Police reform leaders gain ground
The Nassau County activists who sued to stop a new county contract with its Superior Officers Association from going into effect got a shot at their wish Thursday when a Supreme Court judge issued a temporary restraining order. The county must respond to the suit by Dec. 24.
The 8 1/2-year deal, approved by the County Legislature last month on an emergency basis, forestalled both committee scrutiny and a public comment period. It provides 15% raises over the life of the deal, a $3,000 annual stipend in exchange for adopting body cameras and $8,000 salary increases for those who have been supervisors for more than six years.
The activists' attorney Frederick Brewington argued in the filing that the situation does not meet the legal definition of an emergency that would allow skipping steps, and that Chief Deputy County Executive Helena Williams did not have the legal right to sign the letter setting out the emergency.
But Brewington’s reason for wanting the deal stopped is bigger than a technicality: He told The Point Thursday that he and fellow activists fighting for policing changes in Nassau County feel their position is significantly weakened by the county ratifying new police labor contracts without first securing needed reforms.
Under a June directive from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that came after George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis in May, municipalities with police departments must develop plans for reforms by April 1. Brewington and his allies in the advocacy group Long Island Advocates for Police Accountability say giving the police new contracts while reforms have not been instituted ends the possibility of getting some changes via contractual bargaining and removes an incentive for officers and police unions to accept changes in county policing.
The county’s union contracts all ran out on the final day of 2017. The detectives got a new deal earlier this year and the PBA now has an agreement in principle with the county.
The SOA contract, approved in the legislature by a 16-3 vote, was on the agenda for Thursday night’s meeting of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.
Legislature Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello told The Point Thursday, "To me, if the county executive says it’s an emergency, and she convinces a supermajority of legislators it’s an emergency, it is."
Nicolello added that Curran and her team made a strong case.
According to county officials, it was an emergency because the deal in the last contract that allows officers hired after 2014 to either be insured under the New York State Insurance Plan and pay 15% of the cost or take a lesser policy and pay no contribution, was about to be blown up by a price increase in the Aetna coverage that would force the workers to start paying in for that plan. This option is only in effect as long as Aetna coverage costs at least 15% less than NYSHIP.
The county argues that there was a clear intent in the last ratified deal to offer a free plan, as well as in the deal just approved, that also makes employees hired before 2014 begin paying a small contribution for NYSHIP next year, or take a lesser plan for free.
Now county officials say they have to pass the new plan before the beginning of 2021 because it deals with the problem of providing officers with a non-contributory plan.
As for Williams signing the emergency declaration, county officials say she signs such things frequently and has the authority to do so.
Brewington disagrees, and said what he sees is the county playing fast and loose with the rules. "This is not the first time they have tried this," he said.
And now it’s up to a judge to sort it out.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller
A King reflects on his tenure
With Pete King’s retirement from Congress looming, the Seaford Republican is reflecting on some of his last moments in politics.
Earlier this week, it was waiting at Penn Station for the Amtrak to Washington, when he said he received a phone call from labor leader James Hoffa to wish him well on his retirement.
Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, is also soon to retire after a long career in the public eye. He and his father, also James Hoffa, led the Teamsters for nearly 40 of the union’s 118 years, according to The Detroit News.
King said in a Wednesday email forwarded to The Point that he was close to the younger Hoffa, present at Teamsters HQ when Hoffa took office in 1998. The union leader also sponsored a book party for King’s first novel, "Terrible Beauty."
"Politically, I’ve worked with Jim trying to break down Republican resistance to organized labor, including holding a news conference with Jim at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2004," King wrote.
The 14-term representative said he thanked Hoffa for the call and the two promised to get together "once COVID is gone."
"Then I said goodbye to Jim and got on the train to Washington for my closing days of being a United States Congressman."
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
A COVID Christmas
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What a difference a month — and 30 jobs — make.
In November, the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency tabled a plan to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks to Bethpage furniture-and-fabric designer Kravet Inc., which hoped to move to Woodbury.
At the time, IDA board members raised questions about Kravet’s plans to create jobs, whether it planned to leave Long Island if it didn’t get tax breaks, and its claim that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority threatened to use eminent domain on its Bethpage property.
But on Wednesday night, the IDA unanimously voted to grant Kravet the package it sought.
Kravet committed to creating 30 jobs over the next three years, which would bring the company to a total of 200 jobs on Long Island. The company’s contractor, tasked with renovating its new office space, also connected with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau & Suffolk Counties to potentially use union labor for the construction jobs on the project.
Kravet chief executive Cary Kravet told the board he hopes to close on the new property next week and expects to move in by the third quarter of 2021, depending on the pandemic.
IDA members thanked Kravet officials for "being cooperative."
"This has been a project that maybe underwent a little bit more scrutiny than anyone wanted," IDA Chairman Richard Kessel said during the meeting. "The result is a win for everyone."
Perhaps, then, every project should undergo that kind of scrutiny?
"I think we have to put more emphasis on companies that get benefits from the IDA adding jobs," Kessel told The Point.
—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall