Thursday, August 25, 2011

Earthquakes And Hurricanes And High Taxes, OH MY!

Weathering The Imperfect Storm On Long Island

First it was the property tax bill, exploding out of our mailboxes and burrowing into our wallets like some kind of Tasmanian Devil.

Then came the earthquake. The Stuff that ad nauseum reports by the likes of Wolf Blitzer, who must have interviewed every last rock in Mineral Springs, VA, are made of.

And now, batten down the hatches and secure your lawn chairs, as Long Island tracks a strong and virulent Hurricane Irene.

What next? Locust? [Wait. We've seen the skeletal remains of the Cicada clinging to the tree trunks. The locust have arrived!]

We survived the earthquake, and have the tee shirts to prove it. We are enduring the tax bills -- barely, and with ever deepening dismay. We tolerate the Cicada. But a full blown Hurricane with torrential rains and winds nearing 100 mph?

If you thought the flooding and downpours of the other night were of Biblical proportions, just wait!

Forecasters are not exactly sure where the storm will track (are they ever?) -- east, west, or out to sea (although the computer models don't indicate this at the moment). So, where to, Irene? Who knows?

Long Island has a long history of Hurricane hits, some impressive and deadly, others little more than a passing shower. From Doria to Gloria, Belle to Bob, we've weathered them all.

What will Ms. Irene bring our fair Island?

The best adivce we can give you -- short of becoming stranded on one of Long Island's faux Coastal Evacuation Routes, heading for higher ground atop the Covanta Incinerator tower or the H. Lee Denison Building, or hastily ordering your personal (autographed?) copy of Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray's Guide to Hurricane Safety -- comes in the form of two words: BE PREPARED!
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Nassau County Office of Emergency Management

Hurricane Irene is currently forecast with a 50% chance of hitting the Greater New York City region - passing Long Island at or just east of Montauk - at around 4 PM Sunday, possibly as a category 1 hurricane
with maximum sustained winds of 74-95 mile per hour.

Hurricane Irene, at that level of strength, can produce storm surges, high tides, strong winds, driving rain, and severe thunder storms. These, in turn, can cause flooding, toppling of trees or other structures, dangerous driving and walking conditions, and downed power lines, presenting dangerous street conditions and leading to extended power outages.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency reminds everyone to Be Prepared.

Please visit the NOAA website for information on disaster preparedness and pay particular attention to the disaster supply list at

The information below was supplied by Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy's Office to help in accessing help during emergencies.

For more information and storm safety and preparedness tips:

If all else fails, and you still have power, check out the Long Island Hurricanes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Day The Earth Shook Long Island

Shake, Rattle & Roll Along The Turnpike

The aftershocks of yesterday's 5.9 on the Richter (neither Mike nor Barry) Scale quake are still being felt today on Long Island.

Hardest hit was the Town of Hempstead in Nassau County. America's largest, and heretofore most blighted township, suffered devastating damage, with only two structures that remained standing after the tremors subsided -- the Nassau Coliseum and the Covanta Incinerator tower.

Main Street was eerily empty on Wednesday morning, with storefronts shuttered, infrastructure crumbling, and debris strewn along the sidewalks and in parking fields. [In other words, it was business as usual in "downtown!"]

Nassau County Executive, Ed Mangano, manned the Emergency Response Desk at the County Seat in Mineola, reassuring residents and attempting to allay fears.

Surveying the damage to the now scaffolded Executive Building in Mineola, Mangano told reporters that calm would prevail.

"We've already called for a September 1 vote on a $400 Billion Rebuild Nassau Bond Referendum," said the County Exec. "The proceeds will be used, primarily, to raise taxes by way of artists' renderings of what Nassau would look like assuming we ever got off our butts and actually did something."

Meanwhile, at what was left at Hempstead Town Hall [a bust of Joe Mondello embracing Al D'Amato, a stack of Murraygrams, and a half-eaten ham sandwhich from the Coliseum Deli], Supervisor Kate Murray issued a statement -- full color copies of which will be mailed to all 200,000 homes in the Town -- on Earthquake Preparedness.

"Remember to wear clean underwear," Murray began. "And avoid standing under falling buildings..."

Sage advice, from those who know.

