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From The Desk Of Senator Jack Martins

Say No To Attica University   

If you’re a Seinfeld fan like me, you’ll probably remember the episode “Bizarro Jerry,” in which the gang’s world seems strangely inversed. The writers were apparently inspired by the Bizarro World found in the old DC comic books where good and sensible things were shunned and stupidity and recklessness were embraced.  

 

I think I work in Bizarro Albany sometimes, especially after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent proposal to give convicted felons free college educations on our taxpayer dime. Our governor has actually proposed providing prison inmates with free associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and he’s serious. His public relations machine is already out in full force.    

 

They claim it’s to reduce recidivism, the rate at which released inmates return to prison and base it on one very small, privately funded inmate college program that produced 250 graduates. (There are more than 55,000 inmates in New York.) Their recidivism rate was about 4 percent, compared to the state-wide average 41 percent. But most agree the results were inherently flawed as those inmates were already focused on improving themselves and were the least likely to return to prison.  

 

In any case, we all understand the value of inmate rehabilitation and as I’ve said before, society benefits when you educate anyone. But let’s get real. It may be you reading this column, or it may be a friend or neighbor, but we all know someone being crushed by sacrifice to send their kids to college. They’re refinancing their homes, borrowing against pensions, working countless hours of overtime and two or three jobs. And it’s still not enough. Our children are graduating and starting their lives with astonishing debt, the total surpassing $1 trillion nationally.   

 

Tuition at private universities jumped 474 percent from 1970 to 1990. In 1980, it commanded about 26 percent of the median family income while in 2004, it was 56 percent. 

 

Why not give families who are putting their children through college a reasonable tax credit? Or at least extend it to those working full-time, like single moms, to put themselves through school. Or even minimally lower the cost of our state university.  We could restore funding to extend the Tuition Assistance Program to graduate students or offer low-cost, state-backed loans. I can think of countless better ways to invest in higher education, but in all of them, the taxpayer would take priority.

 

Supporters claim that the “estimated” expenditure of $5,000 per inmate will eventually save some of $60,000 per year on each felon. I suggest their time would be better spent asking why New York prisons cost as much as an Ivy-League education and then looking for savings within that system. Our first responsibility is to be good stewards of public monies, not use it to gain votes via special interests.

 

It is not coincidence that the governor’s proposal dovetails with a recent national effort to change how convicted felons regain their right to vote. Traditionally, government demands a waiting period with the understanding that if you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you should hardly have the right to shape it for everyone else. This common sense, social contract is now being assailed by partisan groups trying lure a potential new voting bloc.  

 

New York has a long and venerable tradition of taking care of our most vulnerable, but this is simply ill-conceived. If they wanted to make a difference, they’d focus on getting inner city schools on track to give real opportunities and avoid prison all together.

 

Please sign the petition on my website at http://www.nysenate.gov/webform/say-no-taxpayer-funded-college-inmates-3 and say no to Attica University.  


News

While this year’s New Hyde Park Street Fair takes place one day before the first official day of fall, the event keeps the spirit of summer alive a little longer for the 20,000-25,000 attendees. 

 

Organizers are looking to up the ante for the 19th annual event on Saturday, Sept. 20, with the usual clowns and crafts supplemented by a petting zoo, pony rides and a new children’s carnival, from New Hyde Park-based Send in the Clowns.

 

“We try to capatilize on all the elements of the fair that work and modify ones that need work,” said New Hyde Park Village Board Research Assistant/Fair

Coordinator Janet Bevers. “The fair has been in place for 19 years now so in essence we follow a similar format. We invite all the village merchants to participate.”

 

The pony rides will be stationed near the Green Meadow Farms petting zoo on Lakeville Road, with the carnival setting up shop in the village’s Central Boulevard parking lot.

 

“It’s exciting to see a local company taking on a big piece of the fair,” Bevers said.

 

Fair reps expect at least 220 vendors to line the street fair this year. In the fair’s inaugural outing in 1995, just 90 craft vendors showed up.

 

“I think it’s one of the biggest events in Nassau County,” Queens-based Craft-A-Fair President Tony Ciuffo said. “The fair accentuates the local merchants.

Every year it gets more and more exciting. I expect new vendors this year. Around 25 percent of the vendors will be new this year.”

 

Each year, vendors rent space on the turnpike from New Hyde Park Road, continuing west to Covert Avenue. Last year, a few extra blocks were added near Lakeville Road.

 

Former trustee Florence Lisanti was one of the first organizers of the street fair, who trustee Donald Barbieri commended for leading the charge.

 

“[The fair] is a great day for the community,” he stated. “We’re proud to have all our local organizations along the turnpike. The merchants get to showcase what they do. We are very proud of the street fair.”

 

Local merchants, Greater New Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce members, charity and service groups can set up tables on the sidewalk free of charge, Bevers said.

 

“We view the fair as the premiere street fair on Long Island,” Bevers stated. “It goes about a square mile. The community feel to the fair is crucial. It’s a big fair and still retains its local charact

Drivers—get ready to slow down. Nassau County is currently in the process of installing school zone speed cameras in an effort to enhance safety by encouraging drivers to travel with caution, as well as support law enforcement efforts to crack down on violators and prevent accidents caused by speeding.

Nassau County officials say Sewanhaka High School will receive a camera on Covert Avenue, which spans the eastern stretch of the property. Tulip Avenue runs in front of the high school and was also considered. Cameras could begin operation in September.


Sports

New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis d’Arnaud brightened the day for some patients at Cohen Children’s Medical Center last week in New Hyde Park, posing for pictures and handing out gifts and autographs. The players hung out with the kids in the afternoon, playing video games and answering questions.

They also found the time to make the rounds, stopping by bedsides to spread some cheer. Mr. Met also joined the tour and was a big hit with the children, who peppered him with questions about everything from his four-fingered hand to the whereabouts of the missing Mrs. Met.

The Sewanhaka Indians football team has a season of change in store.

The Indians have moved up from Conference III to Conference II, due to an increase in enrollment, and are set to face teams that they have never seen before, according to head coach George Kasimatis.

“It is hard to gauge where we will be in this conference,” he said. “There is a lot of uncertainty as where we fit in.”


Calendar

Library Board Meeting

Thursday, Aug. 28

Welcome Reception

Wednesday, Sept. 3

Herricks School Meeting

Thursday, Sept. 4



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com