Small print, big consequences
Inked 13 years ago, the basic framework of the CSEA Unit 830 contract with Nassau County is anything but basic. It runs to 158 pages and seems to comment on every conceivable situation, but the Nassau and union officials involved in negotiating it likely never imagined it might be applied to a pandemic.
But then there’s Section 42-14-2, which reads:
"Any employee who is required to remain at work after the County Executive or designated representative has dictated that extraordinary circumstances exist for that particular geographic area or location within Nassau County, shall receive equivalent compensatory time off at straight time, hour for hour, as the employees who were sent home or directed not to work."
The language was inserted to make sure employees who had to show up to work in dangerous emergencies like snowstorms or hurricanes were rewarded for working their usual shifts, while others got paid to not work.
But does it apply to long-term emergencies? That’s the big-money question.
The county and the CSEA are currently in arbitration, arguing over whether the essential employees who had to come to work during the declared emergency are owed scads of time off; the county estimates the liability would be $110 million if the comp time had to be allowed.
No one from the county or the union will comment for the record on the ongoing case.
And the politics of the union may have as much to do with the action as the push for pay.
CSEA Nassau president Ron Gurrieri is the main force behind the action. The regional CSEA president and former Nassau leader Gurrieri has been feuding with, Jerry Laricchiuta, is more skeptical of the union’s claim.
But Gurrieri stood for election for the first time last month, against a slate heavily supported by Laricchiuta.
And Gurrieri won in a landslide.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
Catering to the Hempstead GOP
While under Democratic leadership, the Town of Hempstead clashed with caterer Butch Yamali over rent revenue from his Malibu Beach Club concession in Lido Beach — and even prompted a federal inquiry.
But that never meant the town’s Republicans would have any problems dealing with the Freeport-based Yamali.
Quite the contrary.
On July 27, Hempstead Republicans are due to hold their summer cocktail reception at a well-known Yamali venue, the Coral House in Baldwin. GOP chairman Joseph Cairo’s name appears at the top on the sprightly blue-and-yellow invite. Tickets go for $175 apiece. "Gold sponsorships" go for $5,000, "silver sponsorships" for $2,000, and "bronze sponsorships" for $1,000.
Last December, the Hempstead Town Board unanimously approved a $1.2 million settlement with Dover Gourmet, Yamali’s company, for back-rent payments on its Malibu Beach concession. In addition, the town further awarded the company a 15-year contract to continue operating the Malibu club in Lido Beach. Litigation that arose during Democrat Laura Gillen’s single term as Hempstead supervisor was dropped.
At the height of the dispute in 2019, records surfaced that showed Yamali paid $1,160,000 to Cairo and his son for work related to the Malibu facility.
Documents attributed the payments to such expenses as "legal and advisory services" and "capital improvement planning, consulting and project management." During the dispute, the U.S. attorney’s office subpoenaed the town for records on Dover, but no charges or any other public action have resulted.
Over the years, other GOP entities — such as Cairo’s North Valley Stream Republican Club and Friends of Bruce Blakeman — have paid Yamali’s Dover Group for other fundraisers. And on July 21, the week before the town GOP’s summer reception, Hempstead Town Clerk Kate Murray, also a Republican, plans to hold a $150-per-head fundraiser at Coral House, with pond-side seating, to watch the Yankees-Phillies game on a giant screen.
For his part, Cairo serves as both town and Nassau County Republican chairman and as president of Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.
In Hempstead, of course, that’s an influential portfolio.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison
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I think I can ... I think I can
The ongoing effort to bring high-speed rail to the Northeast took another small step forward, when the House of Representatives approved the creation of a North Atlantic Rail Interstate Compact in the INVEST in America Act.
The Compact provides a mechanism for seven states — New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire — to work together, along with Amtrak and the U.S. Department of Transportation, on establishing a high-speed rail line that advocates hope eventually will allow passengers to travel by train from New York City to Boston in 100 minutes.
The proposed route would go through Long Island, potentially stopping at Belmont Park, the Nassau Hub, Republic Airport, Ronkonkoma and Stony Brook before heading underneath the Long Island Sound into Connecticut.
Rep. Tom Suozzi introduced and pushed the needed amendment to establish the compact, according to advocate Dave Kapell, who is pushing for the high-speed rail project through the Right Track for Long Island Coalition, initially established to push for the Long Island Rail Road’s third track, which is now under construction.
"It’s a major step forward for us. Our hurdle to cross initially was to get people to take the proposal seriously and clearly the House of Representatives has done that by including it in that bill," Kapell said. "We have what I would call federal legitimacy. That sets the stage for debate in the Senate."
Suozzi told The Point that he’s been aware of the project for a while, but found more recently that many other key members of Congress, especially from the seven states affected, were paying attention to it, too.
"I just think it’s important to get this on the table as a priority," Suozzi said, adding that the goal is to "try to get it on people’s radar screens and build a coalition of important players to work together to make something happen."
Former Regional Plan Association president Robert Yaro, who is leading the North Atlantic Rail effort, said there are also ongoing conversations with U.S. senators, particularly in the seven states touched by the project, to develop support.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Schumer supports the effort to study the project.
The team behind the high-speed rail project is using two lobbying firms — O’Neill and Associates in Boston and Michael Best Strategies, where former Rep. Steve Israel serves as senior counselor.
Yaro said it’s unclear when the Senate might take up the reauthorization of the transportation bill, and the accompanying North Atlantic Rail Compact amendment. But beyond that, Yaro, Kapell and other supporters are also seeking the funds they need to move forward with the rail project, which ultimately could cost about $105 billion. Yaro told The Point high-speed rail dollars might come in a future reconciliation package.
But while advocates continue to push for the big goal of high-speed rail across the seven states, they’re also honing in on individual, related projects that might come with a much smaller price tag, hoping that even as they’re done, the design work and environmental approvals for the larger project could proceed. So, that could mean that in the short term, the team could focus on ideas like electrifying the eastern parts of the Long Island Rail Road or modernizing the rail line in New Haven, Connecticut, among other smaller-scale efforts.
"If we get a limited amount of money, those things come first," Yaro told The Point.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall