The letter from Faren Siminoff, president of the Nassau Community...

The letter from Faren Siminoff, president of the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, to members of the LI Federation of Labor.

Daily Point

Faculty union seeks LI Fed's help to fight cutbacks

The ongoing battles at Nassau Community College spilled over into a targeted attack on one of Long Island’s most prominent labor leaders this week.

The college’s $14 million deficit has led to proposals by the administration to merge departments, angering the college’s faculty, which recently issued a no-confidence vote in the administration and is planning to issue its own report on the college's finances — and its own reform plan — on Thursday. But the faculty’s union, the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, took its displeasure a step further, in an open letter addressed to the “Brothers and Sisters of the Long Island Federation of Labor.”

The faculty union is a member of the Long Island Federation of Labor and in the letter, written by Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers president Faren Siminoff, it requested “support to fight the ill-conceived plan.” The letter went on to say the plan would “slash full-time faculty, increase our workload, and further downsize our workforce on campus to unmanageable levels.” Such support from the Long Island Fed, it said, has not come to date.

Siminoff specifically went after LI Fed president John Durso, who is a member of the Nassau Community College board of trustees.

“Over the years, we have repeatedly solicited John Durso, a member of the NCC Board of Trustee (sic), to sit down with us to discuss these issues. He has steadfastly refused to engage with us on matters that directly affect our members,” Siminoff wrote. “Moreover, as he once told us, when he sits on the Board of Trustees, he takes off his union hat and puts on his management hat.. To say that he’s been unsupportive of the faculty union is an understatement.”

Part of Faren Siminoff's letter to members of the LI...

Part of Faren Siminoff's letter to members of the LI Federation of Labor.

As an example, Siminoff noted that Durso has previously refused to push back against higher insurance costs for members.

“I believe that a current conflict of interest exists that prevents Mr. Durso from faithfully fulfilling his role as the President of the LIFED to all members of the LIFED…” Siminoff added. “He cannot continue to pick and choose which hat he puts on or takes off — either you represent the men and women of the LIFED, or you represent the management at the college.”

In an interview with The Point, Siminoff said she’s hoping Durso will step down from the board of trustees “so he can put on his union hat when it comes to us.”

Durso refused to comment on the details of the letter, saying only: “I’m very proud of my record as a labor leader and I will continue to fulfill my role to the very best of my ability.”

The college administration is supporting Durso and the proposed changes.

“We’re taking a very proactive approach so that we can preserve this college,” said Jerry Kornbluth, Nassau Community College’s vice president of community and governmental relations. “It is a gem for the people we serve in this community.”

Kornbluth said Durso has connected the college with union representatives as the institution tries to develop welding, electrical and other programs.

“John has been a tremendous supporter for the college and he brings so much to the table in terms of input,” he said,

Durso was appointed to the college board of trustees in 2018 by then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. His term expired in 2022, and he’s officially considered a holdover. The board of trustees includes five appointments to be made by the Nassau County executive and four appointments to be made by the governor, along with one student trustee who serves a one-year term. According to the college’s website, six of the trustees are serving terms that have expired, and one slot is vacant.

“I interact with most of the board and they’ve been tremendous advocates for the college, and for the first time in a number of years, they’re all on board with each other,” Kornbluth said, noting that he expects Gov. Kathy Hochul would address any of her holdover appointments once the state budget is completed.

— Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Homebuyers in the doghouse


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Final Point

Wolkoff, Romaine meet to discuss an old dream

With all the talk of housing in the last couple of years, few have mentioned the plan to redevelop the massive amount of land at Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center, the effort known as Heartland Town Square.

Now, Heartland is back.

Developer David Wolkoff met on Monday with Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine and several other key players to discuss the future of Heartland, multiple sources told The Point.

Wolkoff is the son of Gerald Wolkoff, Heartland’s creator and biggest champion, who died in July 2020. Heartland Town Square proposals date back to 2001, when Gerald Wolkoff first bought the bulk of the Pilgrim State property in Brentwood. But since the elder Wolkoff’s death, any plans for the development — once expected to include more than 9,000 units of housing — seemed to have stalled.

But now, at least a portion of that plan, which would involve about 3,500 residential units, is back. And the younger Wolkoff is on board.

“He was very determined to build the project,” said one source with knowledge of the meeting. “But he needs help.”

Heartland, however, has most of the approvals it needs. There’s just one remaining sticking point: Sewers.

The Suffolk County Legislature previously had voted against connecting Heartland to the Southwest Sewer District. So, part of the meeting between Romaine and Wolkoff focused on an alternative: The notion of building a new sewage treatment plant, potentially on nearby Suffolk Community College property in Brentwood — which is county-owned land.

But while the county could provide the land, building a plant will take money. Lots of money. Wolkoff seems willing to contribute to infrastructure, including a sewage treatment plant, but any solution would require “a significant portion” of funding from the state, the source said.

Interestingly, the conversation occurred as state officials were finalizing a budget that, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul, will include $500 million for clean water infrastructure.

Could some of that money go toward Heartland? Would the additional housing-related incentives Hochul has instituted also help to close the gap?

Those are the next questions to answer. But so far, both the county and the developer are staying mum. Romaine spokesman Mike Martino declined to comment on the meeting, and Wolkoff did not return calls for comment.

— Randi F. Marshall

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