Murray, speaking on behalf of the entire Town Board, declared Hempstead Town a disaster area, and ordered the creation of a taxpayer-funded Special Earthquake Relief District (Joe Ra, Commissioner). Details on the nature and scope of the District were sketchy at press time.

Also heard from, by way of the now famous Campfire Express, was NYS and Nassau County Democratic Committee Chairman, Jay Jacobs. Jacobs, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that there had been an earthquake. "Just a GOP ruse," asserted the Party Chair, "to divert our attention from the real problems of Nassau County. I urge all residents to vote 'no' on the September 1 Bond issue."

At the MTA and Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, spokespersons said there had been no damage to the bridges, tunnels and rails, and that there were no quake-related delays. "Nothing out of the ordinary. Expect the usual 20-30 minute delays, random cancelations, and daily disruptions."

In anticipation of future disasters -- such as cloudy days and a 5 MPH breeze out of the west -- the MTA and Port Authority have both requested 200% fare increases, retroactive to 1997.

Chaos and destruction notwithstanding, County and Town residents appeared to take yesterday's earthquake in stride.

Wandering along Nassau's Hurricane Evacuation Route (no doubt getting a jump on Irene, likely to be headed our way this weekend), some of Long Island's most notable took pause to comment.

Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment said that the quake resulted from hydrofracking in the shale of Virginia. "Was it a coincidence that the quake happened on the very day hydrofracking hearings were being held in Albany? Of course it was. But we needed a good tie-in."

Elmont civic activist Patrick Nicolosi looked at the bright side of the quake. "Before the earthquake, the roads were cracked and pitted. Look at them now. Like new!"

Congressman Peter King blamed the earthquake on the rage of terrorist-hugging Muslims. "There's nothing natural about this," muttered King. "The mosque is the epicenter of all evil!"

And former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani added his now familiar tagline, "9/11!"

End-of-the-World believers were also having their best day ever, predicting floods, mudslides, typhoons and round-the-clock Mister Softee music playing all over town. The End Is Nearer Than It Was On Tuesday tee shirts were already being promoted on the Internet and hawked in the streets.

As they do most everything, LIers shrugged off the earthquake as simply another day on the island of misplaced dreams.

"Just add it to out property tax bills," said a passerby, not even stopping to pay homage at the makeshift memorial set up in front of the Receiver of Taxes' office. "Absolutely nothing surprises us anymore!"

Nassau Coliseum BEFORE Earthquake Hit Long Island

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dude, Where's My Tax Freeze?

So Much For "Holding The Line" On Property Taxes

Well, those pesky property tax statements for Town of Hempstead and County of Nassau taxes are in the mail once again, leaving most homeowners to wonder, "Which part of 'tax freeze' am I missing?"

All of it, apparently, judging from the increased tax levies, virtually across the board.

We won't name names, but wasn't it the Nassau County Executive who, broom in hand, told us that he "stopped" the outrageous hikes in the property tax? And wasn't it the Town of Hempstead Supervisor, smiling all the way to the office of the Receiver of Taxes, who pledged to "freeze" property taxes across the board? [Oh wait. That was for 2009 and 2012. Stuck right there in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression were hefty property tax hikes!]

Did someone, somewhere, not get the memo? Where are our Republican/Tax Revolt Party tax cuts?

But enough of the rhetoric. Let's look at the numbers.

For the County of Nassau, where ideas aren't the only things being swept under the rug, here are just some of the property tax increases over 2010 tax levies:

General Purposes -- +9.89%
County Police -- +6.05%
County Environmental Bond -- +26.94%
County Sewage Collection District -- +11.88%

Thank goodness taxpayers won't have to add a Coliseum/Hub Bond to the list!

On the Town of Hempstead side:

Highway Repairs/Improvements -- +6.50%
Building-Zoning-Etc. -- +6.47%
Town Lighting District -- +3.96%
Town Park District -- +9.07%
Town Public Parking District -- +12.33%

And while the tax levy for the Town of Hempstead's Refuse Disposal District actually decreased by 19.46%, the levy in the Town's Sanitary District (#6), whose budget is approved (or should we say, rubber-stamped?) each year by the Town Board, went up by 15.07%. That's a lot of garbage, folks!

We've been had, blind-sided, played for fools! So, what else is new?

Yes, our local governments are holding the line, all right, while taxpayers are left holding the now empty bag!

Sure. Wait 'til next year. A freeze. A Tax Cap. A promise to be made and later broken. One hand patting us on the back while the other picks our pockets!

We asked you to let us know if that "bottom line" on your property tax bill for 2011 had, in fact, gone down compared to 2010. Well, has it?

Just looking at the bottom line, we are moved, like so many of our fellow Long Islanders, to pick ourselves up, lock, stock and barrel, and venture to greener, less taxing, pastures. And we would. But who can afford the tolls to cross the Hudson?
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Won't Get Foooled Again? Yeah, Right!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

The Abandonment of the Nassau Hub

In case you hadn't noticed -- assuming you even care -- the deadline for new proposals for the redevelopment of the Nassau Hub/Coliseum has come and gone.

Newsday reported that eight -- yes, count 'em, 8 -- proposals had been put forth, each to be "carefully reviewed" by the County.

As per Newsday, of the eight ideas (none either novel or entirely new), "One response offers a revenue-sharing model; several 'appear to revisit leveraging the surrounding areas as a means to finance a new arena;' others seek to develop without an arena; none would privately finance a new Coliseum..."

Inspirational, isn't it? One wonders where all the visionaries have gone? To the Farmers' Markets, we suppose...

Developers are vying, if not drooling, to get a foot in the door. Special interest groups, under guise of that "better Long Island," are still lobbying. Taxpayers, at least those left here, are still reeling from hit after hit to their wallets.

Ideas? We have an idea? Bring back Charlie Wang, his Lighthouse and his money, and let's get a move on.

Ho. Hum. Been there. Done that.

So, now that Ed Mangano & Company's rushed Referendum on an ill-conceived, patchwork plan to bilk taxpayers out of $400+ million has gone down the tubes, it's back to "wait and see." Delay. Obfuscation. Put the patient back on the respirator and hope for the best.

And what has become of the great protagonists of progress -- or, for that matter, the antagonists, who "just say no" to absolutely everything?

Eleceted officials have gone back to doing what they do -- issuing boistrous press releases and smile-filled photo ops signifying nothing. Islanders fans have retreated to the shadows of a crumbling arena, back to discussing trades, jerseys and prospects for the coming season. Community groups and civic organizations, wishy-washy on the Coliseum/Hub issue, at best, have returned to their perceived core issues of suburban life. Why, even the naysayers have been silenced momentarily, awaiting, no doubt, the next big idea, and yet another opportunity to say "no."

If the Nassau Hub itself has not been abandoned, in great measure, by those who declared themselves the strongest supporters of development, then certainly, logic and reason have been left on the curbside of a Hempstead Turnpike at the crossroads of desolation and hopelessness.

To borrow from Bob Dylan, via Peter, Paul & Mary (did they ever play the Coliseum?), Don't Think Twice, It's All Right:

We're walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe
Where we're bound, we can’t tell
But goodbye’s too good a word, gal
So we’ll just say fare thee well
We ain’t sayin’ you treated us unkind
You could have done better but we don’t mind
You just kinda wasted our precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right
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HERE to read the Anton News Viewpoint, Bigger Than One Building

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Driving Miss Daisy

Or Is It, Dawn?

A hardly-noticed blurb, hidden in the hinter-pages of Newsday, chronicled, in short order, a motor vehicle accident involving a car owned by the Town of Hempstead and operated by a TOH employee, one Dawn Kurutz.

Nothing remarkable, on the face of it. After all, accidents happen.

What struck us, though -- raising a red flag -- was one salient fact: The accident took place in Copiague, County of Suffolk.

While the Town of Hempstead is, indeed, America's largest township, its reach extending far and wide, when last we looked, neither Copiague nor Suffolk were within the Town's boundaries.

So, what was a Town of Hempstead employee, driving a car owned by the Town (and, presumably, paid for by the Town's taxpayers), doing out in Suffolk County?

According to the Town's Minister of Misinformation, Mike Deery, as reported in Newsday, "Kurutz was on her way to work and was authorized to have the town vehicle."

