Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Under The Boardwalk

Way Under. . .

Here at The Community Alliance, we typically take aim at town and county as models of inefficiency, ineptitude, and mediocrity.

Today, we extend the reach of communal wrath to the city -- of Long Beach, that is -- where none other than the NYS Civil Service Commission has found that the "civil service operation is so flawed that it is impossible to determine if employees are qualified for positions they hold or receiving salaries commensurate with their job title..."

[Read the release at]

And while the City of Long Beach, of recent vintage, has become inexorably intertwined with the Town of Hempstead, where parts and parcels are interchanged almost at will (as in City Manager, Charles Theofan, who bounces back and forth between the town and the City of Long Beach like a pinball), in this instance, at least, we felt that Long Beach deserved the dark spotlight all to itself.

Says the NYS Civil Service Commission, in pertinent part:

Two reports rated the effectiveness of Long Beach Commission operations on a 100-point scale. The administration of the appointment process received a score of 26, and the payroll certification program received a score of 0. In both cases, the Long Beach Commission was rated as "Not in Compliance" with Civil Service Law and Rules.

"The State Commission is particularly concerned because these serious deficiencies in the Long Beach Civil Service operations have persisted for at least six years, despite many changes in Long Beach Commission membership and staff," Commissioner Groenwegen said.

The Long Beach Commission has jurisdiction over at least 1,086 classified service employees—477 employed by the City, 576 by the Board of Education, and 33 by the Housing Authority, based on workforce data provided for the 2008 calendar year. The Long Beach Commission was unable to produce any definitive documentation of the number of Library employees. Of the classified workforce, 730, or approximately 67%, are in the competitive class.

The lack of basic records and documents regarding the appointment process makes it impossible for the Commission to certify many of the personnel transactions under its jurisdiction as being in accordance with Civil Service Law and Rules.

Sounds very much like the reports on the operations of the town's Sanitary Districts, doesn't it?

Read the full reports at:

Incompetence, like water, seeks its own level, and we all know that it's not always (or often) the cream that rises to the top.

In Long Beach, we fear, that breach of both Civil Service rules and public trust flows from a willful vein, arrogance trumping fairness, and an intent to both deceive and deflect virtually built in to a system that serves its patrons rather than the public.

The question is no longer, "how long will they get away with it?", but rather, "how long will we, the people, allow such chicanery to go on?"

Folks, we can continue to pray to Mediocrities, that great god of Long Island, or, at long last, we can begin to rise above our own expectations and demand better, both of those who govern, and of ourselves, the governed.

In this season of renewal, the rebirth of hope, of passion, of community itself, let us all rise to the occasion.
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A sweet Passover and joyous Easter to all of our friends (and especially to our enemies ;-).

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Tweet A Little Tweet For Community

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The Community Alliance
A New Era For America's Oldest Suburb ~ Long Island 2020

An Invite To Breakfast

From Our Friends at the Long Island Breakfast Club

Join the Long Island Breakfast Club for a morning that very well could change everything (or, at the very least, fill your tummy with good food and your head with good thoughts).

LOCATION: ADELPHI UNIVERSITY Ruth S. Harley University Center Rooms 201 203 $20.00 Fee

If You Change One Thing, You Change Everything
Speaker: Michéal Castaldo
Crooner/Composer/Connoisseur Italian Cultural Ambassador and Entrepreneur

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 wouldn’t even accept 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

The Long Island Breakfast Club was founded in 2006, an organization providing advocacy, support, career and employment counseling, referrals and good old-fashioned laughter to prepare experienced mature individuals for productive employment. Counted among the membership are women and men who have recently been downsized and looking for support to continue positive reinforcement to gain employment back in the corporate world. Membership is encouraged for any individuals who need the extra support to continue momentum in searching for jobs in the mid-life years.

This organization provides advocacy, support, career and employment counseling and referrals to prepare mature individuals for productive employment. To register email

For More information visit

About Michael Castaldo

When the Academy of Calabria Rome-Toronto honored michéal in 1996 for his contributions to the Calabrian community in Canada, and when he received the “Calabria America” 2000 for his achievements as a composer/producer, michéal was inspired to rebuild Villetta Mimma Vittoria, the villa where he was born, making it available to his family and friends as well as opening it up as a rental to anyone ready for a Calabrian adventure. In 2004 he founded the first ever Olive Oil Cooperative in New York City, providing high quality organic olive oil from his family’s estate-grown extra-virgin olive oil to connoisseurs in North America. The Private Reserve Estate EVOO was founded in 1907 by his great grandfather Giuseppe Frisina who had just returned from New York City as a “bird of passage” helping to build the subway system. With savings in hand he purchased a parcel of land that had centuries-old olive groves. By the 1920s his grandparents, Michelangelo Pellegrino and Maria Antonia Frisina took the olive grove to the next level and now michéal’s uncles have over 20,000 orchards along the Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria in the foothills of Aspromonte. In short, The New York City Olive Oil Coop seed was planted a century earlier as a gift from a great grandfather to a great grandson.

To give back a bit of life’s sweetness, CASTALDO now runs whose mission is to take people suffering from the “blues” or illness on scenic joy rides in the country in his exotic convertible roadster, a customized Mazda Miata. His story and his car were featured as Miata of the Month in November 2007 in

Nowadays michéal CASTALDO may be found on any given week performing light Italian opera; hosting an olive oil tasting complete with Neapolitan song or classic Italian pop standards; onstage at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center, the JVC Jazz Festival, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival or hosting a house concert event at the home of a high-profile Italian-American family—in Italian, of course. With his current Italian CDs “Villa” and “La Dolce Vita ‘NAmerica” CASTALDO slows the tempo, reaches deeper into the soul and passionately takes you back to his Calabrian roots.

As If Extra Trucks During Passover Wouldn't Have Been Enough. . .

Now The Local Fire Department Gets Into The Act!

Simply because you can't make this stuff up doesn't necessarily mean that fact isn't more unbelievable than fiction.

The following post appeared, on the eve of the Passover holiday, on


Annual Community Wide Chometz Burning

Woodmere Volunteer Fire Department
20 Irving Place Woodmere
Between Broadway & Central Avenue

Monday, March 29, 2010
6:45AM - 11:45AM (Zman)
Lawrence Cedarhurst Fire Station
Corner Central and Washington Aves.

*Chometz is bread, grains and leavened products not consumed during Passover.

Hmmm. Local fire departments involved in religious ritual? Talk about burning those tax dollars at the firehouse.

Folks, it's your money, and your local government. We're just watching them!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Yet Another Passover In The Special Taxing Districts

Why Is This Year Different From All Others?

Does it have something to do with those bitter herbs, more commonly known as special districts?

The Jews may have wandered the desert for 40 years (that's a heck of a lot of matzah), but they've got nothing on those special taxing districts -- from sanitation to water -- that enslave the populace like no Pharaoh ever did.

The Chosen People rose up, freed themselves from the shackles, and made an exodus (yes, we remember the movie of the same name) from an indentured subsistence.

Will the residents of Long Island, armed with the new law enabling elector initiated consolidation and/or dissolution [heck, David had only a slingshot and a small stone when he went after and felled Goliath], take up arms against wasteful, corrupt, and ineffective government entities (of which the special districts are many)?

We shall see, as the law goes into effect.

Meanwhile, back in the hinterlands, still under the yoke of sewer districts, parking districts, sanitary districts, fire districts, refuse districts, lighting districts -- you name 'em, we've got 'em -- very little, if anything, has changed by way of reform, or otherwise, since our 'bread trucks of affliction' story was first blogged way back when on March 9, 2005 -- some five years ago.

The special districts keep taxing. The special trucks picking up leftover bread during Passover are still rolling. And somewhere, somehow, for reasons known only to the GOP, then-counsel for the Town of Hempstead's Sanitary District 1, Nat Swergold, is collecting a pension. One (or two, perhaps three) that you and I paid for with tax dollars thrown away with the trash.

And so, on the eve of Passover 2010, with Easter hot on its heels (the Last Supper now conspicuously posting a calorie count), The Community Alliance is forced to bring you, without commercial interruption, the sixth coming of the Passover story.

In fact, here are links to all of them, but for the original, which is republished below in all its Pesachdik glory.

A Passover Story

A Passover Story -- Revisited


Passover Has Come To Hempstead Town Again

All is as it was then, except, you are there...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005
The Bread Of Our Affliction

A Passover Story, As Told By Counsel For Town Of Hempstead Sanitary District 1

An article appeared in a recent edition of the Nassau Herald on the subject of the Nassau County Comptroller's pending audit of several of the Special Districts, including Sanitary District 1. [We are reprinting the article below in its entirety, because you simply cannot make this stuff up!]

Commenting on the services provided by the Sanitary District, Nat Swergold, the chief counsel for Sanitary District 1, said "The district... accommodates the large Orthodox Jewish population in the area by arranging for special trucks during the eight holy days of Passover so bread can be disposed of, since observant Jews do not eat bread during the holiday."

Now, don't get us wrong. We appreciate the great lengths our Sanitary Districts go to in order to serve the public, but "special trucks during... Passover" to collect the bread?

What next? The fire districts placing extra fire trucks in service just in case the horse radish on the gefilte fish burns the roofs of our mouths? Or maybe the water districts will pump in extra water to our homes to help wash down the matzo?

Let's face it, Jews, be they Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or unaffiliated, are not hording bread prior to the holiday. Indeed, most Jews, logic dictates, try to consume the bread they do have in the house before Passover. Assuming any bread remains, most Jews I know (this blogger included), clean the house of bread BEFORE the start of the holiday, and not, certainly, "during the eight holy days" referred to by Mr. Swergold. Just what are these "special trucks" picking up?

Is this the best counsel for the Sanitary District can offer up as a raison d'etre for these Special Taxing Jurisdictions? If so, we've only one word for him: Gevalt!

One has to ask, do we really need three garbage collection days, a recycling day, a bulk pick up day and a yard waste pick up day, keeping in mind that it is Town Highways, not the Sanitary Districts, that sweeps our streets (all too infrequently) and plows the snow. Why - and we’re embarrassed to say this - there are some days when we have absolutely no trash to put out at the curb. Are we eligible for a rebate?

It doesn't take an Einstein - who, by the way, celebrated Passover in a secular vein - to realize that the existence of the Sanitary Districts, and other Special Districts within the township, cannot be substantiated "as is," and the cost to run these districts - special trucks for Passover aside - cannot be justified. At least not with a straight face. Why, in Sanitary District 6, we only have six Commissioners, shy of the ten required for a Minyan!

Clearly, what the Sanitary Districts are trying to put over on the taxpayers amounts to nothing less than unmitigated chutzpah.

According to Andrew Parise, the Mayor of Cedarhurst (which is in Sanitary District 1), "Curbside service wouldn't fly here." You mean to tell me they're picking up garbage at the door? [And here we are, in Sanitary District 6, paying twice the rate for mere curbside service.]

We just have two simple questions (reduced from four): (1) How many Sanitary District Commissioners does it take to change that dim light bulb over the head of the unwittingly inane Nat Swergold, and (2) How long will we, the taxpaying homeowners of the Town of Hempstead, allow ourselves to be played for fools?
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Sanitary district audit planned County comptroller plans to explore consolidation of garbage pickup
By Andrew Coen

In an effort to save county residents money on the taxes they pay for services like garbage pickup and water, Nassau County Comptroller Howard S. Weitzman has announced plans to begin auditing some of the more than 400 special taxing districts throughout the county.

Sanitary District 1, which services the Five Towns and small portions of Lynbrook and Valley Stream, is among the five districts to be audited and considered for consolidation with other areas.

Other districts that will undergo audits include Sanitary District 2, which encompasses Baldwin, South Hempstead and Roosevelt; District 6, which takes in Elmont, North Valley Stream, Franklin Square, West Hempstead and Lakeview; the Port Washington Garbage District in the Town of North Hempstead, and the Syosset Sanitary District in the Town of Oyster Bay.

The districts were selected for audits based on criteria such as high tax rates, large accumulated surpluses and high tax increases in 2004-05, the comptroller said.

According to Weitzman, along with residents paying village, town and county taxes, there are nearly 400 sanitation and water districts with 1,600 different tax rates, amounting to a "hidden government" that adds to the already heavy tax burden. Weitzman said he would like to explore the feasibility of town governments' consolidating some of the special districts to save taxpayers money and operate them with greater efficiency.

"The growth of these special districts reflects the haphazard development of Nassau County in the last century, from a collection of unassociated towns, villages and hamlets," said Weitzman. "Some of [these districts] may be necessary and some may be well-run, but the persistence of so many separate governmental authorities, with their own employees and tax rates, tends to hide the true cost of local government and contributes to our high local tax burden."

Nat Swergold, the chief counsel for Sanitary District 1, said he does not see his district meeting any of Weitzman's criteria for an audit, since, Swergold said, the district does not have a high surplus, has one of the lowest tax rates in the state and has not had any hefty tax increases. "We are probably a target for this audit because we are the largest [sanitary district]," said Swergold, adding that Sanitary District 1 services more than 30,000 households.

According to Swergold, last year's tax rate for single-family residences in District 1 was $12.58 per $100 of the assessed value of a home, which is half the rate of District 2 ($24.62 per $100) and District 6 ($26.05 per $100).

"[District 1's] tax rates are much lower than the rest of the districts," said Cedarhurst Mayor Andrew Parise. "I don't know who would provide better service than we get here."

Swergold said that while he welcomes an investigation into his district, because it is well run, he does not think the audit is necessary, since the state comptroller audits the district periodically. He added that he could not envision any sort of consolidation of the areas to save money, since each sanitation district has different needs. "I think [consolidation] is not a good idea, because each area and each district is unique," said Swergold, who has been the attorney for District 1 since 1972. "There is no way we could keep these services if there were consolidation."

Swergold said that District 1 is unique compared with other sanitary districts, in part because its workers pick up trash in the rear of residents' homes, which means residents do not have to place garbage curbside unless they are disposing of heavy items. The district operates its own recycling plant in North Lawrence and, as a result, has the highest recycling rate of any sanitary district in the state, according to Swergold. The district also accommodates the large Orthodox Jewish population in the area by arranging for special trucks during the eight holy days of Passover so bread can be disposed of, since observant Jews do not eat bread during the holiday.

"Curbside service wouldn't fly here," Parise said of the unique services offered to residents in District 1.

According to Weitzman, the goal of the audits is to provide a better understanding of the districts'

expenditures, hiring and procurements practices and the efficiency of their operations. He said that additional audits of other special districts in the county would be considered depending on how the initial examination goes.

The comptroller's decision to initiate audits follows a January report by County Assessor Harvey Levinson that showed that many special taxing jurisdictions, like garbage and water districts, spend millions of dollars each year with little observation by the public. The report prompted Levinson to call on the comptroller to audit those districts in the county.

"Homeowners who pay widely different tax rates for the same services within a town are entitled to know how their ever-increasing tax dollars are spent," said Levinson. "I am confident that Comptroller Weitzman's independent examination of sanitation districts operating within the towns will lead to sensible cost-cutting measures, consolidation or possibly even the elimination of these unnecessary invisible governments."

The planned audits have the support of some top state officials, including Comptroller Alan Hevesi, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. "In beginning these audits, Comptroller Weitzman is addressing the need for greater public oversight of these taxing districts," said Hevesi. A 2002 audit of some of these special districts by then state Comptroller Carl McCall found that several districts kept unreasonably high reserve balances.

Weitzman's audits will examine administrative and operating expenses and the appropriateness of fund balances.

Comments about this story? or (516) 569-4000 ext. 210.
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A sweet Passover and Happy Easter to all who happen upon this blog. Watch for the Sanitary District's special  bread trucks. And follow us on Twitter.

The blog returns after our spring break, renewed, refreshed, and ready to take on the issues that impact upon our quality of life as Long Islanders. Join us!

Write to The Community Alliance at

The Community Alliance
New Visions for America's First Suburb

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Watch The Closing Doors

MTA Cuts Go Through As Service Is Eliminated, Curtailed

Remember those public hearings on the then-proposed MTA budget cuts? We don't recall a single individual -- but for those on the MTA board -- who testified in favor of the MTA's mass transit massacre.

And yet, the ax has come down, and save for the student MetroCard, the public held little sway in the actions of this so-called public authority.

Can anyone say, "Dismantle the MTA!"

Almost makes one long for the days when Dick Ravitch ran the railroads, doesn't it?

Watch for more cuts, more fare increases, and more pain in the days to come.
- - -
From Newsday:
MTA approves $93 million in service cuts

 by PERVAIZ SHALLWANI. Special to Newsday

In an emotional decision sure to affect the commutes of people throughout the region, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted 11-2 Wednesday to approve $93 million in service cuts.

On Long Island, the changes will affect dozens of trains on nearly every line of the Long Island Rail Road, eliminate 13 bus lines and reduce service on two others.

But all those moves, set to be phased in this summer, only begin to address the $800-million shortfall the agency expects this year. MTA chairman Jay Walder said the agency still needs to grapple with another $400-million gap in order to balance its budget.

The cash-strapped agency's budget was thrown into further turmoil by the decline in tax revenues and a $143-million reduction in state funding.

"The service cuts that were put in place today will inevitably involve pain for our customers," Walder said. ". . . I wish we could take everything off the table. The reality is the financial situation doesn't allow it."

He said the agency will examine ways to continue reducing administration, renegotiate with major suppliers and drive down overtime. They also have begun meeting with union leaders to look at ways to trim the budget.

Yesterday's vote came after a tense meeting in Manhattan during which the public urged board members to reconsider the service cuts. Each board member spent a few minutes talking about the painful decision.

"This is really a very dark day for metropolitan users," board member Andrew Albert said. "These cuts are as if you went into a into a small town and told a quarter of the population that we are taking your cars away. This transit system is the jewel that keeps New York somewhat, not totally, but somewhat recession-proof."

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn urged board members to use stimulus funds of up to $100 million to plug some of the expected $800-million budget gap.

"These are the worst cuts to the transit system probably in the system's history," Quinn said. ". . . Part of the reason we got this money was to prevent cuts. Just because the MTA didn't think about this option doesn't mean they shouldn't use it."

And a subway station agent who said she is likely to lose her job, Sabrina Greenwood, recounted an incident in January when a child ran under the turnstile and onto the train as his mother was buying a MetroCard. Greenwood said she alerted train authorities and the child was found one stop away, at 125th Street, and returned to his mother.

That would not have happened if an agent were not on duty, Greenwood said.

"They say all I do is sell MetroCards," she said. "I do more than sell MetroCards everyday. I save lives."
Approved MTA cuts for Long Island

Long Island Rail Road

Babylon branch: Fewer trains during morning and evening rush hours

Ronkonkoma branch: Fewer train cars, discontinuation of one P.M. peak train and the elimination of service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport except for summer weekends

Port Washington branch: Fewer P.M. peak trains and less frequent trains during off-peak and weekend times

Long Beach branch: One fewer peak A.M. train and one fewer peak P.M. train

West Hempstead branch: About 17 fewer weekend trains

Atlantic branch: No night service to Brooklyn

Hempstead branch: Reduced number of train cars

Belmont Park Service: Discontinue all Belmont Park Special trains (Wed-Sun) except on day of Belmont Stakes

Oyster Bay branch: One fewer round-trip train on weekends

Port Jefferson branch: One fewer PM peak diesel train

Montauk branch: One fewer train from Hunterspoint

Discontinued bus lines:

N3, N17, N28, N53, N65, N66, N67, N87, N93, N94, N95

Buses with service modifications:

N1, N2, N14, N23, N25, N26, N88

For more details, see the MTA website at'd/stories/

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy Days Are Near Again

A Second Bill of Rights Comes of Age

"We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care."
--President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

As the United States Senate debates -- and the party of "no" attempts to stymie -- health care reform, we take heed of the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, spoken in a fireside chat some sixty-six years ago, expressing not only the hope, but the right, of all Americans to be secure, among other things, in their access to health care.

He implored our elected representatives then, as we do today, to afford every American "adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health," warning of threats to security at home, in the face of enemies abroad. People who are hungry, out of a job, and are denied access to adequate health care, said Roosevelt, " are the stuff of which dictatorships are made."

If there is such a thing as "deja vu, all over again," Franklin Roosevelt called it squarely, citing "the grave dangers of rightest reaction."

Should we yield to the cynicism of the right, retreating rather than advancing, succumbing to fear and ignorance, "then it is certain that, even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of fascism here at home."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be pleased that, at long last, we, as a nation, are making great strides toward fulfilling his Economic Bill of Rights. We can almost see him breaking into that famous broad grin, cigarette holder clenched between his teeth, admonishing the obstreperous Republicans to govern or get out of the way, as America moves boldly forward.
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Franklin Roosevelt

Economic Bill of Rights (1944)

. . . an equally basic essential to peace is a decent standard of living for all individual men and women and children in all nations. Freedom from fear is eternally linked with freedom from want....

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not freemen." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all-regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries, or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won, we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home, there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

One of the great American industrialists of our day-a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of rightist reaction in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop-if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called normalcy of the 1920s - then it is certain that, even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of fascism here at home.

I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights-for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress to do so....
- - -
And now, a recorded message to the Grand Old (and getting older by the minute) Party. [You know. The folks who say "no" to providing access to health care to all Americans; "no" to eliminating pre-existing conditions as a bar to health insurance coverage; "no" to women, who pay more for health insurance than their male counterparts; and "no" to our dependent children under age 26, who, but for the new law of the land, would have no health insurance coverage at all. Why, these blockheads even voted "no" on their own amendments.]

Monday, March 22, 2010

Light(house) At The End Of The Tunnel(vision)?

Myopia Is An Island, Revisited (Or, It's A Small World After All...)

"...We are still a people capable of doing big things..."
--President Barack Obama

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray writes again. A letter to all 200,000 town homeowners -- on their dime -- urging them to think small.

"Scale back" the Lighthouse Project, she says, perhaps a Lighthouse Light. Create yet another new "zone" (a Special Lighthouse Taxing District, perhaps?). "Jump start" a process that has been stalled -- or was that detoured -- for more than a decade.

Jump start? Hmmm. That would require the cables to be attached to a live charge rather than a dead weight, wouldn't it?

A new zone? Narrowing the possibilities of what could be built, and diminishing the prospects of a much-needed rennaisance, not only for the Coliseum and Nassau County, but for the entire region?

Scale back? Yeah, we get it. Downsize our tomorrows here on Long Island. Supplant Herculean ideas with Lilliputian thoughts. Why go for the grand vision when the nearsightedness of diminutive will suffice?

Lighthouse? We thought you said, Blighthouse! That, dear friends, will require more study.

Then again, maybe Kate Murray has a point. Scale back. Start out small. Resurface the Coliseum parking lot. Paint the facade. Add some brick pavers, ornate trash receptacles, and a wrought iron bench, or two. Oh, yeah. And don't forget the Victorian-style streetlamps. We must have those.

Think small. Could it be that "small" is all the Town of Hempstead is capable of doing? Yes, the small stuff. A planter here. A hydrogen-fueled car there. A weed-eating goat. A solar-powered clam. A photo-laden press release for minutia.

Maybe the small stuff holds sway because Kate & Kompany haven't fared so well on the big stuff, like the redevelopment of Roosevelt Raceway, with its Archstone/Moldstone, clogged thoroughfares, and gentle, rolling asphalt landscapes, all in the shadows of Nassau's tallest structure, the Covanta incinerator tower.

Then again, the Town of Hempstead hasn't really gotten much of a handle on the small stuff, either, like opening a supermarket in Elmont, closing a no-tell hotel in West Hempstead, or so much as paving a street, virtually anywhere in the town.

Maybe, for Kate Murray and her ilk, small is best. Freezing all projects -- and all progress -- may even be better.

Rarely can small minds embrace big ideas. In Hempstead Town, even the little ideas, like the low-watt light of the Victorian-style streetlamp, flicker, albeit dimly (just bright enough to afford the camera-shutter the opportunity to open and close), and then, ever so slowly, die on the great Hempstead Plain.

Saving The Whales, Again?

You Bet! And Educating The Public On Preserving Our World Beneath The Sea

Our good friends at Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) are at it again, helping to rescue planet earth from the ravages of pollution, neglect, and envirinmental oversight (literally) by us humans.

And we thank them for it!

Now, CCE invites you to Atlantis Marine World, not to swim with the fishes, but rather, to protect them, as well as all marine life, that inhabit the waters around New York.

Pick a cause, Long Islanders. Any cause. Protecting our environment, for starters, in a very good one, indeed!
- - -


Saving New York's Underwater Grand Canyons:
An Educational Forum on Our Oceans

Join us for this FREE educational forum on our offshore canyons.

Learn about the many whales, birds, and corals that depend on the canyons, their emerging threats, and what we can do to protect our oceans. Attendees will be able to ask questions to a panel of ocean experts. Speakers and panel of experts include:

Dr. Rob DiGiovanni, Riverhead Foundation
Dr. Artie Kopelman, CRESLI, whale expert
Adrienne Esposito, Citizens Campaign for the Environment
Alison Chase, Natural Resources Defense Council

DATE: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TIME: 7:00-9:00 pm

LOCATION: Atlantis Marine World Long Island Aquarium, Riverhead, NY

The Mid-Atlantic’s submarine canyons and seamounts are unique, valuable habitats teeming with ocean life. Corals, sponges, crabs, lobsters, flounder, monkfish, dolphins, and endangered sperm whales are some of the many species that depend on the canyons for shelter and food.

The types of coral and sponges found in the seamounts and canyons have been used in cancer treatments, as models for artificial synthesis of human bone, and to construct more durable optic cables.

The canyons and seamounts face new threats, however, from advances in bottom trawling gear and offshore oil and gas exploration and development. These activities could quickly devastate these fragile marine ecosystems, destroying in moments rare deep corals that took hundreds of years to grow.

Join us at this educational forum to learn more about the offshore canyons, what's being done, and what you can do.

Directions to Atlantis Marine World Long Island Aquarium, Riverhead, NY:

Thank you for joining us. We hope to see you there!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Find A Sexual Predator Near You!

Governor Offers Sex Offender "Alert" System

You know they're out there, but where? Lurking outside schools? Hiding behind bushes? Perhaps living right next door, or in that illegal basement apartment?

Ahhh. Let the paranoia run deep and the imagination run wild!

Anyway, NY Governor David Paterson, having resolved the State's financial difficulties and forgone a run for actual election to the office he now holds, has unveiled NY-ALERT, a system designed to notify you when a registered, high risk sex offender moves into or out of your community. [Is there a list of registered elected officials? We'd like to be alerted when, say, a Hiram Monserrate moves into the neighborhood...]

Here's the Governor's message, with details on how to register with NY-ALERT. [Presumably, sex offenders already know how to get on to the Sex Offender Registry.]

So, now you'll know the comings and goings of every registered sexual predator within earshot.

Of course, it's the ones who are not registered that we most worry about...
- - -
From Governor David Paterson:

Dear New Yorkers,

I have made clear throughout the fiscal crisis that despite our financial difficulties, New York will not shirk from the most fundamental of government obligations – the protection of its citizenry and of its communities. With that in mind, I would like to inform you of an important new initiative I signed and enacted into law that will enable you to automatically receive an alert when a moderate or high-risk sex offender moves into an area of interest to you or your family, NY-ALERT.

Through this new service, you can be notified by e-mail, text message, fax or telephone when a sex offender moves into or out of your community, or even when an offender relocates within a certain radius (from a quarter mile to 25 miles) of your home.

Here’s how it works: As part of the NY-ALERT system, through which 5.8 million New Yorkers receive alerts on everything from natural disasters to traffic congestion. Now, you have an option to sign up for sex offender alerts. After registering at and choosing various options, such as how you want to be notified and your regions of interest, you will receive sex offender relocation notices whenever a Level 2 (moderate risk) or Level 3 (high risk) sex offender listed on the public Sex Offender Registry moves into or out of your designated community of concern. If you do not have access to a computer, you can also subscribe to this important system by calling 1-888-697-6972 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In addition to signing NY-ALERT into law, I have enacted several significant measures to protect New York’s children and families including signing a law (E-STOP) that requires sex offenders to submit their internet information, including e-mail addresses and screen names to the Sex Offender registry; enacting one of the toughest DWI laws in the country, the Child Passenger Protection Act (also known as Leandra’s Law); and signed into law legislation ending the practice of allowing the State’s most violent felons to receive credit for prior sentences, and thereby become eligible for parole far earlier than intended.

Together with the NY-ALERT legislation sponsors, Senator Jeff Klein and Assembly Member Rory Lancman, we will further enhance New York’s efforts at protecting our children and families. I hope that you and your neighbors will take advantage of this important, new service.

David A. Paterson
Governor of New York State

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Lows In Gordon Heights

Fire District Dissolution Hits Impasse As Town Calls For Study

With all the studying we do here on Long Island, one would think we'd raise a smarter crop of elected officials, let alone a more astute electorate.

Gee whiz. How bright a bulb do you have to be to know that a fire district encompassing less than a square mile, costing residents upwards of $1400 per year in property tax per household, should be dissolved, its services consolidated with neighboring districts?

Apparently, they're not all that plugged in in the Town of Brookhaven, where residents of Gordon Heights have Petitioned to dissolve the local fire district -- only to be rebuffed, time and time again, by Town officials.

Reason demands that this special taxing district, serving only 800 homes, be dissolved. Residents of the district, almost to a person (save a fire commissioner, or three) want it to be dissolved. Whatever happened to government efficiency, let alone a town government that is representative of the people's will? [Certainly, we, in the Town of Hempstead, wouldn't know!]

The Town of Brookhaven has commissioned a study to assess the Gordon Heights issue -- a draft (all 195 pages of it) was prepared for "public discussion" by Cameron Engineering, in association (or so the report says) with Vision Long Island (whose side are you guys on, anyway).

The Cameron Report (too verbose to republish here) states, in Executive Summary:

High fire district taxes are the basis for a petition filed with the Town to dissolve the GHFD. There are several responses available to the Town and the District: 1) jurisdictional or operational consolidation of the GHFD into an adjacent district, 2) creation of a Fire Protection District by the Town, 3) reconfiguration of GHFD and adjacent district boundaries, and 4) reduction of GHFD expenses.

Elimination of the GHFD would likely lower taxes, but would also reduce the services residents have come to expect and dissolve an important community institution. Three of the four adjacent districts do not support GHFD dissolution and consolidation and would not likely agree to incorporate it into their district. The Yaphank Fire District has issued no opinion. Creation of a Fire Protection District would require the Town to issue a Request for Proposals. Fire districts and independent fire and EMS services could respond. However, given the position of then surrounding districts, they are unlikely to respond to such an RFP. Contracting with a more distant service provider would increase response times. The Town board would assume the role  of fire commissioners under this scenario.

So, we have to ask, no beg, surrounding fire districts to incorporate Gordon Heights into the districts they serve. Oh pretty please, with sugar on top! These are governmental entities, paid for by the taxpayers. Give us a break!

Why not dissolve each and every one of these special taxing districts, consolidating the fire service under a single jurisdiction? [Somehow it works for NYC, where 8 million residents, and far more than 800 homes, are protected by New York's bravest through one fire department.]

The Executive Summary of the Cameron Report concludes:

The residents of Gordon Heights, the Fire District, and the Town have limited options to address the high taxes associated with fire protection and emergency services. Redistricting may be the most equitable overall, but may be difficult to implement. Three of the four adjoining districts have rejected dissolution and consolidation. The District can lower taxes to a degree by reductions in staffing and equipment. Further savings can accrue through reductions in services.

These savings come with an associated decrease in level of care or an increase in risk tolerance by the community.

"Too difficult to impement?" So we only do what's easy, right? No other district wants to provide the services? Why do we leave them with the choice?

Towns, and government entities, in general, favor studies. Indeed, they love studies. Not for the sake of input or insight, but rather, because studies buy them time. Time to delay. Time to stall. Time to get past the next election. Time for people to forget or move on to sundry other concerns. Time to do nothing.

In Gordon Heights, it's not only the progressives who seek to dismantle the special district fiefdoms. No, the cause has been embraced from both left and right, groups such as the Conservative Society for Action -- comprised of Tea Party activists and Glenn Beck 912ers -- joining the call for dissolution. Strange bedfellows, indeed. And yet, it speaks volumes for the cause of dissolution of wasteful, unnecessary, costly layers of government, the Gordon Heights Fire District chief among them.

There are the few who, laying taxes and logic aside, argue that the Gordon Heights Fire District, which is historically Black, should be preserved, as some kind of ode to Black heritage.

As reported in the North Shore Sun, "Members of the fire department and its board of fire commissioners say they're concerned about the potential for changes negatively impacting emergency services, while undermining the historic significance of the volunteer department -- the area's only all-black fire department, which was established more than 60 years ago."

Absurd. The issue here is not Black, but black and white. It's taxes. It's the propriety of scale. It's government doing the right thing by and for the people it is supposed to serve.

For many years, under decades of one-party rule, the Town of Brookhaven held the unbecoming moniker of Crookhaven. Town Supervisor Mark Lesko was elected to office, in part, to change the town's image and to usher in a new day -- one of integrity, democracy, and service to community above self interest.

Mr. Lesko, and members of the Brookhaven Town Board, you have before you the opportunity, at long last, to return Brookhaven to the good people of the town.

It all starts in Gordon Heights, which is precisely where the unseemly reign of the local fire district as taxus ad nauseus must end.

It is time to dissolve the Gordon Heights fire district, without further study or untoward delay, consolidating services with neighboring departments, whether they like it, or not.

- - -
For a complete copy of the Cameron report, e-mail The Community Alliance at

Long Islanders concerned about special district taxes are encouraged to contact the Town of Brookhaven Supervisor and Board members to express their opinions on the proposed Gordon Heights dissolution.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Tonight I am here to tell you the state of our county is deeply troubled"

Nassau Nausea, As Mangano Delivers State Of The County

An "Emergency Property Tax Stabilization System." Hmmm. Is that anything like the Emergency Broadcast System, or Long Island's Emergency Evacuation Routes?

By "stabilization," do you mean maintaining the status quo of horrifyingly high property taxes, Ed? A multi-year plan versus annual reassessment? So, we'd be stuck where we are, overburdened by the outrageous property tax, for even longer than the present "lag" already accounts for?

An "inherited" problem, Ed? Gee. Where have you been for the past fourteen-plus years? Sure you didn't mean part of the problem that you and your colleagues on the County Legislature helped create?

Did we mention that the new look of the Nassau County website is most pleasing to the eye? Almost as blue as the Newsday site. And we absolutely love the Humingbird Nest Cam! [We didn't see any birds when we clicked on the link. Only an ad for a pest control company that will get rid of birds. Quite effective...]

We're with you on cutting wasteful spending, Ed. Does that include the hiring of friends and political cronies? Will this exercise in being spendthrift translate into a decrease in the bottom lines of our property tax bills?

We clicked on the job opportunities link. What jobs? Where? When? For whom? And please, times are tough enough for your average Nassau County resident. Must we be beseiged, web page after web page, with photos of Peter Schmitt?

By the way, get past the new look of Nassau County's home page and you pretty much have the same old Nassau County website, sans any reference (other than a swift kick in the shin) to the Suozzi administration. Only the faces have changed. Or not. Click on the County Exec's home page, and what's the first thing we see? A photo of Ed Mangano and Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray surveying damage after the recent noreaster. [If a tree falls and Kate's not around with a camera will there still be a photo op?]

But we digress...

About that State of the County Address. You would think that someone with half a brain at the County -- Schmitt, sit down (we said half a brain...) would have the full address (video and text) posted on the County Exec's website more than 12 hours after the speech. No such luck as of the time this blogpost was published. Just more of the Humingbird Nests, and the Shiba Inu Puppy Cam. Thank heaven for the Newsday blogs! [You can read the Mangano address in its entirety, as well as the the Democrats' response, which, interestingly, precedes the Mangano speech on the blog.]

Yes, "the state of our county is deeply troubled."

The County Exec began his address quoting Honest Abe. "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

The real facts, indeed. Not hyperbole. Not blame the other guy. Not smoke and mirrors. Facts.

Did you say "truth," Ed? Can Nassau County residents handle the truth? Can anyone in government tell us the truth?

Yes, Ed is taking back our parks (he can keep most of them), reinventing the assessment, and changing the State's Presidential Primary date to follow that of New Hampshire's.

Ahh. The State of the County. It's a mess, and we're going from worse to worserer. But heck, at least we now have a terrorist control center in Bethpage. "A small step for Bin Ladin. A giant leap for Homeland Security."

By the way, did we mention that Ed Mangano and the Nassau County Legislature repealed that irksome Energy Tax? Hope you're enjoying the savings. [That and $2.25 will get you on a Nassau bus.] Oh wait. It won't take effect until June. Will we get a rebate check in the mail?

You can -- and should -- read Ed Mangano's speech in full, deciding for yourself whether it is long on promise but short on delivery.

Ed conculded with more words from Lincoln: "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm."

Stand firm, Ed. Not stand pat. Not go back to the last time your party held roost over both executive and legislature. Not empty words uttered from the podium without a true plan of action to see them played out for the benefit of the populace.

Diane Yatauro, offering the Democratic rebuttal, closed with these words:

You made a promise of bi-partisan dialog, And you pledged to lower our taxes. Well, my friend, you have been in office for 3 months and to date you have not met with me or spoken about your plans to lower our taxes.

My caucus represents 8 of your districts, Which totals more than a half million residents. As the Minority Leader I await an invitation to work with you.

Nassau County is our home; working together we can create a stronger County.

I am grateful to have had this opportunity to speak with you.

Thank You and Good Night.

Good night? How cound any of us have a good night, here in a county both deeply divided and, as conceded by Mr. Mangano, "deeply troubled."

Perhaps that tagline should have been, "Good night and good luck!"

Too bad most of the kids in this video will grow up and leave Long Island. Keeping Generation Next here should be, if not a top priority for the Mangano administration, then, at least, an honorable mention.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A STAR Is Reborn?

Skelos Looks To Revive Property Tax Rebate; Institute Tax Cap

And you thought there was no money left in Albany to be doled out?

Ha! Have you forgotten this is an election year, with millions to be spent defending Senate and Assembly seats, but not quite as many cents to be spent on aid to education, health care, or transportation?

Hey, we like getting a check in the mail as much as the next fella, but where's the money coming from, but for the other pocket NYS has its hand in?

Savings from the tax cap? What savings? First off, a cap is not a cut. It simply reduces the rate of property tax escalation. School districts will still need the funding (after all, upwards of 80% of most school budgets are fixed/contractual costs), and if it isn't coming from the State as aid, or from homeowners as a tax levy, where's it coming from? More borrowing?

We know. The soda tax.

Yes. Eliminate unfunded mandates (and tell the feds to do likewise). But don't just put a Band-Aid on the severed artery known as the school property tax. Actually fix the problem (most of which stems from Albany), starting with the outdated and virtually incomprehensible State Aid formulae, responsible, in great measure, for the inequity of and disparity in school funding, and continuing on to the very way we finance schools here in New York, through a regressive property tax.

What's that you say? You'll pay for the property tax cap by capping State spending?

Whoa! Look out the window, folks. There goes another flying pig...
- - -
And now, a message from NYS Senator Dean Skelos:

Dear Friend:

This past week I announced a straightforward, common sense plan that would provide a property tax rebate for every middle class family.

This three-part plan includes:

1. PROPERTY TAX REBATES: Homeowners would receive a property tax relief check equal to their 2008 STAR property tax rebate or the amount calculated under a new "circuit breaker" tax credit, whichever is higher.

2. CAP ON PROPERTY TAXES: There would be a cap on property taxes that would finally put the brakes on runaway tax increases.

3. REDUCE COSTS FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS THAT DRIVE UP TAXES: A permanent ban on all unfunded mandates, along with implementation of new reforms at the State Education Department to keep costs down.

My three-part plan would be paid for with savings generated from passage of a cap on State spending. This comprehensive package would usher in a new era of economic freedom for hard-working middle class families.

As always, I will continue to keep you posted on my progress.

Very Truly Yours,
Dean G. Skelos
Senator - 9th District

P.S. If you would like to read more about my plan to restore your rebate check and lower your property taxes, click here.
- - -
The latest: Former Governor George Pataki endorses Rick Lazio for Governor. Now that's heartening. Peter King endorses Lazio, too. [Come on. We need one more Stooge in that picture. Peter Schmitt. Step up!] What next, former Governor Mario Cuomo endorsing Andrew Cuomo for Governor?
- - -
In the wings: A fresh, new look for Nassau County's website ushers in the Mangano Plan.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Eminent Elmont

Ergo, No Argo

Well, Well. What do you know?

The Hempstead Town Board voted unanimously to take back Elmont -- or at least a vital part of the town -- by Eminent Domain. Bravo!

The once charming Argo theater -- now little more than a lowly brownfield, the next showing scheduled to play out somewhere at the intersection of blight and neglect -- to be demolished, a spanking new supermarket to rise in its stead. Hooray!

Kudos to the Town Board -- especially Councilman Ed Ambrosino, who has been a catalyst in the movement to raise Elmont from the ashes. And, we suppose, a big "thank you" to Town Supervisor, Kate Murray (the second in as many weeks. OMG!) for taking the next step in the suburban revitalization process.

Yes, we've heard all of this before, and have even borne witness to the votes of the Town Board, giving the legislative nod to such intended instruments of renewal and growth as blight designations and urban renewal plans, all signifying little or nothing on the great stage that is the gateway to Nassau County.

True, the owners of the rat hole that is the old Argo property, and neighboring properties, bent on keeping Elmont down in the dumps (literally) have sued the Town of Hempstead to stop the "taking" of their properties for a "higher use." [In this instance, the taking of the Argo in favor of a sewage treatment plant would be a "higher use."]

Still, the Town's vote in favor of progress along Hempstead Turnpike, that twenty miles of ugly, its willingness to stand up to those who would stall the renaissance that Elmont so desperately needs, and its commitment, at long last, to give the community what its residents have been clamoring for lo these many decades -- a supermarket -- speaks volumes. [Could finality for the Lighthouse Project be far behind?]

Agreed. We've heard this all before, in Elmont and other communities. And yet, where the Town folk could have stood pat, sitting on hands, heads firmly placed up respective posteriors (a neat trick, perfected to an art form years ago by Town officials in the "Stand Pat, Sit on Hands, Up Yours" Special Taxing District), waiting for the courts, or the likes of a modern-day Godot, to decide Elmont's fate, they did not. Instead, or so it would appear, they are preparing to "take" the bull (by Eminent Domain), rather than to simply dish it out. Huzzah!

With millions in grant money in hand (better use it before Dick Ravitch leverages it into debt), thanks to State Senator Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Tom Alfano, Elmont is poised, like the Phoenix (or was it Scottsdale?) to rise.

Will the demise of the Argo, clearing the way for the rebirth of the Elmont community, now come to pass? Or will best laid plans and Town Board votes fall short -- ala the Courtesy in West Hempstead and Grand Avenue in Baldwin -- leaving but blight and brownfields in the wake?

Time will tell. While caution dictates a "wait and see" here in Elmont, we're hoping to "see" sooner rather than later.
- - -
From Newsday:

Town's renewal plan to uproot Elmont businesses


Over intense objections from property and business owners, the Hempstead Town Board Tuesday adopted an urban renewal plan for Elmont that would uproot 23 businesses and force their landowners to sell to a developer who would build a supermarket.

Supervisor Kate Murray and the six council members voted unanimously to move forward with the redevelopment of the former Argo Movie Theater and adjacent properties in Elmont's business corridor, a stone's throw from Belmont Park racetrack.

Town officials said they will use the power of eminent domain to seize the properties if the four owners and the developer, yet to be named, are unable to reach deals on their own.

At Tuesday's public hearing, all four property owners urged officials to consider an alternate site, raising a host of objections from economic hardship to fairness.

Three of the owners expressed outrage that in a free country, the government could force them to sell their land to a private developer. That only happens, they said, in a Socialist or Communist country.

"It sounds like I am living in China," said Lawrence Liu, one of the property owners.

Edward Ambrosino, the councilman who represents Elmont, said residents and civic leaders met over the years to discuss ways to revitalize the community and concluded there's a need for a full-service supermarket.

The properties at Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road, when combined with an adjacent town-owned parking lot, could accommodate a 40,000-square-foot supermarket, Ambrosino said.

"We have an obligation to try to address the needs of our constituents," he said after the meeting. Years ago, Hempstead used eminent domain to acquire properties west of the Argo as part a plan to build affordable homes, Ambrosino said. Today, the site, totaling about 25,000 square feet, remains empty.

Under urban renewal, Hempstead is permitted to use eminent domain to seize properties that the town deems blighted or underutilized, said Eliot Bloom, special counsel hired by the town's Planning Department for the Elmont project.

Two developers, Darcon Construction of Elmont and Mattone Group of Queens, have submitted proposals to build a supermarket, Bloom said.

The planning department expects to recommend one of the developers to the town board in a month or two, Bloom said. The developer would then meet with the landowners to negotiate the sale.

Tess Mittman, who owns the former Argo Movie Theater, and Jay Oberlender, another property owner, are suing the town to stop the sale.

If underutilized property is a yardstick town officials use to seize private land, Oberlender said, then all property owners should be alarmed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Does Ravitch Plan Ravage New York?

"Dick" Offers Up Advice On Saving State From Fiscal Morass

In financial circles, when Richard Ravitch -- often credited with saving NYC from default -- speaks, governmental authorities typically stop and listen.

So when the Lieutenant Governor offered up a 5-year plan to salvage New York's sagging economy, folks stopped and took note.

Among the proposals placed on the table (though not altogether palatable) are:

- The paydown of the existing budget gap within 5 years;
- Creation of an independent financial review board;
- Borrowing by the State, within stringent guidelines, and conditioned upon a limited timeframe for repayment.

What? More borrowing? Isn't that what got New York into this deep hole in the first place? Ahhh. Till debt do us part...

Okay. All municipalities borrow. You can't operate government, or so it would seem, without at least a modicum of debt. [Why not?]

The Ravitch treatise is a long one. Sometimes well reasoned. Other times, rambling.

Greater oversight. Less spending. Prudent accounting. Transparent accountability. All good.

But what of the burden of property taxes, that keeps New York's economy from growing, and NYers constantly owing? How about reducing the size and scope of government? [Consolidation, anyone?] And what about spending no more than the Empire State actually has on hand -- as in, no more borrowing?

No, we guess you can't expect the State of New York to be run like a fiscally prudent household. [Why not?]

John Faso, late of GOP candidacy for governor and currently hobnobbing with New Yorkers For Growth, conjures up a response to the Ravitch Plan. It is partisan, to be sure, and offers little in the way of more than a topical salve to ease the State's financial woes.

Still, some points are well taken, and remedies -- though surely not of Albany's devise -- worthy of consideration, if not implementation.

The key to New York's financial salvation lies not so much in the obtuse or sublime. The solution is obvious, though decidedly painful, especially in a legislative election year.

Stop the spending. Raise income taxes. And cut, cut, cut. Ouch! [There. We said it. Then again, we're not running for public office...]
- - -
From the New York Post:
Beyond NY's gaps


LT. Gov. Dick Ravitch yester day outlined a five-year financial-recovery plan to plug the state's immediate $9 billion budget hole and address its looming $60 billion structural deficit over the next half decade.

His two big fixes? More debt to finance current operating deficits, and a new body to oversee long-term budget cuts.

Both are flawed.

Ravitch proposed that the state issue up to $6 billion of new debt over the next three years -- 10 percent of the five-year structural deficit -- to help ease its path to fiscal health. And he envisioned the creation of a financial-review board, composed of five independent citizens, to make sure the state is cutting its massive structural deficit.

"It is not, in my judgment, possible to cut nine and a half billion dollars . . . out of this budget this coming year," Ravitch said yesterday. "Not only because I believe it to be a political impossibility, given the varied dispositions of the members of the Legislature. But because there is a level of cuts, no matter what everyone's politics are, [that] affects employment, it affects human beings."

But interest costs on the state's debt are already now about $5 billion a year and rising, so borrowing yet more is hardly a great idea. The state repeatedly has tried to borrow its way out of its problems -- most recently after 9/11 -- and also routinely has enacted counterproductive tax and fee increases, all on the promise that it would be the very last time that it would resort to such "emergency" measures.

The financial-review board would determine whether state spending or revenues are seriously out of whack, then authorize the governor to make automatic reductions in spending. But unlike the financial-control board that the state imposed upon a bankrupt New York City in the 1970s, this new board would be powerless to address one of the main cost-drivers killing the state's economy: public-employee contracts, pensions and benefit packages, and the state laws dictating these agreements.

Ravitch has performed a public service by again attempting to focus the attention of state officials and its citizenry on the fact that New York has been living beyond its means for many years. As he pointed out, the state has squandered federal stimulus money and didn't restrain spending and taxes, and our fiscal dilemma has only gotten worse. Surely, a more disciplined budget process would help New York establish spending priorities and lessen our dependence upon fiscal gimmicks and one-time revenues to balance budgets.

But the short- and long-term issue for New York isn't budget reform. Instead, New York needs a radical overhaul in state and local governance. Government needs to be consolidated, especially at the local and school-district levels, and costs need to be cut. In this time of economic travail, it is instructive that public employees statewide are projected to receive more than $2 billion in raises during 2010. Yet, the new Financial Review Board would have no authority to disapprove state-employee union contracts, much less have any role in the more expensive local ones.

Plus, many in Albany and around New York still haven't come to grips with the fact that New York is an economic basket case. Ravitch's report highlights the loss of population we've experienced and the over-reliance upon Wall Street as the engine of state tax revenue. But will people listen?

New York does have a way out, but the path won't be cleared by rearranging deck chairs. Instead, the state needs to embark upon a radically different, pro-growth strategy emphasizing private-sector job growth.

That means:

* Cutting taxes on businesses, both large and small.

* Streamlining environmental and zoning rules to encourage private investment and speedier permit approvals.

* Reducing the size and scope of government by consolidating services and functions.

* Eliminating borrowing that isn't approved by voters.

* Capping property taxes.

* Cutting health-insurance costs by eliminating state taxes on health insurance and allowing insurers to offer a greater variety of plans.

* Abolishing job-killing taxes on energy to help create jobs.

Simply put, we need to make New York a state where business and entrepreneurs create private-sector jobs.

Ravitch continues his long and admirable record of public service by highlighting the need for the state to reduce costs and restore fiscal stability over the next five years. But to truly restore New York and make it a place where people want to work and raise their families, we need policies to promote private-sector economic growth.

John Faso, the 2006 GOP can didate for governor, is a co- founder of New Yorkers for Growth.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Whatever Happened To The New Suburbia?

Where Sustainability Translates Into Status Quo

For many of us who have been suburbanites, calling Long Island home, for more than a quarter of a century, the walk -- or drive, as is typically the case -- "downtown" via "Main Street" reveals, much to our collective dismay, that little has changed to improve the myriad debilitating ills from which the suburban landscape suffers.

Blight. Neglect. Brownfields. The asphalt assault against every last spec of green space.

There is a stagnation, moved, if ever so slowly, by a creeping paralysis, into the vast void of suburban abyss.

Renewal plans come and go, as do the ever-enduring artists' renderings of what could be, should be. Hopes, but ephemeral, are dashed, time and time again. Years, nay, decades pass. Nothing.

There is visioning aplenty, if not a vision beyond the myopia that pervades both public and private spheres.

Vision Long Island. Sustainable Long Island. Civic and community groups, all vying for that look forward.

Smart Growth initiatives abound, and yet, beyond the talk of sustainability, most Long Island communities have little or nothing to show for it.

From rejuvenating a tired and aging infrastructure to the infusion of affordable housing, it would seem, from all indications, that Long Island is, at best, mired in quicksand. Almost imperceptibly, we are sinking, as sure as that suburban dream is fleeting.

If the trend is toward the new urbanism -- and it is -- where does that leave America's first suburb? Do we not need a competing, or better still, coexisting, new suburbanism?

Overtaxed. Built out. Sprawled. Gnarled. Listing and listless. Generation Next on the move -- off Long Island. Generation Last, indifferent, at best.

Is our suburban backyard a bastion of "exurban decay", as some suggest? Is there truly a "war against suburbia"? Or is there hope for a brighter, greener, more prosperous suburban dream?

In the coming weeks, The Community Alliance blog will begin to explore the prospects of Long Island as Mecca of the new suburban dream, unveiling Long Island 2020. More foresight than hindsight, visionary pursuit over mere visioning, we will, with the help of community leaders and elected representatives, formulate a viable, doable, ennobling, enabling game plan for the second-coming of America's first, and best, suburb.

We will put heads together and, from time to time, butt them. We will tackle the tough and seemingly intractable issues that have tarnished Long Island's crown. We will discuss, debate, and decide the best course for our suburban habitat. More than this, we will act.

Ideas? Thoughts? Plans of action? Want to get involved? Write to The Community Alliance at

Be a very real and integral part of Long Island's renaissance. Embrace our philosophy that the status quo is never good enough. End the stagnation so we can move Long Island forward again!

A Project of The Community Alliance
A New Era for America's First Suburb

Friday, March 05, 2010

What Really Killed The Dinosaurs?

Now It Can Be Told!

Was it a cataclysmic event, ala a giant asteroid smashing into the earth, the intense firestorm, the dust blocking the sun, the planet cooling, vegetation dying, yada, yada, yada?

No. No. And no again.

It was the property taxes, stupid dinosaurs!

Yes, scientific results are in. PROPERTY TAXES DOOMED THE DINOSAURS. [And that big "freeze" didn't help!]

The 2010 Statement of Taxes for the Town of Hempstead -- County of Nassau has arrived, and, true to her word, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray "froze" Town taxes, as promised. Indeed, in almost all categories, the tax levy was actually lowered, if but a smidgen.

That deserves a "Thank you, Kate Murray." Let no one say we never had anything nice to say about Kate.

Will Town taxes be frozen again for 2011, a non-election year for the Town's chief exec? We shall see.

Before you get all smiley, thinking of ways to spend that spare change the tax "freeze" has caused to jingle in your pockets, look a bit closer at your tax receipt.

While Town taxes have been held in check, not necessarily so for the Town's special districts, "local control" notwithstanding.

Astonishingly, the tax levy for the Sanitary Districts, at least in SD6, did not increase. Then again, how much higher than $21.6 million total tax levy/$654.41 per household -- more than half of the total tax paid to the Town of Hempstead, and nearly twice the per household tax paid for the County-General Purposes -- can a tax to collect garbage actually go? [Add to this insult the levy of $53.64 million/$291.74 per household for the Town's Refuse Disposal District, and you're out-of-pocket a whopping $946.15 per household, for a total trash tax levy of more than $75 million. Is it any wonder many of us have trouble making ends meet?]

The Water District raised the levy by nearly 6%. [We told you to put those barrels out to collect the summer rains and the melting snows.] The local Fire District upped its levy by only 0.5%. [Guess with all that water, there are less fires.]

Freeze or no freeze, we are still paying a tax levy of more than $60 million for Town Highway Repairs/Improvements. Indeed, we've noticed the "improvement" in the Town's potholes this year. They're bigger and better than ever!

Still being asked, but never quite answered, is why we pay so darn much, not only for County Police [$162 million tax levy/$703.64 (just a tad more than for garbage collection) per household, but for that funny little thing called County Police Headquarters, coming in this year with a levy of nearly $127.4 million/$535.38 per household. [True, we pay more for trash collection than we do for police headquarters, but what in the names of Dick Tracy and Officer Joe Bolton is going on down at headquarters to mandate such an outrageous levy? Pensions? Health benefits? Those fancy boots for Highway Patrol?]

We also noticed that the local County Sewage Collection District raised its tax levy by some 22.5%. Hey, you need big sewers to handle all the crap they shove our way, and considering, when walking "downtown" or along "Main Street," it's pretty much a sewer out there, the tax levy of a mere $1.4 million/$69.20 per household is quite a bargain.

So, where did all the dinosaurs go? Extinct?

Not quite. Some of them went into politics, and are still said to be "representing" us in government at all levels. The rest have left Long Island for more hospitable, and less costly climes, in hopes of avoiding the fallout from that next big rock from the sky. You know. The fiery orb that burns through our pockets leaving but a vacuous void.

Propertytaxus extinctus. . .
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It's official: An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) – A giant asteroid smashing into Earth is the only plausible explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs, a global scientific team said on Thursday, hoping to settle a row that has divided experts for decades.

A panel of 41 scientists from across the world reviewed 20 years' worth of research to try to confirm the cause of the so-called Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) extinction, which created a "hellish environment" around 65 million years ago and wiped out more than half of all species on the planet.

Scientific opinion was split over whether the extinction was caused by an asteroid or by volcanic activity in the Deccan Traps in what is now India, where there were a series of super volcanic eruptions that lasted around 1.5 million years.

The new study, conducted by scientists from Europe, the United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan and published in the journal Science, found that a 15-kilometre (9 miles) wide asteroid slamming into Earth at Chicxulub in what is now Mexico was the culprit.

"We now have great confidence that an asteroid was the cause of the KT extinction. This triggered large-scale fires, earthquakes measuring more than 10 on the Richter scale, and continental landslides, which created tsunamis," said Joanna Morgan of Imperial College London, a co-author of the review.

