Friday, April 30, 2010

If You're Not Following Us On Twitter. . .

. . .You're Missing Out On Long Island's Premier Community Blog (If we must say so ourselves ;-)

An Urgent Appeal For Green

From The Folks Who Help Keep Long Island Green

Our good friends at the Long Island Neighborhood Network, the very people who introduced organic landscaping to the Island, are seeing less green these days -- and not only on lawns and in open spaces.

Yes, times are tough all over, but if we want to keep our drinking water safe and the air we breathe clean, we need the Neighborhood Network to frame the issues, plant the seeds (literally and figuratively), and take up the many causes of green living.

Hey, they do it for us, day in and day out. Now's the chance to do something for them. In helping Heighborhood Network, in a very real sense, we truly help ourselves!
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From Neighborhood Network:

Dear Friend of the Neighborhood Network,

Here on Long Island we face issues that are distinct from much of the rest of New York State and the nation. The Neighborhood Network is the only multi-issue environmental organization with a membership and mission that is focused on Long Island as a region. Generous support from our members and sponsors allows us to set an ambitious agenda for protecting Long Island's environment. See the sidebar to the right to get a sense of some of our recent accomplishments. I would like to ask you to consider making a contribution today to support the Neighborhood Network in our mission to protect Long Island’s vital natural resources.

When the Neighborhood Network started in 1984, we gained new members and supporters, and informed Long Island communities to important environmental issues by going door to door. It gave us the opportunity to make real one to one connections, have dialogues with members of the community, and build a strong network of informed, active supporters. Twenty-six years later, we are still committed to networking with individual Long Islanders to build the clout we need to make positive change.

New technology has given us greater opportunities to communicate with our members and supporters. Email, blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can allow us to get our message out and get feedback more quickly, to more people and at a fraction of the cost. But we still need your support to continue the research, public education and advocacy we are engaged in every day to protect Long Island's environment. We are asking members and supporters who receive our eUpdates to make a special contribution today, to help us continue this vital mission.

Our goal is to increase our network of environmentally aware, engaged citizens and consumers, and to grow that network into a movement that demands change. To transform Long Island into a national leader in adopting sound environmental policy and demanding sustainable products and services.

Your generosity will make an immediate difference in the protection of Long Island’s environment and natural resources. We would like to ask that you take a moment now to make a secure online contribution at Giving online helps us greatly reduce our fundraising expenses and allows us to devote more of your contribution to the program efforts of the Neighborhood Network.

If you would prefer not to contribute online, you can mail a check to:

Neighborhood Network
7180 Republic Airport
Farmingdale, NY 11735
or call us at 631-963-5454 to give by credit card over the phone.

Please let us know if there is any additional information you would like about the Neighborhood Network’s agenda. We hope to hear from you soon.

Networking together, we can protect the environment.

Thank you,
Demosthenes Maratos
Program Director

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Show Us Your Papers

Fees At County Parks Proposed For Non-Residents

First Arizona. Now Nassau County?

Okay. Okay. This one may just make sense, at least on paper.

Charge non-Nassau County residents to enter and use Nassau County's parks and recreational facilities.

The County administration is considering this non-resident pay-as-you-go pilot program, and our good friend Brue Piel of PARCnassau lays it all out for us.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? We report. You decide! ;-)
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From PARCnassau:

To facilitate park usage by county residents (taxpayers), we recently made the following proposal:

"We would like to propose a pilot program for paid admittance to county parks by non-residents. Technically, the Nassau county park system is a “closed” system with admittance for residents only. The exceptions were and are museums, historic sites and preserves.

In fact, for all intents and purposes it has evolved into an “open” park system with unmanned gates and little or no screening which allows anyone to enter and enjoy the facility. Most park amenities have both resident and non-resident rates already. So the effect would be minimal on non-resident use. To facilitate and control usage of our neighborhood parks, which would be all but Eisenhower, we are suggesting all parks’ gates to be monitored with only residents' vehicles permitted in without restriction. Non-resident vehicles would be charged a fee, consider $5.00, to enter and issued a receipt.

This would have two benefits. The first is that the park directors could control and monitor access and when necessary restrict non-resident access when overcrowding or other problems exist. It would insure that tax-paying residents would have priority to use their parks. The second benefit would be the revenue generated would pay for the seasonal help used at the gates with the profit deposited in the county treasury.

Eisenhower Park presents a unique problem, in that the main road through the facility is a major commuter road in the mornings and evenings. In addition, the ethnic festivals all summer long have always permitted free access to anyone. A dual fee system at the golf courses and other amenities is in place and could be increased as an alternative. The Aquatic Center , because of the federal and state monies used in its construction must be open to everyone. It therefore has its own entrance from Merrick Avenue and its own parking lot, separate from the rest of the park. The center too has a dual fee system."

The county has indicated they will implement the pilot program. As usual the devil is in the details. The simplest solution to all the "what ifs....." is that county residents sign up for a 3 year leisure pass for $25 (works out to about $8.33 per year). Presenting that at the gate would speed up entry and most park amenities, i.e., pools, golf courses, etc require the pass anyway.

Car pooling, using a resident vehicle might be considered for family picnics, ball teams, etc. Day camps that bus their children into county parks should pay a entry (use) fee based on the size of the bus. Forty dollars for a large school type bus and $20 for a small van.

Bottom line is if non-residents wish to enjoy our parks they must help support them, financially. In all cases, residents should have priority in entering and using all Nassau County Park facilities. Monitoring the gates permits the county to deny entrance to those with a history of anti-social or illegal behavior. What do you think?

E-mail your thoughts and comments to PARCnassau at, and to The Community Alliance at

Bruce Piel
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh, NY 11793
(516) 783-8378

Rebuilding The Burbs From Main Street To Your Street

Re-Envisioning Downtown As Both Mecca And Mission

We often blog, only half in jest, that about the only things we're sustaining here on Long Island are blight, brownfields, and sky high property taxes, none of which are really sustainable if Long Island is to survive, let alone thrive.

Fortunately, orgainizations such as Sustainable Long Island scoff at the idea that suburbia's best days are behind her, and, through the advancement of smart growth precepts and principles, continue to move us from sprawl and mall back to our roots -- the walkable, shopable, and, yes, livable downtown.

Our downtowns are the backbones of community, the very spokes from which all else in our suburban cornucopia emenates.

Think we need to take back our downtowns from the ravages of sprawl, neglect, imprudent zoning, and the lure of the big box store? You betcha!
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From Sustainable Long Island:

Building Stronger, Vibrant Downtowns

By Sarah Lansdale

One thing is for sure – Long Island is home to thousands of shopping options from big boxes to big malls to downtowns to strip malls. We are known to shop until we drop. During tough economic times, we all often let the best bargains determine where we shop.

But there are other times when our shopping choices depend on many more variables. Shopping is, in fact, an activity that is an integral part of our cultural, family and personal customs. We shop to buy decorations for the holidays, presents for mom and dad’s birthdays, those first shoes for the baby, a new outfit for the start of school, or the perfect bridal dress for the big day. We weave into these shopping experiences time to chat with friends and loved ones, grab a bite to eat and rest our weary feet on a bench. There is no better place to spend this time and build these memories than in our hometown stores located in downtown communities. Downtowns save time from everyday shopping, offer value in their products and services, and give people a sense of pride and honor within their community.

I know that I am by far not the only one preaching about downtowns and their benefits.

There has been increasing attention played to rating which of our Long Island downtowns are the best and which have the greatest potential to succeed. But who’s to say one downtown is superior to the other? How does one decide between a downtown in New Cassel and a downtown in Roslyn? All of Long Island’s downtowns offer something unique. What makes a great downtown is that at some point, everyone in the community wants to be there.

Each downtown across our region offers choices and opportunities to the people who fill it each and every day. It’s the people who fill the streets and the stores, and the markets. It’s the people who are enticed by the prospect of jobs within walking distance from their home or attracted to the chance of building friendships with other locals. Yes it’s the people, who bring the energy that keeps the neighborhood’s pulse beating.

So instead of debating endlessly on which downtown is better than the other, let’s build off the assets that are already there and improve the area into a place the people can admire, not criticize. Community leaders are coming together from Port Washington to Massapequa and helping build stronger, more vibrant downtowns.

There are activities that enhance downtowns, such as a farmer’s market which brings people together and creates “foot traffic” throughout the streets. A community fair increases revenue, along with added enjoyment to the locale. Augmenting historic buildings, preserving beautiful landmarks and making a safer, more pleasant place for pedestrians are all goals our downtowns strive for.

All this can happen for the people, if the people themselves take action. It happens community by community, person by person. Make your community next.

Sarah Lansdale is the executive director of Sustainable Long Island, which focuses on creating real change in our region by promoting sustainable development. Sustainable Long Island works with residents, municipal leaders, businesspeople and all interested stakeholders to help them plan and implement sustainable development initiatives in their communities. Visit, or call 516-873-0230.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It Can't Happen Here!

Only Because The NYS Legislature Is Too Dysfunctional To Fight

Need we say more?

Is The Lighthouse Going Dark?

Wang Awaits Murray's Decision On Moving Forward

Our friends at Let There Be Light(house) have posted on the dimming of the lights for the exalted and exhausted Lighthouse Project, at least insofar as the project's website goes.

Check out what's left of the Lighthouse website at

Could the lights be going out on the project as a whole, the end of the hubub for the hub?

To paraphrase the old adage, "a project delayed is progress denied."

Throughout the Town of Hempstead, for well over a decade, projects grand (as in the revival of Grand Avenue in Baldwin) and small (as in tearing down a brownfield to build a supermarket in Elmont) have risen to glory on the drafting table, only to fall by the wayside before either Zoning Board or Town Board.

Delay is the great enemy of community's prosperity and resurgence, and the precursor of suburbia's demise.

Along the most optomistic vein, even a scaled-down Lighthouse is more than ten years, and who knows how many losing seasons, away from fruition, the bleak landscape of the hub serving only to drag the county and our Island further toward the abyss.

In the worst case scenario, should Wang, the Town of Hempstead, or whatever power-that-be would ultimately decide the fate of the Nassau hub, pull the plug, sooner, or, as precedence has shown us, later, well, cue the tumbleweed.

The time to move forward on the Lighthouse Project was a thousand yesterdays ago. Now it remains for us to pick up the pieces (once again the taxpayer is left with crumbs) and, somehow, to move forward.
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Did someone say CASINO?  Er, ah. We don't think so...
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From LetThereBeLight(house):
Lighthouse Takes Down Web Site, Replaces With Placeholder

Posted by Nick

For the last few weeks, we have heard very little about the Lighthouse process that was not rumor and innuendo. Anxious bloggers and supporters (myself included) still hoped against hope that we would hear something from the Lighthouse to break their silence, especially in the face of rumors from well-connected sources that the Lighthouse Principals could be dissolving their partnership, thus effectively ending the project.

In fact, the most vocal person in the past several months has been NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who has never missed an opportunity to speak to the media and accuse the Town of Hempstead of "stalling" the project and "dragging it out" for years. As the Town took control of the process and sent even more misleading and anti-project letters to area citizens (more on that later), we still have not heard anything from the Lighthouse.

Yesterday, in a way, the Lighthouse Project spoke, though it is likely not the way any of us would have hoped they would (hat tip to Islanderbill for first alerting me to this, by the way). Now, visitors to the Lighthouse Project web site are not greeted with the grand, $3.7 billion vision for suburban renewal; rather, they see this:

Many, including myself, were taken aback by this, because it is the clearest broadside against the Town of Hempstead in months. Since the Lighthouse Project refuses to speak on the record, even though some sources are still insisting behind the scenes that it's not dead, we are forced to come up with our own suggestions and questions. As I've seen before, there is an optimistic view to this, a pessimistic view, and questions that need to be answered:

Optimistic View

Until there is official word from someone directly involved in the process, we can't assume the Lighthouse Project is dead. In addition, the Town of Hempstead and the Lighthouse are still operating under the Designated Developer Agreement between Nassau County and the Lighthouse that was approved during the administration of the current County Executive, Tom Suozzi (current County Executive Ed Mangano voted in favor of the measure as a County Legislator). Some people believe that this is simply a gesture by Charles Wang and the Lighthouse that they are willing to work with the Town of Hempstead in an attempt to make a deal.

If the original plan is no longer available online, then it has become clear that Mr. Wang and his group recognize that they will not be able to build the project as originally proposed. They are now signaling a willingness to work, as long as it achieves the goal of a good project that will be profitable, benefit the community, and allow the New York Islanders to remain in their rightful home.

This point of view reflects what I have previously called the "dirty little secret" in the Lighthouse process: it is easiest for both sides to come to a deal, since the alternatives are difficult for both sides:

Lighthouse Project: The options for moving the Islanders within the area, or of another project with similar commercial benefit, are slim at this point. The Brooklyn arena continues to be built, with the last hold-out having finally sold his property last week, but it would still require a retrofit, and some, especially those against the Atlantic Yards proposal to begin with, have called Brooklyn a "fantasy" of desperate hockey fans and political hacks like the Brooklyn Borough President. In addition, as mentioned before, Queens would require a similar process, which the Lighthouse acknowledges has already gone on for 7 years here. The city would be on board, but the local community would not be in any way close to what we see with the Lighthouse. I don't know whether the Lighthouse Project would want to either start over or become a tenant somewhere else, regardless of how badly many hockey fans hope it happens (count me in that group, in the event the Lighthouse can't happen).

Town of Hempstead: The Town has botched the Lighthouse process since Day 1, refusing to meet with the developers and relying on tricks like that phony stimulus drive which merely assume the stupidity of Town of Hempstead voters. Even though Kate Murray and the Town Board were overwhelmingly returned to office, you wonder if the Town could handle the debacle of losing a project the vast majority of citizens want (remember, in the latest News 12/Hofstra poll, supporters outnumber opponents 2:1, and if you scaled the project down that number nears 3:1). The Town loves to harp on financing, but any other developer would encounter the same financing issues as the Lighthouse Project.

In the same vein, the Town seems prepared to gut the Lighthouse Project beyond all recognition, if you trust the rhetoric. However, as another blogger has pointed out, what message would that send? If the Town starts using a machete on the project, the headlines write themselves:


It's much harder to spin that, and we are not as gullible as the Town would like to believe.

Pessimistic View

Many others believe this is a charade that is delaying the inevitable. To these people, the Town is going to gut the Lighthouse Project beyond all recognition in an attempt to win the post-game spin. You could just hear the Supervisor parroting the half-truth that "The Town offered Charles Wang a reasonable proposal, and he decided to walk away."

The Lighthouse, in the same vein, could be making vague signals about cooperation, but they still stopped paying environmental consultants F.P. Clark over half a year ago. Some, including astute reader Derek, believe this is because the Lighthouse wants to place the onus on the Town of Hempstead to tell them what can and can't be built, but still others believe that it's yet another case of actions speaking louder than words.

I do not know which side is right, but you could definitely see how many can interpret the statement on the Lighthouse web site as an opening salvo in the spin wars that will almost certainly ensue in the event the project ceases to be.


