Spencer Rumsey

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Spencer Rumsey has worked on dailies, weeklies and monthlies, including New York Newsday and the New York Post, the East Village Eye and the supermarket tabloid Star Magazine. Starting at the Press in 2010, he’s written award-winning stories on planning, politics and policy, to name a few topics.

King Crimson Holds Court at The Paramount

Forget the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The heaviest elements on Long Island Monday night were the sonic booms reverberating right between the walls of The Paramount in Huntington when the legendary prog-rock band King Crimson hit the stage with three top-notch drummers pounding their complex polyrhythms into the center of our brains.

And that was just for openers. The three-hour show, with barely a 20-minute intermission, covered a lot of ground, ranging from crashing power chords to ethereal melodies and celestial harmonies. Considering there’s almost 50 years of material to choose from, they had to make up for lost time—and they never once wavered.

Formed in 1968 in the United Kingdom by virtuoso guitarist Robert Fripp—who went on to work with such luminaries as Brian Eno, David Bowie and Peter Gabriel—King Crimson debuted its first album in 1969, “In the Court of the Crimson King,” a title track that became a staple on FM radio as protests against the Vietnam War took a harder turn.

Over the years, with the band’s membership in flux, Fripp reportedly didn’t want to dip back into his early King Crimson catalog, preferring to forge ahead. But not on this tour, and we fans were well rewarded with vintage work infused with a renewed intensity. Fripp dipped into the group’s classic playbook, performing several tracks from their first album like “21st Century Schizoid Man” with a powerful reinvention that had the standing-room-only crowd roaring with approval. The music stood the test of time well. Especially “Epitaph,” with its apocryphal lyrics: “The fate of all mankind I see is in the hands of fools.”

Fripp has reportedly been calling this current eight-man lineup the “Double Quartet Formation,” joining long-time collaborator Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick (a 12-stringed instrument that almost looks like a sitar), Chris Gibson on keyboards, Mel Collins on saxophone and flute, and Jakko Jakszyk deftly handling vocals and guitar. They stood in the back row, while drummers Pat Mastelotto, Jeremy Stacey and Gavin Harrison dominated the stage with their astounding dexterity and breath-taking precision.

These serious musicians, in their white long-sleeved shirts, dark gray vests and black ties, could pass for retired accountants. But there’s no easy way to sum up the complex sounds they make when they’re on full throttle. One minute they evoke a Space Age chase soundtrack full of sci-fi suspense. Then the music evolves into a kind of cosmic carnival, a death-defying spiral of sonic dissonance and engaging rhythms. There’s power and stillness, darkness and light. It’s not too hard to see how King Crimson laid the foundation for grunge, alt-rock, and heavy metal. Funk and soul, they are not. Yet when Levin soared on his bass solo, he truly channeled avant-garde jazz, paying homage to their roots.

The band came back for one encore, a fitting rendition of 1973’s “Easy Money,” with its cutting refrain: “Getting fat on your lucky star/Just making easy money.”
Doing it simple just wouldn’t cut it for these gentlemen. And for those of us gathered at the Paramount, basking in its perfect acoustic setting, it was a night we’ll long remember when uncompromising rock music ruled the day.

Voters to Decide if NY Holds Constitutional Convention

constitutional convention
The New York State Capitol Building in Albany.

Every 20 years, New Yorkers get the chance to decide whether they want a constitutional convention to overhaul or amend the state’s governing document, which was adopted in 1894 and has not been significantly tweaked since 1938.

Voters have not thought too much of the idea for the past 50 years, when the last convention offered up a handful of amendments that voters then handily rejected at the polls.

But things might be different when the measure appears on the ballot this November. Albany’s repeated corruption scandals have stirred up the good-government crowd, and dozens of special interest groups have come to believe that sidestepping the Legislature is the only way their measures will ever be considered.

A growing group of federalists have even bigger ambitions: Empowering the state to create its own clean air and labor regulations, even as federal protections wilt in Washington.

Poll position

The process starts this Nov. 7, when voters will be asked to approve or reject the convention. If it’s greenlighted, voters would next year choose 204 delegates, or three people from each of the state’s 63 state senate districts plus 15 statewide seats.

They would convene the convention in the spring of 2019, establish rules and then get about revising the state’s governing document, which currently runs 50,000 words, or seven times longer than the U.S. Constitution. The amended articles would then be put before voters at the next general election.

Groups interested in campaign finance reform, legalizing marijuana and generally fixing Albany are proponents, loosely collected under the umbrella of the Committee for a Constitutional Convention. It includes many of New York’s bar associations – although not the Nassau County bar group – and reform-minded-civic groups like Common Cause and Citizens Union.

The fix is not in

“Our state government is broken,” declared Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, which is based in New York City. “What have our state legislators done to combat money in politics? They have proven themselves incapable of making the kind of progress that is necessary to restore voters’ trust in our government and faith in how our democracy functions.”

