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Nassau lawmakers discuss the Hub’s future
Nassau County lawmakers are gathering Tuesday afternoon for yet another hearing on the Nassau Hub — this one designed to jump-start the process with new developers and their plans. But first, the county legislators want developers Scott Rechler and Brett Yormark to hear their long wish list of concerns, ideas and questions.
Most of the issues legislators raised in conversations with The Point will sound familiar to anyone who recalls the property’s long history of failed development.
For some legislators, this is not just political or economic — it’s personal.
Democratic Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, for instance, was quick to note her past differences with Rechler over his Garvies Point development. “I did not have a good experience with the Glen Cove situation,” she told The Point, recalling the 40-year bond the city issued to pay for some public amenities.
“It’s not a good time to give a huge PILOT,” she said, expressing hope that the Hub will be different.
Rechler, she said, might ask for a tax break on the Hub’s residential portion, but DeRiggi-Whitton said she expects it to be “reasonable” and shorter in length than the one in Glen Cove. “So far, I was happy with what he said,” she said. “I’m going to keep an open mind.”
Concerns over a potential payment in lieu of taxes were raised by other legislators, too, including Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams. But for Abrahams, there are other key ”nuances” to work out. Among them: the need for a project labor agreement so that the construction is done at prevailing wages by union workers, and a community benefits agreement that spells out what goodies surrounding neighborhoods will get.
Carrié Solages, another Democrat, focused on community benefits, too, but with an eye toward future development in his own district.
“I’m looking for that precedent to be established,” Solages said, starting his wish list with a community package for Elmont, where development at Belmont Park is being planned separately from the Hub.
Then there are Republican legislators, including Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, who are concerned about the process that led the county to pick Rechler and Yormark. They plan to question county officials about their decision-making. They also want to ensure that lawmakers will have another opportunity to approve the project once details are settled. Early in the hearing Tuesday, Yormark confirmed that opportunity would exist.
Denise Ford wants development done in phases, so that the whole site isn’t under construction at once. C. William Gaylor wants to determine whether the mix of retail, entertainment and housing makes sense, and how Hub development would dovetail with the existing Long Island Marriott. Thomas McKevitt wants to make sure the retail space doesn’t duplicate nearby Roosevelt Field and other shopping areas.
Among the Democrats, Siela Bynoe, whose district includes the Hub, hopes that the development would include aviation-related attractions that could interest tourists. But she had more significant concerns, too, about the community, traffic and labor. “I’d rather get it right than just do something for the sake of doing something,” said Bynoe.
Then there’s the effort to make the project attractive to a younger generation of residents. Arnold Drucker advocated for affordable housing as part of the mix. While Town of Hempstead zoning requires 20 percent of the housing to be affordable, he wants detail on what that means.
Joshua Lafazan, who noted that he was age 10 when then-County Executive Tom Suozzi and billionaire Charles Wang collaborated on a Hub proposal in 2004, expressed the need for half of the housing to be micro-apartments — millennial housing units that would share common spaces like kitchens and living areas and perhaps even bathrooms, but have private bedrooms.
While the developers plan to include that type of housing in their plans, Lafazan’s other request is a tougher one: He’d like Long Island Rail Road discounts for millennials who live in Nassau and commute to Manhattan.
“It’s important for me to be the voice of my generation,” Lafazan told The Point. “I don’t want to be 44 years old and still talking about this.”
Randi F. Marshall
Rice and Suozzi vs. Pelosi
As the number of opponents to Nancy Pelosi’s House speaker bid dwindles in advance of the Wednesday Democratic caucus meeting, Long Island’s Kathleen Rice shows no sign of folding.
Rice, of Garden City, has a history of opposition to Pelosi. She made an early gambit to oppose the California lawmaker in 2016, shortly after being elected to her first term.
In her endorsement interview with the Newsday editorial board this fall, Rice joked that if Pelosi won the gavel, “I actually don’t even know where my office would be, if I would have one.”
The battle over Pelosi’s speakership came to Garden City on Sunday when a coalition of progressive groups, including the Young Progressives of Nassau County and chapters of Indivisible, gathered outside Rice’s office to protest her lack of support for Pelosi. The protesters criticized Rice for signing a letter with other relatively moderate Democrats signaling their opposition to the longtime Democratic leader, who marshaled health care legislation under President Barack Obama.
Some of those signatories have since vacated the field of battle or softened their opposition, such as New York Rep. Brian Higgins and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton. A spokesman for Rice said Tuesday that the congresswoman hasn’t changed her opposition.
Meanwhile, Long Island’s other holdout Democrat, Tom Suozzi, tells The Point that his Problem Solvers caucus is making good progress in negotiating rule changes with the speaker’s office that would make the House more bipartisan. Suozzi says the group is happy with changes on openness and transparency issues, but still would like to get some other rule changes to allow bills supported by a significant number of members from both parties to advance in committees, receive amendments and move to the floor for votes.
Suozzi, too, is feeling pressure from Indivisible members visiting his Long Island office and via calls from Democratic insiders saying he is disloyal.
“I am just trying to fix the system so that both sides can work together again,” Suozzi said. “We have to break the gridlock and not let either party be held captive by the extremes in their caucus.”
If his rules were in place, Suozzi said, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals bill could have been passed last year.
Suozzi, however, declined to say how he will vote Wednesday if the remaining Problem Solvers reforms aren’t accepted by Pelosi.
— Mark Chiusano and Rita Ciolli
Making a list
A King survives the battle
Rep. Peter King is in rare company.
In 2013, 17 Republicans held House districts won by President Barack Obama. According to Amy Walter of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, King is the only one left. Another was Rep. David Valadao, who as of Monday appeared to be the loser in a tight California race where votes are still being counted. The AP and NBC just retracted their earlier calls that the Republican had won.
Perhaps King’s perseverance is a testament to the Seaford Republican’s long career on Long Island, his reputation for sometimes going against his party, as well as the benefits of incumbency and party machinery here.
King excitedly added in an email to The Point, “I guess it means my constituents think I’m doing a good job!?!”
Bipartisanship appears to be on King’s mind after his relatively competitive race against first-time Democratic challenger Liuba Grechen Shirley.
He was full of praise for a famous Democrat in a recent Facebook review of Terry Golway’s new book, “Frank and Al: FDR, Al Smith, and the Unlikely Alliance That Created the Modern Democratic Party.”
“Having grown up in a family of Al Smith supporters in an Irish-American, working class neighborhood, I have a definite Al Smith bias,” King wrote of the legendary 20th century New York governor. “In fact I have an Al Smith portrait and campaign poster on my office walls.”
King quotes the likes of John F. Kennedy on the campaign trail when it suits his Republican economic positions (read: tax cuts), but blanket praise for Smith, the Tammany Hall denizen and champion of the worker, is not often heard in GOP circles.
The Point asked King whether he thought Smith would be the right model for a 2020 candidate.
“Yes!” King emailed. “If he can find a Party!”