implemented its congestion pricing plan, travel speeds there increased by 37 percent.[13] Additionally, traffic congestion in outer borough neighborhoods will drop as well: Congestion pricing is estimated to reduce congestion by 29% in Downtown Brooklyn, 24% in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and 27% in Long Island City.[14]

Governor Paterson’s plan to revise the 12-county “mobility tax” on payrolls would not have the same traffic mitigation benefits as congestion pricing.[15]

Congestion Pricing is the Most Equitable Solution to the MTA Budget Crisis

Congestion pricing would ensure that all commuters into the central business district would share the responsibility of maintaining the region’s mass transit system.

Most middle-class New Yorkers who work in the central business district (Manhattan below 86th Street) get to work by mass transit; only 5 percent of working New Yorkers actually drive.[16,17] Those who do drive tend to have significantly higher incomes than other commuters: the median income is $51,021 for motorists versus $39,247 for other commuters.[18]

Without congestion pricing, middle-class families will be forced to pay more for less transit service. The elimination of free student fares and possible fare hikes of at least 15 percent would have a significant impact on middle income families that rely on mass transit for their daily transportation needs. For a family of four consisting of two working parents and two school-aged children who get to school via mass transit, these changes will cost approximately $2,300 a year.[19]

Transit riders must pay a fare to enter the Manhattan central business district and drivers from Staten Island and New Jersey have no choice but to pay a toll. However, a large percentage of all automobiles that enter the central business district are unfairly exempt from paying a toll. All commuters benefit from an efficient mass transit system and all commuters should share the responsibility of maintaining it.

Since most small business customers in the central business district arrive by mass transit or by walking, small businesses would not see a drop in business if congestion pricing were implemented. Because there would be less automobile traffic during business hours, small businesses would benefit from more reliable and timely deliveries.

Congestion Pricing is the Most Sustainable Solution to the MTA Budget Crisis

Congestion pricing would reduce the volume of automobile-related pollution, including particulate matter, ozone, and greenhouse gases. This reduction would improve the quality of life for those living and working in New York City as well as reduce the region’s impact on global climate change. By taking more than 100,000 cars off New York’s streets every day, congestion pricing will help New York achieve the cleanest air of any big city in the U.S.—and the environmental and health benefits that flow from it.

New York has some of the most polluted air in the nation, resulting in negative health outcomes. New York City’s children are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma as the average American child.[20]

A recent report on air quality in New York City neighborhoods found that the concentration of pollutants in a particular neighborhood was related to the volume of automobile traffic, including truck traffic. The report states, “The air pollutants with the greatest public health impact in New York City result mainly from fuel combustion emissions from vehicles, building heating systems, electric power generators and other sources.”[21]

In London, congestion pricing helped to produce a 12 percent drop in hazardous particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, while cutting carbon dioxide emission by a fifth.[22]

[1] Author’s calculation based on the MTA’s projected 2010 shortfall of $653 million, assuming currently proposed service cuts are implemented and fare increases are used to close the remaining deficit. See MTA 2010 Final Proposed Budget, November Financial Plan 2010-2013. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 2009. Available at:

[2] American Community Survey, 2008. U.S. Census Bureau.

[3] Author’s calculations based on MTA 2010 Final Proposed Budget November Financial Plan 2010-2013.Assumes a 15 percent fare hike on 30-day unlimited ride Metrocards and the elimination of free student fares.

[4] Unless otherwise specified, this report refers to the congestion pricing plan proposed by Mayor Bloomberg as part of PlaNYC. See

[5] In order to make revenue available quickly enough to offset cuts and fare increases, the MTA would need to borrow against projected congestion pricing revenue in the short term.

[6] MTA 2010 Final Proposed Budget, November Financial Plan 2010-2013.

[7] As of February 4th, 2010.

[8] PlaNYC: A greener, greater New York. The City of New York, 2007. Available at:

[9] Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Staff Summary MTA Consolidated 2010 Operating Budget. December 13, 2009. Available at:

[10] Author’s calculation based on MTA 2010 Final Proposed Budget. See first footnote for calculations.

[11] Christine Quinn, James Vacca, and Gene Russianoff, “MTA is running off the rails: Stimulus money would prevent devastating service cuts.” The New York Daily News, Jaunuary 31, 2010.

[12] 2009 Annual Urban Mobility Report. Texas Transportation Institute, 2009. Available at:

[13] Todd Litman. London Congestion Pricing: Implications for other cities. Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2006. Available at:

[14] Partnership for New York City. 2006. Growth or Gridlock The Economic Case for Traffic Relief and Transit Improvement for a Greater New York. Based on an analysis of Manhattan from 60th Street to the Battery.

[15] See “NY Gov: Taxes, fees to close budget, MTA deficits.” The New York Times, February 10, 2010.

[16] New York City Mobility Needs Assessment: 2007-2030. The City of New York, 2007. Available at:

[17] While congestion pricing would have overall net benefits for middle-class New Yorkers, there is a small segment of the population—estimated at less than one percent—that has no viable transit alternative to driving. Therefore, transit improvements to neighborhoods underserved by mass transit should be a system-wide priority.

[18] “Behind the Wheel: Who drives into the proposed ‘congestion zone?’” Inside the Budget, No. 154. New York City Independent Budget Office, 2007. Available at:

[19] Based on author’s calculations. Assumes a 15 percent fare hike on 30-day unlimited ride Metrocards and the elimination of free student fares.

[20] New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. New York City Childhood Asthma Initiative. Asthma Facts Second Edition.

[21] New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustianability, Queens College City University of New York, and ZevRoss Spatial Analysis, 2009. The New York City Community Air Survey: Results from winter monitoring 2008-2009. Available at:

[22] Beevers, Sean and Carslaw, David. 2004. The Impact of congestion charging on vehicle emissions in London.
- - -
Click here to read, Solving the MTA Budget Crisis: A Capital Investment Strategy

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who's Got A Hand In Your Pocket

"SeeThroughNY" Gives Glimpse Of Government Spending

Want to see who's getting a paycheck and how much they're earning at County or Town government, or perhaps at your school or fire district? Curious as to what contracts are being entered into by your government, and what its costing taxpayers? Looking for legislative expenditures and moola from the pork barrel?

Well, more information is now just a mouse-click away at, "a statewide network through which taxpayers can share, analyze and compare data from counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts and public authorities throughout New York," created by the Empire Center for NYS Policy.

Granted, SeeThroughNY gives you much of the same data and info that can be garnered from New York's official "transparency" website, (from which, it would appear, much of the data on SeeThroughNY originates), but it does give New Yorkers another portal through which they can -- and should -- begin to decipher how and by whom their tax dollars are being spent.

So, spend a little time (you're already spending a lot of money) this Presidents' Week clicking on those links for payroll, contracts, expenditures, and more at You may be astonished -- if not totally shocked -- at what you will find.

Hey, it's your money. Know where every penny of it goes!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Right? Or Simply Too Far To The Right?

New Yorkers For Growth: Tea Party Or Tempest In A Teapot?

Surely, we can all agree, at least in principle, with the Mission Statement of New Yorkers for Growth: New Yorkers for Growth (NYFG) is dedicated to the proposition that excessive taxes and government spending are driving jobs, people, and businesses out of New York State. NYFG will support candidates for the New York State Legislature who, regardless of party, favor and vote for 1) lower taxes, 2) reduced reliance upon debt, and 3) reform of State and local government spending practices.

In fact, upon the surface, at least, New Yorkers for Growth appears to echo the very sentiments we at The Community Alliance have long expressed on this blog:

New Yorkers for Growth is dedicated to the proposition that the prosperity of the Empire State requires a fundamental change in state and local economic policies. By virtually any measure, New York imposes higher taxes, with a more intrusive regulatory structure than any other state.

Citizens of this state are fleeing in droves. Western New York and most of the Upstate region have experienced actual population declines or population growth far below the national average. Suburban population growth on Long Island and Westchester is stagnant, hampered by the highest property taxes in the nation. Even New York City has registered only miniscule population increases and would have population declines were it not for immigration from abroad.

Clearly, New Yorkers are voting with their feet by moving to other states. Our citizens are fleeing New York and the political establishment typically responds with just more of the same: higher taxes, increased spending at levels twice or three times the inflation rate, and more borrowing.

Citizens are frustrated with the unwillingness or inability of Albany to recognize the competitive challenges facing our state and its economy. Special interests seeking higher spending, taxes and debt have almost total sway on the political process. New Yorkers for Growth seeks to address this situation by supporting candidates for state and local office who support fiscally responsible policies which will restore our economy.

But really, who is New Yorkers for Growth, and where do they stand on the issues near and dear?

Its Board Members include John Faso, Assemblymember from 1986 to 2002 and GOP nominee for Governor (no reformer of the spendthrift status quo in Albany was he), and one Tom Dewey. Hmmm. As in, Dewey Defeats Truman?

Why, there's even a former correspondent (Kristen Fealy) with Faux News.

On the issues, no question it's the spending -- and borrowing to spend some more -- that's crippling us here in New York, but query as to what is truly the foundation of the espoused causes when New Yorkers for growth propound the following remarks:

President Obama has demonized insurance and drug companies, and accused Medicare and Medicaid of inefficiency and waste...

Yes. Obama, bad. Insurance and drug companies, good. You mean Medicare and Medicaid aren't inefficient and wrought with waste and fraud?

Onerous requirements under the State Environmental Quality Review Act requiring developers to submit time-consuming and often very expensive environmental impact statements also increase costs. In many parts of New York City, ill-considered zoning restrictions make it impossible to build new housing. Excessive mandates drive up the cost of health insurance, while also creating what economists refer to as deadweight losses. All of these regulations contribute to the high cost of living. And there are many more. The question is how to reduce the impact of regulation and thus the cost of living.

Too much regulation? Concern over the environment? Wasn't too little regulation and lack of oversight responsible, in great measure, for the economic mess in which we now find ourselves? And, yeah. That global warming hoax is getting in the way of building houses, power plants, and incinerators. Damn those #@!^;$! environmentalists.

...(in Massachusets a) tax cap has forced government at all levels to recognize that taxpayers can't afford to give government a blank check. A tax cap in New York would bring about the same result, while at the same time assuring that our schools receive the resources they need to succeed.

Sure, cap the school property tax -- not cut or eliminate it -- at, say, 4% per year, and (you do the math), in just 3 short years, the tax will have increased by more than 10%. With a "cap" in place, the school property tax will more than double in only 25 years. [Thankfully, few of us will still be around to pay it!]

Enactment of a school property tax cap is the only viable solution to what ails New York's hard-pressed homeowners.

A tax cap it not the solution, let alone a viable alternative. Why, it's not even stop-gap. The solution is to put an end to spend, spend, spend at the local level (that means cost controls by school boards and less kowtowing to special interests, including the unions), no more unfunded mandates from either Albany or Washington, and the full financing of that free public school system, as is required under the NYS Constitution, by the State.

Now don't get us wrong. New Yorkers for Growth floats some ideas worthy of consideration, if not adoption, including Health Care Courts (no, they will not decide whether to pull the plug on Grandma), Tort reform (particularly in the area of medical malpractice), fundamental changes to New York's income tax laws, and a fresh look at workforce development.

But make no mistake. New Yorkers for growth is a PAC (Political Action Committee), whose mission is to elect candidates to State office who will adhere to the PAC's agenda, stated or otherwise.

Not to say that the organization's position -- endorsements will be non-partisan and the PAC will support candidates, regardless of party, who express support for policies of fiscal responsibility at the state and local level -- is one that we all can't applaud and support. Still, we have to be leary, and proceed with something more than passing caution, where the potential and the means exist to masquerade partisan politics of a most dangerous and destructive kind as economic growth through policies of fiscal responsibility

After all, some of us still remember the Georges -- Pataki and Bush II -- both of whom wore the mantle of fiscal conservatives while creating deficit out of surplus.

We join with New Yorkers for Growth in calling for substantive and meaningful reforms in State and local government that, prudently implemented, will usher in an era of both fiscal and social responsibility, with resultant prosperity for all citizens of the Empire State.

Beyond that, we must remain ever vigilant that it isn't the fox (as in news, or otherwise) that is guarding the hen house!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Other Side Of Murray

Kate, We Hardly Know Ye

We spend quite a bit of blogspace here at The Community Alliance finding fault with -- some say demonizing -- Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray.

