James Bernstein

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Cloudy Forecast For Retail Sector Ahead of Black Friday

A cloud of economic uncertainty hangs over the retail sector ahead of Black Friday’s start of the holiday shopping season. (Getty Images)

By most reasonable measures, this should be a healthy shopping season for retailers. 

Unemployment remains low. The stock market, despite its occasional jitters, is still high. Wages have increased, and consumer confidence is strong. But consumers, stock markets, and the overall economy are not always reasonable.

While all the key indicators may be in a go mode, there are sufficient signs of warning that keep retailers, economists, and many consumers on alert. Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, marketing consultants in New York, is predicting a 3.4 percent gain in retail spending for this upcoming holiday season, only fractionally higher than last year’s outlay by shoppers.

“We have a mixed picture,” Flickinger says.

The traditional retailers, such as Macy’s, the Gap, and Bloomingdale’s, will continue to be severely buffeted by discounters Walmart and Costco, as well as by Amazon, as they have been for years, he says. But an array of what he calls “new concept” stores are set to fare well. These are stores that cater to personal fitness, health and beauty, and specialty food items.

Some examples:

Rent the Runway, an online service started in 2009 by two young New York women, provides designer dresses and accessory rentals. The clothing and other items are usually worn overnight and are shipped back the next day. 

“This concept is not going to take over shopping, but it’s been very successful and will continue to be as shoppers become more accustomed with a rent-a-world society,” says Steven Greenberg, president of Five Towns-based The Greenberg Group, which follows retail trends. 

Drybar, a chain of salons providing hairstyling services, such as blowouts, for women, at what are called lower prices than older outlets. Blue Apron is a food retailer based in New York City that provides its customers with pre-measured food and recipes each week. Meals, the company says, cost just under $120 for two people, for three recipes per week.

But the traditional retailers are fighting back, making better use of physical space, experimenting with technology, and dreaming up new customer services. 

Macy’s, for example, has launched its The Market @ Macy’s, earlier this year. The concept allows pop-up shops at Macy’s stores in New York and other cities, allowing brands normally available online to occupy space in a big retail store. 

“Pop-up and new store concepts are permanently part of the sales and marketing strategies of retailers and brands,” Michelle Grant, head of retailing for Euromonitor International, told the trade publication Retail Drive.

John Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business and civic organization, emphatically states that this holiday season will be a strong one, and that there is only a gnawing a perception that the economy may be sliding and that the market may take a nosedive. He says neither is likely.

“I think we’ll have a reasonably strong season,” Rizzo says. “Business conditions are solid.”

Bernice Fehringer, owner of Chocolate Works, in the tony Stony Brook Village shopping center, agrees. 

“We’re expecting a very good holiday season,” Fehringer says, adding that the store has recently begun offering a new birthday package that is popular with shoppers. “We’re already very busy with holiday orders.”

Some consumers are wary. Melissa Delano, 35, a substitute teacher and model who lives in Glen Cove, says she typically spends about $1,000 on holiday gifts. This year, she says, may be different because she has had higher medical bills. 

“Maybe I’ll spend a little less,” Delano says.  

To be sure, the stock market shivers with each mention by President Donald Trump of trade wars against China. The bond market has been gloomy, taking a pessimistic view of the long-term prospects for economic growth. 

But unemployment on Long Island remains at more than 20-year lows, at about 3.6 percent. Private sector jobs on the Island increased over the year by 6,100, or 1.5 percent (the state’s over-the-year private sector grew 1.3 percent), and hiring in the leisure and hospitality sector hit record highs, also in the middle of this year. But the uncertainty persists. 

“Business activity continued to expand, but at a slower pace than in previous months,” the usually upbeat Rizzo wrote in his most recent economic report for LIA. “The overall economy still appears to be robust, but is showing signs of weakening. Is growing uncertainty a cause of this apparent slowdown?”

Former Nassau Bar Association President Elena Karabatos: Fighting For Justice

Elena Karabatos is the immediate past president of the Nassau County Bar Association and senior partner of Schissel Ostrow Karabatos.

Elena Karabatos has been a leader of Long Island’s legal profession for decades, including a stint as president of the Nassau County Bar Association. She is the group’s immediate past president and is a senior partner at the Garden City law firm of Schissel Ostrow Karabatos, where she practices  matrimonial and family law. She was selected as one of New York’s “Super Lawyers” in the area of family law.

What is the purpose of the Nassau Bar Association? I view the Nassau Bar Association as a very special place, not only for its members, but also for the community as a whole. It is a place that provides legal professionals with the tools to build and grow their careers, shape the future of the legal profession, and provide access to justice to the community through a variety of programs. 

What significant changes have you made as president? Some of my most significant changes were expanding the Bar’s diversity and inclusion initiative, increasing membership, securing the financial stability throughout the organization and expanding our community outreach to address the legal issues facing Nassau County residents. We held mortgage foreclosure programs and open house clinics, where our members volunteered their time to provide free legal advice to those in need. We also held free community education seminars on legal issues of concern to the general public, including, but not limited to, DWI laws, real estate taxes, elder law, workplace issues, housing, family and matrimonial law, discrimination, identity theft, special education, and home improvement contracts.

What are the biggest challenges for the Bar going forward? Keeping young lawyers engaged and actively involved in the Bar. It is crucial to our profession and to our Bar Association to encourage and support the next generation of lawyers.

The Bar rates candidates for judgeships and I believe this information is available to the public. But do you think the public is aware how these decisions are made? The NCBA publicizes the results before each election. We want to assure the public that the findings regarding the qualifications for each candidate are nonpolitical, and we seek input from our membership at large in achieving that goal.

I believe the general perception is that the Bar Association, any Bar association, is a stuffy, insulated club made up of good old boys who knock back a few drinks after a day in court. Do you agree with this perception? Not at all. The legal profession as a whole has and continues to become more inclusive, and the NCBA consists of a diverse group of nearly 5,000 legal professionals, both men and women. We also launched the LGBTQ Committee, which marched in the Annual Long Island Pride Parade for the first time this year.

What do you see as the Nassau Bar’s most significant accomplishment during your term? Furthering our diversity and inclusion initiative has been one of the most significant accomplishments, and one that I am particularly proud of. 

What made you choose law as a profession? I have always viewed the legal profession as an honorable profession that truly helps people and gives them a voice when they cannot advocate for themselves. 

You practice family law. Do you feel the divorce laws in New York State are fair to all parties? One of the wonderful things about the law, and particularly in the matrimonial field, is that the law is always evolving. Through case law and legislation, our courts and legislators are constantly trying to achieve fairness to all. I am fortunate to serve on various committees throughout the state that work on exciting projects regarding new legislation and helping to reform matrimonial law, which is something I am very passionate about.

Long Island Cyber-Security Pros Fight Growing Threat of Hackers

Cyber security pros are combating the ever-growing hacker threat. (Getty Images)

The secretary at a Long Island bank was pleased with what she had just done. 

She had received what she thought was an email from her boss, asking that she transfer $28,000 to a certain account. When the boss passed her desk an hour later, she told him she had made the transfer. 

“He [the boss] turned purple and green,” recalls Ed Eisenstein, once Nassau’s County’s chief information officer and now a computer consultant in Farmingdale.

The boss, Eisenstein says, had given no such order. His email had been hacked, changed by one letter that slipped by the secretary. The money was gone.

“It all happened so fast,” Eisenstein says. “And it happens just about every single day now. It’s rampant.”

He is talking about the hacking of computers at companies across LI and the nation, which began about a dozen years ago on a relatively small scale, and has in the last few years mushroomed, and spread to ransomware — the shutting down of computer systems at municipalities and school districts. Money must be paid before they are turned back on again.

“To me,” Eisenstein says, “the hacking problem is a war against the American public.”

How bad is the problem? A recent report from the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education at the U.S. Department of Commerce says there are now openings for 313,735 people to detect and defeat hackers. By 2022, that number will soar to 1.8 million, according to a 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study.

Despite the growing need, according to industry insiders, there are only about six companies on the Island fully engaged in anti-cyber hacking. These are companies that have developed their own software devices to deal with increasingly complex hacking by nations such as Russia, China, Syria, and North Korea, carried out by professional cybergangs based in this country and around the world and young people who like to see how far they can get breaking into a computer system.

Atlas Cybersecurity in Great Neck is one of those companies, co-founded in 2017 by Benjamin Dynkin, a lawyer, and his brother, Barry, a legal researcher.

The Atlas office on the fourth floor of a nondescript building on Northern Boulevard is staffed 24/7 by a team of about a dozen experts who monitor the computer systems of the company’s mostly midsized clients for “suspicious activity,” Benjamin Dynkin, 25, says. Some of his team members spent a week aboard a client’s boat in the Atlantic Ocean. They detected that some of the boat’s 30 computers were under attack by hackers. They informed the client and secured the systems. The point, Dynkin says, is that cyber hackers know no boundaries, on land or on sea.

“The problems are getting worse because we are all becoming more connected,” says Dynkin, explaining that the more devices that are linked to one another — like a refrigerator to a home computer system — the greater the chance of crashes because of overloads of info, and the more openings for hackers to crack into systems.

The recent major hacks in the U.S. are well known: They include the city of Baltimore, 22 small towns across Texas, big banks, and credit card companies. A major change, industry experts say, is the demand for money, known as ransomware.

On Long Island, some of the better-known targets: The Rockville Centre School District paid almost $100,000 to have its data put back online. The district said it had no choice but to pay.

The Mineola Union Free School District was also hacked, but did not pay ransom, as it was able to restore files from backups.

Three Commack High School students were arrested after they allegedly broke into the school’s system and changed students’ grades and schedules.

“There’s just not enough companies on Long Island or elsewhere to mitigate the attacks,” says Lee Noriega, a co-founder of Skout Cybersecurity in Melville, a company formed in 2013. Noriega said many small businesses feel they are not profitable enough to be hacked. But, he said, 60 percent of all cyberattacks in the U.S. are against small and midsized businesses.

The New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury is one of only three schools in the region offering courses in anti-hacking, says Dr. Michael Nizich, director of NYIT’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center. NYIT, Pace University and NYU are officially certified by the National Security Agency and the Homeland Security Department to offer such courses. The three are among some 220 across the country also similarly certified.

More companies and qualified people will be moving into the field in the next few years, says Nizich, who is optimistic about an eventual solution.  He uses an example of gas lights in the 1800s. There were not enough people to light the gas lamps on the streets, he says. Ultimately, along came the light bulb. 

“There’s a clear path of history that says this doesn’t go on forever,” Nizich says.

Raj Technologies CEO Raj Mehta: The Problem Solver

Raj Mehta is CEO of Plainview-based Raj Technologies, formerly known as Infosys International.

When he came to the United States from India in 1978, Raj Mehta knew he had to make money, so he took a minimum-wage job in the Washington, D.C. suburbs before earning a computer science degree from the University of Maryland. He would soon start his own company, Infosys International in Plainview, now Raj Technologies, with just a single computer and a determination to succeed.

Your company was known as Infosys International for some 30 years. Now it’s Raj Technologies Inc. What happened? We had to reach a settlement with a big company, Infosystems of India. We had to change our name. There was no way we could fight a $12 billion company.

Was the name change difficult for you? It was definitely a lot of work. People know who we are. We have contracts with federal and state governments. I have worked hard for over 30 years and I’ve been using this name all of that time. It’s going to take some people time to adjust. All of our contracts had to be renamed, with the new name. But I also like Raj Technologies.

Why did this big company do this now? We asked this question. They said, “So what? We came after you when we did.”

What does Raj Technologies actually do? We are an information-technology company and we work primarily in the public sector and for Fortune 500 companies. What we do all depends on what the client wants. They may want to change their finance systems, or their HR systems. This means they have to change their software. So we go out and do an analysis. We implement the solutions they want. 

Is the company profitable? We are a privately held company so we don’t disclose those figures. But we are a healthy company with an excellent reputation.

When did you come to this country? In 1978, from India. I first went to Maryland. I knew I had to make money so I got a job as an accounting clerk in Maryland. I was making minimum wage, about $5 an hour.

What happened next? I went to the University of Maryland and studied computer science. I already had two bachelor’s degrees in India. After I graduated Maryland, I joined Sperry Corp. in Virginia, working on NASA programs. I worked on a lot of different government programs, including for the U.S. Air Force. I went out and made the customer happy.

How was the business started? I started the business in 1986. I had four years of savings. If I didn’t make money for four years, it wouldn’t have mattered.

How much were start-up costs? I just had to buy a computer for myself. I spent my time going out getting clients. At that time, if somebody offered me $500 I would do their job. You need to grow. You want to establish yourself. Money isn’t important. I would just say, “Give me the work.”

When did the company start to grow? I would say in the early 1990s. Until then, I had only one or two people. [Business reports say the company now has 65 employees.] But we remain basically a small, minority-owned company.

Are you finding it hard to hire qualified people in this strong economy? It is always hard to find the right people to match your culture. We are very family oriented here. We don’t have set things for people to do. Nobody says, “That’s not my job.” When we hire people, we don’t expect them to know everything. But we do expect them to find the answer to things.

You operate a television production studio that broadcasts your own show. Why? I started this six years ago. It’s a public service from me. I help a lot of people. I was thinking, “How can I help more people?” By having my own show I can give people knowledge. I interview government officials, political figures. I once interviewed a cardiac surgeon. He described the operating room. That was important for people to know.

What keeps you up at night? I think of whatever happened that day. I say, “Okay, this or that happened. Let’s move on.” Then I sleep well.

Questions Linger About Garvies Point Development in Glen Cove

On a recent late summer afternoon, Joe Graziose gently maneuvered his van across a bumpy construction site in Glen Cove that will one day be home to 1,100 residences in a waterfront section of the city known as Garvies Point.

“Beautiful,” the gravelly-voiced Graziose, an executive vice president of RXR Realty, the developer of the Garvies Point project, said of the structures rising rapidly off the waterfront during a tour of the 56-acre site, as he pointed the van toward a sliver of a creek lined with sailboats and motorboats. “It’s going to be just beautiful.”

Garvies Point and a sister project are taking shape fast, and they continue to generate both enthusiasm and criticism from residents and a city councilwoman, Marsha Silverman, who has waged a long battle against what she calls the “absurd” tax breaks RXR has received. She has also expressed reservations about the depths of environmental cleanups at Garvies Point.

Uniondale-based RXR is building not only Garvies Point, but about half a mile away, another project called Village Square, 146 market-rate rental apartments spread over 16,500 square feet of retail space in the heart of downtown Glen Cove.

“I would say that these two projects are the biggest developments in Glen Cove since urban renewal in the 1970s,” Tim Tenke, who was elected mayor by three votes in November 2017, said in a recent interview.

The two projects are going to change the face of this old North Shore city, a part of Long Island’s Gold Coast and once home to some of America’s wealthy elite, including J.P. Morgan, the Pratt family, and F.W. Woolworth. The developments are expected to add as many as 2,500 new residents to the 27,500 already there. That will mean added traffic and pressure on utilities and other infrastructure. Public schools may feel the need for additional space. There will be more calls to the city’s volunteer fire department and police force.

Garvies Point will be made up of 569 upscale condos and 541 rental units. The Garvies project includes Harbor Landing, which will have 385 rental units, and another building called The Beacon, will include 167 condos priced at about $770,000 to $2,995,000.

There will be 75,000 square feet of commercial/retail space, 2,381 parking spaces, a one-mile waterfront esplanade, a bike path, a dog park, a children’s playground, an amphitheater, marinas, a boat launch and eating spots. RXR received a $263 million tax break from Glen Cove’s Industrial Development Agency and the city’s Local Economic Assistance Corp. to build Garvies Point. In addition, the agencies approved a bond to fund parks, the esplanade, marinas and road construction. The bond will total $283 million, when interest and other costs are added. The money is to come from an estimated $615 million in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) that the developer and the owners of the condos must pay the city of Glen Cove and others, including Nassau County, the Glen Cove school district, and the public library, over four decades.

RXR received $53.9 million in construction finance for Village Square, a 2.8 acre site next to the city’s library. In addition to the 146 rental units, there will be 17,500 square feet of retail space.

Although Tenke favored the projects, he opposed the tax breaks granted RXR.

“The city will not receive more than 85 percent of the full taxes owed for 40 years,” Tenke said. “I tried to make the point this was not a good deal for Glen Cove.”

Graziose argues that the land was not on the tax roll and would never get on the tax rolls without the development.

Tenke says Glen Cove is prepared to handle the influx of people, traffic and added pressure on utilities and other infrastructure. He estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of the new apartment units will be occupied by people already living in the city. Millennials will fill up the downtown apartments. A ferry will be in place to take people to Manhattan in May 2020. He said the land at Garvies Point has been remediated. Tenke added that the city will be adding police officers and fire-fighting equipment. Glen Cove, he said, now has five wells and will be adding a sixth.

Glen Cove Councilwoman Marsha Silverman has questions about the environmental aspects of Garvies Point and the tax breaks.

“Why should we be giving tax breaks of this size to a multimillion dollar company like RXR?” Silverman said, adding that the tax breaks were “absurd.” 

Amy Peters, of the activist group Community for a Sustainable Waterfront, noted that the Garvies Point site had been home to industrial companies and junkyards for decades. All living spaces are three feet above the ground.

Living there, she said, “would be a concern for me,” despite the cleanups. Aside from Garvies Point and the Village Square, there are a spate of other new housing projects in Glen Cove and surrounding areas, Silverman noted. 

“The impact will be enormous,” she said. “And to do it all at once is mind-boggling.”

As he pulled into Garvies Point’s welcoming center, Graziose looked on the bright side.

“We took a huge tract of blighted land and we created a seaside gem,” he said.

NUMC Chairman George Tsunis: The Turnaround Man

George Tsunis is helping turn around NUMC.

George Tsunis has cut through what he sees as political patronage jobs at Nassau University Medical Center, where is now board chairman, with a buzz saw. He has cut other fat out of the hospital’s budget and is seeking a new direction for the county’s only hospital. Tsunis is a hotelier, political fundraiser, and an attorney. He lives on the North Shore of Nassau County with his wife and two children. 

The job you took Feb. 1, 2018 has a lot of challenges. Why did you accept it? I think every person in Nassau County is entitled to medical care despite their circumstances. There’s a need on Long Island to make sure we have behavioral and addictive services. I feel obligated to see to it that NUMC is a big part of that.

How have you found the job so far? I don’t come from the medical world. I took this job to clean out what I found to be the biggest political patronage pit I have ever seen. There is no place for patronage or cronyism at the hospital. We terminated about 115 patronage position and we were able to hire about 30 clinical social workers. 

Could you comment on a recent audit by the accounting firm Grant Thornton that found significant operating losses and raised “substantial doubt” about the hospital’s ability to continue as a going concern? The situation at the hospital is serious. A significant number of the patients we serve are Medicare or Medicaid patients.A number are also undocumented, with no insurance at all. We are making nothing from them. But that is part of our mission. We are not supposed to make money. The problem is state aid programs are due to sunset. I do not believe they will. I have worked very hard to see that they will be extended. But they have not as yet been.

But this hospital can’t disappear, can it? I think if the hospital had continued on the old ways, there is a greater likelihood it would have.

Can you comment on the $46.6 million operating loss Grant Thornton found? There have been operating losses at this hospital since the beginning of time. We had litigation costs that went back years and years that partly accounted for the loss. Prior management was kicking the can down the road. We needed to make these payments. We also cut $30 million in fat out of our budget. But we still have a long way to go.

About three months ago, you brought in the giant Northwell Health to assist NUMC. What role will Northwell play? They are working on helping us create a management infrastructure. They are tasked to provide a long-term strategic plan. They have an employee-lease plan where their professionals are leased to NUMC to bring in more competence and help with growth.

How are you responding to the state Department of Civil Service, which says the public benefit company that runs NUMC owes the state more than $93 million in health care premiums for its employees? I have been in negotiations over that. We have an agreement in principle. It’s not signed yet. I have 3,500 CSEA  [Civil Service Employees Association] employees who are counting on health insurance. I am committed to that.

Have you put a stop to what you considered inappropriate travel, such as the $113,000 Caribbean trip taken by some executives? Completely. I found it completely inappropriate that senior executives went to the Caribbean. I recently sent a team to Montreal for a meeting. I had them fly there in the morning and return in the afternoon. They had the meeting at the airport. I told them they had a choice: They could have a Big Mac or a whopper.

What do you see as your biggest challenge? There are many. There are the antiquated rules of civil service that take us back to the ’50s and ’60s. We need to modernize. We need civil service to enter the 21st century.

How long do you think you will be in this job?  I will stay until I feel we have turned the corner and the hospital is running with competency. We need to change from a sickness model to a wellness-sickness model. We have to educate the community we serve before they get sick.  They don’t always have access to medical care. We need to raise the vitality of the neighborhoods we serve. We need to make them healthier.

Hybrid Cargo Boat Forges Farm Produce Shipping Route Between Long Island and Connecticut

The Captain Ben Moore, one of the nation’s first hybrid cargo boats, is sailing the deep blue sea, or at least the Long Island Sound version of it, transporting farm produce between Huntington and Norwalk, Conn., in what may be the start of a new era in the way America delivers goods.

The 65-foot catamaran hybrid’s debut is a 10-year-old dream come true for Norwalk native Robert Kunkel, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant and Merchant Mariner who wanted to use the local waterways much the way people did over a century ago, before the construction of massive interstate highways, when trucking became king.

His Long Island Sound ferry service, Harbor Harvest, is named for an artisanal grocery and café in Norwalk he has run with his wife, Marilyn Kunkel, since 2015. The catamaran is named after a sailor who years ago became Kunkel’s mentor. 

“This is all about removing freight congestion from the highways and moving them to the waterways,” Kunkel says. “We had moved freight on the waterways for centuries in this country.” 

Harbor Harvest seeks to be an eco-friendly farm-to-fork distribution network. Kunkel said the key to his ferry service is to transport farm produce, and even some small packages, across the Sound in about 45 minutes, compared to several hours by trucks traveling the Long Island Expressway and I-95. Kunkel said his service will not only be faster, but cheaper and more environmentally friendly than trucking.

“The country became enamored with the trucking industry,” says Kunkel, a marine engineer. That began, he noted, once President Dwight Eisenhower instituted the Federal Highway Act in 1956, calling for the construction of 41,000 miles of an interstate highway system, then the largest public works project in American history.

Three years ago, Kunkel and Derecktor Shipyards of Mamaroneck, in Westchester County, one of the last of the famous New York shipbuilders, developed the hybrid boat, which runs on an electric battery system. The boat has 300 square feet of open cargo space, 100 square feet of indoor covered cargo space and 140 square feet of walk-in refrigerated space.

Kunkel said several Long Island and Connecticut produce companies and wineries have expressed interest in signing on with his ferry service.

In a recent major boost, Harbor Harvest was awarded a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, which will help defray the cost of building a second boat, which is now in the planning stages. The money is also to be used to build docking space in Huntington.

“The goal…is to provide a viable source of waterborne transportation for Connecticut and Long Island farmers and manufacturers by connecting neighboring communities, in addition to creating produce markets in both Connecticut and New York,” the Maritime Administration said in announcing the grant in March.

The ferry service has already won high praise from environmentalists. 

“We think this is an absolutely wonderful idea,” says Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The farm-to-table movement is growing across the country, and this service is coming along at just the right time.” 

Kendra Hems, president of the 600-member Trucking Association of New York, says her organization supports efforts to help eliminate congestion on the roads.

“The projection for the growth of freight is astronomical,” Hems says. “We expect that there will be shifts in the manner in which goods are shipped. We’re not opposed” to shipping by water. But, she said, “There will always be a need for trucks.”

The future of waterway shipping could be very bright indeed.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has issued a request for proposals to companies or individuals interested in opening a new marine terminal in the South Bronx to serve businesses on the Hunts Point Peninsula, in hopes of providing an alternative to trucking to move food and other products.

“We understand that highway congestion is chronic in New York,” says Andrew Genn, senior vice president of ports and terminals for the NYCEDC. “We certainly don’t want to end all trucking, but to make the system more resilient. The cross-Sound project is a good idea.” 

For his part, Kunkel is happy to be sailing the Sound. 

“I’ve been working on this a long time,” he says. “We’re going to open new markets here.” 

Farmingdale State College President Dr. John Nader: Dreaming of Dorms

John S. Nader

Dr. John Nader assumed the presidency of Farmingdale State College three years ago, after serving as provost at the State University of New York at Delhi. He was also president of the SUNY Chief Academic officers organization and, at one point, mayor of Oneonta, where he led a downtown revitalization effort. He holds a doctorate in economics from the New School for Social Research. Weeks after his arrival in 2016, Nader announced Farmingdale’s first graduate degree program, a Master of Science in Technology Management. He said other graduate programs are to follow.

How do you account for the dramatic rise in enrollment, up 47 percent since 2006, to more than 10,000 full-and part-time students? I think largely it’s because of our program mix, and our tuition. Most of our students are commuters, so they’re not paying room and board. Tuition is $7,000 a year, so we’re a very affordable college. It’s also because of our location. We’re close to the Long Island Expressway and the Long Island Rail Road station. We even now have a shuttle bus to and from the railroad station, beginning at 7 a.m.

Can you talk about the programs you mentioned? We have six programs that are unique. We added interactional design, the only one of its kind in the State University system. This is a program in how a user makes use of a product. We teach students how to design products so that they are easy to use.

How is this applicable to the job market? We are working with a firm in the cosmetics industry. They expressed a great desire to meet our students. Cosmetics is largely moving to interactive displays rather than having customers go to a clerk.

What other programs? We added business analytics, computer security, geographic information systems, and health and wellness and nutrition sciences.

Do you think Farmingdale State has bypassed the humanities? I don’t think we have. I think we have stepped forward in that area. We don’t offer many courses in the arts, but what we do offer is strong.

How do you feel about that? There has been a precipitous decline in the humanities overall. I think this is sad. It concerns me. My own background was in politics and history. But I think the new emphasis is a signal to humanities disciplines. Our students were very affected by the recession. They are very focused on jobs. We serve Long Island students. About 90 percent of our graduates are gainfully employed within six months of graduation.

Farmingdale is now a four-year college, now even offering graduate degrees. Do you believe people still think of the college as a two-year agricultural and technical institution? I don’t think that’s the judgement anymore. We’re now a very strong four-year institution with four schools – Engineering and Technology, Arts and Sciences, Health Science, and Business.

 Are you going to be in need of more buildings? Yes. We spent this morning in meetings on the fact that we will be needing more space. We’re going to be needing a new academic building. That new building will allow us to add another 800 to 1,000 students.

Is there a cost estimate for this new building? $53 million.

It’s not hard to notice parking here is not easy. Any plans along those lines? That is an issue and we are building more lots. Part of this problem can be addressed by how we build our course schedule. We are shifting schedules so more students come at different times.

There’s a single complaint you hear from students at every college in America: The food sucks. It is a familiar gripe. But we have Freshëns, a national brand that offers healthy foods. We upgraded Books ‘n Beans in the Library. We have Aramark, which meets regularly with students.

Do you eat in the student cafeteria? I do pop in often. They have a sushi dish I like.

What keeps you up at night? Space, the limitations of space. I think about the college two to five years down the road, I think also about adding a graduate degree in all four of our schools. We have only one ask of the state legislature: that new building and their assistance in funding it. That building is key to our future.

 

Long Islanders Recall Leading Role in Moon Landing

Astronaut Edwin E."Buzz" Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module pilot, is photographed during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity on the Moon on July 20, 1969. (Photo by Neil Armstrong/NASA Photo)

The vehicle that took a dozen U.S. astronauts to the moon starting a half-century ago would not meet anyone’s definition of beauty: It looked like a giant grasshopper with bugged-out eyes and spindly legs.

But the Apollo Lunar Module, also known as the Apollo Lunar Lander, was arguably the most remarkable vehicle ever built, one that brought glory not only to its manufacturer, Grumman Aerospace Corporation of Bethpage, but to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and to the United States. The nearly 10-year project to build the LM was among Grumman’s proudest efforts, and the centerpiece of the company’s contribution to America’s space effort.

For the country, the Moon program — NASA called it Project Apollo — began on May 25, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy proposed before Congress that the U.S. “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

Those LM days are now taking focus again in the minds of Grummies, as they called themselves, as the anniversary of the first Moon landing in 1969 approaches. Throughout July, celebrations are scheduled across the country to commemorate one of the most memorable days in world history. Several events are to be held at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, which on July 20 will hold an “Apollo at 50 Countdown Celebration,” including a screening of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon.

Grummies are delighted to recall those days.

“Everybody was enthusiastic,” says Mike Lisa, now 76, of Hicksville, who was an LM environmental test engineer. “Our job was to put guys on the Moon, and that’s what we did.”

The work became all consuming at a company accustomed to work and pressure. Grumman signed a $2 billion contract — enormous at the time — with NASA in 1962.

“We didn’t know anything about a clock,” says Sam Koepel, now 90, of Floral Park, who wrote and edited LM specifications. “We did everything exactly when the company needed it done.”

Dick Dunne of West Islip, now in his late 70s, had spent most of his professional career with Grumman, beginning in the early 1960s. He worked on some technical issues with the LM before being assigned to the public relations department, in Bethpage and at Cape Canaveral.

Dunne and others were confident Grumman could do the job, but could it succeed in sending a man to the Moon by the end of the decade?

Grumman was the last of the big aerospace companies to officially sign on to the project, concentrating on engineering studies to make sure the LM could work.

“We were going through project managers like you wouldn’t believe,” Dunne recalls. “At the beginning, the project was so big you couldn’t get your hands around it.”

One of the biggest problems was weight: The LM had to be both as light as possible and yet strong to withstand the rigors of space. The issue was so crucial that NASA paid Grumman $10,000 for every pound the company managed to take off the LM, says author and space historian Andrew Chaikin. The LM wound up weighing about 37,000 pounds.

“The result was that the LM didn’t look like a spaceship. but a mechanical insect,” Chaikin says.

Six of the modules took 12 astronauts to the Moon between 1969 and 1972. 

During the manufacturing years, Grumman’s workforce swelled to about 30,000 employees, the most since World War II. Then, the company employed about 40,000, building Navy Hellcat and Wildcat combat planes, on three shifts.

In the Apollo days, astronauts were a common sight in Bethpage, checking out LM systems and working with engineers. One of the most frequent visitors was Fred Haise, who was one of three astronauts aboard the ill-fated Apollo 13, in 1970. An explosion in an oxygen tank in the service module caused a dramatic loss of oxygen. Apollo 13 was forced to end its attempt to reach the Moon. The astronauts crawled into the LM, which served as a lifeboat to take them headed back to Earth safely. Haise later became an executive in Grumman’s space program.

The LM was the most challenging vehicle Grumman ever built. It was designed solely for space flight and could not be tested before it was put into service 250,000 miles from Earth. It could not operate on this planet and could never return to Earth. And, it may be the only manmade vehicle with a perfect performance record.

