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Good Morning

Albany moves on Brookhaven landfill

The Town of Brookhaven landfill, located off of

The Town of Brookhaven landfill, located off of Horseblock Road. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Daily Point

Getting LI waste crisis in the budget

The drama surrounding the scheduled 2024 closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill will shift to Albany during the next two weeks of state budget negotiations.

Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) put into his chamber’s one-house budget bill a provision for $500,000 for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to do a regional study of Long Island’s solid waste disposal process. Englebright and advocates say that’s critical because the impending closure – along with Brookhaven’s related decision earlier this month not to build a new ash fill for the burned trash of at least six towns – is clearly a big regional problem. And Long Island has no regional entities to devise a solution.

Rather than simply direct the DEC to do the analysis, Englebright told The Point he "put some money behind the instruction to do the work" to allow the short-staffed DEC to hire personnel to do the study. Environmental advocates have long complained about the agency’s reluctance to help tackle Long Island’s long-standing garbage issues.

"No town is really on its own here," Englebright said. "It really does need a formal process from the state DEC to help coordinate this … It does hopefully focus the DEC on the important role that they should be playing in solving the problem."

Englebright, who chairs the Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, said the study is "in the top echelon of priority" and he expects it to be approved as part of the state budget. Englebright also is working with his State Senate counterpart, Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), on bills to reduce the amount of waste that is produced.

That legislation, Englebright said, must be part of the solution, but he said it was important to use the budget "to empower the department [DEC] to get a head start on this … The number of years we are from having no options is almost upon us."

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

Advocating "living at home, not in a home"

In talk of the impact of the pandemic on nursing homes, much of the attention from advocates and state officials alike has been on reform to those facilities.

But what about the alternatives to nursing home care?

That’s the question representatives from the New York Association for Independent Living are asking as they, too, fight for funding and recognition during budget talks in Albany.

NYAIL director of advocacy Meghan Parker told The Point in an interview Tuesday that she is hoping the spotlight on nursing homes provides an opportunity to emphasize the possibility that many people could stay at home, with home health aides and other services, rather than go to a nursing home.

"What we’d really like people to be aware of is that there are very real options out there," Parker said.

The association has begun an online ad campaign with the theme, "Living at home, not in a home." And advocates are also pushing an agenda in Albany that includes more funding for the association’s 41 centers across the state, which help to coordinate services for those hoping to stay at home, and connect patients and their families to potential home health aide organizations, rental subsidies and more. Among the association’s centers are two on Long Island, one in Levittown and one in Medford, Parker said.

The centers operate on $13.361 million of state funding, but the association is advocating for a bump up to $18 million. Instead, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget cut the funding by $500,000, Parker said.

Beyond pushing for funding, however, the association is also advocating for increased wages for home health aides, through a bill that would require home care aides to receive 150% of a region’s minimum wage and would set minimum rates of reimbursement on a regional basis for Medicaid.

And just as important, according to Joe Rappaport, who heads an independent living center in Brooklyn, is the effort to try to change the narrative to one that includes the option to live at home.

"I think a lot more people can stay at home with the right services," Rappaport said.

The independent living centers help those newly in need of at-home care, while also helping to transition individuals currently in nursing homes who would prefer to live at home, Parker said.

Parker and Rappaport said that despite some assumptions that at-home care would be more expensive, such independent living options often save money in terms of the cost to the state for Medicaid recipients compared with nursing home care.

"We hope that everybody starts looking at this differently," Rappaport said.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Future up in the air?

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Final Point

Two shots at Saladino?

Oyster Bay retiree Kevin McKenna’s GOP primary run against Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino is a longshot, but a loss in that battle won’t end McKenna’s attempt.

That’s because the stalwart at town board meetings and Saladino’s side-thorn will likely secure a spot on the general election ballot as the Libertarian Party candidate.

"We met last week and decided to give Kevin McKenna the endorsement and the line," said Howard Rabin, an attorney who sits on both of the Nassau County Libertarian Party’s governing committees.

Rabin said McKenna had to sign a pledge promising to uphold the party’s principles to get the nod, and because he did so, would retain the Libertarian line even if he managed to win the GOP primary.

McKenna said that while he is glad to have the Libertarian line, he is still actively gathering signatures and campaigning for his GOP primary.

But the Oyster Bay GOP is no haven for renegades, and primaries heavily favor incumbents. So assuming McKenna loses the GOP line, how would he fare in the general election, as both a candidate and a spoiler?

McKenna speaks frequently at meetings and is often mentioned in news accounts, runs a largish Facebook page devoted to town activism and recently reached a $20,000 settlement with the town over being denied the right to speak at a town meeting.

So could he pull enough Republican/Libertarian-type votes from Saladino in a general election to boost the chances of Democratic pick Amanda Field?

"The question is whether the other major-party candidate can get within striking distance," state Independence Party chairman Frank MacKay, a veteran of such scenarios, said in an interview.

"In order for the Libertarian candidate to act as a spoiler against an incumbent like Saladino, the Democrat has to get 47% or 48% of the vote and have the third-party candidate pull 2% or 3%. Because unless the third-party candidate is an absolute superstar in the community, he’s just not going to pull in a really big number on that line alone."

So Democrat Amanda Field’s chances of upsetting Saladino will rest mostly on her own shoulders, which suits McKenna.

He says he’s running to win himself, not bolster anyone else’s chances.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller