It isn’t the worst plan you could come up with for 150 acres, this Lighthouse Project, believe me. It’s just that after 48 years of plans, studies, hearings, meetings and debates, some of us can’t believe that we’re going to have this on that space. More of the same, except taller, with a canal. The design doesn’t comes out of the public meetings and work sessions we started with seven years ago and which got dropped. Instead, it comes from hired guns with two priorities: First, maximize the potential profit on that acreage. Second, make sure it’s something that can pass. Two tall skyscrapers sound a lot better than one really, really tall skyscraper, so now that’s what we have.
1. Since 2007, New Yorkers have lost two statewide officers and a U.S. Senator. There is a lot of talk about changing the law to require special elections to fill vacancies in any statewide office. As well-meaning as this idea is, I think the only thing that might have made New York politics worse in 2009 would have been suddenly dropping a $40 million campaign to replace Senator Clinton on top of everything else.
In this morning’s daily paper, an official at a local agency refused to comment on a situation and really ticked me off. If you are an elected or appointed official, start practicing ways to avoid saying that you have no comment. “No comment” will never do anything but make a situation worse.
I see this more and more. Between July 1 and July 24 of this year, the phrase “declined to comment” or “refused to comment” appeared in at least 41 Newsday articles involving state or local government. That’s almost twice as many refusals or declinations in articles from July 1999.
As of this weekend, there will be 100 days left until Nassau County residents will cast ballots for something like 46 county, city and town offices, plus some judgeships, on November 3. Right now, it looks like maybe two or three of these campaigns are going to be strongly contested by both major parties. Maybe. The parties aren’t playing fair with the people of Nassau County, which is a big part of why this county has run up a streak of disturbingly low voter turnouts. None of New York’s larger counties have had fewer incumbents defeated or even seriously challenged since 2000.
1. This is being written minutes after it was made official that Senator Pedro Espada is back with the State Senate Democrats, as the party’s floor leader, no less. Over the past several weeks, Democratic Senators made some public statements about Senator Espada that could not be written in this newspaper without checking with counsel. Senator Craig Johnson’s mass e-mails made several highly negative references to the “Espada Republicans.” Now, Democrats, Mr. Espada is all ours again, as Majority Leader.
In February 1932, petitions were circulated to begin the process of incorporating the Wheatley Villa neighborhood and a few other North Westbury properties lying between Jericho Turnpike and the Northern State Parkway. This was kept on the lowdown, but word got out with the petition drive only two signatures short of the required number, and residents living south of the parkway and north of the railroad sprung into action. They wanted village services and didn’t want to lose the excellent Wheatley Villa tax base. Within a couple of days, this Middle Westbury group printed and circulated their own petitions calling for a village between Jericho Turnpike and the railroad tracks, filing the petitions at the Town Clerk’s office before the North Westbury group knew what was happening. Meanwhile, the people living south of the railroad tracks were ready to organize opposition to any village that left them out. The one thing that all three groups agreed on was that the neighborhood on the other side of the cemetery, described in a contemporary newspaper article as “a large section populated by Americans of foreign birth,” should not be in the village.
To give you an idea of how messed up things are for State Senate Democrats as this is being written, their gay pride event scheduled in Manhattan yesterday was protested by (wait for it) gay pride organizations. I can’t read that line without giggling.
1. A reader wants to know if it is legal for Nassau County to borrow money through bonds to pay for the cost of employee retirement incentives. The very short answer: No. That’s why a special law must be passed by the state legislature authorizing the action. Villages, towns, school districts and other taxing districts borrow money all the time without state legislative action, but only for purposes already outlined in law. This is a special situation which a local government cannot take on its own authority. Whether or not long-term borrowing to meet personnel expenses is a good idea is another question.
In the end, the State Senate Democrats were greedy, and they’re paying for it. Even if by the time you read this, they have made whatever deal or paid whatever blackmail to regain a 32nd seat and technical “control” (whatever that means at this point), they got greedy and now it all smells rancid and ruined.
Several weeks ago, a guy named Travers who lives just off Route 43 in Rensselaer County (just across the Hudson River from Downtown Albany) was moving some things around in the attic of his house. He came across two old books with pages filled with a beautiful old handwriting. He had just found the official records of what is now the City of Rensselaer and two adjacent townships covering the years 1796 to 1802. The records include meeting minutes, tax records, ordinances and a treasure trove of genealogical information about local families. They had been lost since at least the 1840s. The records, which have been turned over to local officials, may have been in the house when the Travers family bought it generations ago.
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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org