The CCC had raised $67,000 as of this writing, mostly from individual donors.

Opponents of the convention include such unlikely bedfellows as the trade unions, Planned Parenthood, the New York Rifle and Pistol Association (an NRA affiliate), the Conservative Party, Environmental Advocates and even the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

“This is a diverse coalition of groups that, frankly, have never worked together,” said Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers, a federation of more than 1,200 local unions. “I don’t know the last time the AFL-CIO and the Conservative Party were part of the same coalition.”

Operating as New Yorkers Against Corruption, the coalition has raised at least $635,000, including $50,000 from the teachers’ union and $250,000 from a healthcare union, according to New York Public Interest Group.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), two of the “three men in a room” that run state politics, also oppose the convention.

A bargain

Gerald Benjamin, a distinguished professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz and a member of the Committee for a Constitutional Convention, estimates that the convention will cost taxpayers about $70 million – a bargain, from his point of view.

“We have a judicial system that doesn’t provide justice. We have a Legislature that’s embedded with corruption. We have an executive [branch] that’s aggrandizing itself and its powers. We have a system of elections that is managed in a partisan manner and has produced among the lowest turnouts in the country,” the professor said. “So the constitution is not working and the people should say, ‘Hey, we want to take a look at this.’”

However, for Dan Levler, president of the 6,000-member Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees, holding a constitutional convention is like “opening a can of worms.” He’s worried that his union workers’ pensions and collective bargaining rights could be put at risk, a theme frequently put forward by organized labor.

“Generally speaking, the people who end up making these changes are the ones who wrote the rules in the first place,” he asserted.

A Siena College Poll released Sept. 5 reported that 45 percent of registered voters who were aware of the convention favored the idea, 33 percent did not and 22 percent were undecided.

Again, those were voters who were aware of the debate. Almost 60 percent of those contacted by poll said they were not.

The Mets Suck! Long Live the Mets!

Three unique Mets fans were all smiles at the last regular home game of this dismal 2017 season Wednesday—and the team wasn’t even winning. In fact, “the Amazins” were losing to their erstwhile enemy, the Atlanta Braves. But there they stood together, sharing a laugh in Section 140 above the bullpen at Citi Field.

Perhaps these males are better known by the names on their orange-and-blue backs: Pinman, Cowbellman 52 and Signman 00. Pinman is so covered with pins, buttons and flashing lights that it must take him an inning just to get through security. I trust he comes early, probably long before batting practice. Cowbellman carries his bell and a drumstick—plus a poster of himself—so I bet he sails through. Signman doesn’t carry a lot of baggage, just key messages on banner-sized cardboard that could be unwieldy but he doesn’t seem to mind if he can express the zeitgeist at the proper time.

But it was fun to watch this triumvirate standing triumphantly among of The 7 Line Army, the spirited bastion of diehard fans named after the Flushing subway to Citi Field. Mets rookie pitcher Robert Gsellman, whose shaggy long locks are no doubt the envy of those without a hair on their head, was on the mound—perhaps for the last time in a Mets uniform, the theme of the night apparently.

Gsellman had thrown 30 pitches, 21 of them for strikes. Unfortunately he couldn’t call back his 31st pitch. It was driven into right field, practically in front of us, scoring the first run of the game, and putting the Braves ahead.

When he was introduced on the big screen, he looked like a rock star without a guitar. But the crowd was indifferent—Gsellman has never been consistent enough to win their favor. It was quite a contrast from the excitement that ricocheted around the stadium back on Opening Day when the Mighty Thor, Noah Syndegaard, the Mets preeminent hirsute hurler, marched menacingly to the mound on April 3.

That spring afternoon also pitted the Queens team against Atlanta, and 44,384 people—the second-largest regular season attendance in Citi Field’s history—were on hand to watch it. I saw it too.

Thor had thrown the hammer down and kept the Braves off the scoreboard. Our team had a 6-0 lead going into the ninth inning when Manager Terry Collins decided to bring in Gsellman from the bullpen. And just like that, the Braves got back-to-back hits with nobody out, and we fans on hand could feel that age-old dread rise to the surface as we began to wonder if our team would blow it.

They ultimately got a double-play to end the game so you could put it in the books, as the venerable Mets announcer Howie Rose would say, and chalk up a victory. What a relief! But like so many things in the Mets world, it was short lived.

Thor would go on to tear his lat muscle and be unable to pitch. Other top players succumbed to a rash of season-altering injuries. Solid veterans like Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce would be traded, along with Rene Rivera, Addison Reed, Neil Walker and Lucas Duda. We’ll soon see some of those guys playing in this year’s World Series but wearing other teams’ uniforms and coming nowhere near Queens.

