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Hostile negotiations

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in Mineola on

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in Mineola on Jan. 3, 2019. Photo Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Daily Point

Curran takes on the PBA

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran used her remarks at the Long Island Association breakfast Friday morning to take direct aim at the Nassau Police Benevolent Association.

She told the packed audience that the PBA had recently hired a digital display van to roam the streets attacking her over county assessment problems.

The use of the van cost $125,000, The Point has learned.

The PBA is frustrated that it’s not making progress in contract negotiations with the county and thinks it can exploit the politically supercharged assessment controversy to its advantage.

The van is right out of the playbook of former PBA chief Gary DelaRaba. During difficult contract negotiations with Nassau, DelaRaba used a billboard truck to stoke the fear of crime to badger then-County Executive Tom Suozzi.

The PBA’s calculation today is that it won’t get very far claiming its members are paid too little or that the county is unsafe, rather betting that attacking Curran on assessments will weaken her standing in the public’s mind.

Curran deftly struck back Friday, first joking about the Hall and Oates song “Rich Girl” that the van plays as a soundtrack. “Like I’m a rich girl,” she said, drawing laughs from the audience.  

Then she delivered her rebuttal about who was rich, noting that annual labor costs for the police consumed three-quarters of the county’s total property tax receipts. The cost of salary and fringe benefits for the NCPD are $795 million, according to the Curran administration.

“Yes, I am very focused on labor costs,” Curran said. “I will be fair. But I expect restraint and respect as well,” she said. “They, like my staff and me, work for the taxpayers.”

Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

Ask not for whom the pole tolls

After years of contention, public fury and a lawsuit, LIPA and PSEG have agreed to remove 24 enormous power poles on Eastport Manor Road in the Town of Brookhaven -- each one 80 feet high and nine feet around -- and pay to bury the high-voltage lines they support.

Officials say the change could cost as much as $13.5 million, that it probably could have been avoided if LIPA had handled the situation better from the beginning, and that it’s adopting a new process to prevent it from happening again.

LIPA has generally argued that if communities want poles bearing electric lines buried, local residents need to fund the more expensive placement, rather than ratepayers Islandwide.

When LIPA agreed to bury 13.5 miles of cable in Southampton in 2008 after locals complained about the 60-foot steel poles, for instance, the utility made Southampton residents agree to pay an extra $11 million via a $4 per month fee for ratepayers slated to last 20 years.

In Eastport, though, LIPA gave in. Enter a new process from now on.

LIPA’s new “Board Policy on Construction of Transmission and Distribution Projects” is essentially the same one the Public Service Commission uses to make such decisions in the rest of the state. It basically says the utility will study priority areas for free burial of new lines: historic sites, landmarks and state and federal parks, central business districts and residential subdivisions for new installations.

Chairman Tom Falcone said he believes these standards, along with a comprehensive community outreach and hearing process, which includes all information provided in writing and plenty of time for communities to decide whether they want to pay if LIPA won’t, will alleviate these controversies.

But he also said the standards are “qualitative, not quantitative,” meaning there will not be some inarguable numerical evaluation which determines whether LIPA will pay to bury. That means there will still be room for interpretation. And that will be particularly true in a set of 13 types of non-priority areas the plan also mentions for burying consideration, like scenic areas and village parks, that could leave an opening for more aggressive communities to fight back when LIPA says it won’t pay to bury lines.

Lane Filler

Pencil Point

Huddled masses

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Final Point

Unwelcome Islanders

The New York Islanders are moving -- again.

No, the team isn’t ready to play at Belmont Park just yet.

But the Islanders are consolidating and moving their entire business operations, including sales and marketing, to nearby Floral Park.

But the team’s immediate welcome was a hail of boos.

The team’s new vice president of business operations, Travis Williams, unveiled the plan Thursday during the last of three days of public hearings regarding the redevelopment of Belmont Park.

Williams spoke to an adversarial crowd of mostly Floral Park residents who booed, heckled and talked over him even as he noted that the effort would bring jobs to Floral Park even before ground is broken on a new arena.

In an interview with The Point after his public comments, Williams said the team had secured 15,000 square feet of office space on Verbena Avenue, not far from Belmont Park, and hoped to move in by March. About 45 employees who now work in the Islanders’ offices in Manhattan, Syosset and East Meadow, will work in Floral Park, but the team also plans to hire about 40 additional employees for the space. Williams, who previously led the effort to build a new arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins, said the team will work with elected officials to make sure local residents are aware of and have the opportunity to apply for those jobs.

“We are a team whose home is going to be on Long Island, and we want to make sure our business operations, as well as our hockey operations, are based on Long Island as well,” Williams told The Point. “It was important that we were part of the community. We wanted to make sure we were here.”

Shortly before Williams made his public comments, Richard Browne, the managing partner of Sterling Project Development Group, also spoke to the crowd, emphasizing how the project had changed in response to community concerns.

“I promise you we are listening,” Browne said.

He, too, was booed.

Randi F. Marshall

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