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Daily Point

The sewer wars

One of the most important pieces of Suffolk County’s ambitious plan to reduce nitrogen in the region’s waters will be rolled out early next month, when County Executive Steve Bellone intends to unveil the details of a financing plan to help the thousands of homeowners with old and inefficient septic systems convert to new technology.

“This has to be affordable for homeowners,” Bellone told The Point Tuesday.

The plan to include a mix of grants and loans will be a version of the Green Homes program started by Bellone as Babylon Town supervisor, in which homeowners can make retrofits that improve energy efficiency. The town covers upfront costs, and homeowners repay via low-cost financing.

Suffolk has approved two of the 19 high-tech septic systems it has been testing, with more likely to get the OK soon for homeowner use. Some underperformers won’t make the cut.

Meanwhile, the county continues to reach out to state lawmakers, who must allow Suffolk to hold a referendum in November that would institute a fee on water usage to pay for the plan.

Michael Dobie

Traffic Point

Gridlock Sam to save the day?

Stuck in traffic at LaGuardia Airport? Gridlock Sam is coming to the rescue.

State officials said Tuesday afternoon that the Port Authority is hiring transportation guru Sam Schwartz, the former New York City traffic commissioner, to consult with state officials on ways to alleviate the traffic congestion during LaGuardia Airport’s $4 billion renovation.

Lately, Schwartz is known for the innovative MoveNY plan, which would charge southbound drivers who cross 60th Street in Manhattan and would add tolls to the now-free East River bridges, while reducing them on others, to reduce congestion.

So far, his ideas for alleviating city traffic have fallen mostly on deaf ears. Hopefully, when it comes to LaGuardia, the Port Authority will listen.

Randi F. Marshall

Fingers Pointed

Orange is the new NIMBY

Opponents and skeptics of the Long Island Rail Road’s third track project — including at least two candidates who ran for State Legislature this fall — have been circulating a claim that the toxic and notorious Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange might have been used decades ago along that stretch of track between Floral Park and Hicksville.

New construction, the theory goes, would release the herbicide in the soil and create a health risk.

The truth is that no one knows whether Agent Orange is there. Only anecdotal information on LIRR herbicide use is available for years before 2011, according to the agency’s draft environmental impact statement.

But the LIRR is testing for it. The project’s lead environmental engineer, Robert Conway, says it is among as many as 70 herbicides, and more than 200 chemicals overall, routinely tested for as part of any project. These chemicals include pesticides, chromium, lead, arsenic, oil, gas, coal tars and solvents.

Conway said the LIRR is taking soil samples at different depths up and down the corridor and will analyze results after Christmas. Findings will appear in the final environmental impact statement in the spring.

And if the agency finds anything, Agent Orange or otherwise, Conway said, it will do the appropriate cleanup.

Michael Dobie

Pencil Point

North Pole politics

More cartoons about the holiday season

Media Point

In a New York click

It’s no surprise that those plugged into New York State politics are fascinated with the likes of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Those are some of the most popular subjects on the regional political news aggregator, website founder J.P. Miller told The Point. But other New York fascinations get similar numbers of clicks: sports radio host Mike Francesca, for example, and football coach Rex Ryan (which Miller posits is due to his New York ties with the Bills and Jets).

Miller, a former hedge fund executive who served as Mitt Romney’s New York finance director in 2008 and 2012, started Empire Report earlier this year in the tradition of the Drudge Report (it is unaffiliated with the conservative site and Miller says it’s meant to be nonpartisan).

The site’s curated selections of state political and cultural news have made it and its newsletter popular with some state politics junkies — including elected officials and staffers whose emails indicate they come from offices such as Cuomo and de Blasio’s, plus less prominent sections of state government.

Miller, who launched an app for the site earlier this month, says he has jazzed up headlines with “BREAKING,” “BOOM” and “TOXIC.” That’s a practice he’ll be able to continue as New York politics marches on.

Mark Chiusano


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