A belated good afternoon from The Point!
In Cuomo’s ear
Chris Gobler’s phone rang one day in mid-May. It was the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wanting more information about a Newsday story on a brown tide bloom in Great South Bay discovered by the Stony Brook University professor’s lab.
That was the genesis of the huge clam and oyster restoration program announced by Cuomo with much fanfare Wednesday in Huntington. It all went down very quickly.
On that call, the governor’s staff asked Gobler all kinds of questions about brown tide and its causes. Twenty minutes after they hung up, the phone rang again. This time it was Cuomo himself. And he was worried.
“He said this has been around forever, and he said, ‘I just put in $2.5 billion [in the budget] for clean water infrastructure, but I recognize those changes are going to take a while,’ ” Gobler told The Point. “He said, ‘Is there something we can do now?’ ”
Gobler told Cuomo about the power of shellfish to filter nitrogen from water, which led the governor to join Gobler, local and state officials, and environmentalists on a public post-Memorial Day boat trip in Shinnecock Bay to look at the ongoing restoration program there and to throw clams into the bay. And that led to more questions and more discussions throughout the summer.
“He was relentless on this,” Gobler said. “He asked many questions and was very hands-on.”
It’s an M.O. familiar to people across the state. When the governor wants something . . .
De Blasio’s luck
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had his last debate of the primary season Wednesday night, and he escaped unscathed.
Without well-funded or prominent candidates, primary season went by without him being forced to the left, as might have been expected in a more sharp-elbowed contest.
For example, he did not budge on marquee issues like congestion pricing, the proposal to toll East River Bridges to raise money for mass transit (he opposes the plan), or on marijuana legalization (he opposes it). He even danced around the politically treacherous issue of statue removal by saying a commission would study the issue.
Policy aside, the mayor was blessed with good political luck given that his main primary challenger and debate partner, former City Councilman Sal Albanese, is to the right of him on many issues.
Ultimately, it means the mayor left relatively few openings for his Republican opponent, Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis, to exploit. She will have to rely on unforced errors, such as when de Blasio told a New York magazine interviewer that he supported a “socialistic impulse” in city planning.
Meanwhile, de Blasio is sure to repeat some of his early debate strategies: challenging his opponent’s facts, and presenting himself as a defender against President Donald Trump, a position with little downside in NYC.
It’s clear that developers interested in unused land at Belmont Park are concerned about the approval process they will face, the room for parking they’re going to have to provide, the roadblocks they may encounter and the timetable ahead.
The state’s Empire State Development office posted answers Wednesday afternoon to more than 50 questions it received regarding the request for proposals for 36 acres at Belmont.
Although that area now is entirely parking lots, bidders would not have to replace that parking. Instead, they simply would have to provide sufficient parking space for the development they would propose, and allow the racetrack to use their garages or lots on key race days.
Bidders also inquired about the previous request for proposals at Belmont, which was canceled after four years of waiting. Empire State Development refused to provide a timetable, noting only that it is seeking “opportunities beyond the scope of the original RFP.”
State officials had to assure potential bidders several times throughout the Q&A that the state — not the Town of Hempstead — would coordinate the review and approval process. The state will “request written consent” from the town, but has the sole authority to override all zoning at the site. The environmental review, officials said, could take one to two years.
Clearly, some respondents have history on their minds, perhaps recalling efforts to develop the Nassau Hub, which met resistance from the town.
A future home for the Islanders is still at issue — only now at Belmont, where the hockey team might bid in the hopes of building an arena there.
And that, too, came up, as one question specifically inquired about the need for a team.
State officials replied, “A Respondent is not required to have a sports team in tow with its proposal.”
Randi F. Marshall