Goosby wants what the North Shore got
When the State Legislature finally passed two bills to kick-start the process of addressing outrageous water prices and potential municipalization for New York American Water customers in Nassau County, it did so at the last minute, haphazardly, and, according to Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, unfairly.
One bill creates a North Shore Water Authority as a vehicle to address the needs of about 5,000 American Water customers and pursue municipalization, and funds it with $1 million annually.
The other bill creates a South Nassau Water Authority to do the same for about 110,000 Hempstead customers, but doesn’t fund it at all.
In a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Goosby argues he should not sign the bills, because doing so shortchanges her constituents, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, while benefiting North Shore customers she says are wealthy. If the North Shore authority gets $1 million annually, she wrote, the South Shore authority ought to get $25 million a year.
Goosby told The Point she expects changes to happen, saying, "I’m sure the governor won’t sign it [the South Shore bill] as is, because it is so unfair."
Goosby is the rare Democrat in the heavily Republican town government so that made her the best person to pitch an appeal to Cuomo. And she may well get (a part of) what she wants, because the omission of South Shore funding appears to be an error born of end-of-session chaos.
"I honestly would hope it would get fixed in chapter amendments before the governor signs it," said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who sought but failed to advance a move toward municipalization which would have ended the $25 million franchise tax that makes American Water bills so high, and a separate play to shift that tax. "When we tried to do something so late, we had the right bill for the North Shore written, and for the South Shore we had a bill from the beginning of the session that wasn’t exactly what was needed, but was way better than nothing."
But Kaminsky added that the $1 million a year is aimed at establishing and operating the authority, not directly reducing water bills, suggesting that whatever the South Shore authority gets would not be exponentially larger than the North Shore’s funding.
Said Goosby, "I’m sorry they had to rush off, but they should have made sure we got our fair share before they left."
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
Can Long Island reclaim outer space?
A new space race is in midswing, with billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos racing each other off Earth in their own craft. But for all the hoopla — including Branson’s New Mexico launch on Sunday — the current contest can feel disconnected and distant from Long Island, particularly when compared with the central role the region played in the birth of aviation, and the 20th century Apollo program, with iconic company Grumman working on lunar modules in Bethpage.
Long Island scientists and companies still have a role in contemporary space exploration, including contributions to the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, from Stony Brook University Department of Geosciences professors Joel Hurowitz and Scott McLennan, and Deer Park firm Sector Microwave Industries, which creates switches for communications, satellite, and military applications.
But Rep. Tom Suozzi, who has long been interested in the space industry on Long Island, suggested a way the region could get back in the game in a big way.
"We need a finished product — as opposed to component parts — which we have many — to capture the public and investors’ attention," the Glen Cove Democrat wrote in a text ahead of Branson’s launch. "We have the skilled people, component parts and capital here. We just need something to bring it all together."
One place on the Island that could have an increasingly big future in space science is the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, a joint Brookhaven Lab/NASA facility in Upton for studying the effects of cosmic radiation.
"Modern astronauts are spending ever greater amounts of time in space, exposed to the little-understood effects of cosmic radiation," says the facility’s website. The lab, commissioned in 2003, was set up "to study the possible effects of this exposure," with scientists exposing biological specimens to beams of heavy ions and using industrial materials as samples to study their "suitability for space suits and spacecraft shielding," according to the website.
Matthew Cohen, president of the Long Island Association business group, highlighted the high-tech facility and noted that with space tourism dependent on the safety and reuse of materials and equipment, "The materials testing is going to be of great importance. So we actually are at the cutting edge even today."
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
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Excluded Workers Fund debuting soon
One of the marquee wins for Albany progressives during this year’s spring budget season was a $2.1 billion Excluded Workers Fund for New Yorkers who lost income during the pandemic and were left out of other relief programs. Advocacy groups celebrated the aid that would come to immigrants whose lack of paperwork led to their exclusion. Republicans and some more centrist Democrats raised eyebrows at the big checks — $15,600 or $3,200 minus taxes, depending on the amount of work proof people could provide. But the fund soon faded from the headlines as the state Department of Labor began hashing out application details.
Now the launch is nearly upon us — the agency says the application will be available in August.
That’s what brought supporters of the fund back together on Monday, for a news conference outside a DOL office in Manhattan, where advocates and legislators called for as few barriers as possible in the application process. They urged prospective applicants to start getting their paperwork ready, and asked the department to accept IDs that workers might not have been able to renew during the pandemic.
"Because of the pandemic it’s been increasingly hard for excluded workers to prepare for the launch of the fund," said State Sen. Jessica Ramos of Queens, sponsor of the original legislation to launch the fund.
Clearly the fund’s supporters hope the political capital spent on the fund ends up translating to a successful program and real dollars going to New Yorkers in need. But there is precedent to be leery given the complicated application process for rent relief during the pandemic.
Rollout of the current worker fund "is progressing swiftly as planned," emailed DOL spokeswoman Deanna Cohen. "New Yorkers can receive the latest EWF updates by signing up for alerts at https://dol.ny.gov/EWF."
In terms of outreach, the agency issued an RFQ for not-for-profit organizations "to serve as trusted messengers and helpers within communities with high concentrations of excluded workers," Cohen wrote, adding that grant awards "will be announced in the coming days."
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano