'Tis the absentee ballot season
Once again, absentee ballots are on their way to Long Island voters who requested them.
Nassau ballots were dropped in the mail Friday, and started to hit mailboxes the next two days, county Democratic elections commissioner Jim Scheuerman tells The Point. In Suffolk, absentee ballots are set to reach voters on or about Oct. 1, says the county’s Republican elections commissioner, Nick LaLota.
Nassau voters requested a total of 27,559 absentees and Suffolk voters requested 18,684 as of Wednesday, a big pile of paperwork in what could be a continued tradition as more people get used to mailing in their votes. Though Suffolk has so far logged fewer requests than in 2017, it could easily exceed that sum by November, and Nassau has already seen more absentee requests than any off year, says Scheuerman.
As occurred in the big mid-pandemic presidential election last year, when many Republicans were skeptical of mail-in voting, there are once again more Democratic absentee requests than Republican ones: in Nassau, 15,021 Democrats, 7,832 Republicans, and 3,771 blanks, with the rest made up of minor parties. In Suffolk, the breakdown is 8,702 Democrats, 5,687 Republicans and 3,908 blanks.
An analysis of the town- and city-level request data on Long Island shows Democratic requests outnumbering Republican ones everywhere but Southold, which featured 258 GOP requests and 233 Democratic ones as of Wednesday. There was also a close competition in the Republican stronghold of Smithtown, however, where 1,418 ballots were requested and Democratic requests only outnumbered Republicans by 27.
There’s still time for more ballots to be requested: Applications must arrive by mail, online portal, email, or fax by Oct. 18, or in person the day before Election Day. The whole process is sure to put a lot of pressure on county election boards, if it hasn't already — as of Thursday afternoon, Suffolk’s elections website had an outdated absentee application deadline, which was changed by statute this year.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
The boroughs get their turn to speak
After the first of 13 public hearings regarding the tolling of Manhattan’s central business district, at least one thing was clear:
There’s a lot of interest in — and no consensus on — the tolling plan, known as congestion pricing.
For 2½ hours, dozens of speakers took their turns at the virtual microphone, offering a litany of recurring themes. At the MTA’s outer borough-focused sessions, where residents of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island had priority to speak, it quickly became clear that those against the program were looking to protect the boroughs, while less concerned, perhaps, about their suburban neighbors.
Indeed, in criticizing the tolling effort, Queens Assemb. David Weprin suggested alternatives, including a return to the much-maligned commuter tax, which applied to suburban residents, including those in Nassau and Suffolk counties, who worked in the city. It was ended in 1999.
While the few politicians who spoke mostly expressed concerns about tolling, the general public was split.
Those in favor talked about bumper-to-bumper traffic, pollution and air quality, and the need to improve mass transit. They begged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to speed up the time frame, which requires a 16-month window just for the environmental review. And they asked for as few exemptions as possible to the program, which would institute tolls on the currently free East River bridges and on entry into Manhattan south of 60th Street.
Those against tolling focused on their concerns over how the MTA would spend the money and on those in the outer boroughs who, they said, needed cars to travel to Manhattan for one reason or another. They worried about the negative impact the program would have on traffic and parking in the outer boroughs, on low-income and disabled drivers, and on consumers who, they said, could see higher costs. Some opponents demanded exemptions in a host of categories, from income to medical reasons, from motorcyclists to those driving hybrid vehicles, from Staten Island residents to, as one speaker suggested, "New York City residents" in general.
If it were up to some of Thursday’s speakers, suburban residents would bear the brunt of any congestion pricing effort. But don’t worry. Long Islanders get their turn to speak about the pros and cons of central business district tolling on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. You can sign up to speak at the virtual session here: https://mta-nyc.custhelp.com/app/hearings/register/h_id/69
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
A Milley moment
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As New York State heads toward next week’s deadline for health care workers to receive their first COVID-19 shot, there’s been lots of concern regarding the potential for staff shortages if employees leave or are fired.
But a look at the first hospital to mandate the vaccine — before the state took action — might provide some evidence that it won’t turn out that way.
New York-Presbyterian announced its plans to mandate the vaccine in June, and the requirement officially took effect Wednesday night.
Of the hospital system’s 48,000 workers — 37,000 employees and 11,000 affiliated doctors — more than 99% complied with the vaccination mandate, the hospital reported in a statement to The Point Thursday. Fewer than 250 refused to comply.
"We will continue to provide exceptional care at all of our hospitals, without interruption," a hospital spokeswoman said.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall