Democrats try damage control
The day after the Court of Appeals whacked state Democrats for failing to provide fair election district maps, throwing the 2022 elections into disarray, party leaders tried to salvage the process.
Although Wednesday’s shocker is still reverberating, Democrats have begun discussing damage control plans and scavenging for opportunities in the carnage.
The Point has learned from multiple party sources that a consensus is nearing to combine the June 28 primary for statewide offices and Assembly seats with a new, late-August date for the congressional and Senate races. A judge is expected to sign off by May 20 on new House and State Senate district maps that a court-appointed special master must draw by May 16. Candidates would get about two weeks to file new petitions to get on the ballot.
Senate and Assembly Democrats could be called back for a conference Sunday night to discuss the changes in anticipation of a vote early next week, one lawmaker said.
Members are also reconciling themselves to the notion that they may need to reopen the petition process for statewide offices to head off another legal challenge. State law requires candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller to collect petitions in 50% of the state’s congressional districts.
While the Wednesday ruling didn’t address the validity of the current petitions, some are arguing it is too risky to rely on the paperwork collected in districts now declared unconstitutional.
For Gov. Kathy Hochul, reopening the petition process could be a double-edged sword. “There’s a lot to be resolved,” she said at a press availability Thursday.
It would allow her to rid her ticket of her former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, who is currently on the Democratic line despite his indictment on federal charges and subsequent resignation. However, it would also allow the governor she replaced, Andrew M. Cuomo, an opportunity to oppose her in the primary.
That’s why an alternate plan being mentioned would open only the State Senate and Assembly petition process, but still provide a way to remove Benjamin. The former lieutenant governor could be nominated for an Assembly seat in a distant district where there are more moose than Democrats. Under existing state law, that would allow him to decline his lieutenant governor spot in the Democratic primary.
— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli
Suffolk GOP lawyer comes to Hempstead
As the Hempstead Town board held off on a planned moratorium on construction in Baldwin and promised a new code to handle development there and in Inwood and North Lawrence this week, Supervisor Don Clavin got an earful from Baldwin residents who didn’t want any further delays.
Rather than responding himself, Clavin turned the microphone to town chief of staff Jack Libert, who turned it over to attorneys Steven Losquadro and William Duffy.
The board hired Losquadro and Duffy last month as outside counsel to assess the zoning efforts in the three neighborhoods and tasked them with developing new codes and procedures. Town officials claim there are problems with the state environmental review process that need to be resolved and they’re seeking more oversight for the town board on individual projects.
In a letter to town attorney Joseph Nocella, Losquadro confirmed that he had been retained “to consult with the Town and engage in a review and analysis of Town Code provisions generally and the Building Zone Ordinances in particular.”
Losquadro and Duffy together are billing the town at a rate of $400 an hour, and the letter noted that other fees for experts, delivery and copying would be billed on top of the hourly rate.
In a resolution adopted on March 22, the board authorized retaining Losquadro. No cap on fees or total dollar amount was included in the board resolution or in Losquadro’s letter. A town spokesman told The Point that the town attorney’s office would oversee Losquadro’s expenses and billing, but that there’s no established cap on that compensation.
Losquadro told The Point that he was hired “to make the code better” and noted that his municipal law background made him suited for the job,
“I think it’s something with which I’ve had a great deal of experience over the years,” Losquadro said.
The politically connected Losquadro, who has served as counsel to the Suffolk County Republican Committee and to the Nassau County PBA, has been embroiled in his share of controversy. Most recently, Losquadro and his cousin, one-time PBA 2nd vice president Dean Losquadro, played significant roles first in the defeat of a new PBA contract and then in a failed effort to elect their own slate to lead the union.
But Losquadro told The Point this week that he thought one of the “advantages” in his handling of the Baldwin zoning is that he does not represent any developers who do business in Hempstead.
“I’m not coming to this with any prejudices or biases or preexisting relationships,” he said.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
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Light in wartime
The topic of light was very much front and center on Long Island 80 years ago — specifically, how to get more of it under unusual circumstances.
The situation: The region was part of an Eastern Military Area newly established by an Army order and covering the entire Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida.
The account in Newsday’s editorial pages on April 28, 1942, defined such an area as one “in which or near which military action takes place or is likely to take place.” Yes, this was a World War II-related order against the backdrop of U-boats prowling the Atlantic Ocean. And part of the order meant going without lights at night, as per Lt. Gen. Hugh A. Drum (of later upstate Fort Drum fame).
As Newsday wrote, “Instead of waiting for the whole Atlantic Coast voluntarily to black out its 1,600 miles of shore front, he ordered strict Army control over lighting. The idea is to enforce a pitch black coastline as seen from the sea, so that enemy submarines cannot see ships silhouetted against the lights on land.”
Newsday’s editorial board noted that Nassau (no mention was made of Suffolk County) had observed fairly well the voluntary lights-out but it rued the blackout becoming mandatory.
“This is going to work a hardship on the people who live in our shore-front towns,” the board wrote. “It is also going to be a nuisance for those of us who like to go to the beaches during the Summer months.”
The board’s solution: a second hour of daylight saving. The board noted a national move to a second hour had been abandoned but argued that the case for an extra New York hour was strong. It decried railroads and upstate farmers for blocking a bill before the State Legislature to add the second hour. And it hoped that Gov. Herbert Lehman’s “new wartime powers” might allow him to make the change.
The board noted that other restrictions were bound to come as the war continued but “we can take them in our stride” before it made its final plea.
“So just give us that extra hour of daylight this Summer,” the board wrote. “Then there will be no more disruption of normal life in Nassau than there has to be.”