Let’s all move to Long Island
The pandemic-time exodus from city to suburb was the topic of a thousand news articles last year that pondered the future of urban centers. New data show that there really was sustained motion beneath the hype, at least regarding the exodus to Long Island.
The U.S. Postal Service received nearly 50,000 change-of-address requests from New York City addresses to either Nassau or Suffolk counties from March — when New York’s first confirmed COVID-19 case arrived — through the end of 2020.
That includes more than 31,000 requests for a permanent change, and more than 17,500 for a temporary one, according to county-level data obtained by The Point through a Freedom of Information Act records request.
To see how that compares to previous years, click here.
Major MTA projects will move forward
For the first time in a while, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s monthly meeting wasn’t just a frightening portrayal of devastating cuts and awful budget projections.
The bad news came first Thursday, in a budget presentation that noted that projections showed riders returning at somewhere between 80% to 92% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024, and pointed to continued worrisome budget deficits of about $8 billion through 2024.
But then, for just a moment or two, came a dose of optimism. Major infrastructure work will continue.
"The good news is that we’re getting the funding sources back on track," said Janno Lieber, the MTA’s chief development officer and president of Construction & Development. "Things are starting to look up."
Lieber pointed to a variety of money pots he’s depending on, including the state’s commitment of $3 billion and the hope that New York City would recommit to its $3 billion promise. Beyond that, Lieber is counting on funding from internet sales and mansion taxes that had been redirected to the MTA’s operating budget but by 2022 could return to the capital budget.
But perhaps one of the most important pieces of the puzzle is the possibility that the tolling of Manhattan’s central business district — which the MTA is counting on for $15 billion of the capital program’s funding — finally could move forward.
"The good news is that in recent weeks we’ve heard from the Federal Highway Administration that they are going to fast track our environmental process, which will certainly put us moving forward towards being able to realize on this expected source of funds and equally important, to institute central business district tolling," Lieber said.
After the meeting, Lieber added that the FHA still hadn’t determined exactly what type of environmental review will be necessary, but that the FHA had conveyed that it understood there had been delays during the Trump administration and was prepared to move forward.
"The message was that they got the message … and that they were going to move it very quickly," Lieber said.
As a result, Lieber is committing $6.2 billion in 2021 toward capital projects and that means the Long Island Rail Road will see track work and new equipment and railcars, along with the replacement of the Cherry Valley Road Bridge in Garden City, additional work on East Side Access and some superstorm Sandy-related improvements. On the subways, the MTA is focused on making additional stations accessible.
Lieber hopes to grow the program further, depending on how quickly the funding sources come back and how the economy rebounds.
"We can push this number up billions more," Lieber said.
—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Keep your distance
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Everything’s settled, except what isn’t
Huntington Town Board member Eugene Cook officially announced his candidacy for supervisor on Thursday night, almost certainly setting the table for a primary battle with current Republican Supervisor Chad Lupinacci.
Although Lupinacci has said repeatedly that he is running, Huntington GOP Chairman Tom McNally has not yet released the party’s slate of designated candidates for the upcoming race. He told The Point on Feb.10 they would be released by Feb.12.
Lupinacci has been under fire because of a lawsuit from former Assembly staffer Brian Finnegan claiming Lupinacci sexually assaulted him while the two were in an Albany hotel room. Cook conducted a phone poll this week that both attacked Lupinacci and asked residents whether the accusations against Lupinacci would affect their vote.
On Thursday, Lupinacci responded to Cook’s poll with a lengthy attack on his Facebook page, defending his accomplishments, promising to stick to the high ground and writing: "This poll contains false and defamatory statements; it goes outside any norms of acceptable conduct, even in the rough and tumble world of politics. This type of behavior is exactly what repulses so many Americans about the current state of our political discourse."
Cook says he’s supposed to again talk to McNally this weekend about the race, and rumors continue to circulate that other local Republicans could jump in if Lupinacci could be coaxed into opting out. Cook, who until recently was a registered member of the Independence Party and fought Lupinacci bitterly on the town’s settlement of the LIPA/Northport Power Plant tax case, hasn’t always made friends among the town’s power players with his contrarian style.
Nor is he letting go of his fight against LIPA on the reduction of taxes paid on the Northport generating plant despite a court order this week.
Cook had sued LIPA, claiming that its tax challenges and settlement with the town were invalid because LIPA failed to submit its power-supply agreement with National Grid to the state’s Public Authorities Control Board. State Supreme Court Judge Elizabeth Emerson granted LIPA’s motion to dismiss, saying not only did Cook have no standing to bring the lawsuit but also that it was without merit because the statute of limitations had run out and no such submission is required by law.
Cook, who is nothing if not persistent, told The Point the dismissal was actually a win because it handed him the perfect strategy to appeal.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller