Around and around they go
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Especially when it comes to a certain concrete wasteland in the middle of Nassau County.
On Tuesday morning, Hempstead’s town board approved a new environmental consultant to handle the state environmental review process for the development of the Nassau Hub.
The contract was awarded to Frederick P. Clark Associates, a firm based in Rye.
If the name sounds familiar, it should. It’s the same consultant that’s worked for Hempstead on prior attempts to develop the Hub, an effort which has been going on for more than a decade.
That includes the $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project, proposed by former New York Islanders owner Charles Wang and developer Scott Rechler.
Come 2009 and 2010, then-town Supervisor Kate Murray and her board balked at Lighthouse’s size. Whether because of the town’s stance or because of Lighthouse’s far different scope, Frederick P. Clark’s reports detailed massive problems with the potential environmental impacts of Lighthouse. Eventually, the developers stopped paying the town’s bill for Frederick P. Clark, and the project eventually died.
Rechler, of course, is now paired with Onexim Sports and Entertainment in the newest effort to develop the land around Nassau Coliseum, a plan that includes housing, research facilities, restaurants, and entertainment, but that meets with the town’s existing zone for the site— a zone Frederick P. Clark helped to develop.
Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin noted that by hiring Frederick P. Clark, the town also was gaining a company that’s familiar with the property and the surrounding communities.
Hempstead originally was supposed to hire a consultant in April. Clavin told The Point that the decision was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that he expected the process now would proceed.
“I’ve told [the developer] that we’re going to work to have meaningful development at that location,” Clavin said. “I’m in regular communication with the county and the developer to make sure there is nothing blocking, stalling or slowing the process.”
With the hiring of Frederick P. Clark, the environmental review known as SEQRA can kick into high gear, and development at the Hub could move forward. But that’s only if the town — and the firm — handle it differently this time around.
—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Biden also pulls ahead in online betting circles
Joe Biden is having a good run in the polls, expanding his lead of late over President Donald Trump in November’s election. The former vice president is also doing well with the people who put money – and odds – where their mouths are.
Biden is now the odds-on favorite to win the 2020 race, listed at 5/7 odds, according to the online sportsbook BetOnline. Trump is listed at 11/10.
If you’re looking for a dark horse to put your money on, the person with the third-best odds of becoming president, though not exactly a third-party candidate, is, yes, Hillary Clinton (16/1).
As context for Biden’s ascension, it’s worth noting that back in September he was not even the Democratic Party frontrunner in the futures betting market, trailing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. So he, of all people, knows that races aren’t won in the backstretch.
Which brings us to Biden’s choice of running mate. A source of spirited speculation in real life, that race also is handicapped by BetOnline which makes California Sen. Kamala Harris the frontrunner, followed by Florida Rep. Val Demmings. The trio of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Warren and Stacey Abrams is far behind tied for third.
As for those internecine Republican rivalries, BetOnline has a new endorsement section that asks whether three Republicans – former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney – will endorse Biden. Only one is favored to do so. Do you really need to ask which one?
—Michael Dobie @mwdobie
Change is coming
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A big budget hole to fill in Suffolk
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s proposals to plug coronavirus-related budget holes with money from a drinking water protection program were the subject of county legislature hearings Tuesday.
If you’re thinking this controversy sounds familiar, you’re right. Bellone has sought to tap these funds before for purposes other than what was approved by voters, and courts have swatted down such efforts as circumventing the will of those voters. This time, the county executive is seeking voter approval; each proposal, if approved by the legislature, would go before voters as a public referendum in November.
The county’s budget woes are considerable. Legislative Presiding Officer Rob Calarco told The Point that the best-case scenario he’s seen has the county facing a $300 million revenue shortfall. Bellone is proposing to divert half of the money raised for open space purchases, rip up a settlement agreement to repay $171 million his administration already borrowed from a sewer stabilization fund to plug other budget holes, take $15 million more from that fund, and wipe out a recent court-ordered agreement to repay $29.4 million from an earlier raid executed during the term of Bellone’s predecessor, Steve Levy.
Calarco said the controversial proposals would bring in about $62 million for the 2021 budget, if approved by the legislature and voters. But here’s where it gets interesting: The legislature votes on the next year’s budget the day after Election Day. So if the proposals were approved by the legislature and put on the ballot but were rejected by voters on Election Day, the legislature would convene the next day facing a brand-new $62 million shortfall.
“To make adjustments accordingly would be very difficult to do, there’s a certain level of concern that I have,” Calarco told The Point. “I like to let voters make decisions on big things, but this is something that would be so controversial I could see it going different ways.”
Calarco said he is “pretty strongly considering” putting together a budget working group now, instead of waiting until the fall as is traditional. Other wrinkles include what aid if any the federal government will provide states, towns, counties, cities and villages, and whether all the November votes will be counted by the day after Election Day, given an anticipated spike in mail-in ballots.
“It is a challenge to say the least, $60M is a big hole to fill. If this makes it onto the budget and if the county executive budgets on the basis that the measures pass, we will have to have some backup plan,” Calarco said. “Even if the federal government does come in with something substantial, this is going to be the ugliest Suffolk County budget anyone has seen … It’s going to be pain all around.”
—Michael Dobie @mwdobie