Not always without just cause, mind you, or maybe it's just the perspective of those of us hailing from the unincorporated areas of America's largest township where, all too often, it has been more blight than bright, more talk than action, and more of the same old, same old rather than moving forward.

Of course, there are at least two sides to every story, and that would include the tale told of Kate Murray.

Beyond the Murraygrams, the smiling photo ops, and the promises sometimes honored more in the breach than in practice, there is a dedicated, capable, highly intelligent, public servant for whom, as Kate herself puts it, "the sky's the limit." [Hey, we're trying to make nice here.]

Kate Murray. Clearly, as the article republished below attests, a woman in charge and in control. [Except in instances, such as the special taxing districts, over which "control" of any kind or nature is most emphatically denied.]

Anyway, from the pages of Long Island Business News, here's a side of Town Supervisor Kate Murray we've rarely seen in these parts. Or, maybe, we just weren't looking in the right places.

- - -
 The unshakable Kate
by Ambrose Clancy

Aftershocks dominated the morning.

A week after the earthquake battered Haiti, severe tremors brought more suffering. But the morning buzz at Hempstead Town Hall was about the U.S. political foundation still rocking from the night before. A long-shot Republican had claimed the seat held for more than four decades by liberal lion Edward Kennedy.

"Seismic," Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray said brightly, leaving her office for a staff meeting.

Murray's chief-of-staff Ray Mineo followed, as he does whenever the supervisor is on the move. Short and rumpled, dwarfed by the tall, imposing figure of his boss, Mineo was asked his take on the Massachusetts political game changer.

"It's not just one election," he said, citing November's upset races in Westchester and Nassau counties. "Now it's a movement."

A movement which Murray might want to ride beyond Hempstead. She didn't pause when asked about her political future. "Sky's the limit."

The proven vote-getter has won handily every time out of the gate, beginning with a 1998 Assembly bid. She's run Hempstead, the nation's most populous township, for seven years. Even Democratic political ops admit – not for attribution – that the municipality of 800,000 is a model of efficiency. In an anti-incumbent election season stoked by voter rage, Murray ran on her record, clobbering her opponent by a two-to-one margin.

Isn't she politically boxed in?

"Not at all," Murray said, greeting town employees passing in the corridor, flashing a wide, killer smile. "Once upon a time there was a guy named Al D'Amato who was a town supervisor. This is a good jumping-off point for me. This is a huge operation here."

Huge indeed, with the supervisor managing 1,900 full-time employees and a $400 million budget.

Does dropping D'Amato's name mean challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand?

Murray's tone turned coy but serious. "In the pantheon of different elected positions, Washington would be intriguing."

Scott Brown's Massachusetts win and Ed Mangano's out-of-nowhere victory in Nassau gives anyone of substance a puncher's chance these days.

Working in Murray's favor for a U.S. Senate run is that few Republicans have officially thrown their hat in the ring. So far, Bruce Blakeman, a former Nassau County legislator, is the biggest name to declare for the race.

Blakeman may best be known for being the ex-husband of Nancy Shevell, a Paul McCartney paramour. Other than that, he has little name recognition with New York voters, though insiders in his own party know him well. That's not to say they approve of his candidacy.

"Dumb as a stump and arrogant," one close observer of Nassau politics described Blakeman. "Not a good combination."

George Marlin, an author and conservative LIBN columnist, snarked that Blakeman is a lightweight who looks like he's running just to meet girls.

Marlin added that if Murray got Nassau GOP boss Joe Mondello's blessing, Blakeman's candidacy would collapse.

"But if she's going to run, she has to start right now," Marlin added.

Machine operator

Taking a seat at the head of a conference table, Murray greets her top staffers: 11 men in suits.

She has nothing in front of her while everyone else has papers and files. There's no doubt: She is the smartest person in the room.

Talk to anyone about Murray and they'll confirm that. But detractors maintain that being brainy doesn't conceal a machine politician interested only in power.

A product of Mondello's superbly greased machine, Murray rose through the ranks by paying dues and waiting her turn. An assistant attorney general in Gov. George Pataki's administration, she was appointed to run for the Assembly seat when Charles O'Shea resigned to become Nassau County assessor in 1998. She was elevated to Hempstead supervisor from town clerk when Richard Guardino resigned in 2003.

