Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Always Watch the Graphic

There is suddenly a lot to talk about with the Lighthouse and Islanders Country as a whole. Let's get right to it:

RIP Roy Boe

Roy Boe, the original owner of the New York Islanders, passed away on Sunday at the age of 79. He always deserves to be remembered as the man who brought major league sports to Long Island, and a man whose imagination was bigger than his checkbook. He will be missed.

No Charles Wang/Mike Francesa Update

Charles Wang's indefinitely postponed interview with Mike Francesa has not yet been re-scheduled. I will provide updated information as soon as I receive it.

Lighthouse to Update Nassau County on Thursday

The Lighthouse group will stop by the Nassau County Legislative Chamber (1550 Franklin Avenue, Mineola, NY) this Thursday to give an update to the Nassau County Planning Commission. This is a check-point from the County's perspective and yet more proof that the necessary work has been proceeding in parallel.

This meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 PM, and it is open to the public. Charles Wang and Tom Suozzi are both expected to be in attendance

Newsday Editorial Board Shares My Caution

The Newsday Editorial Board released an opinion today discussing the important steps forward in Friday's meeting, but they also presented an even-handed view of the overall scenario. They acknowledge that many people are concerned that Kate Murray's new policy of openness is conveniently timed for the coming election and may wane afterwards. I share this concern, and I hope the Town of Hempstead's positive signals continue and prove that this is more than just electoral posturing.

While I agree with this editorial, I do have to take issue with one bit of wording here. The Editorial Board again pushes the classic meme by claiming the Town of Hempstead moved the Lighthouse process forward due to pressure from "Islanders fans and labor unions." I won't deny that many pro-Lighthouse voters are Islanders fans, and I also can't deny that organized labor has been strongly in favor of the Lighthouse since union workers will be employed in the construction. However, we need to take a more expansive view here. The Lighthouse is an important project for the future of all Long Island, and it needs to be spoken of in that expansive way rather than through the narrow lenses of hockey and labor.

An Important Roadmap for Progress

Chris Botta had an interesting revelation on Islanders Point Blank yesterday - there was a second Lighthouse meeting on Friday, out of the view of the news cameras. Jeff Forcelli (counsel to Tom Suozzi), Joe Ra (Hempstead Town Attorney), Michael Picker (Lighthouse President), and Terri Elkowitz (Lighthouse SEQRA Expert) all sat down at the county seat to discuss next steps. This is the strongest signal yet that all sides may have finally made peace and that the good feelings may have been more than a photo-op.

Hearing about this meeting makes me more confident that we will see public hearings this summer and some substantive negotiations on the final scope - remember, the Lighthouse would not have asked for the bare minimum it could deal with; they expect that some components of this would have to come out.

However, that having been said...

What Changed Last Week?

We heard a lot of positive news about the Lighthouse, and it came like a drink of water after a week in the desert. I'm right with you, it was tiring to constantly rehash how bad things looked, and I'm incredibly happy to see shoots of green sprouting out of the ground. I am more confident than I have ever been that all sides will work together toward a mutually-agreeable solution. Many people suspected that the Town of Hempstead was waiting for some signal from the other side that would give them cover to tone down the rhetoric and get down to the real business of making the Lighthouse a reality.

However, while I don't mean to rain on anybody's parade, I believe we need a quick dose of realism. First of all, this does not quelch the threat of special interests in Garden City suing for selfish reasons. Second of all, let's remember to look at the progress bar that I conveniently re-posted at the top of this entry. It is still in the same place - the sides are still reviewing the DGEIS to determine whether it's suitable for public comments. The positive meetings last week, which produced so much goodwill, had one simple outcome. They promised to have another meeting where they would discuss the possibility of moving to the next step - Public Review and Comment - which is still far away from our ultimate goal, Shovels in the Ground.

I do not want to sound like a broken record, but this bears repeating. The Town of Hempstead, Nassau County, and New York State are all saying the right things in this process. However, that is still not a substitute for doing the right thing. We will know by July 7 if all sides are truly committed to moving this forward in good faith. In the meantime, we need to be as vigilant and as committed to advocating for the Lighthouse as we were before these positive developments.

The poll on this site also confirmed my suspicion. Most people have, so far, named Kate Murray the big political winner after last week's progress, and many more are now promising to vote for and support her. You are obviously willing to vote for whomever you want - Kate Murray, Kristen McElroy, myself, BD Gallof, or anybody else. However - and we will discuss this in greater detail in the next section - please set the bar a little higher. A single week of good news does not make Kate Murray's months of obstruction and double-speak irrelevant. Instead, this history should make us wary and lead us to demand real action and change to follow-up on the promises.

Recent Events and a Reminder

I was looking for a perfect metaphor to show why politicians making positive noises means absolutely nothing, and, bless them, the New York State Senate provided it for me. Yesterday, in a scene straight out of a banana republic, Republicans staged a coup d'etat and wrested control of the State Senate back from the Democrats and former Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (Democrats won control of the State Senate in 2008 by a slim one-vote majority after literally 40 years of Republican rule). These actions took place as Democrats took many steps, including walking out, turning off the lights, and locking the doors to the Senate chamber today, to prevent Republicans from actually taking control. They are also planning lawsuits, and the general consensus is that Albany will be tied up in even greater gridlock than usual. As a taxpayer, I am outraged by this, and you should be too.

The defections were led by two Democratic State Senators, one who is under investigation for abusing his girlfriend, and another who is under investigation for violating election laws.

Now, please tell me - do you still think these politicians will, in their natural state, listen to the people and do what the people want as a default? If you do, I have some prime Florida swampland and 5 Nigerian Dwarf Goats to sell you. It is all about power and getting re-elected; we must still be vigilant and prove to these political officials that No Lighthouse = No Power.

As for the recent positive promises from the Town of Hempstead, I will make one of my favorite points - ask the people of West Hempstead how promises have helped them close and re-develop the Courtesy Hotel. Ask my community how promises have helped us re-develop the Bellmore Army Base. Talk is cheap, especially since the Town of Hempstead does not have a well-established track record. Until there is substantive action, I will treat this as yet another version of the classic line, "But the addict says he quit!"

Bottom Line

I will keep this short and sweet. Please do not be suckered into the game these politicians are playing. They are now grandstanding on the Lighthouse and trumpeting the "progress" that was made last week. Many people, who like me were utterly starved for good news about the Lighthouse, took this as a signal that we do not have to advocate as strongly anymore. This is exactly the wrong take-away. Do not let these politicians get away with mere promises of progress, because nothing can be taken as a given until there is a final deal in place. There is too strong a track record of the Town of Hempstead stalling on large developments for us to simply take them at their word in this instance. In the same vein, the recent dysfunction in Albany serves as a constant reminder that most politicians will act out of self-preservation and a desire for power. We saw movement on the Lighthouse because it became clear that voters wanted it. Now, we need to continually remind these politicians that we still want the Lighthouse.

Until the graphic says "Shovels in the Ground," our work is not over. Please don't forget that, and I look forward to seeing you on the front lines at our public events.

(Blogger's Note: My friend the 7th Woman has a wonderful post on this same subject that is worth reading as well)

(Second Blogger's Note: I will miss this Thursday's meeting due to prior commitments, but there will be plenty of coverage in the blogosphere. Stay tuned over the next few days for a response to NYI Fan's questions about the Lighthouse, an opinion piece about suburban life, and an analysis of the overall political effect of the Lighthouse for the upcoming elections)

Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me. Follow me on Twitter.


  1. aaaaccckk!! i was hoping you'd be there, because I can't be there thursday either. Shoot, guess we know where will have to get our recap from now. Pookey.

    Also, how interesting to see all these Democrats jumping ship on their party. Must be making the ToH Republicans smile like Cheshire cats.

  2. If Wang isn't going to set the record straight with Francesca, he is doing a disservice to the LHP...

    I told Nick about this is an email...I spoke with my cousin this weekend and he brought up the "monorail IDEA", I told him Francesca had said the same thing and it was only a thought on Suozzis part and he said "thats who I heard it from"...I also spoke to a co-worker this week and he also brought up "what he heard on WFAN"...

    Both of them also brought up the "why doesn't Wang just rebuild the NVMC" argument and I had to set them straight on this also

    Why wouldn't Wang do what needs to be done???

  3. Islespassion - you're 100% right that Charles Wang needs to set the record straight with Mike Francesa. I hope this is just a scheduling issue and they get him on there this week (or no later than next).

    Francesa DID stop talking about taxpayer money paying for it once he was set straight the last time, so let's see how this plays out.

  4. Nick, I'm surprised Wang would allow this to get legs by letting it fester in the minds of Francesa's listeners and allowing them to spread that BS around...The longer he waits the more damage "Mr Anti Hockey's" comments can do...Just sayin....

  5. Nick - Looking at the graphic - which approvals, if any, are more formalties that a large procees? For instance, I'm pretty sure from what I've read that the "Lease negotiations" will be rubber stamped, but how about the "Zoning Approval" and "Building Permits"? Or, is each of the items going to be a long drawn out battle? Hopefully you can shed some light on the process and what we are facing, as we have been stuck on 'Review Draft of Generic EIS' for some time now.

  6. 19 Isle in NJ 22June 11, 2009 at 4:05 PM

    Nick ... Awesome piece there!!

    I think you set the right tone.

    Although it's great to have some positive news about the lighthouse for once the fight is still far from over. Last week's armistice was just a small bit of progress ... if not an effort by the TOH to release some of the negative pressure they've felt the last few months.

    At the same time we should be rewarding Kate Murray and the TOH with the acknowledgement of their good will and promises to work with Nassau Cty, the SoNY and Light House Developers. Positive progress = positive rewards for the TOH.

    Short of gushing compliments a complimentary tone should be set for every stage that the TOH pushes the project forward.

    I look forward to seeing the Light House progress chart advance through each stage. It really shows us the reality of the progress in a quick visual way.

  7. MN - fantastic question, and when I get home (I'm on a business trip to Boston, coming back tomorrow) I will write up a full report on exactly what you're saying.

    Long story short: If the Town of Hempstead approves the re-zoning, this thing is happening.