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Opinion

Calling in favors

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Daily Point

Can you spare a dime?

Here’s a sign of some kind of normalcy in New York: full-throated end-of-quarter fundraising appeals in hot congressional races. 

Over the course of this final week of July, candidates on both sides of the aisle in New York’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts have been spamming inboxes with offers to double or even triple donations, plus warnings about being “$36,000 short of our July digital fundraising goal.” Can you help? Can you chip in? 

Read on to see how this is a massive change of tone from spring, when New York was in midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Zeldin’s formula for Washington funding

When the federal $2.2 trillion CARES Act was passed in April, it provided an enormous amount of aid to people, hospitals and governmental entities all across the nation. The aid was so broad, in fact, that the way that money was distributed actually left hard-hit areas like New York and New Jersey with far less help than they needed and granted largely unaffected regions much more than they required, at least at that time.

The reason was politics, and GOP politics in particular. Getting the votes in the Senate to pass the mammoth aid package was accomplished by setting a minimum amount of aid, $1.25 billion, for every state regardless of need, and using the number of hospital beds in a state as a determinant of hospital grants rather than the number of coronavirus cases treated, expenses incurred, or revenue lost.

And that was a problem for a rarity like Lee Zeldin, a Republican in a downstate New York district. 

Since May, Zeldin has been pushing a different formula for the next round of aid to counties, towns, cities and villages, developed by Rep. Antonio Delgado, a Democrat from upstate Rhinebeck. According to Zeldin, that formula is getting a lot more attention as talks about the next coronavirus aid package heat up.

“What this formula does is create one pot of money for counties and another for cities, towns and villages, “ Zeldin said. “For the cities, towns and villages it sends 70% percent of the money to Community Development Block Grant entitlement communities using the current CDBG formula to determine allocations. The other 30% would be allocated by the state to all the communities in the state that do not get CDBG money, based on population.”

For counties, Zeldin said, the money would simply be allocated by population, except that any county currently getting a CDBG entitlement would get that amount rather than the amount determined by its population if the CDBG amount is higher.

Zeldin gave two examples to show how the formula works. If the pot of money for counties is $50 billion, Suffolk County would get $235 million. If $25 billion is designated for cities, towns and villages, Brookhaven Town would get $12 million. The plan does not address state or school funding. 

“This truly is a bipartisan idea,” Zeldin told The Point Friday, “purposely crafted specifically to make sure downstate New York gets what it needs.”

Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand signed on to the concept in May, and when Zeldin and fellow Long Island representatives Peter King, Thomas Suozzi, Kathleen Rice and Gregory Meeks met with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in Washington this week to discuss Long Island’s needs, while Nassau County Executive Laura Curran FaceTimed in, the formula got a lot of attention.

Zeldin’s problem in selling it, though, won’t be with New York Democrats. As with the CARES Act, it will be convincing the GOP that the CDBG program, a traditional favorite of Democrats that mostly funnels money toward both cities and rural communities with high infrastructure and housing needs, ought to be used to dispense this money.

Zeldin’s support, as a minority House member, would not have much sway in his chamber, but it might in the Senate, and with his buddy in the White House, President Donald Trump.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Back to school

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Final Point

Advocating for peace and quiet on the East End

An approaching deadline for the Federal Aviation Administration is coming next week – and hitting close to home.

Local civic associations, elected officials and community members are ramping up calls for the FAA to extend the New York North Shore Helicopter Route, as it’s set to expire next week.

And they’re hoping their local rep in Congress can use some muscle. 

“This mandatory route has brought a peaceful and improved quality of life to our neighborhoods that is especially important during these unprecedented times,” Suffolk County legislator Sarah Anker wrote in a letter to CD1‘s Lee Zeldin, seeking his support for an extension.

Anker is among those pushing for an extension of the route. The mandatory helicopter route, which requires pilots to fly nearly a mile offshore until the North Fork, when they head south towards the Hamptons, is set to expire on Aug. 6.

But rather than favoring an extension of the North Shore route, which still hovers over part of the North Fork and impacts residents, Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said the congressman is hoping the FAA will commit to a route that goes around Plum Island.  

Sen. Chuck Schumer has introduced a bill to force helicopters to fly that all-water route. But in the meantime, he has met with FAA officials to encourage them to extend the existing route in the short term. 

“If it does expire, it would turn the skies over the Island into the Wild West, and we don’t want that,” said Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro. 

Vincentz said Zeldin has been in contact with the FAA as well, and has signed on to co-sponsor the House’s companion bill to Schumer’s legislation, sponsored by Rep. Tom Suozzi. 

“At the end of the day, our goal is to provide noise relief to the residents,” Vincentz told The Point.

Vincentz noted that if the North Shore route expires Thursday, there’s still a separate agreement between the Eastern Region Helicopter Council and the Town of East Hampton that informally limits where pilots can fly. But if that agreement collapses, “there is nothing standing between Long Islanders and a free-for-all,” she said.

Suozzi, meanwhile, said he, too, has been in touch with the FAA, and supports Schumer’s efforts.

“We’re following Senator Schumer’s lead, who’s been very good on this issue, trying to support the effort in every way we can,” Suozzi told The Point. “I’m speaking with the FAA and I’m hopeful we can resolve this issue to the satisfaction of the residents of all of Queens and Long Island.“ 

Meanwhile, what was the FAA’s response to inquiries from The Point?

“We’ll announce our decision at the appropriate time.”

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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