Good afternoon and welcome to The Point! SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson, head of the largest comprehensive public higher education system in the United States, is visiting the editorial board Thursday afternoon. Make sure to check Friday's newsletter to find out what we learned.
Zeldin to the ramparts
Pick an issue, and a medium — whether Twitter or TV — and you’ll likely see Lee Zeldin finding a way to back President Donald Trump.
Thursday morning, the issue was trade, and the medium was Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria [Bartiromo].” And the congressman was trying to add some balm to jittery financial markets.
Calling Trump “the ultimate deal maker,” the 1st District Republican said Trump’s suggested new tariffs on China were part of a larger game plan “to be bringing down walls” between the two countries, and create a better balance between the United States and China.
“The president is trying something new,” Zeldin told Bartiromo. “Obviously, the status quo isn’t working.”
Zeldin argued that despite concerns in the markets, Trump’s move was really about leverage. And, Zeldin said, plenty of others agree with Trump.
“The president has support from a whole lot of people who work at manufacturers where they are exporting products for our United States companies that want to grow,” Zeldin added.
He noted that Trump has “the right people around him for a battle like this.”
Count the congressman from Shirley as one of Trump’s soldiers at the ready — at least for the president’s public relations campaign.
Randi F. Marshall
A fix to Fix NYC?
Just days after state lawmakers approved a budget that did not include most of their congestion-pricing wish list, members of the Fix NYC Transit coalition met Thursday afternoon to discuss their next steps.
The coalition’s goal, a source familiar with the coalition told The Point, remains the same: moving forward with the full Fix NYC plan, which includes charging personal vehicles (not for hire) that go south of 60th Street in Manhattan.
But where the coalition fits into the state’s efforts to move forward on congestion pricing remains unclear. Is there a Fix Fix NYC in the works?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo empaneled the Fix NYC task force in October. That task force released a congestion pricing plan in January. But by March, as interest in congestion pricing waned, a broader coalition, now calling itself Fix NYC Transit, emerged, acting as more of an advocacy group. That coalition includes environmental and business groups, unions and transportation advocates.
But even as that coalition met Thursday, the state 2018-19 budget had established yet another committee — an “advisory workgroup” to address public transit and traffic issues.
Despite all of those layers of advocates and advisers, the budget does not address most of the elements of the initial Fix NYC plan. Instead, the budget includes only a surcharge on taxis and for-hire vehicles, like Uber and Lyft, for trips below 96th Street. The for-hire surcharge will be $2.75, while taxis will pay $2.50. Pooled rides will be charged just 75 cents. Those surcharges will begin in January, and the revenue — expected to reach about $400 million a year — will be directed to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
But members of the Fix NYC coalition complain that a for-hire surcharge is only a piece of a more comprehensive plan. They had hoped lawmakers would include funds for studies of infrastructure and the environment necessary for the high-tech cordon that would have the ability to identify and charge all personal vehicles traveling in Manhattan’s central business district.
Whether they’ll be able to cut through the task force-coalition-work group traffic and move real congestion pricing efforts forward remains to be seen.
Randi F. Marshall
#ThrowbackThursday — a classic LI story
Meet Henry Smythe.
He’s 24, just out of the Navy, wants to build a home in Wantagh for his wife and infant daughter. He doesn’t have much money but manages to buy some land, comes up with plans for a 700-square-foot cottage he can afford, and files his application with the Town of Hempstead.
And is rejected.
Because the house is too small. Hempstead says it must be at least 1,000 square feet.
It happened in 1946, and Smythe’s situation presaged the affordability crisis that still wracks Long Island.
His plans met the town’s structural standards, sanitary regulations and aesthetic values, the Newsday editorial board noted on this day 72 years ago.
“A few officials will tell you frankly that the whole issue revolves about money,” the board wrote back then. “Low-cost houses don’t yield the fat taxes paid by estates but they are more expensive to the community in their use of fire and police protection and school facilities.”
The board argued that it is “sheer laziness” not to use “every advance in technique to solve our housing shortage,” and made a prediction about the region’s future.
“We like to boast that Long Island is the fastest growing community in the country,” the board said. “We’ll stagnate if we persist in the idea that every new resident must be a millionaire. We want enough industry to make ourselves self-sufficient, but if we expect it to come we must house its workers at a price they can afford.”
As of April 5, 1946, Henry Smythe and his family had been forced to compromise: They moved in with his wife’s parents in Amityville.
Hmmmm. Young adults on Long Island can’t afford a place to live, and they end up home with mom and dad.
It’s a Long Island story, and it’s timeless.