A new survey on LIRR service, PBA launches a new attack on Trotta
Survey says …
Just a few days into the Long Island Rail Road’s service and schedule changes, Assemb. Gina Sillitti wants to know what her constituents think.
Sillitti put together a survey for riders, asking them what they think of the schedule changes, whether they’re commuting to Grand Central Madison or Penn Station, and how they evaluate the length and convenience of their commutes and the crowds they’re seeing.
The survey has been shared on social media, and Sillitti said she plans to distribute palm cards at the Port Washington station on Thursday.
This isn’t the first time Sillitti has surveyed commuters in her district about the LIRR. Over the summer, she issued a similar survey after the preliminary schedules, which showed a reduction in Port Washington express trains, were released. Sillitti’s survey, combined with public meetings, produced an outcry from Port Washington commuters that led the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to restore several express trains to the new schedule.
Could Sillitti’s new survey produce additional changes?
“The MTA said during budget hearings and before that they’re going to monitor the situation and monitor ridership. I’m trying to keep them at their word,” Sillitti told The Point. “We’re just asking riders to make their voices heard. You’ve got to make it easy for people to do that.”
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Suffolk PBA tries again on Trotta
Thursday’s meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee was abruptly canceled late Wednesday afternoon, capping a day in which it was roiled by the Suffolk PBA’s new campaign to stop Legis. Robert Trotta from serving on the body that oversees local law enforcement agencies. The new PBA attacks come a month after its earlier effort to remove him backfired.
The PBA certainly expected Trotta to be gone by Thursday. On Feb. 7, it sent out a news release claiming victory. “His removal from the Public Safety Committee is well deserved. We thank the thousands of law enforcement supporting Suffolk County residents who joined our call to action for Legislator Trotta's ejection" read the release in a statement attributed to president Noel DiGerolamo.
But last month, the legislature's presiding officer, Kevin McCaffrey, stood his ground even though he acknowledged speaking with Trotta about his outspoken efforts to rein in the PBA’s political activities. McCaffrey did not respond to inquiries about why the committee meeting was postponed or his reaction to the latest action by the union.
This time, the effort to silence Trotta is being launched by the Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation, the PBA’s super PAC. Through text messaging, emails and Facebook posts Monday and Tuesday, the foundation is requesting supporters to again sign a petition demanding Trotta be taken off the Public Safety Committee. The petition is on a site called realrobtrotta.com, which calls the legislator and former Suffolk cop with 25 years of service a hypocrite, anti-police, corrupt and incompetent.
Trotta told The Point that the hostility is not coming from the rank-and-file officers. “There are high-ranking union officials who are out of control. This is the same group who backed Jimmy Burke and they are not happy that I helped put him in jail,” said Trotta, referring to former Chief of Police James Burke, who pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations and conspiracy to obstruct justice charges seven years ago and has been released from prison.
The Suffolk PBA referred questions to a spokesman for the foundation, who said there would be no comment forthcoming.
— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli
The road less traveled
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Don’t toss those dice just yet
The path toward casino licenses is winding more slowly than some observers initially expected.
The state Gaming Facility Location Board’s downstate casino license process was built with flexible deadlines. The first set of questions from prospective bidders was due Feb. 3, the second set was to be due 30 days after the answers to the first set were provided, and the final casino license application was to be due 30 days after the second set of answers was released.
To some, that meant that the entire process would last only a couple of months, with the assumption that the answers to every question would come quickly.
The board still hasn’t provided the answers to the first set of questions that were submitted by potential bidders earlier this month. That means that the second clock hasn’t even started yet.
During a meeting Monday, Gaming Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said the board had received “several hundred questions.”
Williams said the commission’s staff had to review the submissions for duplicates and draft proposed responses, which then had to be approved by the facility location board before they were made public.
That process, Williams said, could take another three weeks.
Gaming officials said there are dozens of staffers involved in answering the questions, including those from the Gaming Commission and from other state agencies that might have a role to play, such as Empire State Development.
As of now, the Gaming Facility Location Board isn’t even fully established. While it can operate with the three members it currently has, it’s supposed to include five. There’s no deadline for filling the two additional seats, and Gaming Commission spokesman Lee Park said the commission is “actively seeking to fill the seats” with those who must be New York residents with at least 10 years of experience in fiscal matters, and expertise in accounting, economics or related areas.
Even when the first round’s questions and answers are made public, the names of those who asked the questions will be kept private.
If the first set of answers is published in mid-to-late March, the bidders’ second set of questions won’t be due until mid-to-late April. If it then takes another month or more after that for gaming officials to release their second set of answers, that would take the final application deadline into June.
That’s when we’d learn who officially bid for the three available downstate licenses. And those submissions would kick off the community approvals and, eventually, town zoning and environmental review processes.
That could mean a busy summer — leading into local election season.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall