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Puzzle pieces

An editorial cartoon that ran on June 13,

An editorial cartoon that ran on June 13, 1955. Credit: J.D. Crowe

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Daily Point

Hat tip to N.J.

Even without full federal funding in place, the Gateway Project is moving forward — sort of.

This time, the applause goes to New Jersey, which has committed to issue $600 million in bonds for the first phase of Gateway-related construction — the building of a new Portal North Bridge. That’s double the state’s initial funding pledge.

The current portal bridge is a movable rail drawbridge over the Hackensack River, used by both New Jersey Transit and Amtrak. The new bridge would be a fixed structure high enough to accommodate waterway traffic, and would help eliminate current delays along the Northeast Corridor caused by mechanical problems and other issues, such as when the bridge doesn’t close properly.

Building a bridge is part of the larger Gateway Project, whose centerpiece would be a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. The new bridge is fully designed. Ultimately, Gateway would allow for increased traffic into Penn Station, and include improvements to Penn itself to aid the Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit and Amtrak.

Ahead of a Gateway board meeting Friday, Gateway trustees applauded New Jersey’s decision. Gateway Program Development Corp. chairman Steven Cohen, who formerly sat on the Port Authority’s board, said the move demonstrates a commitment to Gateway.

Of course, the portal bridge is just the first piece of the Gateway puzzle, and New Jersey’s commitment won’t solve the remaining Gateway math problem: The bridge will cost about $1.7 billion, and the tunnel construction and rehabilitation will add another $13 billion. And so, New York and New Jersey continue to wait to see whether the federal government will do its part.

Randi F. Marshall

Talking Point

Third time a charm for Montauketts?

For the third time in six years, the State Assembly and Senate have passed a bill designed to grant official state recognition to the Montaukett Indian nation. After two vetoes by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, this time the East End tribe might gain official status.

“We’ve made some progress on this and there’s an opportunity for a successful outcome,” said Fred Thiele, a member of the Assembly from Sag Harbor. “I’m more confident now than in the past,” he told The Point.

The Montauketts have been yearning to regain their identity since 1910, when a state judge declared the tribe extinct — in a courtroom filled with a dozen or so stunned Montauks. That came after the beginning of a period in which many members were swindled and strong-armed out of their land in East Hampton. State recognition would make the tribe eligible for some health and education programs run by the state.

In 2013, Cuomo explained his veto by saying the state lacked the resources to do the review mandated by the bill. Last year, he vetoed a bill that skipped the review, saying it was needed but that the state lacked some of the information needed to complete it.

So Thiele, who co-sponsored the legislation with Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), brought a contingent of Montauketts to Albany in April, shortly after the state budget was approved, to meet with Cuomo’s staff. And the tribe agreed to provide the documentation requested, Thiele said, like the tribe’s history, its current status, its form of government and a list of its 1,000 or so remaining members. Also helpful, Thiele said, is that different factions of the tribe have come together to complete the process.

“I think everybody is on the same page,” Thiele said.

Will the third time be a charm?

Michael Dobie

Pencil Point

U.S. identity crisis

More cartoons of the week

Reference Point

From the archive: Confusion spans decades

If you don’t understand the formula by which New York State doles out aid to school districts, you’re not alone. Now, or ever.

On June 13, 1955, Newsday’s editorial board published a cartoon mocking the complicated method of determining such funding. A bewildered taxpayer sits in a classroom with a confused teacher labeled “N.Y. State” staring at an impossible equation on a blackboard.

The editorial board referred to a “crazyquilt” and “hopeless hodgepodge” of laws stitched over 30 years that was “expensive and time-consuming to administer, and inscrutable to the people most concerned — the parents who pay both local and state taxes to send their children to school.”

The board also sounded an alarm about the growing number of school-age children on Long Island and rising property values that would “make school boards responsible for much larger amounts of school taxes before qualifying for state aid.” That, the board said, “could bring many districts, especially on Long Island, to the edge of financial disaster.”

That didn’t happen. And although there are probably several reasons for that, consider the actual bottom line. In that 1955 editorial, Newsday’s board noted that the State Legislature doled out $43 million in state aid that year to Long Island school districts — “cheery news,” according to the board.

Had that level of aid increased at the rate of inflation, it would be nearly $404 million today. But state aid to Long Island schools for the upcoming school year actually is $3.21 billion — nearly eight times as much. And despite that, it’s taxpayers who are closer to ruin.

Michael Dobie

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