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Saddle and tee up Long Island

An aerial view of Belmont.

An aerial view of Belmont. Credit: File

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Daily Point

Pizza politics

Pablo Villavicencio, 35, a Hempstead resident and Ecuadorean immigrant here illegally, was detained last week after delivering pizza to a Brooklyn military base. As news of his situation spread, New York politicians weighed in as per their partisan leanings: a three-paragraph statement from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo referencing Lady Liberty (plus a picture of Cuomo talking to Villavicencio’s wife by phone) and a three-tweet thread from Republican State Sen. Marty Golden, who represents this part of Brooklyn, praising base personnel for following through on visitor-access protocol.

The most high-stakes statement came from Rep. Dan Donovan of Staten Island, who also represents this sliver of Brooklyn and is facing a tough Republican primary challenge against former Congressman Michael Grimm, a felon.

Like Golden, Donovan noted support for military personnel who were just doing their jobs: “The law is the law.” But he also slammed “liberal activists” who are “attacking Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and military personnel for following the law in detaining an immigrant reportedly here illegally.”

He also managed to work in a reference to President Donald Trump, saying he supported $10 billion for the president’s border wall.

In the past, Donovan has penned a thoughtful co-bylined Washington Post op-ed with an immigration activist, as well as walking a fine line with Republican hard-liners while fending off legislation that would financially and materially hurt sanctuary cities like NYC. Donovan got the backing of Trump anyway, but recently has been signaling his farther-right bona fides while Grimm tries to position himself as the president’s true inheritor.

It’s part of what’s shaping up to be NYC’s hottest congressional primary, with recent NY1/Siena College polling suggesting Grimm is beating Donovan by 10 points among likely voters.

Mark Chiusano

Talking Point

Long Island, the center of the universe

For two weekends in a row, the sporting world will turn to Long Island for marquee events. This Saturday, the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes will have horse racing aficionados and folks who just love a good party flocking to Belmont Park for the excitement of a potential Triple Crown win by Justify.

The focus will shift about 85 miles to the east next week, where the 118th U.S. Open will bring golf’s biggest stars to the Shinnecock Hills golf course in Southhampton, where there is also a special allure this year. Tiger Woods, who has not won a major golf tournament since the U.S. Open 10 years ago, will report to the East End with his strengthening wood and iron play.

But what does superstition tell us about a Triple Crown bid and a U.S. Open hitting Long Island in the same year?

There has never been a Triple Crown winner in a year when the U.S. Open was played here, from the recent forays at Shinnecock and Bethpage Black to old-school opens like the 1923 event at Inwood Country Club won by Bobby Jones and the 1902 Open at Garden City Golf Club won by Laurie Auchterlonie.

There have been two years when a Triple Crown attempt coincided with the marquee golf event on Long Island.

  • In 2002, War Emblem struggled in the Belmont to an eighth-place finish while long shot Sarava took the victory, paying $142.50 for every $2 win ticket.
  • In 2004, the undefeated Smarty Jones came to Belmont as the favorite, but lost when Birdstone, at 36-1 odds, overtook him in the stretch. The loss marked the third year in a row a potential Triple Crown winner lost in Elmont.

Superstitious tip from The Point: Stay away from Justify and bet the long shots Saturday.

As far as golf? Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open at Bethpage the year War Emblem faltered, while Retief Goosen took the win at Shinnecock following Smarty Jones’ loss.

Lane Filler

Reference Point

From the archive: June is for planning

Little on Long Island fits so neatly into the mantra of what’s-old-is-what’s-new as the need for regional planning. Newsday’s editorial board has hammered away on that theme for decades, especially during the first week of June.

June 6, 1950: The Babylon Town Board approved a building ordinance that doubled the required ground-floor living space for houses. The new standard, 800 square feet, was condemned by Newsday’s editorial board as “arrogantly passed” in the face of “reasonable opposition,” because it “stymies low-cost housing in the Town and prevents moderate wage-earners from owning homes here.”

The context was the board’s belief that Long Island building codes should be revised to permit the kind of houses being built in Levittown. The board castigated Babylon, saying it “need not go in for Scarsdale’s type of snobbishness and force the price of Long Island houses upward.”

June 6, 1955: Comparing the region with other parts of the country, the board deplored what it called “The Blight” of Long Island, including a “rash of gimcrack business buildings,” “overdone neon signs” and “garishly painted signboards.” The board also decried sprawling business districts, inadequate parking, and the type of builder who “puts up 25 or 50 houses, and makes a fast exit,” leaving houses that “are jammed together, built in the same dreary pattern.”

The answer, the board said, was state legislation to get rid of “bits-and-pieces” local zoning and allow countywide or Islandwide zoning and planning.

June 6, 1960: The editorial board declared a “Planning Crisis.” Long Island’s population had more than doubled since 1950, which the board described as “growing like Topsy, almost totally without adequate planning.” The evidence: streets bare of trees, roads overwhelmed by traffic, and “gasoline alleys” along main arteries.

“By leaving zoning and most planning to the individual communities, we have paved the way for chaos,” the board wrote. One fascinating example was the Wantagh-Oyster Bay Expressway, just beginning construction and not yet known as the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway. It was originally planned to run from Freeport to Roslyn. But so many homes and developments were allowed into the project right of way that it had to be moved east.

The board’s prescription was familiar: countywide planning for both Nassau and Suffolk.

“If this is not done,” the board wrote, “Long Island will cease to be restful or beautiful; it will simply become another macadam desert.”

Michael Dobie