Coming soon: Amazon damage control
For the next 10 days or so, there’s only one topic on State Sen. John Brooks’ mind: the state budget.
But Brooks says he already has his eye on one very troublesome issue he knows must be tackled after the budget is done. That’s because Senate Democrats are still reeling from the criticism that blames them for causing Amazon to drop its plans for a new headquarters in Long Island City.
The Amazon debacle put the spotlight on the approval process for large development projects, including those that receive tax incentives or credits from the state. Now, New York relies on a little-known entity called the Public Authorities Control Board to review such projects. The five-member board includes representatives from the majority and minority of the state Senate and Assembly, along with the governor. Currently, any one of them can veto a project.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recommended her deputy, State Sen. Michael Gianaris, for the PACB. Gianaris, who represents Long Island City, had emerged as a vocal critic of the Amazon deal, and it was clear that if he were on the board, he wouldn’t let the deal go through.
Brooks, who supported Amazon’s plans to develop HQ2 in Queens, said he isn’t sure whether New York’s current process should be changed, but he is hoping to evaluate alternatives, including the process in Virginia -- where Amazon plans its other headquarters. Virginia’s full legislature has to approve such projects, so no one member has outsized power.
“I think we have to take a look at how others do things and see if it’s better,” Brooks told The Point on Tuesday. “We’re going to investigate it.”
A poll by Siena College released this week found that 67 percent of registered New York voters thought Amazon’s decision to cancel its plans in Queens was bad for the state. Last month, the State Senate Democratic majority rejected a Republican amendment that would’ve retained the PACB, but would’ve required a majority vote to reject a project, rather than allowing a single member to hold veto power.
Randi F. Marshall
Targeting the opposition
With budget season in full swing, the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee has been running Facebook ads downstate with Long Island as the focus. But where you live determines what you see.
On Long Island, Senate Democrats are criticized for being free spenders.
“1 Day. 12 New taxes. 2 Billion Dollars. Just another day at the office for John Brooks and his NYC bosses.”
Ads using this boilerplate also name Sens. Monica Martinez, Kevin Thomas, and James Gaughran. There is also a graphic outlining some taxes being debated.
The “day” in question was March 13, when State Senate Dems released their budget proposal, and as usual the GOP blames the Long Islanders for buckling under to the demands of a rapacious NYC faction, a move with which Democrats have quibbled.
In Westchester and the Hudson Valley, however, the GOP Facebook ads are taking a different tack against Senate Democrats.
For example: “Jen Metzger just voted to bailout (sic) Long Island with $200 Million.*”
The asterisk directs the viewer to that same March 13 budget proposal, referring to a plan that would send $200 million in state funds to Nassau County to blunt the impact of higher property tax bills because of reassessment.
So to follow along with GOP messaging, Long Island Democrats are doing the bidding of NYC, while their Westchester and Hudson Valley counterparts are carrying water for Long Island.
As for those Democrats upstate, a GOP Senate Facebook ad targeting Syracuse’s Rachel May says she “voted to bailout Downstate NY with $200 Million.”
For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/opinion
Village election rewind
Tuesday is village elections day on Long Island, same as it was 78 years ago, in March 1941, when Newsday’s editorial board wrote about the topic.
Back then, 15 villages in Nassau County (Newsday’s domain at the time) had contested elections. That was better than this year, when eight Nassau villages are holding competitive contests this week.
Two of those 1941 elections, the board noted, were particularly bitter — those in Rockville Centre and Hempstead. This year, while Hempstead’s race might not be bitter, it is as usual extremely competitive with six candidates running for two seats. And it is controversial: One of the seats is held by Perry Pettus, who is stepping down after being indicted by the Nassau County district attorney on a host of corruption charges.
Then as now, candidates ran on lines separate from the major parties, like the Fusion, Citizen’s and People’s parties. And the bitterness that year festered because of campaigns in both villages to try to convince voters to opt for one slate because all of its members were Republicans.
“This was an attempt to inject party politics into strictly village elections,” the board wrote. “Charges and counter-charges flew fast, campaigning was speeded.”
Turnout was nearly 60 percent in both villages, practically unheard of today under any circumstances. And voters rejected the push for the all-GOP slates, in each village opting for the opponents.
The board wrote that the result should not be read as a rejection of Republicans but as “more a rejection of the idea that village officials should be iron-bound party members. When it came to a question of village rule, party affiliation ran second.”
The editorial board also took note of the election in Freeport where voters gave village police officers a $7,000 raise to bring their salaries closer to those of county police officers.
That’s a process that hasn’t changed a bit.