Murray never takes for granted that Hempstead is a Republican fiefdom – the last on Long Island – built on patronage and never forgetting where you came from. Take her 83-year-old father, Norman. He retired from a six-figure job in the town attorney's office with a $49,000 pension on a Friday. By Monday he was back on the payroll as a part-time clerk, making $40 an hour.

And there's Katuria D'Amato, Senator Pothole's wife, who Murray appointed to the town's zoning board of appeals. No matter that Ms. D'Amato's total knowledge of zoning came from a dust-up with neighbors about a wildly ostentatious beach house the D'Amatos felt entitled to build. Murray merely said she was the right person for the job. And that was that.

At the head of the table Murray runs through resolutions with her staff on the next town board agenda, closely questioning them about finances before adjourning the meeting.

It's time for a trip to the beach.

To the Lighthouse

Murray rides shotgun in a gray Jeep Cherokee while executive assistant Reid Berglind drives like it's Sunday at Daytona, not the Meadowbrook.

The supervisor is rocketing toward Point Lookout to inspect a beach erosion project and check up on a shellfish seeding project.

Mineo sits in the back, hanging on as Berglind barrels along. Mineo's been with Murray since her first term seven years ago. But he got close to her when she was town clerk and he was top aide to Guardino, the previous supervisor.

Mineo knows where all bodies are buried, correct? He smiles, yanked into a curve by the Cherokee.

"I just know I'm not buried."

Mineo is not a man to underestimate, just like his chief. Murray's intelligence, energy, focus and superb political skills have never been more evident than in her taking control of the Lighthouse Project.

Kicking around for five years at the county level, Charles Wang's $3.8 billion plan hit a wall when it fell into Murray's hands two years ago. She's taking her time on approving modernization of the run-down Nassau Coliseum and development of nearly 80 surrounding acres into 2,300 residential units and more than a million square feet of retail and office space.

The developer has railed at Murray and threatened to move his Islanders out of Nassau unless the project is fast-tracked. Unions, some with unemployment running up to 35 percent, urge the supervisor to think of the social calamity of joblessness.

She's been accused of pettiness, arrogance, purposely missing meetings and refusing to talk because of partisan rigidity.

Nassau County Legis. David Denenberg, D-Merrick, has thrown up his hands.

"I don't know what page she's on," the legislator said.

Murray has said from the beginning that the enormity of the project, traffic concerns, density, water and energy usage call for caution.

But by being deliberate, Murray has also taken charge of the project. Over time she has won over many Hempstead and county residents who at the start were loudly calling for no delays in kicking off the project.

Murray proceeds with caution because she knows the Lighthouse, in political language, is a "legacy project." No matter how it turns out, a development of this size and importance will be mentioned at the top of her obituary.

Four days before the election in November, Wang and Murray met one-on-one, she said. "I told Charles, 'You have to scale this back,'" Murray said. "I told him, 'There's no way, as presently constituted, this is going anywhere. The public is waking up.'"

Murray said she informed the developer that after a Sept. 22 environmental hearing, e-mails to the town were running 60-40 against the size of the project. Wang, through a spokeswoman, refused to comment for this piece.

The developer badly underestimated Murray, according to a union official.

"My people are being hurt because of the lack of movement and Kate is the only one who can make it happen," the official said. "But I told Charles, 'Remember that Kate Murray doesn't work for you. You can't treat her like she plays on your hockey team.'"

Coming home

The Cherokee rushes into an empty parking lot. Beyond is the Atlantic, with tankers lining the horizon like toy boats. Raucous sea birds wheel above the beach. Murray seems at home. "I love it here," she said, walking up over a dune.

"When we were kids, every summer we were at the beach all the time," said Anne Murray, Kate's sister and the youngest of seven siblings.

Never married, Murray is closer to her mother, father, four brothers, two sisters and a huge crowd of nieces and nephews than anyone else. She has a house next door to her parents in Levittown, where the Murray clan was raised.

Even as a little girl, she knew her own mind, Anne Murray said.

"At 11 Katie told everyone she was going to be a lawyer," her sister added, noting that she and her sister Maureen are also lawyers.

"But at that age we didn't have any idea what we wanted to do," she laughed. "Not Katie. She knew."

After graduating from Boston College, Murray stayed in Boston, taking a law degree from Suffolk University.

Her undergraduate junior year she studied English at St. Clare's Hall, Oxford, England. The Long Island girl received more than a touch of sophistication.

"In England I could go to France or Holland for the weekend if I wanted," she said. "It was as easy as going to New Jersey."

After law school Murray became a litigator for a firm in Nassau County and then, after a stint at a New Jersey firm defending physicians in malpractice cases, she headed to Albany and the attorney general's office during the Pataki years.

At Point Lookout workers are putting 40,000 plants into dunes to keep large parts of the beach from disappearing.

Checking in on a shellfish seeding operation – "Where's the linguine?" Mineo asks – located in a house set in wetlands, Murray clearly revels in sweating the small stuff of running Hempstead.

She's asked again about her future.

"I can't see myself doing this forever," she said. "Either I'll decide to do something else or the voters will. We all have a shelf life."

Top of the hill

Berglind is pushing the Cherokee hard again as Murray answers question about her political positions. Pro-life, pro-gun control, against same sex marriage but in favor of civil unions. She described herself as a moderate Republican, while being fiscally conservative.

But party labels are meaningless on a local level, she added, noting that picking up the garbage isn't Republican or Democratic.

"Welcome to sanitation world," Murray said as the Cherokee rolls into the sprawling Hempstead sanitation complex in Merrick.

The department takes up more than a quarter of the town's $400 million budget this year, collecting garbage from 80,000 homes each day.

She takes great pride in the former Merrick landfill, which has been transformed into a 52-acre nature preserve, towering up 115 feet from the flat, densely packed suburb. Delegations from as far away as Argentina and China have come to view it and get ideas to take back home.

A Hempstead Democrat who didn't want his name used said, "I give Kate credit. I like the way my garbage is picked up, my streets are plowed and my parks are kept. Everyone does."

Joggers and walkers make their way up through the preserve, including James McKenna, who works in Nassau County corrections, and his wife Christine, daughter Kate and friend Madison.

"We love it here," Christine said. "It's so peaceful. A great place for kids."

Sanitation personnel pile into a just-delivered electric jitney. The supervisor who sits directly behind the driver, a man named Sal, seems to be learning how to operate the vehicle. After a sudden start and stop, Murray said, "It's all right, Sal. No pressure. Only your job on the line."

The remark and laughter from the passengers relax Sal, who drives effortlessly to the top, where views extend to the Manhattan skyline.


Murray takes a meeting in a cramped satellite office of the town's planning department on Nassau Road in Roosevelt. Across the street a rusted hulk left vacant for generations is now a new, 24,000-square-foot medical building, while just down Nassau Road a new bank has gone up from a trash-strewn empty lot.

Working with community leaders under the direction of Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, the town is seeing some victories removing the blighted infrastructure of Roosevelt.

Goosby, a Democrat, praised Murray for her efforts but didn't leave the ground, describing her relationship with Murray as "OK. I don't have a problem working with her."

Passing a storefront church, The Refuge of Hope, Murray said, "It's good to see the great swath of faith in minority communities, but from an economic point of view that's the bummer because all these churches are off the tax rolls."

More than 200 affordable single-family homes have replaced abandoned residences in Hempstead.

"I'd do that every day if I could,' Murray said.

In charge

A scene played out across Long Island somewhere every week – lawyers with briefcases bursting with files, people with a beef, giddy high school kids in their Sunday best and knots of gossiping politicians.

Murray enters exactly on time and opens the town board meeting, asking the audience to keep the people of Haiti in their prayers.

Hempstead has more Haitians than any other Long Island community, and the town has filled two schoolrooms with food and other aid to be shipped to the Caribbean.

The meeting is quick, with proclamations given to the students for superior work and a list of perfunctory resolutions passed unanimously.

Residents complain of Hempstead being saturated with halfway houses. Several people want to be included on a commission studying the town's water supply.

Murray listens and answers every question, masterfully deflecting the offers to serve on commissions.

It's hard to imagine saying "no" with more charm, making the negative sound affirmative.

Or being more in control.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Let It Snow!

As If We Have A Choice. . .