The asteroid is thought to have hit Earth with a force a billion times more powerful than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

Morgan said the "final nail in the coffin for the dinosaurs" came when blasted material flew into the atmosphere, shrouding the planet in darkness, causing a global winter and "killing off many species that couldn't adapt to this hellish environment."

Scientists working on the study analyzed the work of paleontologists, geochemists, climate modelers, geophysicists and sedimentologists who have been collecting evidence about the KT extinction over the last 20 years.

Geological records show the event that triggered the dinosaurs' demise rapidly destroyed marine and land ecosystems, they said, and the asteroid hit "is the only plausible explanation for this."

Peter Schulte of the University of Erlangen in Germany, a lead author on the study, said fossil records clearly show a mass extinction about 65.5 million years ago -- a time now known as the K-Pg boundary.

Despite evidence of active volcanism in India, marine and land ecosystems only showed minor changes in the 500,000 years before the K-Pg boundary, suggesting the extinction did not come earlier and was not prompted by eruptions.

The Deccan volcano theory is also thrown into doubt by models of atmospheric chemistry, the team said, which show the asteroid impact would have released much larger amounts of sulphur, dust and soot in a much shorter time than the volcanic eruptions could have, causing extreme darkening and cooling.

Gareth Collins, another co-author from Imperial College, said the asteroid impact created a "hellish day" that signaled the end of the 160-million-year reign of the dinosaurs, but also turned out to be a great day for mammals.

"The KT extinction was a pivotal moment in Earth's history, which ultimately paved the way for humans to become the dominant species on Earth," he wrote in a commentary on the study.

(Collins has created a website at which allows readers to see the effects of the asteroid impact.)
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Your property tax bill is on its way. Watch the skies. . .

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Long Island's Transit-Disoriented Development

Proposed MTA Cuts Would Curtail Train Service And Derail Island's Economic Growth

"We can't have transit-oriented development without transit."
--Eric Alexander, executive director, Vision Long Island

Ya think?

If getting around Long Island other than by car weren't already so difficult, what with local means of transportation limited to the automobile or LI Bus (where service timetables are thrown under that proverbial bus, and does it really get you where you need to be, when you want to go?), the MTA plans to cut service -- and, in some instances, eliminate it entirely (as in weekend service on the West Hempstead branch of the LIRR, cancellation of service from Ronkonkoma to Greenport except for summer weekends, the reduction of trains on the Port Washington branch, and the elimination of 13 Long Island Bus routes).


Talk about a stab-in-the-chest to highly-touted and much in demand transit-oriented development, revitalizing downtown with residential, recreational and commercial growth centered around existing transportation hubs, such as LIRR stations.

West Hempstead's shot at downtown redemption, too long delayed though it has been (thank you, Kate Murray), hinged hopes on the demolition of the infamous Courtesy Hotel, rising in its place a beneficial mix of residences (high-end rental units), businesses, and green space, all within steps of the LIRR station.

Great news -- but for the fact that the struggling MTA intends to do away entirely with weekend service on the line that would serve the new development.

So much for being transit-oriented.

True, savings could be had by eliminating highly-paid positions at the MTA, its failed and incompetent board, or the agency itself, which obviously is incapable of managing our tax money, let alone running a railroad. [In private industry, these execs would be fired. In Japan, they'd likely commit hari kari. (Take that, Mr. Toyoda)]

But noooooooo. Here in New York, under the auspices of this God-awful public authority (public nuisance is more like it), the rich get richer (and they get Metrocards, too), and the rest of us get to take a hike, literally.

Transit-oriented development opens the door to growth, gives moment to community's resurgence -- particularly in our forgotten and neglected downtown business districts -- and is the very hallmark of sustainability.

The MTA does a diservice to the Long Island community by proposing to trim rail (and bus) service to our towns and hamlets, cutting vital arteries when we sorely need a shot in the arm.

Like the abandoned rail lines that wend through uninhabited ghost towns, the MTA's portended actions threaten to destabilize Long Island, further hasten the departure (by car, no doubt) of the island's youth and essential workforce, and stagnate the local economy more so than it already is.

Be mindful of the gap. Too bad no one at MTA was...
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From our good friends at the West Hempstead Community Support and Civic Associations:

As a follow up of the March 1st MTA Public Hearing, I want to let you know that I attended the hearing and spoke about the detrimental impact the proposed elimination of the 8:28 AM weekday train and the elimination of weekend service on the West Hempstead Branch of the LIRR would have on our residents and business owners. We all have to start applying pressure to keep these cuts from happening.

One person, even when speaking on behalf of virtually everyone living in West Hempstead, is never as powerful, nor as convincing as "hundreds of letters AND emails" coming from the people who live in West Hempstead. It is fully understandable, given the time of the meeting, that many of you were unable to attend, but, everyone can send a letter and/or an email. Phone calls to the MTA are equally as important. Let their switchboard light up, and maybe they will see the "light".

Send a brief letter or email, to our state representatives, telling them you are opposed to the proposed elimination of the 8:28 AM weekday train from the West Hempstead Branch of the LIRR, and the elimination of weekend service on the West Hempstead Branch. Urge them to stop the MTA from making service cuts to the West Hempstead Branch of the LIRR. Letters should be sent to:

Senator Dean Skelos - 55 Front St., Rockville Centre, NY 11570

Assemblyman Tom Alfano - 925 Hempstead Tpke, Franklin Square, NY 11010
E-mail: or

CALL the MTA at: (212) 878-7483, in addition go to their website to register your opposition.

MTA website:

Working together we can prevent this from happening. Reach out to your neighbors and friends asking them to write letters and call the MTA telling them you are opposed to their proposals to cut services on the West Hempstead Branch of the LIRR.

Thank you,
Rosalie Norton
President, WHCSCA
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From the pages of Newsday:

Train, bus service cuts protested at MTA hearing


Outraged commuters, politicians and union members excoriated Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials Monday night in a rowdy public hearing on planned service cuts at the Long Island Rail Road, Long Island Bus and other MTA agencies.

"I've been crushed, stepped on, sat on," said Debbie Kouns, 42, who commutes two hours each way by bus from Huntington to her job at a doctor's office in Port Washington.

"Skin-to-skin contact-that's nasty, that's disgusting," she said, describing bus overcrowding to the officials, including MTA chairman Jay H. Walder and board members Mitchell Pally and Allen Cappelli.

"Health risk is involved," Kouns said. "But you don't care about that, do you?"

As the audience whooped and whistled, a man in the audience shouted: "They have drivers!"

Some 300 people, many wearing union T-shirts, attended the public hearing - one of nine being held across the region and the first of two on Long Island - which began shortly after 6 p.m. at Chateau Briand, 440 Old Country Rd.

In December, facing a $383-million gap in its 2010 budget, the MTA board approved broad service and administrative reductions across its agencies. But the transportation authority must hear from riders before the board votes to adopt specific service changes in service.

A second Long Island hearing will be held March 8 at Riverhead County Center, at 210 Center Dr., in Riverhead.

The proposed cuts include the cancellation of LIRR service from Ronkonkoma to Greenport except for summer weekends, the reduction of trains on the Port Washington branch and the elimination of 13 Long Island Bus routes.

The railroad announced last week that it would eliminate about 90 administrative jobs and some 60 other workers, mostly engineers and conductors.

LIRR officials said that those cuts are just the first wave, as the MTA struggles to regain financial footing after addressing its $383-million deficit in December, only to learn that it now faces another $378-million drop in tax revenue.

Monday night a parade of elected officials, from Malverne Mayor Patricia Norris-McDonald to staffers representing state senators and Assembly members - who were in legislative session in Albany - blasted the MTA for laying off workers and cutting service after the state bailed out the agency last year with a new payroll tax.

"What you're doing is 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where you should be going," Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) said. "What happened? You got your new tax."

Speaking to reporters before the hearing, Walder called service cuts "inevitable" because of the $750-million financial hole his agency faces.

"The service changes do involve pain," he said."They will affect people's lives and they will make it more difficult for people to get to work.

. . . We're sorry about that. Unfortunately we can't spend money that we don't have."

But rider advocates and development experts questioned Walder's plan Monday, arguing that the agency could transfer $90 million in stimulus funds from its capital budget to supplement its operating budget.

Calling the cuts "horrific" and "tone-deaf," Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, said: "We can't have transit-oriented development without transit."