President Joe Biden talks to guests after delivering his State...

President Joe Biden talks to guests after delivering his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol Tuesday. Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

Daily Point

Biden and LaLota talk Garden City

It took President Joe Biden a long time to exit the House chamber Tuesday evening as he schmoozed with retired Supreme Court justices, took selfies with Democrats, and met a freshman Republican with whom he had something in common.

As the chamber emptied, CD1 Rep. Nick LaLota moved from the GOP side to where Biden was holding court to shake his hand and make a request. LaLota said he hopes the infrastructure dollars Biden was highlighting in his State of the Union speech make their way to Suffolk County, Long Island.

“Is that near Garden City?” Biden asked. LaLota told him it was west of Suffolk. Biden said, “I’m from Garden City.”

Actually, Biden’s first home on Long Island was a “mansion” in Old Westbury, owned by Bill Sheene Jr., his cousin, a nephew of his father according to a New Yorker profile that details the family history. A 1945 item in The New York Times describes the Old Westbury home as having 20 rooms, a garage with chauffeur’s quarters, stables, a squash court, and a tennis court.

Biden, then 3 years old, and his parents moved in with Sheene because the president’s father had gone bust in a Newton, Massachusetts business venture and needed a place to live. But the president’s mother, Jean, wasn’t so enamored of the partying that was going on in the Sheene home and a year later, in the fall of 1946, they moved to a two-story house in Garden City.

But the Long Island crop-dusting business Biden Sr. had started up failed because of a drought. When the future president was just 5 and about to start school, the family moved back to Scranton, Pennsylvania, his father’s hometown.

LaLota, who invited his wife Kaylie as his State of the Union guest, said he hadn’t known of Biden’s LI connection. But the LaLotas understand moving to new homes: The Amityville couple are looking for a new place in his East End and north Suffolk district.

— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli

Talking Point

45 years … and counting

Another delay.

Over and over in the saga of Matinecock Court, the East Northport affordable housing project that’s been decades in the making, there have been obstacles to overcome. This time the delay is not from the Town of Huntington, but related to the state tax credits needed for the project’s financing.

Developer Peter Florey had hoped the closing would take place by the end of March. It’s now expected by June.

But even without that financing in place, Florey has been able to start on some of the project’s early-stage work, including clearing the property, moving the soil, and doing some infrastructure work to prepare the land for construction.

Nonetheless, Matinecock Court’s completion date has moved along with the closing date on the financing. Florey says the project should be finished two years from when the financing closes, which means a ribbon cutting around June 2025. If that date sticks, Matinecock Court would open 47 years after it was first proposed.

That’s, of course, if there’s no further delay — and with this project, that’s a big “if.”

But Florey seems optimistic that this delay might be the last one.

“This time I think that date is pretty firm,” Florey told The Point. “This one I’m more convinced about.”

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

State of bipartisanship

Credit: Granlund

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Final Point

Gillibrand looks for the union label

Insiders are reading a clear and obvious attempt at a “solidarity forever” message into Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s having brought Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, as her guest to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening.

She’s up for reelection next year, and the speculation has begun on two fronts — the potential for a Democratic primary against her from her left, where union support can make the difference, and the threat in the general election from a Republican Party that ended up resurgent in last year’s statewide races.

“She wants to show strength in New York,” a seasoned Democratic consultant who has worked both for unions and elected officials told The Point. “She wants to have labor behind her bid,” and one advantage might be fundraising.

The news release about Gillibrand’s guest identifies Cilento — and by extension herself — with recent causes.

Cilento, she said, “has helped pass a $15 minimum wage and an increase in unemployment benefits, as well as legislation to make quarantined workers eligible for paid family leave; reauthorize the World Trade Center Health Program; and expedite death benefits to families of essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Cilento’s reply sounded just a shade short of an early endorsement: “I thank her for all she has done for working people and look forward to continuing to partner with her to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”

But not all are united in either labor or the Democratic Party. Most recently, Cilento drew attention in Albany for throwing public shade on the confirmation of Hector LaSalle, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nominee for the state Court of Appeals whom he rather controversially accused of showing “a willingness to put the interests of corporations ahead of workers.”

In contrast, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, the House’s new Democratic minority leader, has sided with confirming LaSalle, who’d be the first Latino to head the top court. But Gillibrand isn’t taking sides on that matter.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison


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