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Opinion

A sneak peek at Belmont Park development

A new arena for the New York Islanders

A new arena for the New York Islanders would be built in the parking lot behind the grandstand at Belmont Park, seen here on July 1. Credit: Newsday/John Keating

Daily Point

Not quite hockey-ready

This is what “pre-construction” looks like at Belmont Park.

The future site of the New York Islanders’ new arena is in full excavation mode, according to photos shared with The Point. And it’s more than just a couple of construction vehicles or mounds of dirt. There’s little evidence of the paved parking lot that once occupied the 15 acres on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike adjacent to the Cross Island Parkway where the arena and hotel will be.

But note that there’s no foundation being poured or steel beams rising —  yet. That’ll come when Empire State Development officials and the Belmont developers finalize all the permits. State officials haven’t provided a timetable as to when those permits are expected.

The Islanders begin their hockey preseason next week. If only they could skate on dirt, instead of ice, the commute would be a lot shorter for Long Island fans.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

A call for public hearings on PFOS and PFOA

As the state Department of Health prepares to set drinking water standards for contaminants found in firefighting foam, Teflon-coated cookware, stain-resistant carpet, and other products, some environmental groups are asking officials to hold public hearings before adopting the limits.

The issue is big on Long Island, where perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, have been found in water in many public and private wells in the region. Upstate communities also have been affected, especially Hoosick Falls in Rensselaer County, where the village’s water supply was found in 2014 to be contaminated with PFOA.

The hearings, while not mandated by state law, would provide “an opportunity for members of the public” to participate in the process, according to a letter sent to the health department and signed by such groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

In July, the department recommended a drinking water standard of 10 parts per trillion each for PFOS and PFOA, the toughest in the nation and well below the higher federal advisory level of 70 parts per trillion set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The environmentalists are pushing a collective limit of 2 parts per trillion, which means the combination of those chemicals could not exceed that limit.

Written comments are being accepted by the department, but advocates say the importance of getting the standards right demands hearings as well. And holding one on Long Island “would be awesome and absolutely justified,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We do have the most sites identified with this contaminant.”

- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Debate Point

Rate the candidates with us tonight!

Once again, Newsday’s editorial board will rate the candidates’ performances during tonight’s Democratic debate. 

After flying solo for the first round in June, we asked readers to join us in rating the second round in July. We judged the two rounds like this:

1st debate – We picked Elizabeth Warren on night 1 and Pete Buttigieg on night 2.

 2nd debate – We picked Elizabeth Warren on night 1 and Joe Biden on night 2. Readers made the same choices.

 Let’s do it again, together, tonight. Sign up here.

- Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Pencil Point

Bye Bye Bolton

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

Final Point

Racking up the debt

New York’s college seniors accumulated an average student debt of $30,931, ranking the state 10th in the country, according to an analysis by OneClass, a company that provides educational resources, data and information. Its analysis shows that 60 percent of New York’s college students graduate with debt, a lower percentage than only 14 other states, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Minnesota. 

At the high end, Connecticut’s average debt was $38,510, while New Hampshire had the highest percentage of graduates with debt, at 74 percent.

New York’s averages were helped by the state’s relatively low public university tuitions, and by state programs that help keep tuition lower, particularly for lower-income students.

But the study also shows that there isn’t a direct correlation between higher debt and higher delinquencies. Kevin Wu, OneClass chief operating officer, told The Point that post-graduation jobs, as well as an area’s median income, played more significant roles than the amount of average debt in determining whether students could pay off debt. Additional data OneClass looked at, from mappingstudentdebt.org, showed students’ debt burden — the percentage of income they spend on their student loans — ranged considerably, from more than 9 percent especially in parts of the outer boroughs down to around 5 percent across much of Long Island.   

“As long as there are good prospects after graduation, that decreases the chances of people defaulting on their debt,” Wu said.

All told, OneClass’s report indicated that nationwide, there are 44 million total student loan borrowers, who’ve accumulated $1.6 trillion in outstanding federal and private student loan debt.

But the study also drilled down to look at the schools with the lowest and highest debt. At the low end in New York, the analysis found, was CUNY's Lehman College, where students had an average debt of $4,410. At the high end: New York School of Interior Design, where average debt amounted to $65,401 -- the highest of any state’s individual school debt.

It's a sign that New York can’t escape its high-cost label, even when it comes to student loans. Let’s hope those interior designers can find high-paying jobs to help them manage their costs.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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