As we move forward now, we need to ask certain questions of both sides to increase our understanding:

•Are the 2 sides meeting and negotiating?
•Are the 2 sides both demonstrating a desire to get a project done?
•What kind of reduction will either side accept?
•How hardened are those positions
•When will someone say something in public?

We may not know the sound of 1 hand clapping, but with the Lighthouse gone silent and the Town spinning and exaggerating with seeming impunity, we do know the sound of 1 side debating. It's enough.

Bottom Line

I've said (in more of a hopeful tone than anything else) that we will likely have closure on the Lighthouse Project issue in a matter of months. We are all hoping for a solid resolution to this that will improve our community and provide a stable home for the New York Islanders, but, more than that, we want to know the truth. We need to know if the sides are negotiating in good faith, or whether this is just the start of what promises to be a bitter and ugly blame game.

No more slogans. No more finger-pointing. We want answers.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Raising (Hell In) Arizona

For Governor Jan Brewer, With Apologies To Emma Lazarus

It would seem that some of us have forgotten what it means to be Americans, children of immigrants all!

El nuevo coloso

No como el gigante de bronce de la fama griega,

Con la conquista de los miembros a horcajadas de tierra a tierra;

Aquí en nuestro mar-lavado, puertas de la puesta del sol se levantará

Una mujer poderosa con una antorcha, cuya llama

¿Es el rayo en prisión, y su nombre

Madre de los Exiliados. Desde su faro de ocasión

Brilla la bienvenida a todo el mundo, su comando de ojos dulces

El puerto de puente aéreo que enmarcan las ciudades gemelas.

"Mantener las antiguas tierras, su pompa legendaria!" llora

Con los labios en silencio. "Dame tus cansados, tus pobres,

Su muchedumbres que ansían respirar en libertad,

Los miserables rechazados de vuestras rebosantes orillas.

Envía a estos, las personas sin hogar, tempestad Tost-a mí,

Yo levanto mi lámpara al lado de la puerta dorada! "

Who Would Vote Against A School Pesticide Ban?

You Might Be Surprised!

A ban on the use of pesticides on school playing fields has passed the NYS Senate by a vote of 39-22, and now makes its way to the Assembly, where passage of the bill is likely.

If such a measure seems like a no-brainer -- and it certainly does to us at The Community Alliance -- why would 22 State Senators, including the Senate's Minority Leader, Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre, vote NO.

Is it the old, "the bill doesn't go far enough?" Falacious reasoning, at best, a partial ban on the use of pesticides on school grounds being much better than no ban at all.

Could it be that the voting buttons of certain Senators, notably Republicans, are permanently stuck on NO?

Or is it, perhaps, the strength of the lobbies of special interest groups -- some, like the New York Alliance for Environmental Concerns, little more than professional lawn and grounds care services, that rely on the toxic chemicals for their livelihoods -- who strong-armed our State Senators, filling campaign coffers (or threatening not to) to "buy" those NO votes?

Not to say that New York's venerable State Senators could be bought, or are somehow in the hoppers of the likes of Dow, Monsanto (and isn't there a Bayer chemical plant just outside of Buffalo?), or the businesses and organizations that rely on these nasty pesticides, but it would behoove one to follow the money, if not the actual trail of pesticides that leach down through the soil to the groundwater in the aquifers below.

Okay. So chemical companies and those who use their products in the regular course of business opposed the ban. Fair enough. We get it. But the NYS School Boards Association, representing more than 700 school boards across the State? What's their beef?

Yeah. The old "local school officials know best" when it comes to controling garden-variety pests and keeping our children safe.

How about the argument that taking the organic route to deal with pests, nourish our lawns, and keep grass green costs too much? Specious, at best. Actually, in the long run, going green costs less -- in terms of dollars and cents, as well as the public health.

Our good friends at Citizens Campaign for the Environment applauded the bill's passage, with Executive Director Adrienne Esposito saying, "Children face many potential hazards at schools such as peer pressure, drugs, and bullying – unnecessary pesticide exposure should not be among them..."

CCE's arguments for pesticide-free school zones -- on matters of health, the environment, and the availability of safe, effective, and cost-efficient alternatives -- certainly persuaded us (not that we needed any persuasion). Apparently, it was not enough to move 22 State Senators toward passage.

The actual floor vote on the pesticide ban was as follows:



Excused (1): MORAHAN

In addition to Senator Skelos, the following State Senators representing Long Island also voted NO to the pesticide ban: Kemp Hannon, Owen Johnson, and Carl Marcellino.
Wouldn't you like to know why? Aren't you entitled to know?
We e-mailed Senator Skelos' office last week, inquiring why the Minority Leader voted NO to a ban on pesticides on school grounds. As of this posting, there has been no response.
Of interest, Long Island based Citizens Campaign for the Environment didn't get a response either.
"He wouldn’t really say why he would not support it,"  Executive Director Adrienne Esposito told The Community Alliance. "I met with him three times!"
If your State Senator voted NO to the pesticide ban on school grounds, ask him why -- and don't take NO for an answer!

Re-Creating More Than Communities

New Careeers In A Changing Economy

As we re-create suburbia -- how we see it, shape it, live it -- we also need to re-think the directions our own lives, and, in some cases, careers, are headed.

By choice, by happenstance, by design, we must reinvent not only the suburban landscape, but ourselves as well.
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From our good friends at the Long Island Breakfast Club:



Speaker: Bio: Marc Miller, Ph.D.
“ What do I really want to be when I grow up? The time to "ReCareer" is now!”

Marc Miller, Ph.D., the Director of MLM Coaching & Consulting, LLC, has 30 years of professional experience helping people examine how their behavior patterns and communication styles affect their personal and professional performance, relationships, and life satisfaction, and effectively helping them and their organizations make positive changes. As a life coach and career coach, Marc specializes in helping his clients recognize how they can best match their unique talents and strengths with their dreams for a more fulfilling and meaningful career and personal life. As an executive coach, he helps business professionals achieve greater personal satisfaction as well as job success, as he recognizes that for today's executive and professional workforce, success is measured not only in terms of money earned: it is also important to feel that your work is valued, brings a sense of meaning and purpose, and must be balanced with your life outside of work. As a management consultant, Marc helps organizational leaders increase productivity, employee retention, and profitability by better understanding how to motivate and engage their employees.

Marc has a Ph.D. in Psychology from Adelphi University , and a Professional Coaching Certificate from the Professional Coaching Program at the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College . Marc is a Certified ReCareer© Coach. In addition, he is the Membership Director of the Long Island Coaching Alliance, and is a member of the International Coach Federation.

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..

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.

About The Long Island Breakfast Club
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

Monday, April 26, 2010

Be A Follower And A Leader

Join The Community Alliance on Twitter at

Share our passion for community, the environment, efficient and effective government, and dark chocolate ice cream smothered in pecans.

Click on the Google Ads (any and all) as appear on the blog to raise money for the many causes of community, without having to so much as reach into your pocket.

Comment on the blog's many posts to express your opinions and air your concerns. [Hit the Comments link as follows each post.]

Follow the blogposts as the happen. [Just click on the Follow button on the left side of the blog, right below the Twitter interface.]

Be a part of the great renaissance that is the rethinking and rebuilding of suburbia.

Become a friend of community and The Community Alliance.
Write us with your thoughts, suggestions, ideas for a better burb, and, of course, Guest Blogposts for publication (please include full name and contact information).

Tomorrow's Long Island begins in your community today!
The Community Alliance
New Visions for America's First Suburb

Taking Back Nassau's Parks

One Small Step For Public Use. . .

The public versus private debate continues, and it's not only with respect to schools.

Our friend Bruce Piel of PARCnassau reports on County parks coming back into the public domain.

The question remains, however, whether, with the parks now under county control once again, will the county maintain and preserve them, or will the parks -- particularly Nassau's so-called "passive" community parks, playgrounds, and open spaces -- continue to go to weed?

Public or private, we cannot neglect the care, maintenence and preservation of Nassau County's green spaces. They are too few, too precious, and too much a part of our suburban quality of life.
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From PARCnassau:
Nassau Taxpayers Repossess Their Parks

By Bruce Piel

Last week the current county administration and the county legislature codified the public’s innate right to full access and use of its county parks. They, in effect, evicted private day camps from county parks.

For over 9 years, the Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau and its constituent organizations have argued and lobbied against the privatization of the Nassau County Parks system. The proponents of this poorly disguised dissolution of our parks, preserves and historical sites included the former county administration, abetted by a compliant majority in the county legislature and general public unawareness.

This resulted in the issuance of permits for private day camps to use 8 county parks and the transfer of 13 county facilities to the Town of North Hempstead , excluding other county residents from having a say in those parks. Each year more and more park facilities were being offered to private operators; including golf courses, the Aquatic Center, park pools, preserves, ice rinks, etc, etc. The final straw was the county entertaining the privatization of the entire Cedar Creek Park in Wantagh/Seaford by a developer that planned an “amusement park” at that site.

The public response which had been building for years against privatization, focused on this monumental travesty with demonstrations, intense lobbying and publicity. Nassau citizens led by these two communities began to protect their parks physically and vocally. Resultant publicity doomed the Cedar Creek project, the sale of acreage in the Roosevelt Preserve and the takeover of the pool at Christopher Morley Park. It also was a factor in the 2009 county elections which put a new team in Mineola .

The battle was won but the war is not over. There are still advocates of public/private partnerships in the park system and county government. There are still private companies looking to make a profit at the public’s expense misusing park facilities. Vigilance by advocates such as PARCnassau and the public must be maintained to insure our parks, preserves, museums and heritage sites are maintained by the county for the use and enjoyment of all Nassau residents. We must urge our county officials to make every attempt to recover the parks given to North Hempstead and begin the process of restoring the Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums. The Day Camp issue was a great first step. Congratulations!

Bruce Piel
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh, NY 11793

Massacre Across The Hudson

Taxpayers Give School Budgets The Axe In Garden State

Could the overwhelming defeat of school budgets in New Jersey be a forboding forecast for Long Island's vote, set for May 18?

Voters just across the river defeated a record number of school budgets -- 59% failed -- many in districts where education was long considered sacrosanct.

Already faced with the highest property tax burden in the nation (followed closely by Westchester and Nassau counties in New York), New Jersey homeowners are saying "no more" to the raiding of their bank accounts.

No longer only a matter of school district largess and excess, to many voters, it's a question of economic survival.

Folks are out of work, or barely clinging to jobs, unable to make ends meet. They're losing their homes, unable to put food on the table, facing stacks of bills that remain unpaid. The tree is bare.

Here on Long Island, administrators and school boards alike are duly concerned. And well they should be.

The tax revolt in Jersey -- more like a tax revulsion -- should come as no surprise, however. It's simple economics. We can no longer afford to keep digging deeper and deeper into our almost empty pockets to finance eduction.

Bottom line: It's the property tax, stupid!

The regressive means of funding education -- whether in New Jersey or here on Long Island -- is being rejected by voters, even in districts previously considered safe. A strong message of enough, already, is being sent, not only to school boards (most of which try their utmost to trim, cut, and save within the constraints of contractual obligations, unfunded mandates, rising costs in pensions, insurance, and transportation, and demands of "more, more, more" from the likes of teachers' unions), but to State Legislators as well -- the ultimate arbiters (should they choose to act at all) in the property tax debacle.

And it's not necessarily the increase in school budgets that worries voters, but rather, the rise in the tax rate, particularly nasty this year given the drastic cuts in aid to education likely to come from Albany. While, for instance, a district's 2010-11 budget may increase but 3.69% over the previous year, the resulting increase in the tax levy (what residents actually pay) could be as high as 9.40%. Tax levy increases in the range of 10% may be the norm on Long Island this year, rather than an aberration.

To put it bluntly, such tax burden upon Long Island's struggling homeowners cannot be sustained!

The State pays less, the taxpayer pays more. The equation is that simple, and that painful.

Opposition to local school budgets is already mounting, and the call to vote "no" is going out across Long Island.

A flyer being distributed in Elmont and Franklin Square spells it out in dollars and cents, and could well portend the way of next month's vote:









A call for "shared sacrifices across the board?" Surely, this is not the rant of unhinged extremists, but the reasoned voice of parents, grandparents, professionals and blue collar workers who have had it with being taxed to debt.
Hard to argue with the facts, notwithstanding our innate desire to see every budget pass, a "YES" vote at the fingertip of each voter. Truth is, we, as individual taxpayers, as homeowners, as a community, as New Yorkers, can no longer afford to pay and pay some more.
It's not the children Long Islanders are pissed at -- though they will be the ones to suffer the most -- it's those damned property taxes. [Translate that into a "NO" vote for your sitting State Legislator in November, and you may just have something!]
While our anger may well be misdirected, and the outcome of our rath unintended, can we really blame Long Islanders for following New Jersey's lead in sending school budgets back to the drawing board?
We care about our kids, and want the best for them, particularly when it comes to their education. But, as one Nassau County community activist told The Community Alliance, "We're nurturing ourselves into bankruptcy!"
Mad as hell are the taxpayers of Long Island. Who can blame them?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Out Of The Blog Of A Local Councilman. . .

. . .Comes Talk Of "Effective Consolidation" And "Smart (even vertical) Development"

Could the winds of change be sweeping through the often hermetically-sealed hallways of Hempstead Town Hall?

Town of Hempstead Councilman, Ed Ambrosino, long a good friend of and an active participant in the community he serves, pens an eloquent blog on his website, where a recent entry caught our attention.

He blogs of maintaining quality services without the death knell of increasing taxes, at a time of a contracting tax base and shrinking revenues.

"Governments cannot maintain all services (the 'wants of the people') without finding additional revenue to fund the basket of wants," says Ambrosino. "Instead, we need to identify the needs, efficiently address the needs through municipal cooperation and effective consolidation and then find the revenue to fund the needs of the people."

Did he say "consolidation," the heretofore bane of Town Hall?

"We need to encourage smart development and go vertical where vertical is not antithetical to the essence of suburbia," declared the Councilman, long an advocate, as well as ardent fighter, for redefining the burbs as precursor to rebuilding suburbia.

Is there a shift at Town Hall away for the Levittownization of suburbia, where "think small" is the vision of a new myopia? Could the door be open to fresh, if not entirely grand, ideas, where, as Ed Ambrosino concludes, "we need to take political risk and stride with bold steps to save government from collapsing in a pile of financial chaos resulting from the pressure of political expediency."

Sure. These are only words.

Still, words preceed action, and knowing Ed Ambrosino as we do -- a man of his word -- we sense that the status quo is no longer quite as comfortable or sustainable at Town Hall as once presumed.

Change, it is said, must come from within. True of both the individual and of our cherished institutions.

It is quite possible that Ed Ambrosino, and folks just like him, commited to our community, represents just such change. We hope so, as the very future of Long Island depends on it.

Ed's a keeper, for certain.

"We need to charge the users of services without burdening the populace for the needs of the few."

Right you are, Ed. Let's hope the powers-that-be aren't intent on creating a special "salsa lessons" district.

The wave of the future, in Hempstead Town and across Long Island -- perhaps even all of New York -- may appear as a mere ripple. Like the tidal wave of a tsunami far off shore, the momentum is always forward, the awesome power and tremendous impact, just below the surface.
- - -

Getting What We Need From Our Government

You can't always get what you want
And if you try sometime you just might find
You get what you need

Who knew that Keith and Mick were writing the quintessential balancing test for government?

If only we would listen.

We can’t always get what we want. We cannot have brand new roads, beautiful parks, free health care, salsa lessons without an increase in governmental revenue. Something has to give.

When a municipality is growing, and vacant land is being converted to ratable property (such as homes, offices or stores) government's revenue increases without raising individual property taxes. When expansion ceases, the supply of revenue slows to a trickle.

At that point, government must cut back on services or find additional sources of revenue. Government’s divining rod points to one reliable, yet politically unpalatable, source of revenue: raising taxes.

Cutting services and raising taxes force us back to the words of Messrs. Jagger and Richards. We must decide what we need, and not just we want. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently pointed out - servicing the needs of a constituency is the principal reason we have governments. “ That to secure [unalienable rights], governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Governments cannot maintain all services (the “wants of the people”) without finding additional revenue to fund the basket of wants.

Instead, we need to identify the needs, efficiently address the needs through municipal cooperation and effective consolidation and then find the revenue to fund the needs of the people.

We need to encourage smart development and go vertical where vertical is not antithetical to the essence of suburbia.

We need to become energy intelligent and not depend on energy sources that are wasteful, redundant and inefficient.

We need to charge the users of services without burdening the populace for the needs of the few.

Lastly, we need to take political risk and stride with bold steps to save government from collapsing in a pile of financial chaos resulting from the pressure of political expediency.

Cherry Red should not be the color of our balance sheets.

It should be the color of Mr. Jimmy’s favorite flavor.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Stewardship of Planet Earth

Keeping Earth Day, Every Day, On Long Island

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Hey, we're talking about the environment here, not Long Island's elected officials, many of whom have been recycled so many times that, sadly, they're often mistaken for compost.

Today is Earth Day, and, considering this is the only planet that would have us (it seemed like a good idea at the time), worthy are those who make every day Earth Day by living clean, going green, and relying less on the machine.

Here on Long island, where our water comes from below the very ground we stand on -- and pour pesticides, herbicides, and toxic waste into -- we have a vested interest in preserving, protecting, and, yes, promoting Mother Earth, and, as trustees of the air we breathe and water we drink, a responsibility, to ourselves and future generations, to keep it green.

Whether it's a billion acts of green, or recycling that single plastic bottle that would otherwise adorn the side of the roadway or the bottom of a landfill, we can, we must, all do our share.

And so, as adherents to the old adage of Think Globally, Act Locally, we offer a celebration of Earth Day 2010, with sights (and sites) to see, events to attend, activities to engage in (and not), and ideas for greener living (no, you don't have to become a vegan), right here on our Long Island.

For instance, this weekend (April 24 and 25), you can take in the Green Living Expo at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood. It's free (even the parking), and fun for the entire family.

Be sure to check out which politicians are going green (other than with your tax dollars and PAC money), at the New York League of Conservation Voters. See who stands for smart growth, energy conservation, climate action, transportation solutions and natural resource protection, from sound to shore, and beyond.

Attend the Arbor Day Family Festival (April 24 and 25) at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay. Then, go home and plant a tree of your own!

For those who think "there's nothing to do on Long Island," visit, where activities and events, for Earth Day and every day, abound.

The good earth has its very own web page on Long Island -- -- chock full of events to celebrate this humble sphere, as well as ideas and suggestions to keep this swirling ball, and us, healthy long into the future. [Okay. So the listed events are mostly for 2009. Does that mean the world stops turning? Be imaginative!] is more up-to-date, listing eco-friendly returns of the day from cycling to recycling. gets in the act, as do the folks at Long Island Press.

And let's not forget our good friends who remind us that it's not just about hugging trees and eating organic fruit or hormone-free beef. The true stewards of Long Island at Citizens Campaign for the Environment (check out their revamped, earth-friendly website) and Long Island Neighborhood Network.

Folks, this is but the tip of the iceberg (which, by the way, has melted considerably since you began reading this post). There are so many ways to reduce your carbon footprint, to reuse resources (including your old sneakers), and to recycle much more than yesterday's ideas.

And let's start here and now, with an energy-saving tip from The Community Alliance (where no electrons were harmed in the making of this blog): For the balance of Earth Day 2010, shut down your computers, Blackberries, iPads, and car engines. Take a walk. Contribute to and/or volunteer for an environmentally-friendly cause. Plant a garden. All right, go hug that tree if it makes you feel better.

We've got one earth, and one chance to make it right!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Criticism is part of the lifeblood of democracy..."

Understanding The Difference Between Criticizing A Policy And Demonizing A Government

This past week, on the fifteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, former president Bill Clinton wrote an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times upholding the value of dissent in American politics, while denouncing the rash of hate speech and the advocacy of violence which, too often, has become the hallmark of so-called "activists".

Of course, Clinton himself was immediately demonized -- even said to have been the cause of the Oklahoma City bombing -- by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Well, we take it from whence it comes...

Excerpted below is the Times Op-Ed piece. It is worthy of a full read, and, thereafter, more than due consideration.

The right of dissent, and to peaceably petition to redress grievances, is paramount in the American democracy. The threat of a violent overthrow of our government, the dismantling of its institutions, and the viscious personal attacks upon our elected leaders, have no place here.
- - -
From The New York Times:

...we should never forget what drove the bombers, and how they justified their actions to themselves. They took to the ultimate extreme an idea advocated in the months and years before the bombing by an increasingly vocal minority: the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government, and that public servants do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them. On that April 19, the second anniversary of the assault of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, deeply alienated and disconnected Americans decided murder was a blow for liberty.

Americans have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any other nation in the world, including the capacity to criticize their government and their elected officials. But we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way. Our founders constructed a system of government so that reason could prevail over fear. Oklahoma City proved once again that without the law there is no freedom.

Criticism is part of the lifeblood of democracy. No one is right all the time. But we should remember that there is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedoms and the public servants who enforce our laws.

We are again dealing with difficulties in a contentious, partisan time. We are more connected than ever before, more able to spread our ideas and beliefs, our anger and fears. As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters, we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.

Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy. That is the bright line that protects our freedom. It has held for a long time, since President George Washington called out 13,000 troops in response to the Whiskey Rebellion.

Fifteen years ago, the line was crossed in Oklahoma City. In the current climate, with so many threats against the president, members of Congress and other public servants, we owe it to the victims of Oklahoma City, and those who survived and responded so bravely, not to cross it again.

Is Your School District Superintendent Getting A Raise?

The Buck Doesn't Always Stop With District Administration

We hear the outrage over teachers' salaries, the demands for raises on top of step increases, runaway pension costs, and so on down the line.

But, when it comes to cutting costs and saving tax dollars, have we taken a look upward, at school district administration?

While teachers in several Long Island school districts have agreed to forego or curtail raises in order to save jobs and shave budgets, a survey of proposed school budgets shows that many administrators -- including Superintendents, whose average salary on Long Island tops $250,000 -- are slated to get raises in the 2010-11 school year.

True, they may be contractually entitled to raises, but just because you are due a raise doesn't mean you have to take a raise, does it?

In these times of economic upheaval, when we are asking everyone down the line to bite the bullet, shouldn't school district administrators, in their leadership roles, do likewise?

And gee whiz. If a school supe can't survive on $250,000+ a year, where does that leave the rest of us?

Traditionally, we support school budgets across the board, encouraging residents to vote YES. Where district administrators seek to fatten their wallets, however, while lightening ours, well, that gives us pause for thought.

Is your school district superintendent getting a raise? Do you know what's in your school budget?

Most school budgets as proposed for the 2010-11 school year, on which you will be called upon to cast your yea or nay votes on May 18, are posted on the school districts' websites. Be sure to check it out!

What follows are some additional thoughts, flowing from a recent meeting of the Elmont East End Civic Association.

THOUGHT #1 --Transparency

There's a problem with school districts tapping into their cash reserves to mask the actual budget to budget increases. Here's something that came up at a recent Elmont East End Civic Meeting:

The Sewanhaka School District has 10.1 million dollars in cash reserves (that number was taken from the minutes of a recent Board of Education meeting, as can be found online). At the April civic meeting, the school superintendent made his presentation to the public where he complained about 3.3 million shortfall in state aid. When the presentation ended, the superintendent was asked the question why doesn't he tap into the 10.1 million account to make up the shortfall in state aid. He responded that they, in fact, were tapping into the reserves for the upcoming budget.

Another resident asked the follow-up question as to whether the 3.7% proposed budget increase reflected the use of the cash reserves. The superintendent stated that it did not, and that the actual increase in spending from the prior year is actually somewhere between 7% and 8%. The fireworks went off after that.

While few would take issue with the school districts using the cash reserves, they are not being transparent with the use of these funds, and not stating the actual budget to budget spending increase. The public should be made aware of what the actual "budget to budget" spending increases are before they vote. Moreover, the use of these cash reserves simply raises the bar for next year's budget and every year thereafter.

THOUGHT #2 -- What's Good for the Goose...

School superintendents and their staffs are charged with negotiating contracts with the teacher's unions. Most, if not all of our superintendents took raises this year. How can they expect the teachers to make concessions or even accept a pay freeze when the superintendents themselves have not done so. If we were the negotiators for the teacher's unions, we would come out in public and say as much, destroying any leverage -- let alone credibility -- the superintendents may have had given the current economic conditions.

In addition, what were our Boards of Education thinking agreeing to give these superintendents raises? In reality, the school hierarchy much like a corporation. The taxpayers are the shareholders, the superintendent is the CEO, the school board is similar to a Board of Directors, and the teacher's are the employees of the business. At the end of the day, the superintendent (CEO) works for the taxpayers (shareholders), and should make sure the taxpayers are getting a return on their investment. The teacher's (employees) have a union to represent their interests, we need the superintendent (CEO) and Board (of Directors) to represent ours. This leads to the next thought.

THOUGHT #3 -- Did Someone say "Consolidate?"

Whatever happened to Suozzi's "consolidate all the superintendents" idea. Although it was too little too late for him, the idea has merit. There's just way too much redundancy in the system which generates terrible waste and inequity. In NY City, there's a single bureaucracy charged with negotiating contracts with teachers, purchasing supplies, and all other administration matters. In Nassau, we have 55 bureaucracies that all do the same thing, and not all that well, let alone with efficiency. If we're going to have a bureaucracy not run well, and at such great cost to the taxpayers, it might as well be 1 instead of 55.

THOUGHT #4 -- It IS The Assessment!

It would seem, from all appearances, that the school budgets are being predicated upon "rosy" assessment numbers. In Elmont they're basing their budgets on an average assessment of $417K. This number doesn't appear accurate at all as, by dint of even a cursory review of the assessment rolls, the average assessed value of a home in Elmont is not $417K. in many instances, not even close. Moreover, as assessments continue to decline, or are "frozen" at current levels, as some of our elected officials propose, the schools will have to revise their numbers upward, and the actual increase in the tax levy will be larger, perhaps much larger, than that as currently advertised.

Each "thought" can find relevancy in every Long Island school district, as we crunch the numbers and, dare we say, look behind them.

What are your "thoughts?" Anything to add to our list?

We at The Community Alliance, as well as your friends, neighbors, and fellow taxpayers here on Long Island, would like to know.

Share your thouts with us, by way of comments to this post, e-mails to, and, yes, even guest blogposts, to be published right here for all -- including our school district superintendents -- to see.
- - -
School Budgets and School Boards are on the line on Tuesday, May 18. Know before you vote!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Property Taxes: From Bad To Worse

Think We Have It Bad On LI? Try Westchester, And Upstate NY

We don't have to tell you what that property tax bill looks like. Most of you can see it in your sleep, assuming you can sleep -- the nightmarish bottom-line keeping you awake and your bank account teetering. reports on even more dire straits north of Long Island, further highlighting the need for our elected officials in Albany to stop talking and start doing, vis-a-vis cleaning up the property tax mess.

The situation is toxic, and, as we all know, growing worse by the minute. Hold onto your wallets, folks. If you can...
- - -
From the Journal News:

Property tax bills rise even as home values fall

Joseph Spector and Diana Costello

Live in Westchester County and you pay the highest property taxes in the nation, with a median bill of $8,404 a year. Live in upstate New York, and you also have an unenviable distinction.

Sixteen upstate counties — including Orleans, Monroe, Erie and Cortland — pay the highest property taxes compared with home values in the country, according to the U.S. census.

In all, New York's taxpayers pay property-tax bills that are 79 percent above the national average, a 2008 state report found. Property-tax levies grew 60 percent between 1995 and 2005, more than twice the inflation rate, the state Comptroller's Office said.

The situation has become so unbearable for Todd Feuerstein, a 45-year-old sales manager from New City, that he has thought about moving to Arizona.
>• Editorial: Tax conversation has finally started
>• Database: Calculate the property taxes for every state and county in the U.S.
>• Article: Citizens speak out against rising taxes across NY
>• Gallery: See more photos from this series
Taxes on his 3,500-square-foot home rose nearly 40 percent between 2003 and 2008, to roughly $13,780 from $9,900. He feels he is being taxed out of his home — yet no one seems to care.

"What are they telling me — that if I can't afford these taxes I have to leave my home?" Feuerstein said. "But who's going to buy it? No one's going to be able to afford moving to Clarkstown."

New York's property-tax burden — ranked annually at or near the top in the country — has long been a leading subject of complaint among residents, whether it's at the local diner, the school board meeting or within the halls of the state Capitol.

But the state's high property taxes have become even more pronounced in the past few years as the economy sputtered, unemployment hit record highs and the housing boom went bust.

Those issues are now coupled with a state government on the brink of insolvency, which is forcing cuts in aid to schools and local governments. The state is grappling with a $9.2 billion deficit, and last month the state delayed $2 billion in payments to schools because it ran out of cash.
Property Taxes at a Glance

Community   School district   County Tax   Town Tax   School Tax   Avg. Property Tax Bill

1. Rye city    Rye Neck          $5,756            $5,406          $23,470                $34,632

2. North Castle Bedford         $4,471            $4,103          $15,588                $24,162

3. New Rochelle New Rochelle $1,940         $2,612           $8,184                 $12,736

4. Ramapo Ramapo                 $856              $1,056          $10,075                 $11,987

5. Mahopac Putnam Valley   $1,079             $1,565          $7,779                   $10,423

6. Philipstown Garrison         $1,832              $1,713          $6,218                    $9,763

7. Clarkstown Clarkstown       $689               $2,723          $5,537                   $8,949

8. White Plains White Plains $1,368              $1,828          $4,863                   $8,059

Source: New York state Office of Real Property Services
Meanwhile, the factors that drive high property taxes — health care costs, high public-sector pensions and salaries — show few signs of slowing. Local governments, for example, will need to pay 61 percent more revenue to cover local pension costs in 2011.

A Journal News analysis of census data shows that Westchester County and Rockland County residents ranked second and third in the state in the amount paid for property taxes as a percentage of household income, at nearly 8 percent, trailing only Nassau County in Long Island.

Monroe and Dutchess counties ranked ninth and 10th among the 62 counties, with more than 5 percent of household incomes going to property taxes.

