Taking its cues from the governor, whose school plans revolve vaguely around “consolidation and streamlining,” the Board of Regents has proposed the creation of regional high schools, fed students by local school districts. They’re calling this “partial consolidation,” but we’ve been there and done that. Central High Schools of exactly this type were invented specifically for Nassau County in 1917. They worked, but evolving suburban challenges passed them by, so we stopped creating them.
Sewanhaka Central High School (1926), Valley Stream Central High School (1932) and Wellington C. Mepham Central High School (1934) were “fed” by three or four districts with elementary schools only. None of the feeder districts could afford to build or maintain their own high school, and this new arrangement, unique at the time to Nassau County, made sense.
1. What’s the most troubling part of last week’s sudden tax deal in Albany? Is it the total secrecy and record speed in which it was adopted, or the near-universal mislabeling of the episode in the daily media as “higher taxes for the wealthy,” “effective bipartisan leadership,” and everything else for which Superman has fought?
2. I think the worst part is, once again, everyone gets to declare that the problems are solved. Last summer, we were all commanded to cheer the budget deal that already has a $3.5 billion hole, and counting.
The state legislature passed the automobile speed regulation bill and it was signed into law on March 28, 1902. It was huge. In fact, it was sometimes referred to as “the famous Cocks Automobile Law,” named for State Senator William Willets Cocks. In 1901, Member of Assembly G. Wilbur Doughty had sponsored a version that passed the Assembly, but Senator Cocks was seen as the prime mover who personally rounded up influential citizens and officials to go to Albany and ask for relief. In one swoop he became a legislative star. In 1904, he was elected to Congress, where he also achieved some fame as “the Quaker Congressman” and, in particular, as President Roosevelt’s own representative. Years later, Doughty was the mastermind and moving force behind the Republican organization that finally overtook Nassau Democrats in 1917 and destroyed them as a threat within two years. Some of the ruthless legislative maneuvers were challenged in court, and successfully defended by the county’s special legal counsel, M. Linn Bruce. So we have a kind of circle. There were other circles.
“The township of North Hempstead has 100 miles of macadam roads, constructed at a cost of $1,000,000. These were built for the use of the farmers of the township to enable them to get their produce to the New York markets. With good roads they are able to carry bigger loads and get bigger profits…the farmers of North Hempstead have been driven off their highways, which are now almost monopolized by millionaire automobilists…”
These are the opening words of Mr. M. Linn Bruce, speaking on behalf of the town and county governments of Nassau County before the State Senate Codes Committee in Albany early in 1902. His measured and persuasive testimony was published around the state. Many were impressed. Though he had never formally held a public or political position, he was elected Chairman of the Manhattan Republicans the next year. In 1904, he was elected New York’s Lieutenant Governor.
Wheeling, or bicycling, was huge in the 1880s. “Wheelmen” clubs were forming everywhere. Success Pond was a favorite excursion destination, and not just because of the beautiful views of the sun reflecting off of still, mirrored sheet of water. The pond was situated in between the macademized (hardened) Flushing-North Hempstead Turnpike and the planked Jamaica-Jericho Turnpike. It was also the point where stagecoach lines met, and the smaller roads in the immediate vicinity were kept in pretty good shape.
The party’s over.
If a whole lot of absentee ballots pour in by the end of this week, we may luck out and hit or come close to 23 percent turnout. In a time of legitimate crisis, when county residents want to understand, when they need options, choices and ideas, when there should be critical public discussions and debates, our political parties have turned off three out of four who have bothered to register.
The Brooklyn Eagle, which in 1902 considered itself to be Long Island’s newspaper of record, described Lake Success as “the favorite retreat for boating and skating parties for years among the country folk thereabouts.” The lake was also the final vestige of the old Town of Hempstead and the shared natural resources around which the town developed.
When the state legislature split North Hempstead from South Hempstead in 1784, it only split them politically. The fisheries, clam and oyster beds and public meadows would continue to be shared by residents of both towns. After more than 40 years of bickering, the courts finally granted a total divorce in 1828. The advancing economy of North Hempstead was no longer geared to the salt marshes and meadows, but to selling excess bounty in the busy markets of Flushing, Jamaica and Brooklyn. In 1830, North Hempstead became the first New York town to sell off its common lands.
“You may get drowned in it there/And sent to regions of despair.”
Bloodgood H. Cutter wrote a lengthy poem about Lake Success and the public battle then being fought over it in 1902. At the time, this “Poet Farmer” was among Long Island’s most famous individuals because his friend, Mark Twain, wrote about his fairly awful poetry in a best-selling book. Cutter, who lived much of his life a short distance from the former Success Pond and fished there as a boy, used his cornpone image to parlay an inherited grist mill into a local real estate empire. The image did not match reality.
With millions of Americans feeling increasingly lost, a thousand points of light emanate from Lower Manhattan, many in sleeping bags. Despite weeks of outright slander and ridicule directed at Occupy Wall Street, they have given a voice to the growing frustration in this country that some powerful people are doing bad things and good people aren’t able to stop them.
Some pretty sharp people down there have been organizing food, toilets, extra clothes, medical care and even reading material. If you want to recruit talented organizers for business or government, I’d suggest setting up a job fair right there at Zuccotti Park (formerly called “Liberty Plaza Park).
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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: email@example.com