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Opinion

LIA hunkers down on Nassau Hub

Nassau Executive Laura Curran wants to hear new

Nassau Executive Laura Curran wants to hear new ideas on how to develop the Hub area surrounding the Coliseum, seen here on April 5, 2017. Credit: ALL Island Aerial / Kevin P. Coughlin

Daily Point

Rethinking the Hub

Perhaps this time really will be different for the Nassau Hub.

On Thursday, county officials unveiled a new advisory committee that will play a significant role in recommending what community benefits will be provided as part of the redevelopment of the Hub.

And the committee includes a mix of big proponents of big regional development efforts, and others who have been, at times, far more lukewarm.

Just look at the committee’s co-chairs: Long Island Association Chief Executive Kevin Law and Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby. Law has been a champion of the Hub for nearly a decade. Goosby, meanwhile, was a critic of the $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project, an earlier large-scale effort to develop the Hub, and has been hesitant to express full support for any Hub plan, instead voicing concerns about the potential for traffic or the impact on schools and nearby communities.

Among the committee’s other members are Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan, Garden City Mayor Brian Daughney, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, and Nassau County Legislators Thomas McKevitt and Siela Bynoe, along with union and civic leaders and other town and county officials. Some, like Goosby, have been more reticent to embrace significant development, or have expressed concerns in the past about plans for the Hub.

Having them all on board, and giving them a forum to advocate for neighborhood projects they’d like to see receive community benefit money, might allow the newest Hub effort to move past any roadblocks.

Hub developers RXR Realty and BSE Global plan a $1.5 billion mixed-use development on the land surrounding Nassau Coliseum and have agreed to provide $1 in community benefits for every square foot of built-out space -- which could amount to as much as $75 million in funds for the neighboring areas.

The committee will include other local stakeholders in its discussions and working groups and, eventually, will provide recommendations on what types of community benefits RXR and BSE could provide beyond the development itself, perhaps by having the funds pay for job training and workforce development, transportation, schools, and area first responders.

The committee likely will meet throughout this year, and its work could continue into early 2020, a source told The Point.

Randi F. Marshall

Talking Point

My left foot

It may not come as a huge surprise that Rep. Tom Suozzi, card-carrying vice chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, is among those slated to attend a secretive upcoming American Enterprise Institute gathering in Georgia.

Suozzi will  be there along with his D.C. roommates, Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Jimmy Panetta of California, both Democrats and members of the caucus as well. But the big names on the list are Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, and more of the solidly non-blue crowd.

In the current political atmosphere, this is tantamount to going behind enemy lines. See the reaction to Suozzi’s neighbor, Rep. Kathleen Rice. She seems to be in the crosshairs of new left-leaning groups, such as activist think-tanker Sean McElwee’s Data for Progress.

McElwee’s group commissioned polling that he said showed some vulnerability for Rice from the left, and some activists had been pushing Rice to hold a town hall. She did so at the end of February in Rockville Centre, and on Wednesday McElwee sent out a clip of her talking about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Donald Trump.

The clip shows Rice discussing international populism and saying that Trump and Ocasio-Cortez are “kind of sounding the same.” She expands: “What they’re saying is resonating with the same people who are feeling disenfranchised.”

Rice sent a statement to The Point saying that “[t]he point I was making is that there are two people in politics today that use their massive platforms to effectively connect with voters. Other than that, there are obviously no similarities between Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Donald Trump.”

It wasn’t exactly a Hillary Clinton “super-predator” moment but clearly there is a target on Rice’s back from some on the left. It’s her second inclusion in Data for Progress’ new newsletter “Primaries for Progress.”

Will Suozzi be next on the progressive hit list?

Mark Chiusano and Rita Ciolli

Pencil Point

City on a hill

Newsday cartoonist Matt Davies is the 2019 winner of the Herblock Prize awarded annually for excellence in editorial cartooning to commemorate Herb Block’s legacy. You can see the rest of his winning cartoons here.

Final Point

An oasis of OASAS funds

In every political conversation about legalizing sports gambling in New York, one of the boxes that must be checked off is the assurance that some of the money the state reaps from expanding the opportunities to bet will go to deal with gambling addiction.

But is the money needed?

Asked about increasing such funding at the Cardozo Sports Law Symposium last Friday, Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering Chairman Gary Pretlow laughed, and said: “OASAS has more gambling money than it can spend.”

New York’s casinos and slot parlors must deposit a $500 annual license fee into the Commercial Gaming Revenue Fund for every slot machine and gambling table they operate. The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services is supposed to use that money for the prevention and treatment of gambling addiction. As of this week, according to the state comptroller’s office, the balance in the Problem Gambling Services account was $4,224,907.

And the budget shows a planned transfer of $1.5 million of that to the state general fund, used to pay for the bulk of New York’s other budgetary appropriations.

So Pretlow is right that not all the money collected to address gambling problems is being spent.

The question is whether more should be, and the truth, according to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, is that nobody knows. That’s because there has been no comprehensive study of problem gambling in New York since 2006, despite the massive expansion of gambling since then.

Why no such study? Because no money has been appropriated for such research.  

In a phone interview, DiNapoli said such a study is badly needed, pointing to his report released last month that said while OASAS' gambling services include 20 outpatient programs, six inpatient addiction-treatment centers, and a toll-free assistance hotline, 40 counties in the state have none of that.

One of those 40 is Saratoga County, which hosts two race tracks and a slot parlor. Another is Suffolk County, where Jake’s 58 is raking in the money from 1,000 busy machines, and sending $500,000 a year to Albany to deal with problem gambling, as required by law.

"We do know gambling causes financial problems," DiNapoli said. "And often those problems are the worst for the people least able to afford them."

Lane Filler

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