There was a lot of celebrating, a lot of thanking, and a lot of shoveling on Monday, when ground was broken on the redevelopment of Belmont Park.
And while three state senators have districts that include part of Belmont Park and communities impacted by the development, only two of those lawmakers — State Sens. Anna Kaplan and Leroy Comrie — got a shout-out from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and a chance to shovel dirt for the big ground-breaking photo-op.
So, where was State Sen. Todd Kaminsky?
Kaminsky, who represents Elmont, and much of the south end of Belmont Park where the retail will be, was at the event, and got mentions from both Empire State Development chief Eric Gertler and New York Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky. But while Cuomo mentioned Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, gave a “special thank you” to Kaplan, and called Comrie “the star of the Senate team,” he didn’t mention Kaminsky.
And when it came time to actually break ground, 17 people, including Islanders players and celebrities like Ralph Macchio, lined up with shovels to throw some dirt. Curran, Comrie and Kaplan were among them. Kaminsky had no shovel and was nowhere to be seen in the photo-op.
Kaminsky advocated throughout the Belmont Park redevelopment effort, from participating with Comrie in a listening session in December 2017, that predated the Islanders’ selection as developer and Kaplan’s election, to fighting for full-time rail service at the site, a push that led to a new Long Island Rail Road station along the Main Line at the north end of the site.
The year-and-a-half of work culminated in a joint statement in June from the three state senators voicing support for the project, which, they noted, “immediately impacted” their communities.
A source from the governor’s office said Cuomo acknowledged Kaplan because the arena itself — the site of the groundbreaking — is in her district, even though Kaminsky represents the rest of the site.
Cuomo’s recognition of Comrie, the source said, came because Comrie is a key member of the Public Authorities Control Board, which approved the project over the summer.
The source also pointed to the campaign earlier this year to bring Amazon to Long Island City, noting that Kaminsky did not come out in loud or strong support of the deal initially, instead deferring to Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represented the Amazon district and opposed the deal.
Kaminsky told The Point that Monday’s event was about seeing something he had worked hard on “come to fruition.” He said he was “not concerned about a photograph,” especially in light of the project’s success.
“We’re now going to have an Elmont with improved transportation options, more money for its schools, better parks and local jobs,” Kaminsky said. “There was a lot of work to get to that point but I’m really proud of it.”
The project still faces two lawsuits, including one from civic leaders, some of whom are in Kaminsky’s district.
“It was great to be there to watch that shovel go in the ground, no matter who was holding it,” Kaminsky said.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Building a case
For some Democrats, Ukraine is making all the difference.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s route toward an impeachment inquiry was foreshadowed Monday evening at a Manhattan gathering of bold-faced names ahead of the UN General Assembly (and just before a critical Washington Post op-ed by seven swing district freshmen Democrats was posted). Pelosi, who has been publicly skeptical about impeachment, indicated that there would soon be some motion from her caucus, The Point was told by a source familiar with the event at The St. Regis New York.
That big drumbeat only got louder after the freshmen, all with military or national security backgrounds, wrote that if there was truth to recent allegations about President Donald Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine aid and encouraging an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, those actions would “represent an impeachable offense.”
The change in direction was also apparent from Rep. Tom Suozzi’s social media accounts. Around 8 p.m. Monday, the Glen Cove Democrat posted that he was “deeply disturbed” by news that Trump had spoken to the Ukrainian president about a political opponent. He called for a copy of the call transcript to be made public and for the whistleblower to be allowed to come forward.
He told The Point that he decided later in the evening to support impeachment and worked with his staff on a statement to be posted on his Facebook page Tuesday morning.
There, he said it was his and Congress’ duty to “move forward with impeachment inquiries.”
He noted he had been reluctant because impeachment would be divisive, it’s unlikely to get through the Senate, and the focus should be on 2020, among other rationales.
But if Trump urged the Ukrainian president to investigate a potential opponent, that is “eerily reminiscent” of the soliciting of foreign intervention documented in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Suozzi wrote.
Suozzi’s neighbor, Rep. Kathleen Rice, whose feuding with Pelosi is longstanding, had already called for impeachment earlier this year regarding the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation. She was heading back to D.C. Tuesday morning for a special caucus meeting in the afternoon, and doubled down on her impeachment call in a statement about the new allegations.
She said that allegations about Trump pressuring a foreign leader to investigate a rival and using taxpayer dollars as leverage “represent a shocking display of corruption in which the President of the United States placed his own self-interests before the national security of our country. If these allegations are true, President Trump needs to be impeached and removed from office."
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Pete King, never one not to speak out and a close friend of Rudy Giuliani, another player in this drama, stayed social-media quiet on the issue through Tuesday afternoon. However, Rep. Lee Zeldin played defense for the president about Ukraine.
His spokeswoman emailed a statement that was a version of the Shirley Republican’s Monday night tweet on the issue, which redirected attention to a video of Biden talking about how he had sought the dismissal of Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, accused by various countries of being soft on corruption.
Zeldin’s tweet, which included some of the same snippets of video also promoted by @realdonaldtrump, went viral.
The story is moving quickly, on social media and elsewhere. By Tuesday afternoon, Trump had tweeted that he would release a transcript of his conversation with the Ukrainian leader.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Sound the alarm
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Last week’s news that the Nassau County Industrial Development Authority would donate $25,000 to help ensure this year’s Oyster Festival could go on as planned raised the spirits of Town of Oyster Bay officials and bivalve enthusiasts, but it also raised a few eyebrows.
Cancellation of one of Long Island’s premier events, which draws more than 150,000 people each year for eating and shucking, rides and live entertainment, could have been a black eye for Republicans and Democrats in both town and county government, with an election just six weeks off. And Nassau IDA Chairman Richard Kessel, who formerly headed both the Long Island Power Authority and the New York Power Authority, is a uniquely political figure who was generous with contributions to community organizations from both LIPA and NYPA that seemed to do more to solidify his power than serve ratepayers. Kessel was ordered by state attorneys general to curtail such contributions in both posts.
But at the IDA, while financial contributions to support important regional events have not gotten a lot of publicity, they are not unusual and predate Kessel’s appointment. IDAs, and these contributions, are funded by application fees paid by businesses seeking tax breaks.
This year, for instance, the Gold Coast Film Festival, Long Island International Film Expo and Long Beach International Film Festival each got $25,000 from the IDA with unanimous support from the board, just as the Oyster Festival did, and Kessel, named chairman in 2018, said the IDA has supported those festivals in past years, too.
“To lose the Oyster Festival would have been deadly to the community and the region,” Kessel said. “It’s a great event and we saw an opportunity to help save the festival and we took it.”
And as far as promoting tourism, one of the IDA’s legally allowable goals, supporting the iconic Oyster Festival is a more obvious fit than granting tax breaks to car dealerships, gyms, shopping malls and self-storage facilities, once common practice.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller