TODAY'S PAPER
39° Good Afternoon
39° Good Afternoon
Opinion

The populists of Long Island

Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo Credit: Cory Sipkin

Good afternoon and welcome to The Point! Interested in the Ed Mangano-John Venditto trial? Sign up for the Power on Trial newsletter here.

Daily Point

Third time’s a charm?

It’s still too early to detail what a potential arena, hotel and other development — Suffolk County’s chosen concept for the Ronkonkoma Hub — would cost, although estimates put the project at about $1 billion.

But the real question, even at this early stage, is who would pay for it.

Engineer John Cameron, who has been involved in the winning proposal for the Ronkonkoma Hub, told The Point Wednesday that he expects the project to be privately financed. But county officials said earlier this week that there might be a role for public funds in the development.

Lisa Black, chief of staff to County Executive Steve Bellone, told The Point that public money could be used for infrastructure needs in the area, or even for parking garages that might accompany the development. But, she noted, “This is all still being discussed.”

Cameron, chair of the Long Island Regional Planning Council and managing partner at Cameron Engineering in Woodbury, said he could foresee seeking tax exemptions on the construction of the project, and added that state funds through the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council are possible in the future. Otherwise, he expects the arena and other development to be fully paid for with private funds. He noted that terms of a potential lease haven’t been discussed, and will wait until he and his team, which includes large developer Jones Lang LaSalle, are officially designated as the master developer by the Suffolk County Legislature.

But Cameron said he expects the development group’s eventual arrangement with the county could include sharing the revenue that comes from an arena (from ticket sales and concessions, for example), and potential rent payments. He noted that if public funds were included in infrastructure or parking or other aspects of the project, that would leave additional funds for the private developer to put into such a lease agreement.

This isn’t Cameron’s first time working on arena development on Long Island. He noted that he was involved as an engineer in early efforts to redevelop Nassau Coliseum, including as part of then-New York Islanders owner Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Project. And he worked on the New York Cosmos’ bid to build a soccer stadium at Belmont Park.

Is the third time the charm?

Randi F. Marshall

Talking Point

De Blasio’s orbit

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ears must be burning. His name resurfaced Tuesday in court in Central Islip when a manager of Harendra Singh’s Queens restaurant testified that Singh asked him to be a straw donor to de Blasio.

That was in the ongoing federal public corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, in which Singh has testified about his donations to de Blasio causes in return for help with the restaurant.

Singh, a cooperating prosecution witness, has pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe de Blasio. While prosecutors in the Eastern District built their case around Singh, the Southern District declined to use Singh to make a case against de Blasio, who maintains that he acted appropriately.

On Monday, the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics provided another documented example of someone who donated to the cause of de Blasio getting in trouble — even as de Blasio himself does not.

Lobbyist James F. Capalino agreed to pay a $40,000 fine for alleged Lobbying Act violations associated with donating $10,000 to the now-defunct nonprofit organization the Campaign for One New York, and also for arranging contributions to the organization from Capalino’s clients. Capalino and the clients then got a cozy breakfast meeting with de Blasio.

The commission also fined the animal rights group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, which lobbied the mayor on horse-carriage issues and whose leaders donated tens of thousands to the mayor’s political nonprofit. NYCLASS admitted it did not register with the commission as a lobbyist.

Neither the JCOPE settlements nor Singh’s testimony appear to have changed de Blasio’s legal situation. But the attention on de Blasio’s fundraising practices lingers a year after legal investigations ended.

A defense attorney for Venditto has raised the possibility of de Blasio testifying in Central Islip, and JCOPE’s investigation of donations to the nonprofit continues.

Mark Chiusano

Pencil Point

Boxed up

Pointing Out

WFP’s Long Island roots

The Working Families Party has announced a leadership handoff that makes Long Island look like a national hotbed of progressive politics.

The party on Monday named Maurice Mitchell as its incoming national director. Mitchell, 38, is a third-generation Long Islander who grew up in Long Beach after his grandmother immigrated from the Caribbean. She found work cleaning Long Island homes in the late 1960s. Mitchell’s Long Beach house was destroyed by superstorm Sandy, and he now lives in San Diego.

He is just the second person to hold the title of national director. The first, Dan Cantor, the Working Families Party founder who ran the party for its first 20 years, grew up in Levittown. Cantor, 62, is moving on to a less-active role as chairman of the party’s national committee.

The new roles reflect a party that’s becoming busier nationally in the progressive backlash to President Donald Trump, according to WFP national spokesman Joe Dinkin. In 2017, he said, the party trained and supported 1,036 candidates in municipal and state legislative races in 23 states. Their candidates, who won nominations as Democrats because of minor-party ballot restrictions in most states, won roughly two-thirds of their races, said Dinkin.

The WFP has ballot lines in just four states: South Carolina, Oregon, Connecticut and, of course, New York.

In fact, Dinkin said, the WFP recruited Randy Bryce of Wisconsin, the Democrat running for the seat of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said Wednesday he will retire at the end of his term.

Mitchell might be a familiar player locally because he was an organizer with the Long Island Progressive Coalition. For the past four years, Mitchell has led Blackbird, a key organization within the Black Lives Matter movement.

He’s pledging to champion multiracial, inclusive populism.

That’s not the first image most people have when they hear Long Island, but that might be changing.

Anne Michaud

Columns