Chronicling the past, looking to the future
What’s Long Island’s next big thing?
That’s the question asked during a Long Island Association meeting Friday morning — and the answers were plentiful.
The question came as the Rauch Foundation unveiled a report detailing the history and ultimate success of the Long Island Rail Road third track project. The report, written by former Newsday staff writer Elizabeth Moore, describes the project’s early failures, dating to the 1940s and 1950s, and the eventual coalition building, community outreach, and leadership that reached as high as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, that led to the project’s approval in 2017.
“Other than the Long Island Pine Barrens protection act … the third track project represents the most important project of recent times,” said Rauch president Nancy Rauch Douzinas.
During the Friday event, Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief development officer Janno Lieber provided a third-track update. The project remains on schedule for a December 2022 completion, and is, incredibly, under budget. Lieber said about 25% to 30% of the project is completed. One key statistic: The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway had 2,400 change orders, Lieber said. So far, third track has had just 20 — and half of them have been credits, rather than additional expenses.
“I hope we make good on your vision,” Lieber said.
During a panel discussion, moderated by Newsday Editorial Page Editor Rita Ciolli, key players in third track’s success and others in the audience were asked what Long Island should coalesce around next. The key, said former Greenport Mayor Dave Kapell, who led the Right Track for LI Coalition, is to find a project that, like third track, “transcends political jurisdiction.”
Among the ideas that emerged: Renewable energy, including offshore wind, water quality, mixed-income housing, a convention center, electrification of the rest of the LIRR, ways to address segregation and school inequities, and even building high-speed rail from New York to Boston that could include a Long Island component.
What’s your big idea? Come join the conversation with nextLI here.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Now open early
Responding to criticism about its lack of options for early voting this fall, the Suffolk County Board of Elections now says voters will be able to cast ballots at any of the county’s 10 locations, one in each of Suffolk’s 10 towns, starting Oct. 26.
The change, from a requirement that voters cast ballots in their home towns, was enabled by a switch of sites in Southampton Town. The weak cell signal at the former polling place prevented sites from being able to communicate with each other instantaneously to ensure that a voter couldn’t, for example, cast ballots in more than one place.
But bigger changes are in store for 2020.
“We are looking to expand beyond 10 sites next year,” Republican elections commissioner Nick LaLota told The Point. “We’re considering where the population centers are to ensure additional locations are placed closer to Suffolk’s populations. We’ve received criticism that big towns only have one location and our 2020 plan will address that criticism.”
That would seem to indicate that additional sites will be placed in Brookhaven and Islip, Suffolk’s most populous towns. Next up would be Babylon and Huntington, which are close in population though Huntington might have a leg up because it is considerably larger geographically.
Suffolk’s moves, both current and impending, are in keeping with the intent of voting reforms passed earlier this year in the State Legislature: to make voting easier.
— Michael Dobie @mwdobie
And the winner is...
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A chill read from Mayor Pete
You may not be surprised to hear that Pete Buttigieg, who does everything precociously, has a well-written memoir, “Shortest Way Home.”
While the longer careers of other politicians have had to sustain multiple books and are padded with random constituent narratives, this young 2020 Democratic hopeful can stick to his personal story. The 37-year-old has an eye for detail and drama. About commanding vehicles during his Afghanistan tour? “Quickly, I learned how to drive at war.” Upon returning home, he does not glorify his service but does note the discrepancies between military and civilian life, remembering the weight difference between the doors of heavy armored land cruisers vs. cars.
Some readers might roll their eyes at self-consciously perfect lines like “You can read the progress of the campaign calendar in the condition of the corn.” Buttigieg is SMART, you know? He quotes James Joyce and “Hobsbawm’s historiography.” Every narrative twist and turn of Buttigieg’s life makes perfect sense. Consulting for global firm McKinsey & Co.? “I was in it for the education,” he writes. Press-savvy as he is, he mentions, by name, multiple local South Bend reporters.
This is the kind of stuff that has infuriated other reviewers who see every careful career choice and every complete and erudite sentence he writes or speaks as fake.
More charitably, what this 2019 book suggests is that the South Bend mayor is a throwback to President Barack Obama. He’s cool and accomplished. His personal stories of war and coming out as gay are told with solemnity, and a sense of the essential goodness of the American character.
He might speak progressive on the 2020 campaign trail but he reveals himself here to be generally uncomfortable with ideology, which he says was an obsession for his GOP opponent in a state treasurer race.
“Much of the confusion and complication of ideological battles might be washed away if we held our focus on the lives that will be [affected] by political decisions,” he writes.
An Obama-esque sense of destiny combined with a wry sense of humor is present in a line from his journal (of course he keeps a journal) on the eve of his loss in that state race. It applies just as well to his current endeavor, to see whether his brand of perfection works in an ideological age: “Are we walking into a buzz saw, or does a phenomenal surprise await?”
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano