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Republicans, Brides of LI want a divorce from COVID-19 guidelines at weddings

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Daily Point

Efforts to aid American Water customers all wet?

When State Senate and Assembly members and staff came together for a meeting Thursday evening on the plight of the American Water customers in Nassau County, they were still contending with the problem that blocked getting legislation in the budget to reduce American Water customers’ huge bills.

Simply put, there is no way to relieve the 125,000 American Water customers located in a swath of Nassau County stretching from Lynbrook to Sea Cliff of the extraordinary property tax burden they’re paying through their water bills without shifting that burden to other residents.

Some of those people would see such a shift as a tax increase.

And that makes a quick fix look like a poor political play for some elected officials, even as a 26% rate hike for American Water set to go into effect on May 1 looms.

Click here to read what obstacles potential legislation has faced from lawmakers and what is being done now.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Love is patient, but the LI GOP is not when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions

The Long Island GOP is happy to speak now and not hold their peace about COVID-19 restrictions — just look at the number of Republican lawmakers who showed up for a Hauppauge news conference about wedding restrictions on Friday, also featuring Brides of Long Island.

The party seems to see frustration with pandemic rules as a fruitful political issue in this cycle. Standing in solidarity with the bridal support group was Assembs. Jodi Giglio, Doug Smith, Joe DeStefano, Jarett Gandolfo and Keith Brown, State Sen. Alexis Weik and an aide for State Sen. Phil Boyle.

Giglio, a host for the event, railed against the health safety restrictions from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration, calling them "arbitrary and not based on science."

"We live in America, and the restrictions have gone too far," the Riverhead Republican said, explaining the cohort’s push to "make sure the governor sets free" the brides of New York and their families and friends.

"Who wants to be wearing masks in their wedding photos?" she asked.

Asked what restrictions she supported at weddings, she later suggested that mask wearing, social distancing, and temperature taking were reasonable, but she and other speakers complained about other rules, such as being assigned to tables, dancing in squares, and strict testing parameters.

Those were among the guidelines that Cuomo announced for weddings and catered events in March, mandating 50% capacity for venues, with no more than 150 attendees per event, along with proof of a recent negative test or immunization and contact tracing information for guests, all in the name of stopping disease spread.

Republicans like Weik are criticizing the long period of continued restrictions.

"Last year we were asked to put on a mask and stand six feet apart, this year we’re asked to show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID test result and wear a mask and stand six feet apart," Weik said on Friday. "How is it, with herd immunity and so many people taking part in the vaccination process we have more restrictions and not less restrictions? This is ridiculous."

Though infection rates are starting to drop again after a large winter spike, new cases continue across the state and New York does not appear to be at herd immunity.

But politicians here appear to see a potent annoyance to exploit, with scores of harried Long Island couples exhausted with trying to follow the rules. And of course, weddings are renowned for being, shall we say, a little more of a production and causing a lot more drama on Long Island compared to elsewhere.

"Weddings on Long Island are like none other," said Brides of Long Island founder Heather Cunningham.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Heating up

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Final Point

RXR projects March 2022 date for beginning of Nassau Hub development

Could the Nassau Hub be less than a year away from breaking ground on new development?

That’s the message from RXR Realty chief executive Scott Rechler who told The Point that if all goes well, he’s expecting a shovel in the ground by the end of March 2022.

RXR and the Town of Hempstead have signed an escrow agreement that allows the town to move forward in analyzing the plans for the Hub with an eye toward eventual approval.

Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin was emphatic and enthusiastic, as he told The Point he supported the project, has been in regular communication with Rechler and county officials, and is "committed to working with all of these parties to make it a success."

"I really do understand the importance of this," Clavin said. "I’m very focused on this … We are going to do everything we can to move it forward."

As the town continues its review, RXR also has to work with Nassau County to finalize the community benefits and labor agreements.

Rechler said RXR’s plans for the site will continue to fit the town’s existing zoning and the broad framework will remain the same, but the details likely will shift compared with pre-pandemic ideas. "In a post-pandemic world, we’re going to need to pivot and address our plans appropriately," Rechler said.

Rechler said that could include residential options that contain home offices, or have available work spaces in the buildings. RXR’s ultimate plans likely will also include more outdoor green spaces, reimagined entertainment options and an added emphasis on health care. Northwell Health already had been announced as the Hub’s anchor tenant more than two years ago, with a research and development center planned, but additional components are being considered.

Rechler expects more detail on those plans to be made public within the next three to four months.

"There’s a recognition that this project has become even more important than it was pre-pandemic to the future of Nassau County," Rechler told The Point. "It’s incumbent upon all of us to roll up our sleeves and get this done."

Developing the Hub has provided decades of drama and dashed dreams. What makes this time different?

Said Rechler: "The sense is that all the stakeholders have a renewed energy around the project … It’s a realization again in a post-pandemic environment that we need to reinvent ourselves. This project will be at the center of that reinvention of Nassau County."

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall