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LI state lawmaker reflects on Haiti crisis

Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), a New York State

Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), a New York State lawmaker of Haitian descent, says those she's talked with "want to assure Haiti has its sovereignty."  Credit: Craig Ruttle

Daily Point

Huntington politics reaches new heights

A public hearing on the future of apartment construction is a very tense topic on the agenda for Tuesday’s Huntington town board meeting, but it may not stay there.

At issue is a proposed ordinance that would increase the allowable height of apartment buildings built outside the town’s five hamlets/villages but within 1,500 feet of them, from 38 feet to 45 feet, to permit three stories.

A strange twist of fate makes the idea an issue in the town’s contentious three-way supervisor race. The original supporters of the change, board members Eugene Cook and Mark Cuthbertson, don’t want it discussed, while opponents led by board member Ed Smyth want it out front.

Smyth is the Republican nominee for town supervisor. Cook petitioned his way into the race on the "STOP LIPA" line. Rebecca Sanin has the Democratic line.

Although the proposed change would be broad, it was requested to allow for a specific project, by attorney Thomas Abbate, for the old Harbor Beverage site at 204-206 New York Ave.

The change drew immediate opposition in a town where many residents see overbuilding as a problem, and last week Abbate wrote to the town board asking that the public hearing be canceled.

But it can only be taken off the agenda by majority vote, and that vote can only happen at the Tuesday meeting.

Thursday, Smyth issued a news release asking residents to come and speak out anyway, sharing their opinions during the general "public comment" section of the meeting even if the board does vote to pull this particular hearing from the agenda.

"I’m not anti- or pro-development," said Smyth, who has made it clear he opposes this code change, "but it’s not sustainable to keep building apartments without upgrading sewers and other infrastructure. I do think it’s a good idea to let the public share their feelings about this now that it’s been brought up, to have the conversation."

Cook, though, said the idea clearly has so little support that the hearing ought to be pulled. He said Smyth’s intentions, to tie Cook to a highly unpopular take on a hot-button issue, are purely political grandstanding.

And where does Sanin, a newcomer to the ferocious internecine battles of the town board, stand?

"I’ve knocked on over 3,000 doors because I want to listen to people, and not just the ones that can make a 2 p.m. town meeting," Sanin told The Point. "My primary concerns are issues at the Building Department, unbalanced overdevelopment, and corruption at Town Hall. So while I haven’t dived into the weeds on this specific proposition, I’m all for soliciting community feedback."

That stance could become a theme in the race, because battles between Cook and Smyth that leave both men bloodied and some of their conservative-leaning followers conflicted are likely good news for Sanin.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

LI state lawmaker reflects on Haiti crisis

As the first New York State lawmaker of Haitian descent, fifth-term Democratic Assemb. Michaelle Solages of Elmont would know a thing or two about the Caribbean nation — and how expatriates and their kin in the 22nd Assembly District are reacting to the current crisis in the wake of the assassination last week of President Jovenel Moïse.

Those she’s talked with "want to assure Haiti has its sovereignty," she said. "They want to make sure there’s peace and security, but on the flip side, people don’t want any pretext for intervention, for troops coming in. They saw where it led to many years ago under the Clinton administration and it didn’t lead to long-term stability."

Officially, the White House and Pentagon were said to be "reviewing" Haitian officials’ request for outside troops to help keep things stable after the killing of Moïse. Not only is there little determination on the American side to move in, the Haitian government and its continuity is, as Solages notes, in question at the moment.

The collective interest "is for remaining calm at this point," she said. "Some are grieving the president and some are grieving that the country has little government infrastructure."

While acting prime minister Claude Joseph has called for help from U.S. and United Nations troops, a shaky and dysfunctional Senate pushed to name one of its own as the new president — against the will of an interim government.

The country’s constitution called for Moïse to be replaced by the nation’s chief justice. But only days before the assassination that official, Judge Rene Sylvestre, died of COVID-19, turning the presidential succession chaotic.

When she spoke with The Point on Monday, Solages said she was hearing reports of relative calm, while cautioning that as a state legislator she isn’t involved in the nitty-gritty of the federal response. The goal "is to come up with some sort of solution" to the power vacuum, she said.

"Now the people of Haiti are trying to figure it out."

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

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Quick Points

Getting hot all over

  • Temperatures that hit 130 degrees in Death Valley twice over the weekend were remarkable — but perhaps not as remarkable as the fact that they were part of the third extreme heat wave to hit the West already this season.
  • In Spain, a new rise in COVID-19 is driven by a surge of cases in people in their 20s and 30s who largely are unvaccinated. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
  • The 28-story Miami-Dade County Courthouse is closed as structural repairs begin on major safety issues found during a recent inspection. And so the fallout spreads from the Surfside condo collapse.
  • Billionaire Richard Branson’s flight to the edge of space has been hailed as the beginning of a new era of space tourism. Given that a seat on a flight that produces a few minutes of weightlessness 50 miles above Earth costs $250,000, it’s still the same old era of economic inequality.
  • A 62-year-old Texas man who voted in the 2020 presidential primary after a 6-hour wait at his Houston polling place, and in the 2018 general election, faces 40 years in prison after his arrest on charges that he voted while still on parole from a previous crime. Yes, that’s a crime in Texas, which likes to say it does everything big.
  • A Pew Research Center analysis found that churchgoers in two-thirds of American churches heard overtly political sermons or messages in the run-up to the 2020 election. Love that church-state separation.
  • Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is releasing an ad that tries to tie opponent and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe to former President Donald Trump. Given that Youngkin is a Republican, McAuliffe is a Democrat, and Trump only days earlier had praised Youngkin, that’s the definition of chutzpah.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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