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Opinion

In the bedroom

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Good afternoon and welcome to The Point! On this #ThrowbackThursday we're unearthing some footage we took of Rep. Lee Zeldin in 2016 while also documenting the eternal troubles of the LIRR.

Daily Point

Cribs: Capitol Hill

Disrespectful. Unsanitary. Potentially unethical.

That’s how 30 members of the Congressional Black Caucus described the behavior of members of Congress who sleep in their offices in a letter to the House Ethics Committee last December and leaked to Politico on Tuesday.

“The actions of these Members raise several obvious and potential violations that reflect negatively upon the decorum and credibility of the House as a body and as an institution,” stated the letter, whose signatories include Gregory Meeks, who represents Long Island and Queens in the 5th CD.

Politico estimates that 40 to 100 members dorm in their offices. That includes men and women from both parties, most notably House Speaker Paul Ryan.

CD1’s Lee Zeldin is the only member of Long Island’s delegation to sleep in his office.

Zeldin gave us a tour of his office-bedroom in the Longworth House Office Building in 2016.

At first glance, the space is unremarkable: There is an anteroom with a waiting area and sizable work space; suites in the Longworth building have more room for staff and constituent services, but smaller member offices. Zeldin’s personal office is about the size of a large bedroom. It has a desk, a small couch and is lined with wooden bookcases featuring memorabilia from Long Island and Zeldin’s career. In a narrow closet adjoining the office, Zeldin has a cot, clothes rack, bathroom and refrigerator. “It’s a good setup,” Zeldin said as he gave us a tour. Click here to see the video of Zeldin’s office.

Zeldin sees staying on Capitol Hill as a way to maximize his efficiency in Washington. “He goes to Washington entirely focused on and committed to representing his great constituents,” said Katie Vincentz, Zeldin’s communications director. “When he’s there, literally from the very moment he wakes up to the very moment he falls asleep, his only priority during those long hours is working and being a stalwart advocate of his constituents.”

Zeldin seems to enjoy his setup. If he ever needs extra campaign cash, he could roll out an extra mattress and do a nice side business as an Airbnb host.

Sam Guzik

Reference Point

If only they knew then what we know now . . .

In March 1951, after two accidents led to significant concerns about the safety of the Long Island Rail Road, a debate was underway about the future of the management of the railroad. The question: whether the LIRR should continue under private ownership and management, or whether it should be taken over by a public authority. A commission wanted it to go public, while Gov. Thomas Dewey wanted the LIRR to remain under private ownership. By the end of the month, however, New York lawmakers passed a law creating a public entity called the Long Island Transit Authority.

Little could they know that while the LIRR would remain public, we’d still be debating its leadership nearly 70 years later.

Maybe Dewey was right!

Randi F. Marshall

Pointing Out

Congressional races get a psychic reading

New predictions for the midterm congressional elections by Sabato’s Crystal Ball describe Tom Suozzi as a little up and Lee Zeldin as a little down.

The ratings released Thursday from the much-referenced political analysis shop run by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics shift Suozzi’s seat from “likely Democratic” to “safe Democratic.” However, Zeldin’s went from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican.”

The changes come not from “new developments, just an application of national factors,” Sabato’s managing editor, Kyle Kondik, said in an email to The Point. In CD1, Kondik says he was factoring in “how competitive [the district] has been historically and could be again” given a midterm drag on Republicans. The Zeldin rating notes that he seems likely to face a credible challenger.

That remains to be seen among a crowded field of Democrats in which not much has changed recently, but Sabato’s rating suggests a wider headwind for House Republicans.

Overall, this week’s edition featured 26 changes in the House, all boosting Democrats. That included Suozzi, who can give thanks to being a Democratic incumbent, a class of competitor that Sabato’s thinks will be very hard to beat this fall.

Mark Chiusano

Pointed

Sini’s spotlight

After an opioid dealer pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter last week, Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini has been working on state legislation to make it easier to hold drug dealers criminally responsible for their customers’ deaths.

Less than three months in office, Sini found an issue that can raise his profile off Long Island.

The case involved dealer Roxy Headley Jr., 30, of Mastic Beach, who was caught on a wiretap bragging, “I have the stuff that has all the bodies on it.” Headley was the first drug dealer charged in New York with second-degree manslaughter in an indictment brought by Sini’s predecessor, Thomas Spota.

“We shouldn’t have to gather that evidence” to prove that the dealer knew and disregarded the risks of the product being sold, Sini told The Point. “If you’re selling a substance and it causes death, there should be an enhanced penalty.”

“We’re going to be pretty active,” he said. “This is a big issue for Suffolk County.”

At a news conference, which can be seen on YouTube, Sini held up a 2-foot-tall poster of Headley, a bearded black man, although he was in custody and not a present danger to the community.

Sini is drafting two bills and plans to reach out for support to the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York and Suffolk’s state lawmakers. He said his legislation goes further than Laree’s Law, which the association has championed in the State Legislature for two years.

One bill would mirror federal law by allowing law enforcement officials to charge a drug dealer with a homicide-related crime when a customer dies, Sini said, even without evidence that the dealer knew he was selling “poison.” He said the difference could be a maximum sentence of 20 years versus 10 years when someone is caught with a kilo of heroin.

The other bill is an analogue statute that would allow law enforcement to bring charges when a new substance mimics the effects of one already being sold. An example, he said, is the deadly fentanyl, which imitates the high of heroin.

“The laws have to keep pace with the innovations of the drug dealers,” Sini said.

Anne Michaud

Columns

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