The most famous of the LM flights was Apollo 11, which took two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, to the Moon, on July 20, 1969.

In space, with two astronauts aboard, the LM was jettisoned from an orbiting command and service module, about 60 miles from the Moon. The command and service module, flown by Michael Collins, the third astronaut, remained in orbit around the Moon until the LM’s ascent stage blasted off from the lunar surface and rejoined the orbiting command and service module. The descent stage remained on the lunar surface.

The world was glued to TV sets the night of the first Moon landing. Bill Schwanker of Lynbrook, also now in his late ’70s, and an electronics design engineer, was home when Armstrong took that first step.

“Watching it sent chills up your spine,” says Schwanker.

Decades after his flight, I interviewed Armstrong. He was not an easy interview, finding the publicity distasteful. He was at heart a country boy and a man of few words.

I asked him whether he ever looked up at the Moon and said to himself, “I was there.”

He reflected on the question, smiled for the first time in the interview and, characteristically, offered a one-word response: “Frequently,” he said.

United Way of Long Island President and CEO Theresa Regnante: Leading The Way

United Way of Long Island President and CEO Theresa Regnante is a local philanthropic powerhouse.

Theresa Regnante is President and CEO of United Way of Long Island, the region’s largest philanthropic organization, which works with more than 100 community partners to support education, health care, career training, and housing needs of thousands of people in Nassau and Suffolk counties. She first worked for United Way of Long Island in 1986, leaving in 2003 to take a position with the EAC Network. She returned to United Way in 2009, as President and CEO. She was raised in West Islip and graduated from High Point University in North Carolina.

How do you approach companies and individuals for donations in this age of Twitter and everything digital? It has becoming increasingly difficult in the age of technology to gain support where we do not have easy access to direct interface. The best way for us to steward our donors is by meeting with people one-on-one and discussing United Way’s impact.

What has been the biggest change? Twenty years ago, our revenue stream was dominated by large companies. Since then, Long Island’s corporate and economic landscape has changed so our fundraising strategy has also changed. Today we obtain grants from federal and state government and foundations, and we receive gifts from high net-worth individuals. While we have enhanced our revenue portfolio, we still rely on loyal individuals in the workplace to support United Way.

Then you are still growing? Today, our budget is around $18 million. Ten years ago, our budget was $15 million.

Have you been impacted by President Trump’s tax overhaul? It’s difficult to measure if the change in the tax status has impacted our organization. Regardless of who is leading the country, we must raise the revenue needed to impact results.

Can you talk about the $1.1 million federal grant you were recently awarded to help operate YouthBuild in Hempstead? YouthBuild is a program for men and women ages 18 to 24 to work toward their TASC High School Equivalency Diploma, while earning essential job skills. Graduates are placed in career apprenticeships or a college degree program. There are more than 200 YouthBuild programs nationwide and, in 2018, United Way of Long Island was one of 81 recipients across 32 states to receive a U.S. Department of Labor YouthBuild grant.

Do you think most people on Long Island are aware of the work you do? The more than 300,000 people who receive services certainly understand our impact. United Way operates programs directly, makes grants and works with community partners, so we are not easily understood. Organizations with a singular focus, like Habitat for Humanity, have a clearer understanding in the public eye.

How do you basically describe yourself to people? United Way provides and connects people to resources. We help all of our neighbors, including the unemployed and working families. We help veterans get on their feet through Mission United, we help families through times of financial difficulty with Project Warmth, Long Island’s only non governmental emergency fuel fund, we provide career training through YouthBuild and VetsBuild programs, and we provide support to more than 100 partner agencies across Long Island.

Tell us about your efforts in housing. United Way has been building homes for 20 years. For the past four years, we’ve been the Grand Winner of the U.S. Department of Energy Housing Innovation Awards in the area of Affordable Housing. We just completed our first home in partnership with the Suffolk County Landbank in East Patchogue. Our housing model is to develop homes that prioritize energy efficiency and low operating costs.

Do you plan to build more Zero Energy-Ready Homes? Our goal is to lead the nonprofit housing industry in the latest technology and detailing in order to build healthy and high-performance homes.

What’s coming up that’s important for Long Island’s needy population? The U.S. Census, which helps determine how federal funds are allocated, for health and welfare, so it is important to make sure this region is not undercounted. We’ve got to get it right or the dollars don’t come in.

Would you consider doing something else with your life? Everyday is a different journey. I am challenged by the opportunities across the region to affect positive change and use my creativity to build partnerships. It’s a position that’s very rewarding, to know that we are helping many Long Island families.