Is there a reason Kurutz could not use her own vehicle to drive to and from work in Hempstead Town, this even if the TOH-owned car was used by her in the course of her employment? Did the Town have "business" out in Suffolk County for which Kurutz required use of an "official" vehicle? Do Town of Hempstead employees typically use Town-owned/taxpayer paid for vehicles to travel to and/or from work? Exactly what was this car doing out in Suffolk, other than providing a free ride to a TOH employee on the taxpayers' of Hempstead Town dime (add in gas -- unless this was one of those new-fangled Hydrogen-propelled vehicles -- and we're talking real money here)?

We won't even get into why a Suffolk County resident is on the Town of Hempstead payroll, especially at a time when so many qualified Town of Hempstead residents are unemployed, ready to work, and have more than vested interests in the municipality's affairs. [Will assume, for purposes of this blogpost, that Miss Kurutz is a relative, friend, or significant somebody connected in some way to the GOP.]

But we digress.

In a time of economic upheaval, when government, from the feds to the counties, is cutting back, firing workers, and moving toward austerity, how is it that a Town of Hempstead employee is "authorized" to take a Town-owned car to and from work?

In a Town that boasts -- time and time again -- the highest possible credit rating on Wall Street (and we all know now exactly how much credence we can put into that, thank you, Standard and Poors), how does allowing employees to have use of Town-owned vehicles for non-business purposes equate with fiscal prudence?

In an election year, with a campaign slogan of, "Trusted on Main Street," how can citizen taxpayers of Hempstead Town continue to place their "trust" in Town officials who squander hard to come by tax dollars on after-hour honorariums, such as use of official cars for unofficial business?

Maybe it's not just the "crash" in the stock market we have to worry about!

Of course, we may be off base here. Perhaps, way off. Could be that there was a very good reason for Dawn Kurutz having a Town-owned car to travel to work from Copiague in the County of Suffolk. Assuming a valid and reasonable explanation is in the offing, we'll report it right here on this blog, leaving you to decide the propriety -- or not -- of the act.

We are, however, painfully -- although not shockingly -- reminded of the many reports of Town employees operating "official", taxpayer-funded vehicles outside the scope of employment, ala Sanitary District supervisors driving Town-owned SUVs to, from, and virtually everywhere in between.

Yes, it gives us pause when we see, for instance, a vehicle emblazoned with the markings of a local fire, water or school district driving on a roadway outside of, say, Oneonta, New York. Seeing a "Chief's" SUV from a nearby hamlet's fire district on the NYS Thruway north of Westchester, we are tempted to flag 'em down, pull 'em over, and ask, "Where's the fire?"

The use of publicly owned vehicles to perform non-government tasks can sometimes be substantiated. More often than not, however, unofficial use of official vehicles is just plain wrong, if not outright unlawful (think Alan Hevesi's first conviction).

More than this, it prompts this blogger to ask two simple questions: Who is watching the pot at the Town of Hempstead, and do Town taxpayers really give a damn when their tax dollars are literally going out the exhaust pipe in Suffolk County?

We await Mike Deery's response. Stay tuned...
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From Newsday:

Town of Hempstead car in Copiague crash

August 10, 2011 by WILLIAM MURPHY /

A car owned by the Town of Hempstead was one of three vehicles involved in a collision Wednesday morning in Copiague, Suffolk County police said.

All three drivers were treated for minor injuries after the accident, which occurred about 9 a.m. in front of 30 Merrick Rd., police said.

One of the drivers, who was not identified, was cited for aggravated driving without a license, police said.

The Town of Hempstead employee driving the town vehicle, Dawn Kurutz, was not issued any summonses, a police spokeswoman said.

Town spokesman Michael Deery said Kurutz was on her way to work and was authorized to have the town vehicle.
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Today's Vision. Tomorrow's Reality.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Back To The Drawing Board At Nassau Hub

Could it have been the VOTE NO robo-calls running 4-1 over the VOTE YES phone tags, with sponsors postured disingenuously under monikers such as Association for a Better Long Island ("better" for whom, the developers that comprise the association?) and Committee for Smart Growth on Long Island (whose members wouldn't know "smart" if it came up and smacked them in the face)?

Or maybe it was the fact that the Referendum was foolishly held in the dead of summer, on a Monday, in the midst of the lazy days when even die-hard voters won't come out to the polls.

