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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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New Jersey’s Jets

Hofstra University and the New York Jets announced last week that the Jets’ planned practice session at Hofstra, which was to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 21, had been canceled.

This is the second straight year the Jets are not making their one-day-only pilgrimage to Hofstra. The institution’s Hempstead campus was the site of the Jets’ annual training camps from the late 1960s through 2008.  

Long Island’s ties to the Jets have been waning for awhile but if you want to understand why the Jets will never again play a regular season game in downstate New York, an Albany history lesson is needed. I disagreed recently with a friend of mine about the federal government’s prosecution of former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican, after he had resigned from office. My buddy, a Democrat, thought prosecutors rightfully brought federal charges against the once-powerful upstate lawmaker for using his public office for private financial gain. The U.S. won a few convictions against Bruno when his case went to a jury trial, although the 80-something-year-old former state senator remains free while the case is on appeal.

I summarized my pro-Bruno stance along the lines of a 2009 column I wrote. I said that, had Senator John McCain been elected president in 2008, former Governor Eliot Spitzer would likely have been prosecuted for his alleged governmental sins but, since a Democratic president had taken office, the White House-appointed U.S. attorney aggressively pursued the GOP’s Bruno in 2009.  

Our conversation concluded amicably when I half-jokingly allowed that Senator Bruno should go to jail for the role Bruno played in 2005 to keep the Jets out of Manhattan. Jets fans may recall a deep-pocketed corporate foe of the proposed New York Sports and Convention Center (NYSCC), which would have been the Jets’ home field in mid-town Manhattan, retained then-Senator Bruno’s son, among others, to lobby against the NYSCC’s construction. It was money well-spent as Senator Bruno, along with state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, killed the NYSCC project via the votes the two lawmakers controlled at the state’s Public Authorities Control Board.

For the record, I’ll acknowledge here the official reason the Jets are not coming to Hofstra on Aug. 21. Hofstra explained, in part, that, “Due to the altered maintenance schedule as a result of hosting the Presidential Debate, work on James M. Shuart Stadium will need to occur in the latter part of August. Therefore, due to the timing of this work, the university and the New York Jets agreed that the Aug. 21 date would no longer be viable for the previously scheduled practice.”

The Jets issued the following statement: “We have had a great relationship with Hofstra University for many years and we understand the circumstances. Based on the timing, the team has decided to move the Aug. 21 practice to MetLife Stadium. Although we’re sorry that the location of this year’s practice needed to be changed, we are committed to remaining connected to our Long Island fans.”

MetLife Stadium is in New Jersey’s godforsaken Meadowlands, the place where Senator Bruno and Assemblyman Silver years ago sentenced the Jets to life without parole.

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