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Opinion

Making big decisions for New York

Wind turbines off Block Island.

Wind turbines off Block Island. Photo Credit: Newsday/Sam Guzik

Daily Point

Wind in the forecast

The weathervane is pointing to Thursday for the big announcement from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on the state’s first round of major offshore wind farm awards — assuming the off-and-on event doesn’t get canceled again.

And figure on it taking place in Manhattan, to lure the national media the governor seeks for the occasion.

At stake: At least 800 megawatts (or more) of wind energy awarded to two (or more) of the four proposals before the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Meanwhile, a smaller project further along in the pipeline — a 130-megawatt farm off Montauk from Danish giant Orsted, which has a power-supply contract from LIPA — is facing opposition in East Hampton Town and especially in Wainscott, where the cable would come ashore. Permits still are needed.

Two hearings in East Hampton on Tuesday hosted by the Public Service Commission drew dueling marches, rallies and testimony from supporters and opponents — though some wind fans who might have attended instead joined a demonstration in Albany in favor of climate change legislation. It’s a busy time for NY’s environmental advocates.

Even though three of the four large-project proposals Cuomo will announce are also for ocean areas off the East End, the current battle might not be a dress rehearsal for approvals to come. That’s because the power they generate likely would come ashore much further west than East Hampton. One likely site would be under Jones Beach, where the cable would parallel the existing Neptune cable up the Wantagh Parkway before veering off and plugging into an existing substation in Melville on Ruland Road. The same scenario could work for a wind farm pitched for the New York Bight, 14 or so miles off Nassau County, which also has two logical landing spots in Brooklyn.

Then again, wind advocates say Tuesday’s competing press events might be repeated in the next go-round.

“You never know what people are going to be opposed to,” Citizens Campaign for the Environmentm executive director Adrienne Esposito told The Point. “We don’t know what communities are going to come up with.”

- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

Who gets the bill?

With about a week to go in Albany’s legislative session, robocalls are coming in to Long Islanders on a key issue still up for discussion in the State Senate.

But the topic of those calls is not a hot-button one everyone is talking about like driver’s licenses for immigrants in the country illegally, or marijuana, or rent regulations, or religious exemptions on vaccines.

It’s a bill that’s being touted as protecting patients from excessive charges when they visit an emergency room. The bill would allow health insurance companies to pay what they think is reasonable on what are often very high out-of-network emergency services and allow patients to dispute such charges through independent arbitration.

The State Assembly already has passed the bill – but it still hasn’t gotten out of the Senate’s insurance committee.

So, residents in Sen. Jim Gaughran’s district have been getting calls from an organization called the Healthcare Education Project, urging them to contact their senators to tell them to vote no on what the opposition calls the “Empire insurance profit bill.” While Gaughran is not on the Senate’s insurance committee, fellow Long Islander Sen. Monica Martinez is, and she is co-sponsoring the legislation.

Behind the Healthcare Education Project opposition group is a powerful health care workers union – 1199 SEIU – and the Greater New York Hospital Association. Both oppose the bill as a “gift to insurance companies,” and also have begun ads on Facebook criticizing the bill.

Interestingly, on this issue, powerful unions aren’t united. New York United Teachers, the United Federation of Teachers, and CSEA, for instance, back the bill, saying it’ll prevent price gouging of their members and others. Along with the New York State Business Council and Consumer Reports, they’ve formed their own group, called Patient Protection Coalition, and have started airing TV ads that support the bill. The ads, according to the UFT, are running on Long Island and in Albany and Westchester, on CNN, News 12, and other stations.

Like so many issues on the table as the session comes to an end, this one remains a question mark – as a new Senate majority, and new Long Island senators, feel their way and figure out where they stand.

So far, though, the robocalls and ads may not be resonating. Gaughran’s office hasn’t received any phone calls from constituents about the legislation.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

And they're off!

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/opinion

Final Point

Let the strategy begin

The New York City mayoral election is a mere two years away, which means the chess pieces already seem to be moving.  

On Tuesday, city Comptroller Scott Stringer threw his support behind insurgent Queens district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán, becoming the first citywide elected official to do so.

It puts Stringer in a different camp from other 2021 hopefuls. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has endorsed Queens Borough President Melinda Katz for DA along with other prominent state Democrats, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has kept out of the race so far. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Mayor Bill de Blasio, the other two citywide officials, also have stayed mum.

Stringer has often been in tune with the left on criminal justice reform on issues like stop-and-frisk and the quick closure of Rikers Island. Politically, his support for Cabán, the left-most of the DA candidates who has Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on her side, is in line with his early support of successful challengers to Independent Democratic Conference members in 2018.

Like then, his support for Cabán, a public defender, might help shore up his credentials with the emergent progressive left, this time for 2021. There’s plenty of progressive consensus among the DA candidates but Cabán tends to go all the way, as in her push for full decriminalization of sex work for both sex workers and customers. (This would allow a focus on human trafficking, says her campaign.)

Stringer hasn’t come out with a full platform on that issue, though in February he tweeted calls by city Sens. Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar’s for full decriminalization and said, “It’s long overdue to have the conversation to #DecrimNY.”

As a decades-long member of the city’s political class and a straight white man who would potentially be running for mayor in a large, diverse field, being allied with insurgent AOC allies and their causes might not hurt.

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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