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Hub of chaotic activity
When you read the words “Hub advisory committee,” do you imagine a small group of key Long Islanders gathering in Mineola to provide advice and direction to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran?
Or do you imagine a gathering of many stakeholders, each making sure his or her interests are heard, with little real advice or direction provided, and no specific goals or deadlines set?
This week’s first Hub advisory committee meeting featured more of the latter. It was “a very large committee with a lot of competing interests and agendas,” crowded into Curran’s conference room Wednesday afternoon, one committee member told The Point. At stake is 77 acres of county-owned land around Nassau Coliseum.
The group has grown from a core of nine to the 17 that met Wednesday — and that didn’t even include the conveners, Curran and Chief Deputy County Executive Helena Williams. Everyone had something to say, from the Uniondale schools superintendent who dismissed the possibility of bringing housing to the Hub, to the region’s builders, who want the county to issue a new request for proposals, essentially starting over.
Midway through the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Syosset developer Ed Blumenfeld, who won the right to propose a plan after he settled a lawsuit with developer Bruce Ratner, made an appearance.
Blumenfeld’s plan, committee members said, is familiar to those who have seen the developer’s previous pitches for the land. It would include entertainment-oriented, nontraditional retail, like Bass Pro Shop and Topgolf, combined with a bit of housing and some room for biotechnology or other corporate use.
John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, said the meeting provided a rare opportunity for business, labor and construction leaders to come together and agree on at least one thing: “We all want to get something done.”
“I think it was a very, very good first step,” committee member Mitch Pally, who heads the Long Island Builders Institute, told The Point.
Despite that optimism, several committee members said little was accomplished at the initial meeting, that it was more an airing of individual needs rather than a constructive advisory session. So far there doesn’t seem to be a clear objective or a timetable.
“Everything is different,” one attendee said. “The landscape has completely changed, and maybe it’s a good opportunity to go back to zero and look at this.”
Randi F. Marshall
Ryan’s next of kin
After Paul Ryan’s gavel-dropping announcement, all eyes are on the battle for the speakership of the House of Representatives.
While dark-horse candidates like Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan of Ohio are being mentioned, the main players are Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who hails from Sacramento and was endorsed by Ryan Friday, and Whip Steve Scalise of New Orleans. Traditional wisdom would give McCarthy a slight edge because he holds the higher leadership position and is known as a consensus-builder. But Scalise, besides being more popular with the far-right Freedom Caucus, also has become a sentimental favorite in the chamber since being shot last year by a gunman during practice for the annual congressional baseball game.
But assuming the GOP holds the majority, which of the two would be most sympathetic to the needs of Long Island and best for the region?
The Point took a look at three Long Island priorities to answer that question:
1) On the Zadroga Act, which provides health monitoring and financial aid to the first responders, volunteers and survivors of the 9/11 attacks, neither has exactly been a stand-up guy. Neither voted for the act in 2010, and neither was among the 272 co-sponsors of its reauthorization when it became part of a larger appropriations bill that passed in 2015.
But McCarthy does get a slight edge on the issue. The bill came up three times in 2010, and Scalise voted against it three times. McCarthy signaled nay only once, not casting a vote the first time the Zadroga Act hit the floor, nor the final time, when it passed.
2) On aid for New York and the region after superstorm Sandy in 2012, McCarthy has a clear Long Island edge, particularly when you consider geography. Both men voted for the first $9 billion approved to cover early flood insurance payouts. But when it came time to approve another $50 billion, spending some Republicans fought hard, McCarthy was a yes vote. Scalise, whose home region got a tremendous federal Katrina bailout in 2005, voted against the Sandy aid.
3) On the federal deduction for state and local taxes in last year’s tax bill, Scalise stood up for the complete elimination. McCarthy, whose state and district lend him at least some blue sensibilities, was central to keeping $10,000 of the deductibility, and seeing that it could be used for income taxes as well as property taxes.
Overall, McCarthy looks like a better fit for Long Island than Scalise. And, for that matter, a far better fit than Ryan, who opposed every version of Zadroga and every Sandy relief bill, and dreamed up the tax plan that would have eliminated all state and local tax deductions.
There are nine State Assembly seats to be filled in April 24’s special election — with the vacancies evenly split among Long Island, New York City and upstate. There is little chance the NYC seats held by Democrats will change parties, while two of the three being contested on Long Island are expected to stay in the GOP column. Upstate, however, could hold some surprises.
Huntington’s 10th District seat vacated by Republican Chad Lupinacci, now the town supervisor, is considered a bellwether for November. And Democrats are suddenly optimistic that they can snatch at least two of the three seats upstate as well.
In Greene County’s 102nd District, a Republican feud caused Wes Laraway to collect enough signatures to run as an independent against the party’s pick, Schoharie Supervisor Christopher Tague. As a result, the Democrats see a big opening for Aidan O’Connor, a county legislator.
In the Buffalo area’s 142nd District, there is a vacancy because Michael Kearns, a registered Democrat, won election on the Republican line as Erie County clerk. Kearns, who won an Assembly special election on the GOP line in 2012, caucused with state Dems, except for when he moved across the aisle. The district, always a caldron of intrigue, has two registered Democrats running against each other, but keeping with party-switching tradition, one of them, Erik Bohen, is running on the GOP line. As a result, the favorite is Erie County Legis. Patrick Burke, who is running on the Democratic and Working Families lines.
There is little polling in these races, so the Democrats’ optimism is based more on the enthusiasm they see on the ground and the conversion of purple seats to blue ones in non-urban areas of states like Virginia and New Jersey.
Control of the Assembly, which Democrats hold by a comfortable margin, wouldn’t change if a handful more Democrats are added. However, such an outcome would grow the suburban caucus within it and possibly make its voice a bit louder.