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Robert Moses debate continues

Robert Moses in front of a map of

Robert Moses in front of a map of Long Island in 1954. Credit: Newsday/Harvey Weber

Daily Point

Moses maelstrom

Controversial mid-century master builder Robert Moses is back in the news thanks to a new bill from Manhattan Assemb. Daniel O’Donnell that would establish a commission “to rename the Robert Moses State Park to reflect on the history of Long Island.” 

Why is Moses in the hot seat this time? In an interview with The Point, O’Donnell cited the current moment of attitude adjustment toward certain historical figures, and more specifically a recent Daily News op-ed by former John Jay professor Jason Haber laying out a case that the master builder’s work was racist.

O’Donnell, who grew up in Commack, says that as a child, Moses was his “hero.” That wasn’t because of any knowledge of his works, but the fact that it was Moses’ name on the causeway and park where the future lawmaker was able to swim. 

The Democrat says he’s read the Moses biography “The Powerbroker,” by former Newsday reporter Robert Caro, and approves of re-examining or removing certain historical figures and monuments, such as Confederate statues in New Orleans. 

He doesn’t, however, approve of taking down the Columbus statue in his current NYC home, another political minefield. That’s because Columbus lived so long ago and it’s hard to impose modern-day values on him, O’Donnell said. He has not worked on bills to address any other non-Moses figures. 

He said the negative response to his bill is “rather amazing” given that he had put it in during the legislative body’s dormant period and it just involves a commission. 

O’Donnell says he did not talk to any Long Island elected officials about the bill beforehand and had not planned to do so before the new session begins in January. But after news reports about the bill, he said his office was flooded with unhappy calls from Long Islanders. 

He said the desire to change the name was not about hurting or shutting down the park. He meant no harm to the park itself: “I love the place.”

—Mark Chiusano  @mjchiusano

Talking Point

SBU search 

Hundreds of candidates from all over the country have been contacted or screened in the Stony Brook University presidential search so far, according to search committee chairman Kevin Law.

Law said he’s “impressed with the pool,” although he wouldn’t provide any details on the group’s makeup.

The committee hopes to whittle the extensive candidate list down to a much smaller group this winter. It will recommend semi-finalists to the Stony Brook Council, which Law also chairs. That council then will pick its top three, who hopefully will move on to the State University of New York trustees this spring. That timetable would allow a new president to start next fall. 

The committee, which includes student, faculty and alumni representatives, is using Isaacson, Miller, an educational recruitment firm, to aid in the search.

Stony Brook’s ongoing process comes as Molloy College announced this week that it selected its new president, choosing James Lentini, a senior vice president and provost at Oakland University in Michigan.

Rockville Centre-based Molloy is a much smaller institution, with just over 5,000 students. Stony Brook has more than 25,000 in its undergraduate and graduate programs combined.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Puppet theater

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Final Point

Thank you, next

On Monday, environmentalists around the state effusively praised Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for signing a bill that bans the likely carcinogen 1,4-dioxane in cleaning products, personal care products and cosmetics.

On Tuesday, environmentalists rallied in the State Capitol to demand that Cuomo approve a spate of other green bills that await his signature.

Welcome to what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, Albany-style.

The environmentalists banding together Tuesday included Catskill Mountainkeeper, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Clean & Healthy New York, Earthjustice, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, New York Public Interest Research Group, Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and the New York League of Conservation Voters. They generally have given Cuomo generous props for his leadership in what has been a productive year for green legislation and initiatives — “historic” is one word often bandied about — while making clear that there is room for the governor to burnish his green credentials.

Still on their wish lists — a ban on the emerging contaminant PFAS in firefighting foam, a bill to regulate and in some cases ban the use of toxic chemicals in children’s products, a companion piece to the landmark climate change bill Cuomo signed earlier this year that would set up an environmental justice advisory group in the Department of Environmental Conservation, and, perhaps the toughest lift of all, a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

And that’s how it goes in gubernatorial politics. You’re only as good as the last bill you signed. Or didn’t.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie