NIFA chairman Adam Barsky.

NIFA chairman Adam Barsky. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Daily Point

Longevity, at long last?

The longevity payments of Nassau County’s unionized employees were frozen in 2011, when the Nassau Interim Finance Authority used the deficit-fueled control period it had imposed on the county to stop all pay increases. But when the freeze ended three years later and workers could again get raises and annual step increases, the longevity payments remained frozen.

Now the leaders of all five unions have signed on to a memorandum of understanding with the county settling the conflict … if members vote for it, the county legislature approves it, and NIFA signs off.

The county has paid about $9 million a year in longevity since 2011. Workers in the unions accrued additional annual pay that starts at a few hundred dollars a year once they qualify and can grow to several thousand dollars annually for long-tenured employees.

Union leaders, county officials and others briefed on negotiations say this agreement would add about $16 million to $20 million a year going forward to that total. On top of that there would be a one-time retroactive payout described as being about $45 million. Both pots would be split between about 11,000 Nassau workers, with the highest-paid and longest-tenured receiving the lion’s share.

If the deal is approved, an issue that was central to Nassau politics would be resolved. In 2017, Republican former County Executive Edward Mangano’s then-Deputy Chief County Executive, Rob Walker, signed an agreement to restore longevity, days before the PBA endorsed Republican candidate Jack Martins. That deal would have ended the union’s legal challenge to get the money.

But the moves looked mutually friendly, and when Democrat Laura Curran won and the county refused to go forward with the deal, the union was furious.

That anger increased after Nassau lost the case in court and Curran appealed despite, union leaders claimed, having made an earlier promise that she’d go with whatever the initial court decision was. Those relationships were not repaired by 2021 when Curran lost to Bruce Blakeman by just over 2,000 votes.

The feeling in the five unions is that members will likely approve the agreement, although some CSEA members have been on social media arguing that the deal isn’t good enough. The new agreement gets workers roughly halfway back to what they’d have received had there never been a freeze.

Approval from the Republican-majority county legislature for a deal crafted by Blakeman to end a stalemate Curran couldn’t fix is almost certain.

What NIFA will do is unclear.

NIFA chairman Adam Barsky told The Point Thursday he has not seen the information he’d need to make a judgment, adding, “We need to analyze what the impact of this deal will be on the county’s current multiyear financial plan, and beyond, and determine if it’s in the best interest of the taxpayer.”

He previously expressed frustration that a deal his board has to approve is being sent to union members for ratification without any indication of whether they’d approve it.

And if everyone but NIFA does approve it, the argument over whether the county should still be in a control period when it has surpluses rather than deficits may go from being a topic of debate to being the subject of a lawsuit.

In the original case, State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Adams ruled for the unions, and ordered the county and employee unions to take up the matter in arbitration.

Adams is now Blakeman’s county attorney.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Ciao for now

CD3 Democratic hopeful Alessandra Biaggi is trying an interesting tactic in the six-person, five-county primary to replace Rep. Tom Suozzi.

In the past few weeks, she has been sharing well-crafted and edited videos to her social media accounts featuring her out on the street knocking on doors and gathering signatures to get on the ballot.

Two videos in particular include musical soundtracks and careful comic timing to catch the often awkward and dogged process of petitioning: Biaggi saying ”so you just sign right here,” or an extended shot of the Pelham state senator chatting with a man at his door.

“Thank you for telling us about the street,” Biaggi says.

“Ciao,” the man responds.

Hardly missing a beat — and hearkening back to her roots as the granddaughter of one-time Bronx Rep. Mario Biaggi, himself the child of Italian immigrants — Biaggi says, “Yeah, ciao. Piacere.”

The videos, which are made by a digital director for the campaign, have none of the amateur cinematography and grainy selfie footage that plenty of political candidates use on Facebook or Twitter.

In fact, the videos have close to the quality and rhythm of some TV ads, which haven’t started deluging the district yet for this race.

The TV buys will surely come, but given how expensive they can be in this market and how crowded the race is, Biaggi is not alone in trying cheaper strategies to introduce herself to voters.

That includes paid digital or Facebook ads for fellow Democratic candidates Reema Rasool, Josh Lafazan, and Melanie D’Arrigo, who says she’s also sending out postcards.

Robert Zimmerman has sent out a “Dear Neighbor” letter with personal biographical details about growing up in the suburbs as a “closeted gay teenager.”

Biaggi has run paid digital ads as well, but the social media spots are a somewhat less traditional attempt to get her message out.

“We’re hoping that these videos of her day to day and what the campaign is up to is just amplifying her message and allowing people to get to know her,” said Biaggi spokeswoman Ana Hall.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Going too far

Credit: The Nethelands / Janssen

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Final Point

Everything is politics

When State Sen. Anna Kaplan and a host of other lawmakers gathered this week to introduce a new exhibit on the Holocaust that will line the halls of the Legislative Office Building in Albany, it seemed fairly straightforward.

The display, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Courage to Remember exhibit, includes 40 panels with detailed information about the Holocaust, along with photos and documents.

But, like everything in Albany, there’s some politics involved.

That’s because Kaplan is the sponsor of a bill currently in the education committee that would require a study of whether schools across New York are adequately teaching the Holocaust. The bill had its own bit of controversy last year, when the Assembly education committee chairman, Michael Benedetto, had recommended the bill be held, saying it was unnecessary and an “unfunded mandate.”

During the news conference about the exhibit, which was also attended by Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, backed Kaplan’s bill. Benjamin, however, did not voice specific support for the bill, instead focusing on the exhibit itself. He did, however, thank Kaplan for “helping to lead us on a major step forward.”

When Kaplan was asked during the news conference about the status of support for her bill, she noted the “diverse group” of lawmakers behind her.

“We all believe in it. We’re going to do our best to get it across the finish line,” Kaplan said.

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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