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Fair housing has many forms

Credit: AP/David Zalubowski

Daily Point

Old issues for new construction

For more than a year, Long Island Builders Institute chief executive Mitch Pally had been working with several other key housing advocates to get a meeting with Attorney General Letitia James. The goal: to talk about affordable and multi-family housing on Long Island, and how zoning in some communities doesn’t allow for equal access to a diversity of housing types. 

About six weeks ago, the meeting was scheduled for Monday morning.

The timing turned out to be significant, Pally told The Point, because Sunday and Monday's publication of Newsday’s "Long Island Divided" series had an immediate impact on the conversation. Pally says there is a connection between the series, which focused on discrimination in the buying of existing single-family homes, and his concerns about where new multi-family housing is built on Long Island.

“It’s not just that folks get steered individually,” Pally said. “Projects get steered… Many communities, because of their zoning powers, have been able to resist the need for multi-family housing and steer it to other places, often poor and minority communities.”

Pally, along with former Long Island Housing Partnership head Jim Morgo and Community Development Corp. of Long Island chief executive Gwen O’Shea, met with James at the attorney general’s Manhattan office. Also involved in their effort is Sol Marie Alfonso-Jones, with the Long Island Community Foundation.

Pally noted that the underlying problem for new construction is that an enormous amount of land on Long Island is zoned for single-family housing, and that some communities have no allowance for multi-family housing as of right. That, he said, can be seen as a violation of New York law, where the Court of Appeals has rejected exclusionary zoning.

Pally said James was “very interested in our concerns.”

“While small progress is being made in some places, we need to make this much more vigorous and much faster,” Pally said. “I am hopeful she’s going to do something.”

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Faces in the crowd

The federal trial of former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and former top aide Christopher McPartland offered little drama Tuesday morning. 

The ninth-floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack was full, with others observing the proceedings on video monitors in an adjourning courtroom. In the main courtroom was county Legis. Rob Trotta, who said the proceedings are “like seeing a movie made of something you lived through."

Also having some deja vu was former Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, watching the morning session from the overflow room. DeMarco has plenty of time on his hands, at least partially because of the way the political power structure of Suffolk County that protected Burke has operated.

DeMarco was elected sheriff in 2005, 2009 and 2013. But his time in the job ended because of his role in convicting former Suffolk Conservative Party chairman Edward Walsh of theft and fraud for gambling, golfing and engaging in political activity while he was on the clock as a sheriff’s lieutenant.

In 2017, DeMarco, a Conservative, did not seek reelection after Walsh’s allies blocked him from the Conservative line and reportedly told Republicans not to let DeMarco seek their line. “My political career certainly went downhill in the Conservative Party with the investigation and trial of Ed Walsh,” he said.

And DeMarco is still feeling the sting of politics. He has time to watch the proceedings because his nomination to be the U.S. marshal for the Eastern District is stalled in the U.S. Senate. He’s been waiting for a floor vote since May and that comes after waiting almost 2½ years for the nomination.

If DeMarco were on the job, he would have been in charge of providing security for witnesses, as well as the custody of Spota and McPartland if they should be convicted.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Cashing in

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Final Point

Up in smoke

Why has President Donald Trump been retreating from, or at least slow to move forward with, a crackdown on vaping?

One factor may be data from longtime Long Island pollster John McLaughlin, whose poll about the opinions of adults who vape was “passed around to a number of people in [Trump’s] circle,” according to The New York Times.

The online survey conducted among 4,669 adult vapor consumers in battleground states such as Florida, New Hampshire and Ohio “clearly shows these consumers are very likely voters who are highly passionate and motivated by issues and legislation that would affect vapor products,” according to a summary that McLaughlin shared with The Point. 

The top-line number that 99% of customers “ardently oppose” banning flavors in nicotine vapor products may not be particularly shocking — people who use want to keep using. 

But the intensity of that opposition may give pause to a politician with his finger to the wind, compounded by the finding that vapor consumers favor the generic-ballot GOP candidate, 46% to 24%. 

McLaughlin also found that more than 9 in 10 vapor consumers believe it’s better to raise the legal age to buy nicotine vapor products and require government ID for purchase, as opposed to banning flavors. That may be a silver lining of sorts for vaping critics who hoped that increased scrutiny on safety in recent months might have led to more regulation. Trump himself signaled support for regulation earlier this year.

New York was not included in the poll, but some Empire State politicians have seized on the issue ahead of Trump. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo moved to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in September (stayed pending litigation) and signed legislation raising the age for purchase. Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced a lawsuit against Juul Labs “for deceptive and misleading marketing of its e-cigarettes.” Juul has responded to criticism in part by pulling non-tobacco flavors from the market.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano