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Zeldin, Gaughran raise their voices

Lee Zeldin at the Smithtown Elks Lodge on

Lee Zeldin at the Smithtown Elks Lodge on June 28. 2018. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Daily Point

Wizardry 

When President Donald Trump shows up at Bridgehampton builder Joe Farrell ’s sprawling mansion for a fantastically expensive fundraiser on Aug. 9, the president’s love of the gonzo construction style and controversy ought to have him feeling right at home. 

Farrell’s compound, called Sandcastle, rents for $1 million a month in season and boasts a baseball field, recording studio, bowling alley, tennis court, trampoline, carnival slides and 17 bathrooms. It also attracts vocal detractors, who object to the mansions Farrell builds for other buyers nearly as much as they hate his own abode.

For Rep. Lee Zeldin, though, also scheduled to attend, the feeling may be more “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Shirley anymore!”

Zeldin said he doesn’t have many details on the fundraiser yet, but knows it’s to raise money for Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee, not his own re-election bid. Zeldin has been a strong and consistent supporter of the president, and Trump has returned the favor. 

And for the record, the two men have something in common. Zeldin goodnaturedly admitted he does not have a dog named Toto or a pet of any kind, not even a bird, cat or fish. Trump also has no pets.

The fundraiser is a high-dollar event, with tickets going for $2,800 a piece and VIP packages for $250,000 that include eight tickets and two photos with Trump, who is set to speak to the attendees.

And that brings to mind one more thing Trump and Zeldin have in common: both are outraising potential opponents by huge margins.

- Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Gaughran responds to a responder

During State Sen. Jim Gaughran’s first week in office in January, he received a visit from Glen Head resident Tim DeMeo. The visit has stayed with Gaughran, and propelled him to prioritize one bill over many others awaiting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature.

DeMeo is a state Department of Environmental Conservation engineer, who spent months working on the pile at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, he’s sick.

But while DeMeo gets coverage from the federal World Trade Center health program, his state benefits, particularly when it comes to disability and retirement, are different from uniformed first responders. In 2005, state lawmakers passed a bill, which Gov. George Pataki signed, to give firefighters, police officers, and others who became sick from 9/11-related illnesses additional coverage, annual disability payments that amounted to three-quarters of their final average salary, tax free. But the law didn’t apply to non-uniformed public workers like DeMeo.

Legislation passed both the State Senate and the Assembly in this year’s session that would extend the same benefits to 9/11 civilian responders who are in the state and local retirement system or the teachers’ retirement system and are now sick. Gaughran says that about 600 additional people would be covered under the new bill. But the governor hasn’t yet called for the bill.

“There are a lot of very sick people out there,” Gaughran told The Point. “Whatever time they have left, it’s the obligation of the state of New York to give them the same financial assistance that was given to the other heroes. These folks are just as much heroes as anyone else.They worked alongside the other heroes [who are covered].”

Gaughran said he didn’t think the 2005 law intended to leave anyone out, but he wants to take care of “the people who fell through the cracks.”

It shows, perhaps, what can happen when a constituent pays a visit to his new state senator.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Chasing windmills

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Final Point

Stepping up to the podium

Long Islanders might have recognized the name of a new voice for the MTA: Tim Minton, a one-time spokesman for Perry Gershon’s unsuccessful 2018 congressional campaign. 

Minton started on July 15 and quickly traded in Medicare-for-All rhetoric for talk of cost reductions and overtime. 

The Point asked Minton, who also worked for years as a journalist for outlets including WNBC-TV, how he was enjoying his new gig. It has been, shall we say, quite a few recent days for the beleaguered transit system, beset with delays and crowds and software issues and leaky stations.  

“The biggest difference between running strategy and comms for a congressional candidate and communications for the MTA is that in this job the media finds me. About 75 times a day,” Minton wrote in a text. “Coverage is a given.”

At least Minton likes the subject matter. He says he was a “subway buff” as a kid, participating in an official NYC Transit program where he toured the subway system, sometimes guided by transit bosses. 

The communications role tends to be less fun and games, and as the MTA has come under more scrutiny in recent years the authority has churned through spokespeople. 

The Point asked one of those former MTA spokespeople, Adam Lisberg, if he had any advice for Minton. “Tim doesn’t need me to tell him that he can never turn his phone off again,” Lisberg said. “The MTA belongs to the people of New York, and they always deserve the truth about what’s happening there.” 

He wished Minton the best in what he said would be “a grueling but gratifying role.”

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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