Happy Friday! Welcome to The Point.
Who will lead the Nassau County Legislature?
With the announcement from the Nassau County Legislature’s presiding officer, Norma Gonsalves, that she will not seek re-election in November, speculation is swirling over who will take the gavel next year.
The first question, of course, is whether Republicans can hold on to their legislative majority in November’s elections. The legislature has mostly been in GOP hands for decades, but county Democratic Party leader Jay Jacobs has promised a fight this year. Republicans hold 12 of the 19 seats, so Jacobs needs to pick up three seats to take control. Were that to happen, Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, long the leading Democratic voice in the chamber, would almost certainly get the gavel.
And under the objectively more likely scenario of the GOP keeping control? Insiders say the presiding officer position probably would go to New Hyde Park resident Richard Nicolello, the deputy presiding officer who has been a legislator since the body was created in 1996.
Nicolello, though, didn’t want to speculate, saying, “I’m personally just focusing on the election now. I’m not even thinking about that stuff at this time.”
Nicolello is considered a good and loyal soldier by county Republican Party leader Joseph Mondello, and is widely respected by other legislators for his knowledge of county and legislative procedures. And the likeliest candidate to move up one step to deputy presiding officer? Probably Lawrence’s Howard Kopel, who considered a run for county comptroller earlier this year.
“Rich is a smart and knowledgeable guy who would do a wonderful job,” Kopel told The Point Friday. “He is senior to almost everyone, having been in the legislature many years, and he knows the issues and procedures.”
As for himself, Kopel said, “If, indeed, Rich does take over, I would certainly hope to move up and work as his deputy. I like and trust him, and I believe that we would work well together.”
Tick, tick, tick
A long-awaited new request for proposals to develop unused land at Belmont Park is still, well, awaited. And sources tell The Point that time is of the essence — particularly for one potential bidder.
It’s been six months since the original RFP was canceled, and one month since NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed the New York Islanders’ interest in bidding on it for a new arena at the state-owned site. Now, potential participants in the RFP, including the Islanders, may be getting antsy.
“This is a team that needs a home. There is a timeline, and there is a sense of urgency here,” our source told The Point.
That may be true, although the team does have some time. The Barclays Center just officially opened a renegotiating window that gives it and the Islanders a chance to remake their agreement. That window lasts until Jan. 1, 2018. Either side can opt out of the deal in January. If the Islanders do so, they could decide to leave after either the 2017-18 season or the 2018-19 season. But if Barclays opts out, the Islanders would be forced to leave after the 2018-19 season.
Assemb. Michaelle Solages, who represents the area around Belmont, said she’s been told that state officials hope to meet with elected representatives in the coming weeks, and that they are still working on the RFP. But she, too, is worried that the delays would begin to scare away interested developers, if the state doesn’t move forward soon.
“We want to see this happen expeditiously,” Solages told The Point. “The community has been waiting for redevelopment for a very long time . . . We’re patient, because we want to get it right. But we want to see it happen.”
In a statement, an Empire State Development Corp. spokeswoman didn’t provide any hint of a timetable. “We are continuing to finalize an RFP for the site, which will be released when it’s ready,” she said.
Randi F. Marshall
What’s the punch line?
Dean Hart, a retired Hicksville optometrist running for Oyster Bay Town clerk, has never been a conventional politician in any of his three runs in the last three years for public office.
Now Hart is expressing campaign displeasure over the 2016 movie “The Comedian.” But he’s not panning the film. Hart is demanding an apology from star Robert De Niro — for a joke the actor’s character makes about Hicksville.
The struggling comic played by De Niro says to an audience that Hicksville is a place of “inbreeding” and “crystal meth.” Hart’s campaign sent out an email seeking De Niro’s mea culpa — apparently, for reading lines in a script.
A more appropriate demand for apology perhaps would be directed at the film’s screenwriters, which then could spark a snappy rejoinder — a competing request for apology from Hart, whose error-riddled news release referred to “Robert DeDiro” in the film “The Commedian.”