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Daily Point

East End real estate market keeps going strong

The pandemic-fueled East End real estate market is going to slow eventually, and logic says it must, but that’s still not showing up in the numbers.

The Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund, which is fueled by a 2% tax on East End real estate sales, took in $17.93 million in October, the largest single month in the program’s 21-year history, easily topping the previous record of $14.43 million in December 2014.

Some of that was due to earlier deals that ended up closing in October, said Sag Harbor State Assemb. Fred Thiele, one of the architects of the legislation that created the CPF. But he also acknowledged that "there’s still people looking." Thiele also noted that December is usually one of the highest months in any year as buyers look to cement deals before year’s end for various reasons, a tendency he said might be exacerbated this year with higher-income homebuyers concerned that a Biden administration in the new year might bring unwelcome changes in the tax code.

"It’s all in your frame of reference," said Thiele, citing conversations with brokers and real estate attorneys. "When I talk to these folks, they say, ‘We’re not doing as much as we did in July, August, September.’ I said, ‘What’s it like when compared to last year?’ They say it’s still a lot higher than last year."

Thiele said the CPF collected $102.61 million for the first 10 months of 2020, more than any full year since 2014, and 62% more than the $63.35 million collected in the same period last year.

"I think we’re kind of at the peak of this, I really do," Thiele said, "but it may plateau at a pretty high level."

Now the five East End towns must decide how to spend the record haul. The original goal of the CPF legislation was land preservation, but so much has been preserved that two years ago Thiele and co-sponsor Sen. Ken LaValle passed legislation allowing towns to spend 20% of CPF funds on another East End concern – water quality projects, like septic system upgrades.

This is an issue especially for Southampton Town, which has taken in $59.73 million so far this year, and East Hampton, which has garnered $30.15 million.

As problems go, it’s a nice one to have.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

Analyzing how Long Island votes

The unusual 2020 presidential election ended up featuring an unusually high turnout on Long Island.

In the high-interest and relatively tight 2016 contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, just under 71% of active, registered Suffolk voters cast ballots. That percent, calculated by the county Board of Elections, was 74.62 this time around.

In Nassau County, turnout among active voters increased from 65.66% to 74.09%, according to county figures.

The counties calculate their percentages a little differently: the Nassau figure above includes voters who over or undervote — say, skip the State Senate contest but not others. The Suffolk percentage does not include someone who left the presidential contest blank but filled in others.

But the main point is that turnout percentage increased on both sides of the county line, which follows the pattern of increased voter turnout percentage this year in New York State and nationally.

"Three things traditionally drive turnout," said Bruce Gyory, a New York Democratic political consultant. "Passion, high stakes in the eyes of voters and a horse race. This year’s races had all three on LI."

Gyory noted that the high stakes presidential race invited passion in both parties’ bases, and many voters thought the polls were off and their candidate had a chance to win.

Plus, on Long Island, there was "a full plate" of hotly contested congressional and State Senate races.

Additional ways for Long Islanders to vote also boosted turnout, suggested Nassau Democratic elections commissioner Jim Scheuerman, including early voting, easier access to voting by mail, and the ability to request an absentee ballot by online portal.

Then, there was the president.

"In a word ... Trump," said Suffolk GOP elections commissioner Nick LaLota in a text. "His supporters love him and his opponents loathe him. Either way, 45’s presidency catalyzed the greatest election engagement in decades."

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Hoping for a better tomorrow

Marian Kamensky

Marian Kamensky

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

Energizing Stony Brook’s research

The U.S. Navy is looking to Stony Brook for answers.

Stony Brook University researchers partnered with the University of Massachusetts Lowell to win a joint $7.36 million grant from the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research that will allow them to investigate improving the reliability and resiliency of the nation’s energy grids, storage, and systems, particularly in terms of how it all impacts military installations and other Navy facilities.

Stony Brook’s efforts will be led by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Yacov Shamash, and Robert Catell, who chairs Stony Brook’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center.

The partnership with the University of Massachusetts Lowell began when researchers there first came to Stony Brook to see the work being done at the Advanced Energy Center two years ago, Shamash told The Point.

"It really demonstrates the value proposition that the energy center at Stony Brook brings to the table," Catell said.

Shamash said the Navy is focused on making sure the grid can withstand any problems, so that its bases and other facilities can continue to operate.

The grant, which will run for two years, will help researchers at both universities look at how renewable energy sources will impact the grid, how to control and distribute energy storage, how to better train utility workers and management, and how to improve the energy grid’s resiliency in light of weather and other conditions.

About 10 Stony Brook professors, along with students and others, will participate in the research. National Grid also has been involved in discussions surrounding the project, and will participate going forward as well. And Catell said that if the team does well with its initial efforts, it could be an ongoing program, with additional funds potentially available.

Shamash said he expects companies in the Advanced Energy Center and the Center of Excellence for Wireless and Information Technology to get involved in the work, and for the grant ultimately to have an impact on economic development on Long Island, as renewables, including solar and offshore wind, are further established here.

"These are the kinds of things we should be doing more of," Shamash said.

And while the project is focused on how to help the Navy’s facilities, Catell noted that the research ultimately could help Long Island’s own power grid.

"To the extent that we develop technologies that add resiliency to the grid, that could be applied to Long Island as well," Catell said.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall