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Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, at the Mineola train

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, at the Mineola train station on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, said his office will withhold $28 million due "now" to the MTA because of LIRR commuter dissatisfaction. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!

Daily Point

The comptroller polls commuters

The Nassau County Comptroller’s Office announced Wednesday that polling it conducted on county commuters’ attitudes toward the Long Island Rail Road found that 65 percent are unsatisfied with service overall.

There was no word on what percentage of Nassau taxpayers are dissatisfied with Comptroller George Maragos focusing office resources on polling.

Maragos was elected twice to his job as a Republican, and is now running in a Democratic primary for county executive against Legis. Laura Curran, the party’s candidate. And he seems to be wading more and more into areas beyond the comptroller’s duties of auditing, contract oversight, financial reports and oversight of county payroll and health benefits.

According to a news release, the poll was conducted in late July and early August, “by interviewing LIRR commuters online and in person, at the Floral Park, Garden City, Great Neck, Merrick, Mineola, Stewart Manor and Rockville Centre stations.”

Questioners polled 380 people, and found that riders are not happy on a variety of topics. The LIRR itself releases annual polling, and its numbers last September indicate an 84 percent satisfaction rate. But Maragos said in his release that LIRR “management is only deceiving itself with their internal polling which appears to be as unreliable as the service being provided.”

The LIRR numbers came from surveying 15,314 riders on 112 trains, including peak, off-peak and reverse peak time. The railroad said the sampling was weighted to reflect ridership levels at different times of day and on different lines.

It’s not clear, though, exactly how Maragos’ poll was conducted. Asked by The Point whether it was done by office employees, at what times of day, and how respondents were chosen, Emmanuel Asse, who is in charge of communications for the office, said: “I will not discuss that over the phone. I’ll let you know if we’re going to get back to you or not.”

Lane Filler

Talking Point

Denenberg’s bridge over troubled waters

The long-suffering customers of Nassau’s private water company have begun raising money to take the company, New York American Water, to court. As the fundraising surges, the campaign and legal challenge marks a comeback of sorts for former county Legis. Dave Denenberg.

Denenberg automatically forfeited his seat after his guilty plea in 2015 to federal mail fraud related to overbilling a legal client. He returns as director of Long Island Clean Air Water and Soil. Denenberg told The Point that suing over American Water’s rates is not a bid to resurface his public service career — his environmental concerns, rather, are what led him to seek public office in the first place.

“I look at it as a way to stay involved and make a difference on environmental matters,” he said. Denenberg lost his law license over his crimes, and so won’t be representing LICAWS as it goes to court.

In three weeks, the nonprofit group has raised about $5,000 toward its goal of $10,000 to pay the anticipated legal fee to appeal a state Public Service Commission decision granting the water company a rate increase. There’s a Sept. 15 deadline to file an appeal. LICAWS is also considering a class-action lawsuit.

American Water customers claim their bills of about $250 a month are subsidizing county and town government, and local schools, while customers with public water systems pay closer to $250 a year for service. As a private company, American Water pays property taxes.

“Most Nassau residents are getting their water tax-exempt,” Denenberg argues.

He and co-director Claudia Borecky are setting their sights on ultimately raising $25,000 for the court battles. So far, some of the 120,000 customers of American Water seem happy to write a check.

Anne Michaud

Pencil Point


More cartoons of the day

Pointing Out

Look behind Trump

Perhaps you noticed the sign behind President Donald Trump Tuesday night in Phoenix: “Blacks for Trump,” carried by a man wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed “Trump & Republicans Are Not Racist.” The T-shirt also had a website:

Let The Point spare you from clicking through to the site, which is registered to Maurice Symonette of Miami, Florida, who also goes by the name “Michael the Black Man.”

He has reportedly been a member of the violent Yahweh ben Yahweh cult, and in 1990 he was charged with other members with racketeering and conspiracy in 14 homicides and a firebombing, according to the Miami New Times. Symonette was later acquitted.

He has appeared at various political rallies, protesting former President Barack Obama and, more recently, cheering Trump. In an October 2016 rally in Florida, for example, Symonette was behind Trump just like on Tuesday, and his sign got a shout-out from the candidate.

Oh, and that website: It details “ISIS & HILLARY RACE WAR PLOT TO KILL ALL BLACK & WHITE WOMAN OF AMERICA WITH MS-13” (sic). Also, an East Indian and Cherokee plot to kill women, and criticism of Democrats and Arizona Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain, and a plea for donations.

Symonette did not respond to calls for comment, but how has he been repeatedly framed behind Trump on national television?

Shoddy advance work? Or does the president think Symonette helps his case?

Mark Chiusano