Thursday, April 2, 2009

Amateur Hour in Hempstead

I keep trying to finish our series on SEQR, but as long as the Town of Hempstead keeps doing strange things I have to delay it. Expect an interesting announcement tomorrow, follow-up coverage Saturday or Sunday, and the last part of our SEQR series to air on Monday (unless there's an interesting piece in Newsday this Sunday).

Town of Hempstead's Propaganda

I have seen some strange things in my life, but this has to be right up there with the strangest of them:

Islanders Fans First

This amateurish site, thinly veiled in the beginning as a fan site, is the Town of Hempstead's official site to petition Tom Suozzi for stimulus funds to rebuild the Coliseum. The holes in this story are numerous, but let's discuss a few anyway:

First, the Lighthouse is NOT seeking a shortcut through the environmental review process. There are only provisions that the review must be thorough and correct, with no stated time limit. The Town of Hempstead is bald-faced lying on this.

Second, stimulus money does not grow on trees. There have been many pieces, such as the piece in the Washington Post from yesterday, detailing the great lengths President Obama and his budget director, Peter Orszag, are going to watch how stimulus money is being spent. New York has been flagged for close inspection, and the President would never approve $400 million for a sports arena. Can't you just hear John McCain, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Bobby Jindal, and other conservative leaders on Meet the Press telling David Gregory how irresponsible the President was in wasting $400 million on a sports arena when he advocated investment? Can't you see the commercials? Can't you see half the Republicans running in the 2010 midterm elections bringing this up, again and again? Can't you see it following Barack Obama for the rest of his political life that he spoke of investment and then approved $400 million for a sports arena when a private proposal was on the table? Let's get real, folks. Kate Murray is making an empty offer she has no power to make and cannot back up with results. End of story.

Third, the timeline is wrong. The Town of Hempstead received the re-zoning application in late 2007, not 2008. You can see this on the Lighthouse site if you wish.

Fourth, the Lighthouse Project was already approved by the landowner. Charles Wang and Scott Rechler are trying to receive a change in land zoning so they can build the project that was approved by Nassau County. Charles Wang is not holding Long Island hostage, and the Town of Hempstead should not hold him hostage by demanding he make concession after concession through the media and ridiculous attempts like this "fan site" rather than opening up a real dialogue to get things done.

Finally, why the sudden concern for Islanders fans? Kate Murray and her aides have been dismissing Lighthouse supporters as "merely" Islanders fans for months now. Every piece from pliant media outlets has tried to create the story that only Islanders fans want this project and are shoving it down everyone else's throat. After all the dismissive behavior, do they honestly expect us to believe they suddenly care about our Islanders?

I look at this site, and I finally have to say it...Does Kate Murray think we're stupid?

And isn't this the same Kate Murray who a week ago said she could not appear to take a position on the project while her attorney, David Levy, wrote in a Newsday op-ed that the Town of Hempstead would be "judge, jury, and executioner" of the Lighthouse?

If showing up to a public meeting or doing a thorough environmental review at a faster pace is breaking the law, what is deliberately misleading the public and suggesting unilateral changes to a project on which you are supposed to be "judge, jury, and executioner"?

What's most interesting about this - according to an astute reader who did some detective work (thanks, you know who you are), this domain name was registered by proxy on March 22 - 4 days before the meeting. The Town of Hempstead has been planning this for a long time, and they are clearly trying to foment opposition and dissent.

Hempstead is NOT a "Small Town"

The Town of Hempstead's sheer size baffles me on this front. Take a look at this list of the 50 most populous cities in the United States. If it were included on this list, the Town of Hempstead would be the 14th largest city in the country, slightly ahead of San Francisco and substantially ahead of cities like Boston, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Washington, DC, and Albuquerque (which may or may not be the home of the illustrious Islander505).

Despite the large population and ability to affect major change, the Town of Hempstead seems at times to want to act like a small town. People like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (San Francisco) and former Sen. Norm Coleman (St. Paul) have been mayors of cities with a smaller population than the Town of Hempstead, and George Pataki became a successful governor of New York after running the thriving metropolis of Peekskill, NY. Where is that level of leadership here? When I look at the way some of these politicians act I think of this guy:

You know what, as funny as that video is, there's one very valid point. The Town of Hempstead may want to be small, but that does not mean our ideas have to be small. It is time to move forward with big ideas and stop this ridiculous political tug-of-war that clearly does not have the best interests of voters at heart. I could not picture any of those cities starting amateurish web sites to push their agenda while hiding in public, and we should not accept it from our leaders, either.

Playing With Goats While Rome Burns

The Town of Hempstead does have one major advantage to acting small - lower visibility. Despite being the largest civil township in the United States, it is not treated like a major player on the national stage. Could you imagine the constant haranguing from Jon Stewart or cable news pundits if Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco was thumbing his nose at private investment to play with some goats? How would it play in Massachusetts if Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston was holding up a needed project just to embarrass some Republicans? If Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington, DC ignored private investment and asked for a government hand-out, would the press ignore it? And why should it be any different here? Why should we stand idly by while our elected leader flouts her own rules and continues to mount a campaign that insults the intelligence of every thinking citizen? Short answer: we should not.

I have not lost all hope that something could be done here, but things are looking dire. That is the point of The Dip - discouragement because our efforts to advocate the Lighthouse seem to be running into a brick wall. All is not yet lost, and despite these confusing actions we are not clearly in a cul-de-sac. We can move forward, this way:

So, What Does This Mean?

The bottom line is this - we, as voters, need to stand up and hold the leaders we elected accountable. The Town of Hempstead is not a major news story, so we cannot expect the media to ride in like the cavalry and call attention to it. The cavalry, in this case, is not coming.

We must be the cavalry.

We must be the predators who emerge from the shadows while the Town of Hempstead is preoccupying itself with dwarf goats.

We must make it clear that elected leaders serve at the pleasure of the people, not the other way around.

We must call the Town of Hempstead and demand our voices be heard.

We must write letters to Newsday and any other major media outlet who might care pointing out the Town's misstatements.

We must do this in a respectful way, always keeping it on the ideas and the way the Town of Hempstead is acting rather than the character of those doing it.

We must look into ways to conduct a live demonstration. I know many Lighthouse supporters have been holding back in an attempt to show respect, but the Town clearly is not showing us respect. We must make our numbers known, since politicians respond to votes more than anything else.

President Obama liked to say during the campaign that We are the ones we have been waiting for. Truer words have never been spoken; if we want to move our Island forward, we must fight for it.

Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me.


  1. I love the timeline on the site:


  2. i have two word for everyone.. FLASH MOB!! i think the perfect location for it is at the town of hempstead board meeting on april 14th at 10:30AM.. ms. murray will be in attendance.

  3. i plan on going the 14th. i say we plan a massive protest that day and storm the castle.
    no more respect because they don't respect us.

  4. What a disgrace that web site is! It will be very interesting to hear how many people actually do sign their "petition". Of course we probably will never know for sure, because they will either inflate the number, or never release it becaue it will be embarrassingly low number.

  5. Nick,
    I hope you read this, but you might want to do an investigation on SMG (Spectacor Management Group) and Alfonse D'Amato. Their relationship and I understand that D'Amato's has a close person who is on SMG's payrole. This might be one of the reasons why the TOH is acting the way they do. D'Amato still has a lot of power along with Joseph Mondello. I can't really get involved with an investigation because I have family members that work for the town and I don't want them to lose their jobs, but somebody please look into all this. I'm gonna post this on Botta's blog as well.