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Shutting it down and starting it up

Residents and elected officials called for transparency after

Residents and elected officials called for transparency after they said they were left in the dark about a plan to house 80 homeless families at the site of a former hotel in Jericho. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Jericho parents lawyer up

Representatives from the group leading the opposition to using a former Hampton Inn in Jericho for transitional housing for homeless families told The Point Thursday that they’re focused on the ongoing legal battle to stop the project, while trying to deepen support for their cause from local residents.

Concerned Jericho Parents leaders Jennifer Vartanov and Marc Albert said in an interview that the $86,595 they’ve raised via a GoFundMe will go towards legal fees. They’ve asked the court to let them join an existing lawsuit filed by the Town of Oyster Bay. The group is represented by former state senator Jack Martins, a partner at Harris Beach and a former Republican candidate for Nassau County executive.

Vartanov and Albert told The Point their goal is to stop the facility altogether.

“This is going to play out in the courts,” Albert said. “This is a very united community in opposition to what we believe has been a wrong here.”

Expect, too, more rallies, press conferences and online events to push their message.

That message, Albert said, is in part about a lack of communication between those favoring the project, including the county and the development team, and those with concerns or questions, including residents, Oyster Bay Town, and local elected officials. The group said it is also concerned about the amount of public money going into the project.

“This is not anything anti-homeless. This is not anything about community members not wanting homeless families having roofs over their heads,” said Albert, who lives in Brookville.

Vartanov, who lives in Old Westbury, told The Point that she is also worried about the impact on the Jericho school district, and the need for studies on safety, traffic and more.  

“To say it’s not going to affect the community, that’s just ignorance,” Vartanov said. 

Both Vartanov and Albert are parents in the Jericho school district and live within a mile of the Hampton Inn site. 

Albert also pointed to concerns over the potential spread of the coronavirus pandemic, noting that he hasn’t seen any studies or plans on how the facility would deal with COVID-19. And Vartanov also expressed concern about the safety and well-being of the families who would be living in the transitional housing, noting that the Hampton Inn is located at a busy intersection that isn’t close to public transit or supermarkets. 

The Hampton Inn housed homeless families prior to its closure, as did other nearby motels and hotels in Jericho and at other spots in the town. However, Vartanov said that scenario was different because “you’re taking what may have existed and multiplying it so many more times.”

The proposed transitional housing would allow 80 families – mostly mothers and children – to live in the facility and have access to services, including child care and mental health care, in the hopes of then being able to move on to more permanent housing.

Oyster Bay Town has sued to stop the plan, arguing that the project requires a town zoning change. Nassau officials and those associated with the project say that state law would supersede local zoning ordinances. 

“The laws are there for a reason — for the health and safety of the population,” Albert said. “It is our take that this has a lot of negative health and safety repercussions to our residents.”

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

BNL’s quantum leap

In the immediacy of the moment — President Donald Trump accepting the Republican nomination to run for a second term, a punishing hurricane, protests of a police shooting in Wisconsin and the ever-present virus — it’s easy to overlook the future of quantum information science. We here at The Point aren’t exactly sure how to translate that term but it’s big news for Long Island.

As the U.S. and China slug it out over global leadership in technology, the arms race of the 21st century, the Trump administration is pumping money into advanced research in artificial intelligence and a big chunk of it is going to a project headed by the Brookhaven National Laboratory to establish a quantum information research institute. 

BNL and Stony Brook University are the anchors of a 24-member team that includes IBM, Yale University and other leading research institutions. The Department of Energy said the $1 billion program that is spread over more than a dozen places will advance a “free market approach to technological advancement.” One concern of the U.S. is to stop China from getting so far ahead on supercomputing/artificial intelligence that it will be able to unlock passcodes at lightning speed.

The DOE says the program will support regional economic growth as these science hubs are used to develop the workforce of the future. The department’s press release quotes Ivanka Trump, as a senior adviser to the president, and there is speculation that she might mention the initiative in her remarks at the Republican National Convention Thursday night when she introduces her father.

The BNL group will get $115 million from the federal government over the next five years. New York State also pledged $15 million toward the effort. At the start, means some of the top scientific talent in the world, along with postdoctoral fellows and other students, will head to the national lab in Upton to conduct research.

—Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Pencil Point

Stranger than fiction

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Final Point

Getting back to class

As the reopening of Long Island’s schools quickly approaches, there are still lots of questions about how in-classroom learning will occur, how students will safely ride the bus and sit in class, and what parents should expect from a hybrid learning model. 

In our latest Newsday webinar, columnist Lane Filler speaks with experts and educators including Dr. Christina Johns, senior medical advisor at PM Pediatrics; Regina Pierce, a fifth-grade teacher from the Wyandanch school district; Syosset High School AP Biology teacher Carisa Steinberg; and New York School Bus Contractors Association President Corey Muirhead as they answer audience questions and discuss how Long Island’s schools will protect students and teachers when school resumes.

Watch the webinar on demand here.

—Michael Cusanelli @mcusanelliSB