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Tracing a positive case

Floral Park Village Hall on Feb. 27.

Floral Park Village Hall on Feb. 27. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Daily Point

Village mayor tests positive; supervisor reacts

Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi and Village Trustee Archie Cheng have tested positive for COVID-19, the mayor announced on the village website Thursday. Longobardi told The Point that one of the village’s senior staffers is also a confirmed case.

Longobardi, a Republican who is also the Town of Hempstead’s deputy town comptroller, said he has attended a variety of events over the last few weeks and has told "everybody under the sun" of his positive diagnosis so anyone with whom he’s been in contact would know.

Among the events he attended in recent weeks: Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin’s Republican fundraiser in late October, which featured 200 people at the Plattduetsche Park Restaurant and Catering Hall in Franklin Square. County officials have said the event may have violated state guidelines. Longobardi said he was there only briefly.

The Point contacted Clavin to ask about the impact of Longobardi’s diagnosis on other town employees, as well as whether he had notified other guests at the Plattduetsche fundraiser about Longobardi’s positive test.

"My fundraiser happened three weeks ago before Mr. Longobardi tested positive and I find it disingenuous that you asked it," Clavin responded. "I’m sure you’re incredibly disappointed you can’t come up with a fake story to fit your narrative and I’m highly insulted with this conduct as well as any reader of this should be."

When asked whether he had notified other town employees of Longobardi’s diagnosis, Clavin wouldn’t specify, saying only that he will "follow the professional medical advice of the town’s medical director."

Clavin currently is quarantining after he had contact with someone else who tested positive for COVID-19. He has tested negative.

Longobardi said he’s not sure where he may have contracted the virus, but thinks he may have gotten it from his mother, who had tested positive before Longobardi himself got tested on Monday. He said he was last at his town office last Thursday.

On Tuesday, in between when he was tested and got the results, Longobardi oversaw a village meeting virtually. Last month’s village meeting was held with a dozen village representatives in person, albeit socially distanced.

So far, Longobardi said he’s suffering from a cough, but his symptoms are relatively mild.

The mayor told The Point he had a message for village residents and others.

"Please take this seriously," Longobardi said. "Please take all the precautions to keep you and your families safe."

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Same old troubles, same old solutions

On July 16, a PSEG Long Island operations supervisor told his manager in an email that an upgrade to the utility’s outage management system implemented in June was "not even managing on a day to day basis and [we)] are definitely not prepared for [a] weather event."

It turned out to be an apt appraisal, proven out when Tropical Storm Isaias hit less than a month later on Aug. 4, bringing 70-mph winds, 646,000 outages and a lot of aggravation to LIPA customers trying to contact the utility.

But nothing was done to address the flaws in the outage and communications systems.

That manager forwarded the email to the PSEG-LI vice president of transmission and distribution, who forwarded it to PSEG’s director of IT, who reports to bosses at PSEG headquarters in Newark. After a lengthy back-and-forth, the PSEG-LI vice president asked the IT director "who (in New Jersey) are you reporting to these days and is that person engaged and aware of our issues."

They still haven’t done anything about it as the winter approaches. LIPA Chairman Tom Falcone told The Point Tuesday that both systems are still dysfunctional and if a major weather event were to happen now, a hurricane or blizzard, those systems would fail, just as they did in August.

This comes to light because LIPA’s Isaias Task Force investigation of PSEG required it to turn over thousands of emails that, when pieced together, lay out a dysfunctional management structure lacking both urgency and accountability.

Falcone bemoaned the fact of two hubs of responsibility, one at PSEG-LI and one at PSEG headquarters in New Jersey. And some critics point to a third level of oversight, LIPA itself, as further proof the current operations model may be unworkable.

And that reality has Long Island elected officials once again talking about full municipalization of LIPA, a move that got a lot of consideration after Sandy, too, but was then deemed too expensive to work and too bureaucratic and governmental to be popular.

Falcone himself mentioned municipalization Tuesday, notable because LIPA mostly opposed the idea so strongly seven years ago when the utility was being overhauled. And State Sens. Todd Kaminsky and James Gaughran both have pointed to the model this week as something that ought to be considered.

So as the investigatory process continues, expect to hear the public ownership argument get louder and louder.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

At the gate

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Final Point

Will LI districts follow NYC’s remote plan?

Thursday, New York City schools went fully remote for the first time in nearly two months, on the orders of Mayor Bill de Blasio, after the city’s COVID-19 test positivity rate reached 3%. He is taking tremendous heat from parents and other officials, but had few options: shutting down at that level was the promise de Blasio had to make to get buy-in from the United Federation of Teachers to open in the first place.

Meanwhile, just over the border in Nassau, County Executive Laura Curran rallied support at a news conference to keep the schools open. She was joined by education leaders including Nassau BOCES head Robert Dillon, who urged students and families to mask and distance and take smart precautions so schools can keep operating.

The gap helps illustrate the enormous differences in the educational options in different districts right now, particularly in terms of in-person versus remote learning.

On Long Island on Wednesday evening alone, two school boards contending with the pandemic made very different decisions. In Bellport, the South Country school district voted to go all-remote for the week after Thanksgiving. And in Sachem, the school board, having put on the agenda discussion of going all-remote from Thanksgiving until after the Christmas break, voted to stay with its current mix of in-person and distance learning. The decision was informed by the fact that the district, with nearly 15,000 students, faculty and staff, has had just 50 cases.

Educators from both Sachem and South Country participated in a NewsdayLive webinar Thursday on how students are weathering distance learning and the differing levels of resources districts are bringing to the fight. Also joining as panelists were Long Island Board of Regents member Roger Tilles and Penny and Ariana Glaser, a Smithtown mother and daughter navigating high school and a hybrid learning program.

That webinar can be viewed here.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller