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Opinion

New projects and new grievances

The landfill in Brookhaven.

The landfill in Brookhaven. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Daily Point

Hicksville’s makeover gets the county’s help

Hicksville’s redevelopment lies mostly in the hands of the Town of Oyster Bay.

But Nassau County does have a limited role in traffic and transportation planning and on Wednesday executive Laura Curran unveiled the county’s "complete streets" report for the hamlet. The recommendations in the report include everything from curb extensions and expanded medians to bike lanes, streetscaping and redesigned street crossings.

None of it came as a surprise to Oyster Bay officials, who said they were involved in the county’s work, and some of it dovetails with plans that are part of the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or DRI – a $10 million state grant Hicksville received in 2017.

Perhaps most significant among the eight recommendations: A revamp and streetscaping of Broadway, between E. John Street and Old Country Road. The county estimates it would cost nearly $6 million to improve traffic and pedestrian flow, add buffers, lighting, planters, and bike racks, and create curb extensions on side streets to give pedestrians more space.

Find out more recommendations in the report and what remains a question mark here.

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

The future of LI's garbage

It’s been known for years that the closure of the massive Brookhaven landfill will create a solid waste crisis on Long Island. Where is all that garbage going to go? But as the clock has ticked toward the anticipated shuttering in 2024, there’s been more talk than action — and, some critics would say, even not enough talk.

That’s changing now in a major way, and a fascinating process is about to unfold.

Winters Bros., one of the region’s major solid-waste management companies, is proposing to build a rail terminal and industrial park on 228 acres in Yaphank, just north of the landfill, to take garbage off the Island by rail. The company, which says it plans to spend more than $100 million on the project, would build a spur line north to connect to the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line.

Winters Bros. and its Class 3 railroad affiliate, Brookhaven Rail LLC, have gone before the federal Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, seeking an exemption from local zoning, a standard request. The Town of Brookhaven initially supported that request, then changed its mind and told the STB that Winters Bros. should go before the town to seek approval for the facility, which would not be allowed by current town code.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, are weighing the relative pros and cons of the project – for example, the loss of trees on part of the 228 acres vs. saving tens of thousands of truck trips on Long Island roads. A competing proposal to haul off the garbage by rail, also by connecting to the Main Line, this one from Gershow Recycling in Medford, also is moving forward. And Brookhaven Town is exploring opening a new facility just east of the current landfill to keep handling some or all of the 350,000 tons of ash it accepts annually from waste-to-energy plants in the region.

Environmental reviews await. Litigation certainly is possible. Which solution will prevail? Or is a mix of ideas the best approach?

The only certainty is that the clock keeps ticking.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Pencil Point

Walking hypocrisy

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Final Point

Add this to the list of Nassau assessment complications

Nassau County’s attempts to institute a new property-tax reassessment have made a complicated system even more complex.

To try to fix the system without hurting the real-estate market or triggering a taxpayer revolt, Curran instituted a five-year phase-in adjusting higher bills to the new, fair values.

The phase-in, along with the rule that assessments can’t go up more than 20% in six years, protects property owners from huge and sudden hikes.

Unless, that is, you buy a substantially renovated or newly constructed home: Then you owe the taxes assessed at the value of the property immediately, although there is a carveout for $80,000 of the increase that does enjoy a eight year phase-in.

As a result, there have been huge bills for several hundred property owners who own newly built or renovated homes in Nassau who did not grieve their taxes this year and are being told they own far more than neighbors in older but similarly valued homes.

One Massapequa man, for instance, told CBS New York that he bought an $800,000 new home with taxes listed at $20,000 a year, in line with his neighbors, only to find that the new reassessment left him with a $37,000 bill and no phase-in to fall back on.

Whether owners of new or newly renovated homes deserve a break on their taxes is open for debate, but Curran thinks they do, at least partially to avoid disincentivizing such construction, and Assemb. Charles Lavine and State Sen. Kevin Thomas are trying to help. The two have introduced bills in their respective chambers that would create an eight-year phase-in of taxes for up to $750,000 of the increased value for newly built or renovated homes. But the legislation is not a slam dunk.

Lavine told The Point that he’d expect the bill to get a lot of scrutiny in the Assembly, but he thinks that the fact the measure has not flown through the State Senate is unusual, and daunting.

"Generally speaking, bills that are introduced by a member of the majority in the Senate are pushed hard and pushed rapidly through, unlike in the Assembly," Lavine said. "When that doesn’t happen, it suggests things are getting complicated."

And when it comes to the Nassau assessment system, "complicated" is the default setting.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

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