Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Odds and Ends - Interviews, Phone Calls, "Conflicts of Interest"

We have a few Lighthouse-related things to discuss on this Friday afternoon:

Suozzi on The FAN

This morning, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi was on Boomer Esiason's radio show discussing the Lighthouse Project (listen here). I am not an active listener of the FAN, but if Boomer conducts his show in the same way he conducted this interview, I may have to become one. Boomer came off as informed on the subject, asking important, thought-provoking questions that showed both his level of preparedness and his interest in seeing this project completed as a concerned resident of Nassau County.

The County Executive echoed Charles Wang's call for certainty by the next hockey season, though he also seemed to loosen the definition of "certainty." I was told by sources within the Lighthouse that "certainty" meant "approval of the re-zoning application," but Mr. Suozzi seems to have left that door slightly ajar:

"We want to find out after all this time whether the Town of Hempstead is going to approve it or not." - Tom Suozzi (Source: Interview)

Could this mean that assurances of approval will be enough? Stay tuned...

I was glad to hear Mr. Suozzi mention the need for and benefit of the environmental review procedures. This process is state law, and it has been the largest consumer of time so far in the Lighthouse process. All supporters need to understand there is nothing the Town or County can do to circumvent state law, they can merely follow through on promises to fast-track the necessary steps.

Mr. Suozzi revealed he had meetings with the Lighthouse today to set a schedule for approvals running through the end of the year, and he touched briefly on Kate Murray as well. While refusing to criticize her directly, the County Executive sounded frustrated that Kate Murray has been so unwilling to directly discuss the Project with him, saying that she "does not discuss individual projects." This leads directly into our next component...

Kate Murray Responds

In a piece just posted on Newsday's web site (available here), Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray continued her baffling reticence on all things Lighthouse.

If Tom Suozzi's statements are accurate, Kate Murray's reluctance to speak with him about the Lighthouse is alarming. She supposedly does not speak about individual projects, but Mr. Suozzi is not a developer, and this is not my neighbor's new pool or the County Legislature's new chambers. This is the biggest building project since Levittown, and executing it requires commitments and communication from all involved parties.

Tom Suozzi mentioned in his WFAN interview that he invited Kate Murray to today's scheduling meeting with the Lighthouse, and the Supervisor was not willing to show up. Ms. Murray responded to this statement, and proved she will almost certainly not be in attendance at the meeting next Thursday. She told Newsday that she believed the ongoing review processes presented a conflict of interest, using this legal analogy:

"It would be like the judge in a criminal trial having lunch with the prosecutor and not inviting the defense attorney," she said, adding that her staff and the developers' staff have met repeatedly. (From the Newsday story linked above)

This quote may be the most confusing that has come from the Town of Hempstead so far. The meeting is not a time to say Yea or Nay to the Lighthouse; it is a public information session that is billed as a chance for voters to become informed and ask questions of politicians. The trial analogy especially confuses me, since the following parties are confirmed for the meeting:
  • Nassau County Officials
  • Lighthouse Principals
  • Voters
The only party missing, Supervisor, is you. Even if you truly believed there was a conflict of interest in attending such a public forum, this does not excuse your repeated absences from hearings your government has held on the Project. Voters want to hear from you, and they do not deserve your reticence. I truly believe the ill will you have engendered is a result of behavior like this, and half of this would go away if you would simply stand up and say what Tom Suozzi has said: You understand there needs to be development on the Lighthouse site. The current proposal will bring much-needed jobs and investment to the area, and you are committed to working out a mutually-beneficial solution. While speed is important, you are committed to going through the state-mandated review processes judiciously.

Supervisor, as I posted below, it is time for you to own your silence and face the voters who elected you. Statements like these are causing your Lighthouse problems, and they could very well be jeopardizing your political career. Stop selling this ridiculous meme, because nobody is buying it.

(Blogger's Note: I remain optimistic this project will be built when all is said and done, but that did not guarantee smooth sailing)

Nassau GOP

As promised, I followed up with the Nassau County Republican Party today. I called and spoke to a very nice woman, telling her I was interested in learning the Party's official position on the Lighthouse Project. I left a message for an official who could speak on the issue to call me back, and I will report details when I receive them. However, she did suggest I call Kate Murray's office and said, on the topic of an official position, "I don't know if we have one." If that ends up being the case, it is the most intriguing answer of them all.

I will pass along the official response from the Republican Party when I receive it.