But New York school officials note that the school-tax-levy increase in the current school year was 1.85 percent, the lowest in at least 10 years, and they are now laying off workers because of state spending cuts.

And last year, the Tax Foundation, a national tax watchdog group, found New York's state and local taxes per capita ranked sixth nationwide behind such other Northeast states as New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Moreover, a majority of New Yorkers have indicated in independent, statewide polls that they do not support state spending cuts. A Siena College poll found that 59 percent of voters did not support cuts to health and education — even if it meant higher taxes. Still, the February poll revealed that the two top priorities among voters were to reduce state spending and lower taxes.

Solutions to the state's property-tax issues — from proposals to enact a cap, link taxes to household incomes or cut spending — will be a top issue in the governor's race and elections across the state this year.

Already, candidates are jockeying to be the state's chief fiscal reformer. Last fall, an anti-incumbent sentiment swept through local elections — most strikingly in places such as Westchester and Nassau counties, which by no coincidence have the highest taxes in the state.

Just ask former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi. He led a state property-tax commission and was a prominent voice on the issue. But he lost re-election last fall.

"I'm the poster boy for, 'The public is mad as hell,' " Suozzi said in an interview. "I'm the one who has been fighting for property-tax relief, pretty much more than anybody, and even I got booted — because they didn't want to hear me talk about it. They wanted results."

Voting with their feet

Andrew Rivera, a Verizon FiOS installer from Ossining, said his $12,000 annual tax bill eats up 20 percent of his gross salary. He has considered moving but couldn't get the transfer from work, he said.

So he's starting to speak out — even if reluctantly.

Organizing under the name of Overtaxed Citizens, he is posting information about upcoming school and town events where taxpayers can make their voices heard.

"I'm not some genius, and I don't think I'm necessarily the best person to stand up and speak about this, but I am concerned about my town and I know many other people who feel that way," said Rivera, 44.

"And the town is not listening to us, the school board is not listening to us, our elected officials are not listening to us. I can no longer sit still over this."

Nearly 1.7 million people left New York between 2000 and July 2009 — the most of any state, census data last month showed.

Enough Already?

Who Said?

We complain like the dickens about property taxes, fee and fare increases, cuts to schools, health care, transportation and infrastructure, and yet, we keep sending the same folks back to Albany, year after year after year.

Are you sure we've had enough?

Add yet another Internet portal to the host of websites, blogs, tweets, and Facebook pages where we, the people, can log our grievances against high taxes, inefficient government, and ineffective leadership., a campaign founded by the Business Council of New York State (itself a conglomeration of special interests), presents NYers with a new place to gripe, grieve, and ventilate (hyper and otherwise).

So go ahead. Add your voices of discontent to the fray. Pay no mind to the fact that your words fall upon deaf ears, in Albany, at the county seat, in town hall, at the special taxing districts, and on school boards all across Long Island.

You hold in your hands, fellow New Yorkers, the power to change everything. Not by mouse-click or keyboard, but rather, by that four letter work that strikes fear in the heart of every elected official -- VOTE!

Come on, now. Tell your story. Contact your elected "representatives" (we use that word loosely). Send your message. Just remember your words when deeds count, in November.

Monday, April 19, 2010

He Who Laughs Last. . .

. . .Probably Hasn't Seen His School Property Tax Bill

The following article on laughing hyenas, as appears on, tickled our fancy, but the pending increases in school tax levies -- ranging from 5% to 10% or more in many Long Island districts -- is truly no laughing matter.

The drastic reduction in state aid to education, coupled with escalating costs for salaries, benefits, pensions, transportation, energy, insurance, and the list goes on, will surely mean the return of sticker-shock for most Nassau and Suffolk homeowners.

School tax levies, already accounting for more than 60% of the typical property tax bill, now threaten to gobble up more of the household budget, with little or no relief on the horizon by way of reform.

Do we consolidate districts, or at least the back office? Can we chuck the regressive property tax in favor of a more progressive means of financing public education? Will we, as Long Islanders, insist on parity and equity with upstate school districts when it comes to state aid? And how do we continue to provide our children with a top-noth education in view of the diminishing returns on our tax dollars?

In the coming weeks, The Community Alliance blog will explore the issues that weigh heavily on both minds and wallets as the May 18 school budget vote drawers near.

We ask for your input, by way of commentary, suggestions, ideas, and paliative solutions, this through your comments, e-mails, and guest blogs. Write us at

Meanwhile, keep on smiling behind that nervous laughter. For the moment, or so it would seem, when it comes to taxing homeowners to the hilt to pay for education, all we can do is grin and bear it!
- - -
Hyenas - What They’re Really Laughing About

by Evan Jacobs
Pets News
Lip Kee, Flickr

To our untrained ears, hyena communication often sounds like a series of crescendoing yelps, surprisingly similar to human laughter. However, to the hyenas — and now to researchers as well — the laughter carries a great deal of information.

Recently, Professor Frederic Theunissen from the University of California at Berkeley, and Professor Nicolas Mathevon from the Universite Jean Monnet in St Etienne, France, published in the journal BMC Ecology,

the first ever study on deciphering the hyenas’ language after studying 26 captive spotted hyenas.

By recording and listening to the hyenas vocalize in various situations, reports the BBC, the researchers learned that, just as with human communication, the sounds often reveal much about the animal and its place in the society. The pitch of the laughs indicate a hyena’s age, while their frequency signifies the hyena’s social status. Professor Theunissen told the BBC that “The hyena’s laugh gives receivers cues to assess
the social rank of the emitting individual.

This may allow hyenas to establish feeding rights and organize their food-gathering activities.”

Spotted hyenas have ten different types of vocalizations, from long “whoops” to communicate across large distances, to soft growls when they run into members of their own clan. Previously, researchers thought the laughter, which mainly is heard when the hyenas are fighting over a carcass, was to show submission. However, since this new study was released, we now know they are saying a lot more.

These results make us eager to learn more about other forms of animal communication — especially that of our own pets.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Straight Talk Express?

Albany To NYers: Tell Us How To Cut Government Spending

Given up on our State Legislators' ability to cut the pork, rein in the spending, trim property taxes, and eliminate the waste?

Apparently, so has Governor Paterson, who, through the Office of Taxpayer Accountability (how about an Office of Government Accountability? The taxpayers' wallets are already transparent), has now created Straight Talk from the Taxpayer, where you, the taxpayer, can "submit, discuss, and vote on ideas to cut government spending, streamline government operations, save taxpayer dollars, and provide local property tax relief."

Sort of like the Governor's request for ideas on how to spend the billions of dollars NY received in federal stimulus money. You -- and we -- suggested spending on education, health care, debt retirement, transportation, and infrastructure. And what did Albany spend our money on? A monument to survivors of the Irish potato famine who drowned in shipwrecks off Long Island.

Not that the folks in Albany are likely to listen to our ideas -- or yours, for that matter -- let alone to heed the advice to kick the spending habit, and to put what little money remains in the public coffers where it can help (i.e., funding public education, keeping hospitals open, fixing bridges and roadways, and improving mass transit), but hey, if it makes you feel any better (a catharsis, if nothing more), send in your ideas.

The Governor has also announced the launching of  EmpireStat, a new, data-based government performance and accountability system. "Through EmpireStat, taxpayers will be able to monitor work and progress through monthly reports and other information and data posted on this web page," says Paterson.[Next week, Paterson will no doubt announce the launching of the Titanic!]

Among the 175 ideas already submitted by New Yorkers -- Turn Out the Lights:

Just a very simple idea but as I drive by the Empire State Plaza at night, I see the state buildings like the huge Corning Tower ablaze with lights. Let's require state employees to turn off the lights when they leave. Imagine the decrease in the energy bills our tax payer dollar fund if all those lights were only used when needed?

Yeah. Turn out the lights at the State Capitol. Or should we say, pull the plug? Now that's the best idea we've heard in a long, long time. . .

Thursday, April 15, 2010

California Town Has $300,000 Water Meters

So What? Long Island Town Has Million Dollar Sanitary District Supervisor

As human interest stories go, the New York Times article on the $300,000 water meter for sale in the quintessential 1960s burb of Bolinas, California can be rated as cutesy. The saga of a little town just north of San Francisco whose residents hope to restrict the intrusions of sprawl and overdevelopment through creative zoning -- viz, charging $300,000 for a water meter (because you can't build anything in town without one).

To most readers, the Bolinas water meter caper would bring but a passing grin. To those who frequent the blogosphere to read our blogposts, a certain grimace marks the expression, and a pang below the belt, in the area of the wallet, when a one-time charge of $300,000 for a water meter is juxtaposed against $1,000,000 paid annually to a Sanitation Supervisor in the Town of Hempstead's Oceanside Sanitary District. [READ, Million Dollar Garbage.]

While the town folk in Bolinas seem perfectly content to keep things the way they are in their little town -- the quirk in the zoning law actually working to the benefit of residents, who, with the help of $300,000 water meters, have been able to maintain the hamlet's quality of life, albeit circa 1960, taxpayers of America's largest town continue to pay unseemly sums, not as a means to improve quality of life (or even the collection of trash), but rather, to maintain the lavish lifestyles of the few and the privileged who, like the leeches they are, suck every last dollar out of taxpayers' bank accounts through the medieval fiefdoms known as special districts.

Oh, we, the people, have the authority now to dissolve and/or consolidate these self-serving vestiges of the 1950s, created to sustain a political power base under the guise of local control, but will we use it? And when we use it, as in Gordon Heights, will the powers that be concede that the day of the money-grubbing special taxing district is over, or will they fight, as in Brookhaven, to the bitter end to hold onto a past that threatens to bankrupt us all?

A million dollars a year for a Sanitary District supervisor. What would readers of the New York Times, let alone residents of Bolinas, California, think about that?

Then again, where's the public outcry right here on Long Island? Where's the indignation? Where's the outrage over paying "twice as much," and then some, for essential services, nickeled and dimed (if only it was nickels and dimes) to debt by water districts, fire districts, sanitary districts, lighting districts, parking districts, you name 'em? Where the heck are those Tea Party activists mad as hell over the special district taxes we pay in Nassau and Suffolk counties?

Perhaps, in some bizarre way, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is correct when he says that the viability of the special taxing districts should be judged by the local communities these districts are alleged to serve.

Taxpaying residents, under the State's new law permitting the petition for the redress -- and ultimate dissolution -- of this most egregious grievance can now, in fact, be the judge.

If government, through our elected officials, can't or won't get the job done, shame on them.

And if we, the people, can't or won't take on the special taxing districts and their million dollar supervisors, well, then, shame on the very folks who pick up the tab for government waste and inefficiency. Pogo would have been right all along. We have met the enemy, and he is us!

Or maybe, to paraphrase the Times article on Bolinas, "Long Island is a nice place to be whoever you want to be, as long as you can be a Sanitary District supervisor."
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From The New York Times:

The Price for Building a Home in This Town: $300,000 Water Meter 

BOLINAS, Calif. — Marc Dwaileebe would like to build a house for his family on land he owns in this bucolic town just 20 miles north of San Francisco. But he cannot hook up to the water main that runs right past his property unless he has a water meter. And a water meter, in Bolinas, could cost more than $300,000.

That is the minimum bid for a meter being auctioned off through Friday. The auction is the unlikely result of a water meter moratorium imposed by antidevelopment forces here in 1971.

For most of the last 39 years, “the only way a water meter came free was when a house burnt down, or fell off a cliff,” said Barbara Rothwell, a longtime Bolinas resident.

The meter moratorium has survived, even through protracted litigation, with the support of residents who like this isolated town the way it is.

The meter being auctioned belonged to a lot in the center of town that came on the market last year. The civic-minded community rushed to buy the property and maintain it as a park, with $1.5 million donated by a billionaire venture capitalist. That freed up the meter, which is being sold by the park authority. The meter — and with it the chance to build a house — can be transferred to almost any lot in town, which makes it so valuable: a plumbing fixture as holy grail. Sealed bids for the meter are being accepted until Friday.

When a water meter was auctioned in 2005, a stonemason paid $310,000. This meter could bring far more.
As long as the moratorium remains, “they’ll just get more and more valuable,” said James Kirkham, who has been spending time in Bolinas since the 1950s. Mr. Kirkham thinks the water meter may be undervalued.
If it does not bring big money, some residents may be secretly relieved, taking it as a sign that the relentless development pressures of the last decade have receded.

The seaside town is a 1960s time capsule. Outside the Bolinas People’s Store, used clothes are left for the taking in a shed known as the Free Box (the actress Frances McDormand has been known to stop by to fold items, many of them tie-dyed).

A lot near the People’s Store became vacant back in 1974, when a restaurant called Tarantino’s burned to the ground. Typically for Bolinas, nothing was built in its place, and the lot evolved into a lawn that locals call Burnt Park.

When the owners of the lot decided to put it on the market last year, Michael Moritz, who helped finance start-ups like Google, YouTube and PayPal, gave the park authority the money. It was one Bolinas organization that had not given him a hard time during his struggle to build a house on the outskirts of town — an approval process more tortuous than the roads that connect Bolinas to the outside world. The money from the meter auction (which is being conducted by a local real estate broker, Flower Fraser) will go toward landscaping the new park with plants that — naturally — will not require irrigation.

The people who need the meter most might not be able to afford it. At least one local resident has been tapping into a neighbor’s hookup, an arrangement that has been an open secret for years. Mr. Dwaileebe does not have $300,000 for a meter, said his lawyer, Riley Hurd. Instead, Mr. Dwaileebe is trying to convert an agricultural well on his property to domestic use, a process fraught with its own legal complications.
Outsiders are welcome to bid on the meter — if they can find Bolinas. For years, residents were famous for taking down signs pointing to the town, until the state relented and stopped putting up new ones. Even now, a sign that should say “Entering Bolinas” says, “Entering a socially acknowledged nature-loving town.”

The water meter moratorium was imposed under an interpretation of state law that allows for restrictions on water hookups in an emergency. In 1971, an oil spill offshore left thousands of native birds coated in oil. Outsiders came to help with the cleanup — and in many cases stayed in the idyllic town. The newcomers gained a majority on the public utility board and imposed the moratorium on their first day in office, freezing the number of water meters at precisely 580.

But was there ever really a water emergency? In 1982, the Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento filed suit, claiming the moratorium on meters was simply an effort to keep outsiders from building. The suit dragged on for years, and cost this town of 1,500 almost $2 million to defend.

When people hear about the shortage of water meters, “they often think it’s a ruse,” said Jack Siedman, a 33-year resident and a member of the public utility community board, who sports a graying ponytail under his straw hat.

“It’s not a ruse, man,” Mr. Siedman said. “We’re hurting.”

To prove his point, he escorted a reporter on a hike to the city’s water source, a narrow creek known as Arroyo Hondo. A tiny dam holds back the creek, from which the town’s water enters a pipe no wider than a coffee mug.

“That’s it,” he says, pointing to the creek and the pipe. “The entire water supply for Bolinas.”

Mr. Kirkham, enjoying breakfast recently at the town’s one restaurant, the Coast Cafe, says he is a conservative who still feels comfortable in Bolinas, where tie-dyes and dreadlocks are practically de rigueur.

“It’s a nice place to be whoever you want to be,” he said.

He added, “As long as you can get a water meter.”