Nassau County Legis. Kevan Abrahams, left, and Presiding Officer Richard...

Nassau County Legis. Kevan Abrahams, left, and Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Battle lines over final lines are drawn in Nassau

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello on Monday delivered a summation of sorts to promote the final majority-Republican version of a 10-year district map for the Nassau County Legislature. His essential argument: The new map includes key changes requested by Democrats and residents during required hearings leading up to approval Monday night by the full chamber.

But Legis. Kevan Abrahams, leader of the Democratic minority, responded moments later during a pre-session hearing that despite these changes, the final version remains illegal by failing to protect Black and Hispanic voting interests as required by law.

Nicolello, of New Hyde Park, cited the reunification of Plainview and Old Bethpage as a “strong community of interest,” in the 16th Legislative District. He said that the “vast majority” of Elmont is united with a “small portion contained in District 8.” Those alterations came at the urging of Democratic lawmakers Arnold Drucker and Carrié Solages and residents, he said. A portion of Mill Brook would also be restored to District 3, which Solages represents.

The number of places where the Village of Hempstead is split is reduced from three to two, Nicolello said. South Hempstead would be kept together, with Westbury and New Cassel united, and the map also unifies both Baldwin and Uniondale, he said. Nicolello alluded to statements urging such amendments from Democrats Siela Bynoe and Debra Mulé. And the map has been changed to keep the Five Towns together, as arose during advisory commission hearings.

Abrahams, of Hempstead, countered Nicolello’s statement with a position that would align with an expected court challenge. “They have made some changes to the map but let’s be clear,” Abrahams said. “The map that’s before us today is still an illegal document.” He said it violates the federal Voting Rights Act “because it dilutes minority votes across the board,” specifically in Lakeview and Freeport. He noted that the GOP drew a map with four “minority-majority” districts rather than a possible five.

The full legislative session was due to begin Monday at 6:30 p.m.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Missing in the Grand Central Madison crowd

On Sunday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority held a large event to celebrate the official opening of Grand Central Madison, the long-awaited new Long Island Rail Road terminal on the East Side. More than 200 special guests attended, including plenty of former MTA and LIRR employees, and many elected officials.

But a few key players in the long history of East Side Access were missing from the gathering — including former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and former Rep. Pete King.

D’Amato was invited, multiple sources confirmed, but was unable to attend. And Sen. Chuck Schumer gave his predecessor a shoutout during the event.

“This idea actually started and I want to be as bipartisan as possible. This idea actually started with one Alfonse D’Amato, who was then the senator from New York,” Schumer said to a smattering of light applause. “He had the idea. And he was gracious, when I beat him for Senate in ’98, he said this is one idea that I hope you’ll carry through. And it wasn’t easy.”

As for King, not a word.

Former LIRR President Helena Williams, who attended the event along with several other past LIRR presidents and MTA chiefs, told The Point that even as she celebrated the opening on Sunday, she recalled King’s role in propelling it forward when it was in danger of not receiving federal funding.

“It will complete the moon shot for the Long Island Rail Road,” Williams said of the project. “But one important note for our history books is a special thanks to Congressman Peter King, whose appeal to President [Bill] Clinton restored East Side Access funding. Peter King’s efforts, combined with Sen. Al D’Amato’s effort, pushed this project forward and pushed the funding forward.”

King told The Point that his involvement in East Side Access funding began after Schumer beat D’Amato in 1998, and there was, temporarily, a bit of a vacuum in leadership on the issue until Schumer took the reins on it. King noted that earlier that fall, he had been one of a handful of Republicans to vote against all counts of Clinton’s impeachment which, he said, contributed to a close relationship he developed with Clinton and Clinton’s chief of staff John Podesta. Shortly after, King was invited to the White House and met with Podesta, and raised the topic of East Side Access which, King said, was not in a draft version of the budget.

“I said, ‘This is vital,’” King told The Point. “I was pretty certain it was not going to make it into the budget. Once something’s out of the budget, it’s really hard to get it started again. I said, ‘It’s not going to break the budget, but it’s going to keep the project alive.’”

Podesta agreed, and the funding ended up in the budget.

King said he hasn’t been inside the newly-opened Grand Central Madison yet, but hoped to get there soon.

“There was an effort to have people at the event who have been involved in the project over the years, including former Sen. D’Amato and Gov. [George] Pataki — who were unable to attend,” MTA external relations chief John McCarthy told The Point. “Former Congressman King was a huge advocate of the project and I take responsibility for missing that invite.”

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Honest Abe gets a shoutout

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Mike Luckovich

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Final Point

Misdirection all around

  • As newspapers nationwide stopped carrying his “Dilbert” comic strip after his racist remarks on YouTube, creator Scott Adams tweeted, “Has anyone checked the price of free speech lately? It’s worse than eggs.” Adams is just the latest to discover that the public’s right to protest someone else’s free speech is priceless.
  • Several Republican-run House committees are planning aggressive hearings on the Biden administration’s response to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Will the probe include questions about the previous administration’s loosening of railroad regulations?
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country will “take into account” the nuclear weapons capabilities of the United States, France, and Britain given that “all the leading NATO countries have declared their main goal to inflict a strategic defeat on us, to make our people suffer …” Only one nation has threatened to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war, and it’s not the U.S., France, or Britain.
  • To toughen cybersecurity measures to prevent another attack, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is promoting a centralized security infrastructure while County Comptroller John Kennedy insists his office’s system will be segregated from the county’s. You didn’t expect them to agree on this, did you?
  • China’s one-child policy slowed birthrates so much that its population decline is creating problems and some provinces are encouraging women to have as many babies as they want, so far without similar success. It’s physics: Turning around something in motion is always harder than getting it going in the first place.
  • The award for the weekend’s best Onion-style headline in real life seemed to be: “Epic winter storm turns Southern California snow white.” Except that it was true.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie


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