Perhaps the full strength of the most ardent of Islanders fans was no more able to secure a victory for the Mangano Plan than they were in bringing the elusive Stanley Cup back to the Island.

Did NIMBYism kill the Coliseum? Taxpayer disgust? The Tea Party?

While no one factor doomed the proposition, suffice it to say that the negatives tugged harder at the purse strings than the positives did at the heart strings, the Referendum to borrow $400 million on the taxpayers' tab going down to a resounding defeat on August 1.

Sure, we are all Islanders. Or not. Few argued that the outdated Coliseum should stand forever, the icon of the protracted debate of small-minded politicians and closed-minded residents. State-of-the-Art, circa 1970, clearly has no place in today's suburbia.

On the other hand, even those who wanted desperately to build a new arena had qualms about paying for it with our tax dollars, particularly when, just the year before, billionaire Islanders owner Charles Wang was ready, willing and most able to put up his own money to finance the overall redevelopment of the entire site that we call the Nassau Hub.

Bottom line: Not with our tax dollars, you don't!

Okay. The battle has been lost. What's next?

Islanders to Brooklyn? Cleveland? A Farmers' Market Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Coliseum parking lot? Guided tours of the county's answer to the ruins of the Acropolis?

There was to be no Plan B, according to Nassau County Exec Ed Mangano -- that is, until the Referendum failed, when, suddenly and without fanfare, there was to be a Plan B. Much like Plan A, there are no details and even fewer ideas (although the call for ideas now goes out), there not being much on the vision front in Mineola.

Politically, the Dems blew it (as they seem to do every year), and the GOP flubbed it. "Just say NO" appears to have won the day in Nassau County.

Credibility? Not Wang, whose billions remain in his pocket while taxpayers are out some $2 mil for the failed vote. Not Ed Mangano, whose every proposal since his surprise election has faded into obscurity or been left behind in the dust. Not even Islanders fans, who, despite some gallant efforts and a torrent of blogs and Tweets, could not muster enough YES votes to carry the measure.

So, now what?

Re-enter Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray, quietly waiting in the wings to sing out (ala Mighty Mouse), Here I come to save the day!

Yes, it was Kate who denied us the Lighthouse. Too big. Too much. Too bad. Preserving the character of suburbia while figuratively cutting off its head. Lighthouse would morph into Lighthouse Lite, and then, to a new Development Zone, lower density, less height, more suburban. [If it seems that the Town of Hempstead has almost as many "zones" as it does special districts, it does!]

Kate's 77 acres under the Mitchel Field Mixed Use Development Zone has a lower profile, a smaller scale, and, perhaps, a more palatable appeal for the masses. Not so much a grand plan and yet, in the scheme of things, in giving the people what they want as well as what the Island needs (assuming LIers have any clue along those lines), a leaner model may just be that lean forward Nassau County could go for. A Plan B (or are we up to C? D?) that both preserves the suburban character and positions the county for growth.

Would Charles Wang go for the Murray Plan now that the Mangano Plan is dead, cremated, with ashes strewn over the Coliseum?

Depends. It all boils down to economic feasibility. The economy of scale. Would a Lighthouse Lite give Charles & Company sufficient bang for the buck to make this project pop.

We'll leave crunching the numbers to the analysts and wonks. Frankly, it would be difficult to imagine that there wouldn't be enough of a profit in moving ahead with the Murray Plan (details to be forthcoming, to be sure), given Charles' insistence that a new arena alone, as base for the Islanders, is a profit generator. Throw in 500 homes, myriad retail businesses, and a host of recreational facilities, and voila -- a suburban paradise!

Can residents be sold on a Murray Plan? You betcha. Why, even we, at The Community Alliance, are coming around to embrace a Lighthouse Lite. And if there is anyone who can sell the public on such a redevelopment scenario, short of P.T. Barnum, it is Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray!

What better time, in an election year [There's an election? Really? Hey Gary Port, did you hear that?] for Kate and Team Murray to triumphantly proclaim (with respects to Andy Kaufman), Here I am to save the day!, unveiling and, yes, championing the Murray Plan for the Nassau Hub. [General Marshall, you had absolutely nothing on Supervisor Kate!]

Kate. Charlie. The puck is, as they say, in your arena...

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The Community Alliance
Today's Vision. Tomorrow's Reality.