For the very latest information on how today's winter storm impacts upon our Long Island, click on the following links:

News12 LI Weather Center

Long Island School Closings

News12 Traffic and Weather

Avoid travel if at all possible. Move cars off of the street to facilitate plowing. Easy on the shoveling. Check up on your neighbors, especially the seniors and homebound.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

On The Other Hand. . . (No, Not Sarah Palin's)

Town To Propose A Smaller Lighthouse

Whether the Long Island Lighthouse Project will be reduced to little more than a 2 watt nightlight remains to be seen.

What is clear, however, is that the Town of Hempstead -- in whose hands lies all zoning decisions for the Nassau Hub -- is taking the reins, for better or worse, of the region's most ambitious attempt at redevelopment since Robert Moses built the Parkway.

Call it Wang-Lite or Mini-Murray, the Town is moving forward (with the help of paid consultants, Frederick P. Clark Associates) with what it says will be a scaled-down proposal of the otherwise grandiose Wang plan.

Actually, the Town will create a zoning scheme, setting parameters for such niceties as height, setbacks, and, no doubt, off-street parking, which, in turn, will dictate exactly what can and cannot be built.

Whether Wang was too big, too soon, or Kate & Kompany too little, too late, cannot be said at this juncture.

We can, and will say that, with the Town looking to move proactively, essentially taking the ball from Wang's hand, the rise or fall of the Nassau Hub is, for all intents and purposes, now and forever in Kate Murray's hands. [Hope there's nothing scribbled on Kate's palm. Special Districts. Patronage. Taxes. Smile.]

Meanwhile, The Community Alliance has obtained exclusive artist's renderings of the Town's proposal for a smaller, leaner Lighthouse (dubbed the Matchbox edition), which will include a mix of commercial, residential, and recreational use.

Looks vaguely familiar, doesn't it? Hmmmmm.

Anyway, kudos are due the Town of Hempstead if, indeed, their design is to move this much-needed project off center with a view toward actually getting something from paper to pavement.

And therein lies the rub.

Is this a plan to move forward, or, ultimately, a plot to scuttle what could be, should be, the cornerstone of Nassau County's renaissance?

For years it has been bigger, higher, grander, in trying to restore luster to the county's tarnished crown. Now, suddenly, it's smaller is better. Well, at least more palatable.

Kate Murray has been able to work her magic -- black though it may have been, at times -- in the past. Will she be able to pull a rabbit (or a Rechler) out of the hat this time around?

We shall see. . .
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From Newsday:

Wang may soon find out what town wants on Lighthouse


In the months before he abruptly stopped work on the Lighthouse proposal last fall, Charles Wang had badgered the Town of Hempstead with one demand: Tell me what you want.

Now it seems he's about to find out.

At a morning news conference, Town Supervisor Kate Murray said Monday she'd had a "very positive" phone conversation with Wang and is hopeful he and partner Scott Rechler will still wind up developing the 77 acres of county-owned property encompassing the Coliseum area - albeit on a smaller scale to be determined by the town.

Murray's announcement that she will pay consultants to craft an alternative to the planned development district proposed by the Lighthouse Development Group drew criticism Monday from Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who noted the town had rebuffed early invitations to shape a vision for the county-owned parcel.

Meanwhile, others, like Association for a Better Long Island director Desmond Ryan, say Murray's move creates an opening for rival Long Island developers such as Ed Blumenfeld, Jan Burman and Vincent Polimeni to claim the plum project. "Kate Murray has opened the door to a comprehensive bidding process," Ryan said.

Wang did not return calls for comment.

County Executive Edward Mangano, who attended the news conference, said the county's existing agreements with Wang, including the designated developer agreement and memorandum of understanding, are still in force. That means unless Wang or the county chooses to nullify those agreements, the land is still Wang's to build on.

"Nassau County is not altering its contractual obligations at all," Mangano said. "Rather, we are supporting this because it moves the ball forward."

A source familiar with the process said, that while both Mangano and Murray are keeping their options open, they understand Wang still has considerable leverage as owner of the Islanders hockey team, which plays its home games at the Coliseum.

And though Hempstead Town board member Dorothy Goosby, whose district includes the land around Nassau Coliseum, portrayed the town Monday as taking the reins of the project, Murray said Wang would be involved in shaping the plans and said she expected them to include many of the elements he has already proposed.

