Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!
In the confusing flurry of activity at the White House, the tense phone conversation between Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull caught my eye.
Trump described the Obama administration agreement for the United States to accept some of the Middle Eastern refugees being detained on Australian prison islands in Papua New Guinea as a “bad deal.”
Casual U.S. observers might just shrug and agree with the president about refugees languishing on the other side of the planet. But they are, of course, people, one of whom I know.
A 24-year-old Iranian cartoonist is being detained on tiny Manus Island under conditions the UN has described as “cruel and illegal.” Far from being among the “next Boston bombers,” as Trump called the refugees, his name is Ali.
Ali is a gentle, creative man who goes by the pen name Eaten Fish: an editorial commentary on how he feels after being plucked from the ocean while seeking a better life (cartoonists aren’t treated particularly well by Iran). For three traumatic years, he has been held captive behind a barbed-wire fence on the island, where he has been emotionally and physically abused.
He is unable to leave — unless he agrees to return to Iran. A cartoonist returning to be dealt with by Iranian authorities? Now that, President Trump, would be what I consider a “bad deal.”
Marching to Massapequa
The national protests at the home offices of members of Congress are coming to Massapequa Park.
Rep. Peter King, a strong voice for restricting immigration and increasing domestic surveillance of Muslims, will be greeted by Long Islanders who feel differently in a rally Friday afternoon in front of King’s office in Massapequa Park. Their intent is to demonstrate unity against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from Syria indefinitely and all travel from seven Muslim-majority countries temporarily.
Liuba Grechen Shirley said she formed New York’s 2nd District Democrats — NY02 Dems, for short — after comments were deleted from King’s Facebook page, and he referred to protesters as “lowlifes” in a Jan. 30 Newsday story.
Also on hand Friday will be the Long Island Progressive Coalition, Long Island MoveOn.org, Bend the Arc Jewish Coalition and Action Together Long Island, among others.
NY02 Dems is dedicated to re-energizing and mobilizing Democrats in King’s district, Shirley said. Taking the fight from Facebook to the street and then to the ballot box?
Heartland comes full circle
So now Heartland Town Square is back where it was always destined to be — in the lap of the Islip Town board.
There was little doubt the Suffolk County Planning Commission would recommend the needed zoning change be granted for developer Jerry Wolkoff’s mammoth proposal for thousands of residents and millions of square feet of residential, retail and office space on the old Pilgrim state hospital property in Brentwood. And the commission’s vote was unanimous, 14-0.
But that unanimity allowed the commission to attach a few conditions to its approval — most notably, that the project’s contractors and subcontractors have apprenticeship programs and that Islip regularly monitor traffic beginning at 50 percent occupancy of phase one. To override those conditions, depending on how they were written, might require a supermajority vote of 4-1 on the five-person town board.
The board doesn’t figure to take this up until April, given the complexity of the project. But the fun and games have already started. By early Thursday afternoon, a box truck was circling Islip Town Hall carrying the message: “DEVELOPERS DON’T RUN SUFFOLK OR ISLIP DO THEY?”