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Republicans, again, take aim at Suozzi's district

Congressman Tom Suozzi on Jan. 9, 2021 in

Congressman Tom Suozzi on Jan. 9, 2021 in New York. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Daily Point

NRCC thinks redistricting will hurt Suozzi

The National Republican Congressional Committee has outlined a strategy to take back the House of Representatives.

And part of its "clear path back to the majority" lies in targeting 47 districts the committee is calling "offensive targets," according to a memo from NRCC executive director John Billings and information first reported by Roll Call and Politico.

Among the targets: Rep. Tom Suozzi.

At first, Suozzi’s district would seem like an odd one for Republicans to target. It doesn’t fit in the NRCC’s prime "battleground" category of districts President Joe Biden lost, or where the margin of victory was less than 5%.

Instead, the NRCC placed Suozzi in another category, called "Redistricting Watch."

"The ‘Redistricting Watch’ targets present 10 opportunities for Republicans to defeat Democrats in states that will lose or gain seats after redistricting," Billings’ memo said.

It seems Republicans think that Suozzi’s district could be redrawn in such a way that the lines move further east, covering some of the current First or Second Congressional districts, potentially adding Republican voters to the district.

Of course, the NRCC doesn’t address the possibility that Suozzi’s district could be redrawn in another direction, where it would cover more of Queens, and likely add more Democrats.

The NRCC’s choice to highlight Suozzi is a puzzling one and, for now, Suozzi isn’t worrying about it, according to senior adviser Kim Devlin.

"We just got through a successful election," Devlin told The Point. "Right now the only things Congressman Suozzi is focused on is restoring the full SALT deduction as well as passing legislation that will provide much needed COVID relief to the residents, businesses and state and local governments on Long Island and New York."

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Trying to diagnose LI’s higher COVID numbers

In recent weeks, Long Island’s highest-in-the-state rate of positive COVID-19 tests has prompted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to mutter "Long Island, Long Island, Long Island" at news conferences.

But Cuomo, who also has expressed concern about the region’s high hospitalization rate, is hardly alone.

Sean Clouston, associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University, told The Point he has been on calls basically every week since Thanksgiving with people asking, "Why do you think this is happening?"

It’s a difficult question. The available data doesn’t come from some extensive research study in which people are randomly tested across the state. There are disparities and fluctuations in testing in different counties, and the pandemic picture is different even between Nassau and Suffolk. But there are still some hypotheses for the persistently higher Long Island numbers.

One possibility raised by Clouston is that in Suffolk, people may be more likely to go into stores and malls. It could be that in denser, urban areas, shopping in person seems unsafe and is avoided when possible, and in more rural areas, people are spread out enough for it to result in fewer infections.

The timing of certain infection upticks, said Clouston, corresponds to big shopping days before and after Thanksgiving.

Another possibility is different levels of mask usage and social distancing. David Battinelli, Northwell Health’s chief medical officer, pointed to the "visible difference" in masking in Manhattan vs. some parts of Long Island. He also posited some of the local uptick may have been "ignited" by pro-Trump, mask-light gatherings in places like East Northport, Commack, and Patchogue around the election.

"One possibility is that we have more, even a small amount more mask avoiders or skeptics," said Clouston of Stony Brook. "And if you have more of those people, there's more who are at risk." Clouston added that this is difficult to measure.

It’s also possible the numbers are slightly skewed by Long Island being "better at identifying cases," Clouston said, pointing to some places upstate having higher death rates per 1,000 cases, perhaps suggesting those places have more unregistered infections.

County officials downplayed any certainty about the mask or mall hypotheses: Suffolk County Health Commissioner Gregson Pigott pointed to a post-Halloween, post-Thanksgiving, and post-holiday surge potentially due to people being more social without proper public health measures.

The good news, Pigott said, is "we’re heading in the right direction."

The positivity levels are falling, though there’s still potential for a Super Bowl spurt and any other diversions from public health guidance as people look to winter break vacations and warmer weather.

"Right now, we're in a race to get as many people as possible vaccinated before variants take hold," said Battinelli.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Doing his bidding

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Final Point

Garden City lawsuit seeks to delay Third Track progress

The Village of Garden City is suing them all — the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Long Island Power Authority, Public Service Enterprise Group and PSEG Long Island — accusing them of "a pattern of deceptive behavior" regarding the placement of utility poles alongside the Long Island Rail Road, an effort that’s part of the LIRR’s Third Track project.

The village is critical of the tall, steel poles constructed to be resilient in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, as well as their location. During the planning process, the siting of the poles shifted from the north side of the LIRR tracks to the south side, a decision that was shared with representatives from Garden City, but one that has upset village officials.

In its complaint filed in State Supreme Court, the village said the installation of the poles on the south side of the LIRR tracks "cause a substantial negative visual aesthetic environmental impacts (sic) and has dramatically and irreparable (sic) altered and degraded the residential character of Garden City and the general community as well."

And the village argued that the MTA disregarded the state environmental review process, didn’t appropriately communicate its decision-making with representatives from the village’s Third Track committee, and "rendered the process and its findings null, void, voidable, and invalid."

In response to the lawsuit, an MTA construction official told The Point the steel poles "have always been part of this project from day one."

The official also noted that the larger project benefits Garden City and the surrounding communities along the LIRR’s main line.

"If you live in Garden City, this is the project that has delivered on many of the benefits already that were promised, most critically grade crossing eliminations in neighborhoods like Garden City, where today, you no longer have to hear the horns and the whistles and the grade crossing gates coming up and down," the official said. "It’s safer. It’s more quiet."

"We’ve been good neighbors and we’re working hard," the official added. "I think the threat here that seems to be the end game [of the lawsuit] goes back to the old way of doing business. ‘We’ll sue you. We’ll slow down the project.' And it just adds to the cost and the schedule."

The village’s lawsuit demands an end to the construction of the new poles and the removal of those already in place. Additionally, it wants another environmental review process "before continuing any construction in connection with the third-rail project and the associated utility poles."

But any delays in the Third Track project would affect not only Garden City but also every community along the Third Track, and the region more broadly, MTA officials said.

As of now, the officials said, the project is on time and on budget.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

The Point will return on Tuesday. We hope you have a wonderful Presidents' Day weekend.