Judy Griffin, Democratic candidate for New York State Assembly District...

Judy Griffin, Democratic candidate for New York State Assembly District 21 in 2022. Credit: James Escher

Daily Point

LI’ers eye Assembly district details for ‘24

Assemb. Judy Griffin on Friday conceded her bid for reelection. After extensive canvassing over the three weeks since Election Day, including a hand count of ballots, the two-term Rockville Centre Democrat came out 138 votes shy of her Republican opponent Brian Curran, who has held the seat before.

While expressing disappointment, Griffin told The Point she may try again in the 21st A.D. in two years, touting credentials as an energetic moderate from the statewide Assembly majority. But she has yet to decide.

Meanwhile, veteran Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), the chamber’s environmental conservation committee chairman, lost his 4th A.D. in the region’s red tide last month despite the Assembly’s new district maps having been drawn by the majority legislative Democrats.

Now, due to the way redistricting court challenges evolved this year, the state’s evenly bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission is back in business, with a change in members, specifically to rewrite the 150-district Assembly map in time for the 2024 election.

This week the panel did what it could not do with congressional and State Senate maps — it voted for a single map proposal to cover the next 10 years. What surprised some observers was the agreed-upon plan’s similarity to what the Republicans on the IRC proposed before the whole redrawing process bogged down and ended up controlled by the courts.

In Nassau County, it appears that Griffin would still live in the district under the proposed IRC changes. Same goes in Suffolk for Englebright. How the partial line adjustments may affect the partisan split of the districts remains to be seen.

Griffin said Friday she has looked at the map and considers some of its changes in her area as keeping some improvements that were made on this year’s map. When hearings are held, she said, she intends to testify as a non-legislator — in part to underscore the general importance of better coordinating school districts with Assembly districts.

Despite the commission’s breakthrough vote, the process and questions remain far from over.

The commission announced it will begin its statewide tour of public hearings early next year in 12 different locations across the state as required. For Long Island, the schedule includes one Nassau hearing, at Nassau Community College, on Tuesday Feb. 28 at 5 p.m., and the other in Suffolk County on March 1 at 5 p.m., at a location to be announced.

After possible modifications, and a submission in Albany, the State Legislature could accept or reject the plan. If lawmakers reject it, the IRC gets another shot; if lawmakers reject that, too, they can redo the whole plan, vote on it and send it to the governor. This is the step-by-step constitutional procedure that the state’s top court found to have been ignored and violated — last time out.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Septic celebration

The fight to stop the federal taxation of Suffolk County septic improvement grants has been a long one for Long Island politicians and officials. So where was U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer when he got the good news?

In Wyoming County, New York, says Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro, “where he is wrapping up his annual 62-county tour of New York before the clock strikes midnight” on Jan. 1, 2023.

Roefaro said that Schumer got on a fast call with his staff after an aide was alerted by the Internal Revenue Service about the agency’s agreement that the environmental program should be considered tax-exempt. After the call, Roefaro says Schumer told him that Friday was a “great day here in Wyoming County, and another great day for Long Island.”

It’s true that Schumer does often talk like this.

Shortly thereafter, the IRS publicized its announcement notifying taxpayers that the septic payments to residential property owners “are not required to be included in the gross income of the payment recipients for Federal income tax purposes.”

The Point asked Suffolk Deputy County Executive Peter Scully how county officials were celebrating the new information. 

“No time for a celebration as we are hard at work amending application packets and related documents to reference the IRS determination,” Scully emailed, adding that now began “the hard work of undoing the damage that was already done by providing guidance to past grant recipients who need to amend their tax returns.”

As for Schumer, he was in Wyoming in Western New York to talk about federal help for local hospitals dealing with COVID-19 and flu this winter — an issue Roefaro says Schumer will be going deeper on in NYC and Long Island this weekend. 

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Sick trifecta


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Final Point

Flexible Funds

When Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the latest recipients of Long Island Investment Fund money, she highlighted Farmingdale State College, which will receive $30 million from the fund toward a new Center for Computer Science and Information Technology.

But longtime observers of Farmingdale’s efforts to add a new academic building might have been a bit puzzled by the announcement. After all, for years, Farmingdale fought for a new building — but it was supposed to house applied sciences, including psychology, economics and geographic information systems.

“The building was and has been a principal goal of the college for six years,” Farmingdale President John S. Nader told The Point.

Last fall, however, Nader began to shift the spotlight onto computer science, programming, security and related fields, which were seeing significant increases in enrollment. When Nader filed his application for a slice of the Long Island Investment Fund earlier this year, 600 students were enrolled in those programs. Now, it’s up to 800. Farmingdale has the most students in those programs of any SUNY school outside of the four university systems — Stony Brook, Albany, Buffalo and Binghamton.

“What getting it really underscores is the level of confidence that officials in the state of New York and the SUNY system have in Farmingdale,” Nader said.

The announcement of the new building, which also will get $45 million from the SUNY Construction Fund, brings to fruition years of work by a trio of lawmakers — Assembs. Steve Stern and Kimberly Jean-Pierre, whose districts share the Farmingdale campus, and outgoing State Sen. John Brooks.

Brooks, a Farmingdale graduate, said the building was a key priority since he was first elected six years ago, noting that while he got close to getting the money two years ago, he needed a vehicle like the new investment fund to push it over the finish line.

And Stern noted that Nader’s ability to switch gears spoke to the college’s flexibility. 

“I like the fact that what might have been the vision as recently as four years ago or five years ago changes with what the need is,” Stern said.

That shift also more broadly matches the region’s changing economy, said Kevin Law, who now chairs the state’s Empire State Development arm. Farmingdale, he said, “started out as an agricultural land grant college, when Long Island was primarily agricultural, and it has adapted nicely into meeting the needs of the business community.”

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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