Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!
Throwing some power shade
Howard Glaser, the former director of operations for New York State, delivered one of the cruelest insults of all Monday night on Twitter: “@NYSEandG is the new LILCO.”
Glaser has been on a social media rant about the dismal performance of the utilities serving Westchester County and the Lower Hudson Valley after last week’s nor’easter. In a backhand way, it’s a testament to how well PSEG Long Island performed — which it should have, considering the billions of dollars invested to improve infrastructure and storm readiness after Sandy. But still.
Long Island Power Authority chief executive Tom Falcone told The Point Tuesday afternoon that PSEG got 60,000 calls and text messages about outages, most during the height of Friday’s coastal storm. Many were texts, taking pressure off the PSEG’s call center, enabling calls to be answered in about 17 seconds.
And there were a lot of smiles in Uniondale after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s late-afternoon news release demanded an investigation of and penalties for NYSEG and Con Ed for their inadequate response. It wasn’t too long ago, after Irene and Sandy, that LIPA, the heir to LILCO, was the primary target for Cuomo. Of course, outperforming LILCO and National Grid is not a high bar.
Falcone said 220 Long Island line workers and their equipment were sent upstate. They went to help crews working 16-hour shifts to get the power back on in Westchester and the northern suburbs before the next coastal storm, one threatening heavy snow, hits the region.
“We’ll call them back if we need them,” said a confident Falcone.
Raising a storm
You know it’s getting closer to crunchtime in Albany when Long Island advocates make their annual trip to the state capital to lobby lawmakers and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s staff on legislation they want passed.
With the March 31 budget deadline looming, the group of 40 or so who hopped a bus Tuesday morning included representatives from chambers of commerce, environmental and civic groups, labor unions, construction, solar and wind energy companies, AARP, Island Harvest and the day care industry, among others.
“We have been growing in diversity and number over the years . . . I can’t even believe it,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment and one of the effort’s organizers.
In a midday report for The Point, the local contingent said it was making progress. It found bipartisan support on issues like a plan in Cuomo’s budget that would let people employed by small businesses that don’t offer 401(k)s to make retirement savings through a state program, and a bill from Sen. Kemp Hannon that would require drug manufacturers to pay for a statewide program for the safe disposal of prescription drugs.
Discussions with Senate members on proposals to provide funding for county bus systems via some kind of fee on ride-hailing operations like Uber also were encouraging. “They obviously don’t want to subsidize the county budget, but they want to partner with the county,” said Vision Long Island director Eric Alexander, another lobby coalition organizer. “We didn’t get any pushback on that.”
One downer: While 16 members of Long Island’s Assembly delegation confirmed they would attend their session with the advocates, only five — Fred Thiele, Andrew Raia, Michael Fitzpatrick, Kimberly Jean-Pierre and Christine Pellegrino — showed up. The others sent staff.
“We made it known we were annoyed,” Esposito said.
New York in one bite
Head winds from CSEA
When Nassau County Civil Service Employees Association president Jerry Laricchiuta balked Monday at contract extensions with outside firms to do the county’s assessment work, the question The Point wanted answered was, “Why now?”
It’s the latest game of hardball between the new administration and the county’s unions.
County Executive Laura Curran sought to extend contracts signed in 2015 with Standard Valuation Services and Michael Haberman Associates to help determine the value of all county properties and build a defensible tax roll. The companies have earned $3.8 million, and Curran wants the county legislature to authorize another $2.6 million worth of work.
Laricchiuta now says such a deal would violate the union’s collective bargaining agreement that says members cannot be laid off and their work performed by outside vendors. He says he was never informed about the 2015 contract, or he would have fought that one, too.
Laricchiuta says he did go to bat in 2011 for the 69 assessment workers then-County Executive Edward Mangano laid off when he froze the tax rolls and the county stopped assessing properties. The workers won six months’ pay in arbitration but failed to get their jobs back because Mangano said he would no longer contract with outside firms to do the laid-off workers’ tasks.
The assessor's office had 234 workers in 2011 and now has 111.
Curran must create accurate tax rolls if she is to solve the county’s ongoing assessment problem. The Mangano plan resulted in tax-appeal firms earning more than $500 million in six years and $1.7 billion in property taxes being shifted from those who appealed, nearly all of whom were granted reductions, to those who did not appeal.
To get needed support from the GOP-controlled county legislature, Curran has had to guarantee that property owners who are underpaying won’t see their bills go up more than 6 percent in any year, or a total of 20 percent in any 5 years. And even that hasn’t been enough to get the contracts approved, thanks to her problem with Laricchiuta, whose 5,000 county employee members have worked without a contract since Jan. 1.