I hate to sound like a broken record on this subject, but these recent events underscore the importance of voters attending the public information session next Thursday (3/26) at 7PM at the Long Island Marriott. The elected officials must see the true fervor and passion that the Lighthouse engenders from those who care deeply about the future of our Island.

I am also asking readers to begin a friendly campaign. Please, if you can, click on the link to the left entitled "Town of Hempstead Contact Page." Give the Town of Hempstead a call, identify yourself, and say in a clear but non-threatening way that you believe Kate Murray should appear before voters and share her thoughts on the Lighthouse Project.

Please, if you come, do not wear Islanders gear of any kind, because it is not in our best interests to further a negative stereotype. We need to make clear that this is for Long Islanders, not the Islanders.

Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Feedback.


  1. would i be able to speak even though im 16? I am a supporter of the project not just the Islanders and i would like to voice my opion as a youth on long island

  2. Who is she representing in this??? It doesn't make any sense because her comments sound like she is a total incompetent. She must be representing someone with the stance she has taken, any thoughts?

  3. Ya know Nick, I asked the Republican party the same thing last week in separate emails to the young republicans and the official republican committees of Seaford and Wantagh. Not one of them answered besides the Young Republicans and they told me to find out from the Nassau County party, whom also didn't respond. haha what a run-around. AS a registered republican, i can't wait to vote out Kate Murray!!!

  4. HF24 - if you want to say something, nobody has the right to stop you.

    Mike 8 - there are a lot of possibilities here, and I would rather keep the focus on things she has done than speculating. It is possible she is representing an interest, but I don't know what. We have not heard any group, public or private, come out against the Lighthouse, and while there is opposition it's largely disillusioned Islanders fans who don't want to know anything beyond the hockey implications and the usual NIMBY people who wail about traffic.

    Let's remember something...the West Side Stadium, and New York's 2012 Olympic Bid, were basically killed by one person, Sheldon Silver, despite huge pressure to get it done. This does not mean that we need to demonize or threaten Kate Murray. It means we need to show up to these meetings, make our support clear, and make sure local officials know this is a voting issue for us.

  5. Thanks, Im a big supporter of this project but there's some real strange stuff going on here. I heard Suozzi admit it took the county 6 years to approve this project. Is that correct? If thats the case, why didn't Wang make deadlines then to speed things up. It seems he's making deadlines now despite the fact that TOH has moved forward with things such as the environmental review. Could it be just a political play by Suozzi/Wang to make it appear he's the good guy and Murray is the hold up. It has worked like a charm because Murray appears to be a total incompetent. Just a thought,,

  6. Mike - here is a rough timeline:

    Fall 2004: Project unveiled
    Early 2005: 60-story building removed
    2005: Nassau County decides to pull back and issue an RFP
    2006: Lighthouse wins RFP
    November 2007: Town of Hempstead receives re-zoning application
    Spring 2008: Environmental Review Begins
    February 2009: Draft Environmental Impact Statement submitted

    Kate Murray has not been a delay on the process TO THIS POINT, but she has a history of dragging her feet without pressure (read: Courtesy Hotel and Bellmore Army Base). It could be a pre-emptive strike, it could be politicizing the project in advance of the Town doing it, it could be many things. I can say this, though: Kate Murray is playing right into their hands if your theory is correct. My issue with Kate Murray is the confusing statements she's made and her utter refusal to attend meetings about the project, even ones organized by her own government.

    Thanks for reading.

  7. Nick ... That is my issue with Kate Murray... her enigmatic statements. Not the pace of the Environmental Review Process ... I understand the State required SEQRA process, and the fact that the TOH is moving at record pace to review the 6,000 page document to answer the possible issues in advance. So I'm a little more relaxed about this than most others who have inflamed emotions regarding Kate Murray's "progress" with the Light House Project.

    To me Kate's statement about the conflict of interest doesn't make sense and doesn't hold any water. These public information sessions are to educate both the supporters and opponents of the Light House Project ... it isn't a single tent issue. Kate can participate just as any citizen would for "INFORMATION" ... perhaps she can even provide a little assurance about her role in the decision making and explain to those that don't understand the complexities of the process why she cannot take a position as a representitive of the town until the process is played out.

    She can also add that no matter what the outcome is at the end of the day she will work with the County & TLHG to come up with a mutually agreeable solution to any issues that arise.

    Makes sense ... doesn't it?

  8. Couldn't have said it better, my friend. I plan to write about that later today.