Long Island data nerds love this time of year.
Go ahead: Count me among the nerds.
At the bleakest part of January, the Regional Plan Association and the Rauch Foundation - first-class data nerds, all of them - come out with the Long Island Index, an always revealing assemblage of local data, insight and trends.
And with it? Fresh possibility.
Outside of the U.S. Census every 10 years and reading the paper every day, there is no better mirror on the people and places of these two suburban counties and what it's like to live here.
The real focus this year is on how much available land Long Island has near train stations and walkable downtowns. It's more than anyone imagined. And it goes against every stereotype of the car addicted suburbs.
But the numbers - and possibilities - are hard to ignore: 131 acres in Port Jeff Station, 124 in Amityville, 120 in Hempstead, 118 in Hicksville and 108 in Mineola, 8,300 acres in all. If developed smartly, people could actually walk to dinner and a movie from their homes - then get up in the morning and ride the train to the city for work.
No one is suggesting Long Islanders walk, bike and train everywhere, always. But who could be against a broader choice?
If the Index gets that conversation started, the nerds will have spent a productive January. And life might actually improve as a result.
HAT/RING: Rick Lazio and Bruce Blakeman aren't the only LI Republicans feeling emboldened by Scott Brown's big Massachusetts win. Now, former talk-radio host John Gomez (WLIE and WHPC), a close Sean Hannity pal, says he's itching to challenge Rep. Steve Israel. "With the mood out there, he's more vulnerable than he realizes," said Gomez, who's been running a small company in the cell-phone business. He'll meet soon with Republican honchos, he said.
ASKED AND UNANSWERED: Long Island car sales are up? Good for the economy, right - and not so good for the traffic? . . . Is it too late to hope for a miracle at Corpus Christi? Final bell rings in June for the 88-year-old Mineola elementary school . . . When will LI bank robbers start showing some fashion sense? You see the demented-skier get-up on that guy at the TD Bank in Shirley? Call Stacey London now! . . . An 8-year-old boy, a 12-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, all bringing weapons to school the same week? But it's an anomaly, not a trend? Oh, good. I feel better now . . . Shouldn't someone tell Steve Levy: Government is easy, comedy is hard? . . . Next time Cablevision and the Food Network get into a tiff, can't they just settle it with a throwdown? . . . Now she's stripping for Haiti? Amy Fisher will never go away, right? . . . Andrew Kirtzman, Fire Island land baron? With two partners, the former TV reporter has just brought pretty much all the commercial space in the Pines . . . No offense to the fine reporters covering the Sharon McDonough case. But are you like me? Every time "pet torture" appears in a headline, you quickly turn the page?
Everybody talks about the climate. Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory are actually doing something about it. They've signed on for a key role in Gov. Paterson's 80-by-50 Challenge - by 2050 reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in New York State by 80 percent below 1990 levels. The big challenge: Squaring economic and environmental concerns. "Conventional thinking will not be enough," said associate director Patrick Looney. "We will need bold and innovative thinking, technologies and partnerships." Go, you brainiacs!