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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry

The Age of Cosell

Friday, 06 January 2012 00:00

Book reviewers have noted Howard Cosell (1918-1995) will likely be an unfamiliar name to those aged 40 and under, and that’s probably true.

But Plainview author Mark Ribowsky’s just-published Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports (W.W. Norton & Company) offers to a broad audience an insightful look not only at Cosell but how the media landscape has changed dramatically since Cosell was the ABC television network’s most recognizable face.


County’s Struggles

Friday, 30 December 2011 00:00

Nassau County government careens from one fiscal crisis to another because the county’s single largest source of revenue—sales taxes—has remained stagnant for years.

This is rarely discussed publicly, and I’m not sure why. The Mangano administration always talks about holding the line on county property taxes but that levy only accounts for 30-plus percent of the monies used to finance the county’s $2.6 billion annual budget. Meanwhile, the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) undertook a paid advertising campaign to convey one message to the public: CSEA county employee compensation packages cumulatively constitute a small percentage of a property taxpayer’s bill when compared to school districts. That’s true. Yet the CSEA has been silent on the issue of sales tax collections, and that’s where the real story of the county’s revenue problem lies.


Breen’s Busy X-Mas

Friday, 23 December 2011 00:00

New York Knicks television play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, who also broadcasts National Basketball Association (NBA) games for Disney-owned ABC and ESPN, will work a double-shift on Christmas Day. The first is in Texas and the other is in California, where he’ll also reunite with a former colleague.

The logistics are daunting but doable. Breen, along with analyst Jeff Van Gundy, a former Knicks head coach, are starting Sunday, Dec. 25 in Dallas, home of the league’s defending champion, where they’ll call the Mavericks-Miami Heat game. Tip-off is at 2:30 p.m., ET, and millions are expected to watch on ABC the rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. It is one of a series of high-profile contests that will launch the NBA’s lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season.


Payroll Tax Dilemma

Friday, 16 December 2011 00:00

The partial repeal of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) payroll tax, incorporated into a bill which won near-unanimous state Legislative support in Albany last week, is at first glance welcome news.

The MTA payroll tax extracts 34 cents out of $100 earned in New York’s 12 downstate counties and re-routes those monies to the MTA.

“This plan repeals the devastating MTA payroll tax for about 78 percent, or more than 704,000, of the business entities that currently pay it. This includes eliminating the tax for 290,000 employers with payrolls of less than $1.25 million; 415,000 self-employed taxpayers; and all public and non-public schools,” stated state Senator Jack Martins (R-Mineola), who voted in favor of the measure. The new law goes into effect on April 1, 2012.


Commuter Equity

Friday, 09 December 2011 00:00

Congressional inaction extends these days to small matters, as well as major ones.

Those who use mass transit, and take advantage of a lesser-known provision of 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, could lose a benefit effective Dec, 31, 2011, that allows commuter rail and subway users, along with bus and vanpool riders, to allocate up to $230 a month for their mass transit expenses using pretax dollars. Drivers can also access the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-approved benefit, using $230 in pretax dollars toward their parking costs.

Until 2009, commuters who drove to work received a greater tax break than those who took mass transit because rail and bus users could set aside no more than $120 in pretax dollars for commuting expenses (e.g., a MetroCard) whereas drivers were eligible to use up to $230 a month in tax-free income for parking. Was that good public policy in parts of the U.S. where traffic jams are commonplace and mass transit is readily available?


Winter of Discontent

Friday, 02 December 2011 00:00

With the calendar turning to December, I want to revisit an issue I explored a year ago this month: how difficult it is to be a Jets, Islanders, and Mets fan.

The Jets can still make the National Football League’s playoffs with five regular season games remaining. But two of their losses have come in the Jets’ two games against the New England Patriots, the Jets’ main divisional rival. Jets head coach Rex Ryan said at the start of the 2011 campaign that other teams “besides us” had to step up and defeat the Patriots. The statement alluded to the Jets’ two victories last year over the Patriots in their three encounters, with the final one knocking the Patriots out of the playoffs. I know I’m not the only Jets fan who has grown tired of Coach Ryan’s endless bravado, and his insistence on being the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every wake. Determined to find out how Ryan got this way, I purchased his 2011 memoir, Play Like You Mean It; I do not recommend other Jets fans do the same. Reading the book is akin to sitting next to a stranger on a New York to Los Angeles flight, and finding their endless chatter charming for the first two hours. Somewhere over Chicago, you start lamenting your decision not to rent a head set.


Capitol Hill News

Friday, 25 November 2011 00:00

Election Day 2011 was over and done with when a direct-mail piece, which appeared to come from an elected official, landed this month in the Barry household’s mailbox. It was addressed to our family’s one registered Democrat.

With Mrs. Barry’s permission, I often review the correspondence Democrats send to Democrats. This mailer was issued and paid for by Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D-Roslyn) campaign committee, and it was well done. But I believe the piece was prepared with an eye toward the upcoming Congressional redistricting fight, rather than Election Day 2012. I’ll have more on that later.


The Money Train

Friday, 18 November 2011 00:00

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is the only commuter railroad in the United States that offers a pension to employees who retire at the age of 50, if they’ve worked at the LIRR for at least 20 years.

The catch: if a LIRR employee retires at 50, he or she receives substantially lower LIRR pension payments than they would be otherwise entitled to had they waited until the age of 65 to retire.


The End of Normal

Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00

ABC’s 20/20 and CBS’s 60 Minutes broadcast interviews last month with Stephanie Madoff Mack and Ruth Madoff, respectively, which left millions of Americans with the impression that everyone in the Madoff family, with the exception of Bernie, was so good they could each pose for holy cards.

The Madoffs, however, are all too human, according to Madoff Mack, the 30-something-year-old widow of the late Mark Madoff, who graduated from Roslyn High School in the early 1980s and was the eldest of Bernie and Ruth Madoff’s two sons. Madoff Mack chronicled her observations along with writer Tamara Jones in the just-published The End of Normal: A Wife’s Anguish, A Widow’s New Life (Blue Rider Press).


LI’s Fight Night

Friday, 04 November 2011 00:00

The late Irish playwright Oscar Wilde believed it was absurd to divide people into good or bad. People are either charming or tedious, he said.

It is difficult to guess which categorization the long-dead Wilde would affix to Long Island tabloid fixtures from the 1990s such as Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco. But their ability to draw a national crowd in 2011 will be put to the test on Saturday, Nov. 5 when both participate in a Celebrity Fight Night boxing card at the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood, California.


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Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: