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Hearts on Heartland
The decision by Suffolk County’s planning commission to postpone for one month a vote on the Heartland Town Square project was a perfect metaphor for the progress of the massive project:
Nothing comes easy; it’s deja vu all over again, perpetually; and little is as it seems on the surface.
It might feel like Heartland has been kicking around for generations, but developer Jerry Wolkoff is only in his second decade of trying to push the mammoth project to the promised land. He purchased the old Pilgrim State property in Brentwood in 2002. It’s been nothing but serialized roadblocks since then, some caused by Wolkoff’s own temperament and some by concerns — some well-founded, some not — about the sheer size of his original $4 billion pitch for 9,000 apartments, 20,000 residents, and 4 million square feet of office and retail space.
And those concerns about traffic, density, strain on resources, and impact on the Brentwood school district — addressed in many studies, statements and findings — were aired yet again at Wednesday’s planning commission hearing.
The commission postponed its vote until Feb. 1, citing the need to further digest information before deciding whether to recommend that the Islip Town board grant Heartland a zoning change.
But insiders say the delay was really a nod to organized labor. Unions have always wanted a formal project labor agreement laying out wages and work conditions, while Wolkoff has been adamant about not granting one. Commission member Matt Chartrand, who is Islip Town’s representative as well as an official with the iron workers local, requested the delay because construction unions have scheduled a meeting with Wolkoff next week to make one last attempt to get some kind of agreement.
No matter what happens, Heartland seems likely to get the county recommendation. Then the project goes to Islip’s town board for final approval, and the battle lines will be drawn again.
Make America Buy Again
Everything about the presidential run and pre-inauguration moves of Donald Trump has been unprecedented, and that includes the merchandising, which thus far would make the Franklin Mint proud.
This week alone, donaldjtrump.com, or rather its store manager, “Alex,” has been alerting folks on the campaign’s email list about great deals, including a sales push for the “Inauguration Pint Glass” set (two for $25) on Tuesday and the “Inauguration Mug” (one for $30) on Wednesday.
Thursday’s email brought a “sellout alert” on the pint glasses, a warning to take heed and move fast.
Whether these will sell as well as the “Make America Great Again” Christmas ornament that went for $99 and looked just like the famous red hat or the $25 Trump/Pence tumbler the Trump organization offered up in November is anyone’s guess, as is the more pressing question: Will Trump continue this merchandising kick once he is the president of the United States of America?
Facebook’s emergency playbook
The LIRR derailment in Brooklyn on Wednesday morning resulted in more than 100 people sustaining minor injuries. Yet online reverberations continued into Thursday morning, because Facebook’s Safety Check feature had been activated.
The feature, early versions of which date to 2011, allows users to mark themselves “safe” if they are affected by an emergency situation—from natural disasters to, eventually, terror attacks. Facebook turned the service on during the Paris attacks in November 2015 but not for similar attacks in Beirut, a decision that had many critics.
This summer, Facebook changed the activation process so its users make the decision to activate. A third-party security firm “aggregates information directly from police departments, weather services, and the like,” said Facebook spokesman Stephen Rodi in an email. That third party “titles” the disaster, which in Brooklyn yesterday became “The Train Accident in Brooklyn, New York.” If the number of people talking about a verified incident crosses a certain threshold that varies by place and incident type, users who are in the area and talking about the incident receive the prompt and can mark themselves safe.
A full list of other New York-area Safety Check activations was not immediately available, but the service was turned on after the Chelsea bombing and Hoboken train crash, both in September.
By Wednesday afternoon, “Brooklyn Safety Check” had become something of a joke on social media, given the fortunate lack of seriousness of the incident. On the upside, “The Train Accident in Brooklyn, New York” would be a great title for a Bushwick absurdist theater production.