Those include retail, commercial, residential and hotel space, and the sports technology complex that has been a prized centerpiece of Wang's vision for the refurbished arena site. But by creating its own plan, the town retains greater control, planners said. With Sandra Peddie

Highlights of Kate Murray's news conference

Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray announced that the town would, through its consultant, study what kind of development should be built around the Nassau Coliseum site. Here are highlights from her news conference:

Hempstead will hire Frederick P. Clark Associates, a planning firm, to establish a scaled-back plan for zoning the 77 acres of the county-owned property around the Coliseum.

Murray said she hoped that Charles Wang and his partner Scott Rechler would ultimately be the developers of whatever is built on the property.

Town board member Dorothy Goosby described the town's new plans as trying to take the reins of a "stalled" project.

The new zone, called a Planned Development District, would be likely to include a vision for the property that is far less dense and much smaller than Wang's and Rechler's Lighthouse Project.

Murray said she hoped the review process would be completed by summer.
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Keep abreast of the latest on the Lighthouse at

Monday, February 08, 2010

Have Breakfast With Champions

Long Island Breakfast Club Eases The Process Of Looking For Work With Laughter

Our good friends at the Long Island Breakfast Club are at it again. Offering support, guidance, comraderie, and hope to the many Long Islanders -- particularly the 50 and over set -- who are out of work but not out of that true sense of purpose.

Join LIBC for a breakfast on Saturday, March 6th at 9 AM at the Garden City Hotel. [There is a $20 fee.]

A great opportunity to network, make new friends (and who couldn't use more of those), and to live LIBC's motto, "Experience Counts!"
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Kenny Moore is the co-author of “The CEO and the Monk: One Company’s Journey to Profit and Purpose” (rated as one of the “Top Ten” best-selling Business books on He’s the former Director of Human Resources at KeySpan Corporation, now a part of National Grid (the 2nd largest energy company in the United States) where he reported directly to the Chairman and CEO. He’s the former Director of Human Resources at KeySpan Corporation, now a part of National Grid (the 2nd largest energy company in the United States) where he reported directly to the Chairman and CEO. Kenny now leads his own consulting firm - working on Change Management, Leadership Development and healing the corporate community. He’s been interviewed by Tom Peters, The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company magazine regarding his unique efforts. Kenny’s writings have been published in Warren Bennis’s Leadership Excellence magazine, The Journal for Quality and Participation - as well as business web sites such as He is also the recipient of Notre Dame University’s 2006 Hesburgh Award for his significant contribution to the field of business ethics.

He’s been profiled by Charles Osgood as the “Cover Story” on CBS News Sunday Morning, written-up by business-guru Tom Peters, profiled in Fast Company Magazine, interviewed on New York City’s The Bloomberg Money Show: Bloomberg Radio and cited in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, National Catholic Reporter and numerous other business and religious publications regarding his timely message. Kenny is the recipient of Notre Dame University’s 2006 Hesburgh Award for his significant contribution to the field of business ethics.

Moore is a sought after business and motivational speaker at business conferences, government agencies, church gatherings and college campuses - sharing his practical wisdom and wit with thousands of executives throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. As a business leader, former monk, cancer survivor and a spiritual guide - he discusses the amusing interplay between our business, personal and spiritual lives.

RSVP’s necessary by emailing

QUESTIONS, CALL: VALENTINA 516-314-8989, PATRICIA 516-315-2762, or  STEPHANIE 516-680-1731.
The painful process of looking for work is eased by joining the Spirited Group of the Long Island Breakfast club. They Meet They Eat and They Seek! FEEL YOUR OATS NOT YOUR FLAKES! You’ve had dozens of interviews for jobs you would take as a gift. You’ve seen a career counselor to validate your strategy. You’ve followed the best advice culled from recent job-hunting venues! Net Result: The process, especially lead generation is too slow. One person however motivated can turn up only one lead at a time when it comes to job hunting, business leads or contacts. You are feeling like you will lose your mind! Stress No More..

About The Long Island Breakfast Club
This organization provides advocacy, support, career and employment counseling and referrals to prepare mature individuals for productive employment. Our MOTTO IS EXPERIENCE COUNTS!  EMAIL