Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Daily Point

The Democratic Kings’ County 

Much has been made of Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries living in adjacent Brooklyn neighborhoods. 

It’s an uncommon proximity for the simultaneously serving leaders of the Democratic caucuses in the U.S. Senate and House. The different Brooklyns where they grew up, however, might as well have been hundreds of miles apart.

Jeffries, 52, was raised in Crown Heights, which he has called a “middle-class, working-class neighborhood in the midst of the crack cocaine epidemic in the ’80s and into the early ’90s.” An early profile of him as a young corporate litigator noted that trouble was “literally around the corner, where thugs sold crack cocaine and a drive-by killing once bloodied a block party.”

Schumer, 72, grew up more or less due south of Jeffries, 20 years earlier. The public high school he attended, Madison, was already a high-achieving institution and one of the first in Brooklyn to receive “significant numbers of out-of-zone minority children,” according to a 1974 report from the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Voluntary busing began in 1964, not long before Schumer graduated, and the school’s minority students came from neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Jeffries’ future home of Crown Heights. 

The disparity between the two worlds was on even deeper display in 1973, when Madison experienced a “series of racial disturbances that forced the two-day closing of the school,” which the city report investigated. That was a year before Schumer would launch his political career with an Assembly race. In 1975, while the neighborhood was still picking up the pieces from the explosion of racial strife, then Assemb. Schumer talked to The New York Times about the class, education, and racial differences between groups at his alma mater. 

“I looked at the Black kids with the same regard as the whites in the business and commercial course,” Schumer said then. “There was no animosity or anything. They were just different; they were not the kinds of kids who were friends.”

Brooklyn has experienced waves of change since the two Democrats’ childhoods, with new people coming in and natives leaving for different locales — including, very often, Long Island. A reminder of that came from former Rep. Peter King, the Seaford Republican, who tweeted his congratulations to Jeffries on Thursday. 

“Good luck,” King wrote, noting of Jeffries, “He represents part of Brooklyn where my father grew up."

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

A Long Island bet?

Just weeks before a request for applications for downstate casino licenses is due to emerge, Las Vegas Sands is showing some of its cards.

The casino giant’s bet appears to be focused on Long Island.

At a forum held at a South Farmingdale firehouse Thursday, Sands executives — including Long Island native and former Gov. David Paterson — made their pitch to dozens of small business owners, labor leaders, elected officials and other community representatives.

While Sands executives noted that they haven’t picked a site and of course haven’t made a bid yet, their efforts to woo the Island were In full swing at the event, sponsored by both counties’ chambers of commerce. They even brought with them former Bethlehem, Pennsylvania mayor John Callahan, to share his experience of working with the company to build a casino resort. 

Perhaps the biggest news that emerged was music to labor unions’ ears: Sands senior vice president Ron Reese, in response to questions from Long Island Federation of Labor executive director Ryan Stanton, promised any casino resort the company builds would come with a Project Labor Agreement, and that the company wouldn’t stand in the way of any worker effort to unionize. 

That was what Long Island Fed President John Durso needed to hear.

“If we as Long Islanders blow this, we get what we deserve,” Durso told The Point after the forum. “This is an opportunity to change Long Island for the better, for this generation and future generations.”

The Sands is one of several large casino companies that have been scouring the downstate region for potential casino locations. While two of the licenses are expected to go to MGM in Yonkers and Genting at Aqueduct, the last license is considered up for grabs. Some are proposing sites in Manhattan, while others have mentioned Citi Field or Coney Island as possible spots. While the Sands officials haven’t discussed specific Long Island locations, a recent poll about gaming on the Island — which came from an unknown source — cited Nassau Coliseum, UBS Arena at Belmont Park, Jones Beach and Sunrise Mall in Massapequa as possibilities.

In an interview with The Point after the event, Paterson said that ever since he joined the Sands in 2018, he has been steering the company toward the Island as the most viable option.

“There isn’t going to be a casino in Manhattan,” Paterson said. “I will literally jump off the George Washington Bridge if there is one, I don’t see how that’s feasible.”

Paterson said that because casino resorts draw many out-of-town tourists, it’s preferable they be sited near airports. That limits the choice further but makes Long Island appealing, with three airports, including MacArthur, in proximity. And, he notes, if one license goes to Westchester County and one goes to New York City, in Queens, the notion of “equity” means the third should go to the Island. 

“Why does Long Island get left out, when Long Island, space-wise and growth-wise, is the best of the three locations to try to do something like that?” Paterson said. “We can bring the opportunities here. It wouldn’t just be a gaming facility. It would be part of the economic development and people are going to come here.”

More recently, Paterson has tried to use his knowledge of the Island and its decision-makers to make connections between Sands executives and key players across the region, from elected officials to civic leaders.

“I don’t think you have to win the bid to start negotiating,” Paterson said. “We start now.” 

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Files

Credit: EASTON, CT/Randall Enos

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Reference Point

Same old LIRR

Sometimes it feels as if there is no new news, only endless permutations of stories we have lived with for decades, if not centuries.

Such clearly is the case with the Long Island Rail Road, where modern stories of frustration are merely the latest in a never-ending cavalcade of angst.

Case in point: agita about a fare increase. It’s oh-so-very current, with Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials announcing this week that they are considering a 5.5% hike. And it also was oh-so-very current this week 67 years ago, when a different fare increase led Newsday’s editorial board to cite one angry commuter as saying, “Long Island Rail Road — phooey.”

But back in 1955, the board was more concerned about an exception to the fare hike granted by the LIRR that the board was sure would aggravate already-aggrieved commuters.

“We have no intention of adding fuel to that fire,” the board wrote in “Day at the Races” on Dec. 1, 1955. “It already burns indignantly enough.”

But the board added a log to the flames anyway. It explained that the LIRR had “embarrassedly” exempted one group of riders from any fare increase — horseplayers from Manhattan who traveled to Long Island tracks to gamble on the ponies.

“Fares on the track-trains are paid by dropping two coins into turnstiles (a quarter and a fifty-cent piece). The LIRR figured out that a 5¢ per-ride increase would not outweigh the cost of changing and servicing the additional turnstiles needed,” the board wrote. “It’s a disturbing — no, maddening — thought.”

Also maddening, said the board: The Pennsylvania Railroad, which owned the LIRR at that time, was earning “record profits” but contributed “none of these profits to the Long Island.”

As though to stoke the blaze of rider fury, the board also published a cartoon featuring an LIRR train bearing down on a man tied to the tracks and identified as “John Q. Commuter.” Watching with glee from the side of the tracks is another man with a train head labeled “The Pennsy R.R.”

Modern John Q. Commuters surely have understood the feeling — repeatedly. As did all the other generations of railroad commuters faced with fare hikes between 1955 and 2022, nearly all of those increases every bit as resented as they were inevitable. And many in those generations of commuters no doubt would nod in agreement at the board’s words in 1955, when it wrote that the LIRR is “the railroad that entwines and strangles us all.”
— Michael Dobie @mwdobie, Amanda Fiscina-Wells @adfiscina