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Opinion

Breaking red tape

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Breaking Point

Exclusive: Preview of VA changes coming

TV anchor and Newsday columnist Dan Raviv has scored an exclusive interview with David Shulkin, the new secretary of Veterans Affairs who is putting the finishing touches on his plan to remake the department. Shulkin and President Donald Trump, who made the plight of veterans’ medical care a centerpiece of his campaign, will hold a news conference Thursday morning on their plans.

Shulkin tells Raviv that he wants to overhaul the government medical system while allowing for the possibility that some veterans can get care from private providers for certain types of care the VA hasn’t done a good job of delivering.

Raviv, the D.C. anchor for i24News, an international news channel, will air his interview Tuesday night. His Newsday column will be published online Tuesday evening and in Wednesday’s print edition.

Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

Finding out the fate of Willets Point

After decades of trying, will Willets Point — the run-down, light-industrial area in Queens next to Citi Field — ever see new housing, a hotel, a megamall or other economic development?

We appear to be one step closer to an answer after the state’s top court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the appeal of a lawsuit that blocked the Willets West mall.

The mall, slated to be built on the Citi Field parking lot, is part of a planned $3 billion development effort by Queens Development Group, a combination of Related Companies and Sterling Equities, which owns the New York Mets.

The case before the Court of Appeals stems from a 2014 lawsuit by state Sen. Tony Avella, civic groups and business owners. They argued successfully in a lower court that the Citi Field parking lot is city parkland, and that a different use for it would require permission from the State Legislature.

There’s a lot riding on the outcome. The top court could pave the way for an important effort to remake a key Queens neighborhood, or keep it stalled, requiring the developers and New York City officials to rethink their plans. It could also affect Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plans to build an Air Train from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport, a project that might include airport parking as part of the Willets development. And the court’s decision could reshape the state’s broad restrictions on parkland use.

Last but not least, there are the New York Islanders, who have considered the Citi Field parking lot a potential site for a new arena, although the team has recently given priority to a location at Belmont Park. Would a decision that favors development on the lot lead the team to reconsider its options?

Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Deserted malls

More cartoons of the day

Pointing Out

Developer will foot town’s bill

With an important public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday on the mammoth Heartland Town Square project, developer Jerry Wolkoff says one thing Islip Town does not have to worry about is its own expenses related to the development.

Wolkoff says he’s going to take care of them.

A study released last month found that over the first five years of construction, Islip would incur $3.7 million in expenses for new employees and equipment to monitor the development that won’t be covered by the project’s permit fees and taxes.

Wolkoff told The Point he’ll make up the difference.

“I told them if my fees don’t cover it, I’ll cover the $3.5 million,” Wolkoff said. “These are all no-brainers. The town is not going to lay out a penny.”

His proposal calls for 9,000 apartments, 3.2 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of retail and a 32-year build-out. The town board is holding the hearing before an eventual vote on a zone change, one of the few remaining obstacles.

Wolkoff’s son, David, is scheduled to speak on behalf of the project at the town board hearing, but it’s difficult to imagine that his famously outspoken dad will remain silent throughout what’s likely to be a long and contentious evening.

Michael Dobie

Columns