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51° Good Morning

Aiming for the base

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in an undated photo.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in an undated photo. Credit: Charles Eckert

Daily Point

Gillibrand’s target audience

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is ramping up her presidential campaign, including dozens of Facebook fundraising appeals in which she talks directly to the camera while braving a slight dusting of snow, asking donors to “please give anything you can to help me build a campaign and a team so we can win.”

The brief, simple video clips are targeted nationwide, including big Democratic donor bases like New York and California.

But the junior senator from New York also has run biographical ads targeting exclusively Iowa and New Hampshire, key states for their early caucus and primary.

The 2-minute videos in those ads are different: slickly produced and carefully constructed to introduce Gillibrand to voters who may not know her as she starts her second full Senate term.

The Point viewed the introduce-yourself-to-the-voter ads through Facebook’s political ad archive. The campaign videos show someone typing Gillibrand’s name into Google to find out more about her. First, the prospective voter types in “Kris” as opposed to “Kirs.”  

Next, Gillibrand’s Wikipedia page appears, with the cursor highlighting the names of her kids -- she’s a mother, a fact that she has raised early on in recent TV appearances.

The rest of the video flashes through multiple “web pages” that someone curious about Gillibrand might get to via Google search: clips and info about her support for 9/11 first responders legislation and the fact that she’s no longer taking checks from corporate PACs.

There’s a clip of someone typing “Taking on Trump” into the search engine, plus clips of comedian Jon Stewart praising her work.

“You have done all this very much under the radar, out of the spotlight," he says.

The video closes with “Gillibrand 2020” across the screen. As long as you remember that, who needs the correct spelling of “Kirsten.”

Mark Chiusano

Talking Point

Hefty wager against Belmont project

If the opposition to the redevelopment of Belmont Park is just a grassroots effort by local homeowners, it’s an awfully expensive one.

A lobbying group called Elmont Against the Megamall has spent a staggering $482,000 since September to fight the plans to build a new arena for the New York Islanders, a retail village and a hotel at Belmont Park, according to filings with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

The money is all funneling to The Crux Group, a California-based marketing and strategy firm, or its chief executive, Howard Kushlan. Kushlan is listed as the contact for Elmont Against the Megamall in its lobbyist registration filing with JCOPE.

The group is working with politically connected attorney Albert D’Agostino, and a traffic consultant, Schneider Engineering in Ronkonkoma, to help in its efforts, according to a source with knowledge of the group’s work. The source said the group also expects to reach out to Hempstead Town officials like Supervisor Laura Gillen, who is up for reelection this fall, in the hopes that she’ll fight against the project. Because Belmont is state land, Hempstead does not have zoning authority on the site. Previously, Elmont Against the Megamall targeted State Sen. Todd Kaminsky in its lobbying.

Elmont Against the Megamall is also using Mercury Public Affairs, a high-powered public relations firm and political consultant. Mercury has gotten involved in local development issues before, particularly when Simon Property Group, which owns Roosevelt Field, fought against a luxury mall proposed for the former Cerro Wire site in Syosset. After organizing Oyster Bay residents and successfully fighting Taubman Centers, a rival, Simon bought the property and is working with Castagna Realty, which owns the Americana Manhasset, to develop a mix of townhomes, condos and shops on the Syosset land.

As for Belmont, multiple Elmont and Floral Park residents who came out against the project mentioned their affiliation with Elmont Against the Megamall in their comments during public hearings earlier this month.

“It feels, from our perspective, that there’s momentum,” the source said.

Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Trump's new hat

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Final Point

Surprising numbers behind sewer vote

Results in special elections are notoriously difficult to predict. Especially when they’re held in the dead of winter. And when the election is a referendum. And when it’s only open to a small subset of people.

Those were the parameters for Tuesday’s vote in Suffolk County on whether to expand sewers in three areas. And while it was not unexpected that the two largest expansion plans received approval, some of the numbers behind the story were surprising.

The expansions in West Babylon/North Babylon/Wyandanch and Mastic/Shirley were approved by an eye-popping 88 percent and 85 percent of voters, respectively, while turnout in those areas (13 percent and 16 percent) was anticipated. And while officials worried that voters would reject sewers in Great River (57 percent said no), no one anticipated a turnout rate of 54 percent.

Overall, Suffolk officials and advocates for sewer expansion were delighted that approval was granted for 92 percent of the $390 million in funding at stake and for 93 percent of the homes that could be hooked up.

“We always talk about being the land of no and people being unwilling to stand up and do what it takes to move our area forward, and here we had two communities show up and vote yes,” Jon Schneider told The Point. Schneider is a former top political aide to County Executive Steve Bellone who worked with environmentalists and activists to pave the way for passage.

County officials now will begin talks with state and federal officials about re-purposing the $26.4 million that would have been used to connect homes in Great River.

Only areas that were hit hard by superstorm Sandy are eligible for the funding under state and federal guidelines, said Peter Scully, Suffolk deputy county executive and sewer czar. “Coastal resiliency is the issue,” Scully said. “It can’t go just anywhere.”

Given that huge chunks of the county’s South Shore are seemingly eligible and that homeowners would pay no connection or installation charges, officials shouldn’t have a hard time finding other communities eager to vote yes.

Michael Dobie