Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!
A busy afternoon
The newsletter is arriving a bit early Thursday because it will be a busy afternoon here at GHQ in Melville.
State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, whom Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo lavishly praised for his work on the state budget at an event Wednesday in Hauppauge, is due to stop by. We want to talk with him about what may be going down for the rest of the legislative session, since Cuomo says there is pretty much nothing left to do. Most likely we will editorialize on Albany’s agenda on Sunday.
And as the Long Island Power Authority gets ready to release its Integrated Resource Plan & Repowering Study, we are meeting with an international renewable energy company that wants to bid on LIPA solar and wind projects.
Teachers union gets new class president
When the New York State United Teachers union elected Andrew Pallotta its fourth president earlier this month, it marked a first.
Pallotta, a former elementary school teacher in the Bronx, is the first NYSUT president to come out of New York City and the United Federation of Teachers, the union’s largest local chapter. About 40 percent of NYSUT’s 630,000 members are from the UFT.
Teachers on Long Island and in other suburbs have different issues and goals than those who work in city schools and the president of the union traditionally drives the agenda.
This is a huge geographic rebalancing for NYSUT, but one that has happened gradually.
The union was formed by merging two previous unions in 1972, with Buffalo teacher Tom Hobart as president and legendary NYC teacher union leader Albert Shanker as executive vice president. The merger consolidated power, and tamped down strife after years of vicious infighting.
Hobart served until 2005, when he was replaced by Central Islip’s Richard Iannuzzi. Three years ago, Iannuzzi, in a fierce campaign, was unseated by a city-supported UFT slate, but one that had Westchester teacher Karen Magee as president to keep the impression that the suburbs were steering the ship.
But Magee was not popular with the rank and file or with UFT president Michael Mulgrew, and she bowed out rather than face a certain defeat by Pallotta.
The four-year moratorium on the state’s new teacher evaluation system is about halfway over and will end during Pallotta’s three-year term. The opt-out movement, which on Long Island now sees more than 50 percent of students in third through eighth grades refusing to take standardized tests, has almost no resonance in NYC. Not a UFT concern.
The sands are shifting — and not in Long Island’s direction.
‘Strong Island’ spotlight
Long Island’s underbelly is front and center on the documentary film circuit this year.
“Strong Island,” a deeply personal and wrenching film that explores the 1992 killing of director Yance Ford’s older brother, is racking up festival awards and positive reviews. It tells the story of a quarrel at a Central Islip body shop in which mechanic Mark Reilly, 19, shot William Ford Jr., 24.
Reilly was white, Ford was black, and an all-white grand jury refused to indict.
Ford’s parents escaped racial segregation in the 1960s Jim Crow South by heading to Brooklyn, only to encounter, after another move, the more subtle divisions of Long Island — a frustration Long Islanders will recognize.
They’ll also recognize the body shop’s owner. The film says he traded in stolen-car parts and that Ford Jr. had told the owner he would shut the place down when he finished the process of becoming a police officer.
In one 1992 Newsday story, the owner identified himself only as Tommy. But the film ID’s him as Thomas Datre Jr., who pleaded guilty last year to charges that he and others dumped tens of thousands of tons of contaminated material in Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood and three other sites.
“Strong Island” was picked up by Netflix and will be seen there and in some theaters in the fall.
It’s a small world after all