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Screening for Nassau DA

Joyce A. Smith, middle, is sworn in as

Joyce A. Smith, middle, is sworn in as acting Nassau County District Attorney by New York State's Court of Appeals Judge Madeline Singas in Supreme Court in Mineola on Wednesday.  Peyton Smith, Smith's father, right, holds the Bible. Credit: James Carbone

Daily Point

A primary-less Nassau DA race

Five candidates screened Tuesday for the Democratic nomination for Nassau County district attorney, the post vacated by Madeline Singas, who was confirmed last week for a judgeship on the state Court of Appeals.

They were State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who’s served in his current post since 2016; Michael Scotto, a former Manhattan prosecutor who ran a primary against Singas in 2015; Nassau Assistant DA and senior litigation counsel Nicole Aloise; Michael Soshnick, a criminal defense attorney with a practice in Mineola and Stephen Drummond of Freeport, who practices law in Queens.

Last week, Joyce Smith was sworn in as Singas’ interim successor, becoming the first Black person to fill the role. But she has made clear she wasn’t going to seek an elected term, and therefore did not screen.

Under the election law as applied, Singas departs the DA’s job in time for an election to be held in November - but too late for the parties to hold primaries. The election is for a four-year term that would begin in January.

As a result, the Republican and Democratic county executive committees decide the nominations and will submit them for the fall ballot. Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs is expected to reach a decision with his panel Monday.

GOP Chairman Joseph Cairo is conducting his own process, with an eye toward completing appointment of a committee with prominent members by the end of the week. Cairo says several prospective candidates have come forward.

The interview panel for the Democrats’ screening consisted of nine appointees: Lawyer Oscar Michelen, one of the directors of the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association; Bishop Lionel Harvey of the First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury; Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett; lawyers Robert Aiello, Richard M. Gutierrez, Soraya Campbell and Keisha Marshall; Dino Amoroso, lawyer and former Nassau OTB president, and gun safety advocate Linda Beigel Schulman.

One insider said state election law doesn’t set a clear deadline for filing the nomination under these circumstances - only prescribing that it be done "as soon as practicable."

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Breaking bread to raise bread with a side of unity

Long Island will soon have its own Al Smith dinner, a political gathering and social event extraordinaire designed to foster bipartisanship and raise money for a local charity.

Unlike the storied Smith dinner, a white tie and ballgown event at the Waldorf Astoria hosted each year by the leader of the Archdiocese of New York, the high priests of the "Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Dinner" will be the chairs of the Nassau County Republican and Democratic parties, Joseph Cairo and Jay Jacobs.

The pair have high ambitions, hoping to sell 1,200 tickets, and are seeking big names for their program for the evening, which will take place on Monday, Dec. 13, at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

"It’s a great idea," said Cairo. "We give it our all on the field, in our campaigns, but once the election is over we have to work together."

Jacobs said the event will be "upbeat and patriotic."

"Coming together is the only way forward because the country can’t go on like this," said Jacobs.

The pair said they will appoint a board of directors, split down the middle by party affiliation, to run the dinner and that each year a different charity will be selected. For the inaugural event, the proceeds will go to The Inn, which started as a soup kitchen in Hempstead, and expanded into the Interfaith Nutrition Network, a volunteer organization that addresses issues of hunger and homelessness in many communities in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Two men, of a certain generation, believe that political parties can work together for the common good. In interviews with The Point, both decried the current rancor in politics and were searching for a way to model behavior of an earlier time - a feeling evidenced in their conversations as each sought to give the other credit for the idea, which was nurtured along at other dinners the two have routinely.

Cairo described a formative experience when he was first elected to the Hempstead Town council in 1975. Democrat Jerry Kremer, then the influential chairman of the State Assembly Ways and Means committee, came to the assistance of the solidly GOP town. "It taught me about the need to work for common causes, for the need to have a little more cooperation and be less adversarial," Cairo said.

While the dinner’s namesakes were both U.S. presidents and governors of New York, Democrat Franklin Roosevelt doesn’t have as much of an historical connection to Nassau County as his cousin, Republican Theodore, who lived for much of his life in Oyster Bay. Advantage GOP? No, retorted Democrat Jacobs: "FDR saved Long Island from the Depression and the Nazis … and, he married the Long Island guy’s niece."

— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli

Pencil Point

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Final Point

The roots of Suffolk's "Reimagine Transit"

Behind Suffolk County’s attempt to redesign its bus system for the first time in 40 years, there is a player whose previous success in helping people get around might impact just how creative Suffolk gets.

Jon Kaiman is Suffolk’s deputy county executive, but in 2009 he was the North Hempstead Town supervisor who implemented "Project Independence," providing seniors free taxi trips to grocery stores and discounted lifts to medical appointments.

Wednesday Kaiman told The Point that Suffolk’s "Reimagine Transit" initiative is an attempt to really rethink how the county gets people around, and that will include looking at taxis and rideshares as options for convenient, efficient travel.

Suffolk’s buses carried about 6 million riders in 2011, its peak year, but had dropped to 4 million annually by 2018. Officials say the pandemic has driven that number even lower.

Meanwhile costs have risen, to $84 million annually.

That’s about $21 a ride, a number that looks even higher when you consider that the federal government picks up most of the cost for buying the buses.

In North Hempstead, where current Supervisor Judi Bosworth added rides for the disabled to the program for seniors in 2016, Kaiman said they found a need, and then found they’d fulfilled more than that need.

"We knew people needed rides to the grocery store and the doctor," Kaiman said.

He then recounted a complaint against the North Hempstead program, about taking riders to a supermarket without benches when the Nassau County buses ran to one with benches, that made officials realize people were going in order to socialize, not just shop.

So the town got the grocery store to which it was taking riders to install benches.

The "Reimagine Transit" initiative is looking at everything from route layouts to frequency, underserved areas and those that may be overserved, and trying to learn why people do, and don’t, use the system.

Two basic concepts are under consideration: a "ridership" model that tries to maximize use and a "coverage" model that would aim at distributing service evenly across Suffolk.

But Kaiman says both will be informed by creativity about how people get to where they’re going beyond big buses, particularly when it comes to the difficulty of getting people the last mile to their destinations.

Residents can respond to a survey at connectli.org until June 30.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

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