Monday, July 6, 2009

Primer for Tomorrow's Meeting

I realize that many people who are attending tomorrow's meeting have not been to Town Hall before. So, let's take a minute to review what is exactly happening and some of the mundane things people need to remember when attending.

Time and Location

10:30 AM

Hempstead Town Hall
Nathan Bennett Pavilion
1 Washington Street
Hempstead, NY 11550

Meeting Purpose

The Town Board will vote on whether the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) is "suitable for public review." If the document is deemed strong enough to move forward, this will kick off a mandatory 45-day public comments period. During this time, stakeholders may write to the Town of Hempstead with comments on the project and the DGEIS, and at least one public hearing will be held.

According to SEQRA, the Lead Agency (Town of Hempstead) must give at least 14 days notice in a public forum (such as a newspaper) announcing a public hearing under the environmental review.

Telegraphing the Punch?

Newsday has officially thrown me for a loop. A piece running in yesterday's issue claimed that public hearings for the Lighthouse Project were scheduled for August 4. Chris Botta ran with this, saying the hearing was meant to be an all-day affair starting at 9:30 AM at Hempstead Town Hall. Katrina from the Lighthouse put this information up on her Twitter feed this morning, and believing it to be official confirmation I dutifully re-Tweeted it.

Now, reading the piece again, I don't know what to believe. Look at the exact quote:
On Aug. 4, the Hempstead Town Board is expected to hear concerns from local government officials, representatives from involved agencies such as the state departments of Transportation, Health and Environment; the Uniondale school district; and residents near the site. - Newsday
That doesn't exactly sound like a public hearing to me. Combined with awkward wording and other factual inaccuracies (the piece falsely claimed the meeting was today when it is in fact tomorrow), I am skeptical that this is the correct news. We have heard no formal details in addition to what Chris Botta has said, sources sounded as confused as I am, and the hearing is not on the Town of Hempstead's official calendar.

I have two key take-aways from this. First of all, this clearly shows that nothing is official and you still need to attend the hearing tomorrow. Second of all, this is another in a long line of interesting developments. Candidates of questionable strength have been nominated to run against Tom Suozzi (Legis. Ed Mangano) and Kate Murray (Kristen McElroy - who currently does not have a campaign infrastructure in place), the sniping in the press has stopped, Sen. Schumer involved himself in the process earlier than one of his top aides told me he would, and now the media is reporting an event that hasn't officially been deemed necessary as scheduled? Astute reader Oliver pointed out on Point Blank that this smells a bit like a backroom deal, and I'm very interested to hear some of the mechanics in play here.

Attending the Meeting

For those who are not familiar with the layout of the Town Hall complex, I've made this handy map (courtesy of Google Earth and some Powerpoint call-out boxes - click to see full size):

To my knowledge, all of the public lots are metered, and the farthest walk to Town Hall is roughly 1000 feet (from the back of the topmost parking lot, measured by Google Earth). This will likely be a full meeting, so people are advised to get there as early as they can to both ensure a decent parking spot and guarantee an early chance to speak.

Nuts and Bolts

When you get to the Nathan Bennett Pavilion, immediately see one of the people (usually an officer) holding index cards. Here, you can fill out your name, address, the issue you care about (Lighthouse), and check a box if you wish to speak on the issue. The public is able to speak here.

This will be held within a normal Town Board meeting, so expect about 45 minutes of deliberations that have nothing to do with the Lighthouse. There will be zoning issues heard first, with individual chances for people to speak, and the Town Board will vote independently. Then, issues on the second page of the docket will be grouped together (sans the Lighthouse) and voted on by acclimation. The Lighthouse will close the meeting, and at this point we will have a chance to get our voices heard.

Remember, the stated goal of this meeting is to determine whether the DGEIS is suitable for public comment. Please be sure to mention that the burden of being complete and correct only falls on the Final Environmental Impact Statement, and SEQRA intends for public comments to play the largest role in determining that final scope. Moving the process into public comments fulfills the letter and the spirit of the law, and it is the right move.

If You Can't Make It

Blogger doesn't seem to work all too well on my iPhone, so instead of liveblogging I will be live-Tweeting the event (@LetThereBeLH). You can get updates either by checking the Twitter feed in the top-right corner of this site or clicking the link and following me on Twitter.

Chris Botta will also likely be there live-blogging the event. As always, I will be back later tomorrow with key observations and take-aways from the day's festivities.

I can feel the momentum, and I hope the proverbial train continues to gather steam tomorrow.

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


  1. at this point, if that's what it takes, fine.