But let’s not forget that Citi Field did host some very meaningful games in late September—significant for this year’s playoff race—but they involved the Yankees, who took on the Tampa Bay Rays here because Major League Baseball relocated the series from Tropicana Park in St. Petersburg after Hurricane Irma flooded southern Florida.

And so here we were at the last home game in Flushing on a night that felt like the middle of July, but now the Mets were thoroughly out of contention and heading for their worst record since 2009. Officially, 28,617 people were on hand, but compared to where we sat they might as well have been ghosts.

My buddy Bill and I were sitting happily with the most enthusiastic Mets fans at the ballpark who filled “7th Heaven”—as the Signman helpfully pointed out—chanting in unison, whacking inflatable blue-plastic batons together (conveniently placed in our cup-holders by the organizers of this group founded in 2009 by Darren Meenan), and singing spiritedly for Jose Reyes (“Jose! Jose! Jose-oh!”), the flashy infielder also reportedly playing his last game for the Mets.

We were watching Gsellman as the starter this time and we worried about how bad his last start here might be. Fortunately, he settled down, giving up only one run while the Mets uncharacteristically (for this year) gave him some run support. Doing some significant damage was catcher Travis d’Arnoud (known for being so tight-lipped that the Signman held up a placard helpfully saying, “Smile Travis!”), who broke open the 1-1 tie with a two-run single.

Later in the game, pinch-hitter Dominic Smith belted a three-run homer. That gave us a lot to cheer about. In the end, the Mets bashed the Braves 7-1, but they finished their season at Citi Field with a 37-44 losing record.

Probably the low point here in this miserable Mets year—and that’s certainly open to debate—came on June 1st when a Milwaukee bat boy unintentionally banged into our third-baseman Wilmer Flores so he couldn’t catch a foul ball. The umpires didn’t give Flores the benefit of the doubt, prompting our beleaguered manager to flip out and get ejected from the game, which the Mets went on to lose.

The day before, Mr. Met gave some fan the finger, a gesture that went viral. It inspired the Daily News cartoonist Bramhall to draw our round-headed mascot lying on the psychiatrist’s couch as Dr. Freud asked him, “These voices—do they say anything else besides ‘You suck’?”

Yeah, we could relate. It was that kind of year for the fans. And on Sept. 27, although the team may have won, the Mets owners didn’t give us a chance to honor Terry Collins, who has the second-most wins in franchise history. No curtain call for our manager, just some cheers when his image flashed briefly on the Diamond Vision screen.

At 68, he’s the oldest guy managing a baseball team, but his contract expired, and no doubt he’ll be canned in an inglorious way because that’s how the Mets front office does it, despite Collins taking the Amazins to the World Series in 2015 and a Wild Card shot in 2016.

This year was supposed to be ours! But everything went south so fast with injuries and losing streaks. Only ace Jacob deGrom stayed off the disabled list. Going into the last weekend of 2017, our starting pitchers held the Major Leagues’ third-worst Earned Run Average at 5.01, our relievers were even worse, and so the bespectacled 64-year-old pitching coach, Dan Warthen, who reminds me of Ben Franklin for some reason, will also be taking the fall when the season ends.

But come March 29, 2018, The 7 Line Army will come together at Citi Field and hope for the best. And on that Opening Day they won’t be alone.

Mad About Tesla: The Man Behind The Planned Science Center in Shoreham

Nikola Tesla, left, and Wardenclyffe Laboratory and Tower in Shoreham. The tower has since been demolished, but the lab still stands.

On Independence Day, 100 years ago this summer, scrap dealers dynamited Nikola Tesla’s 187-foot Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham, marking the final chapter of the Serbian-born scientist’s doomed dream to “send the human voice and likeness around the globe through the instrumentality of the earth.”

Today, still standing nearby – remarkably – is Tesla’s red-bricked laboratory, designed in 1901 by famed architect Stanford White and built with money from J.P. Morgan, the Wall Street tycoon.

What’s left is in shambles and infested with mold, but a statue of Tesla, a beacon for the future as some call it, has been erected near where the tower once stood, a gift of the Serbian Republic in 2013.

If all goes well over the next few years, the non-profit Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe will open to the public with a visitors’ center, an office, classrooms, and an exhibit space to keep his spirit alive for generations to come.

“We want to get it back to its original glory,” said Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center. “It can be a source of inspiration for people who want to follow in Tesla’s footsteps.”

Towering ambition

Tesla inventions include AC current, robotics, fluorescent lighting and the bladeless turbine, and yet he died penniless at the New Yorker Hotel in 1943. Most Americans know him today only because his last name is on the high-end electric cars championed by Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk. Those innovative vehicles, which run as much as $100,000, wouldn’t go anywhere without a version of Tesla’s induction motor operating inside them.

Back at the beginning of the 20th century, Tesla envisioned a huge communications complex on his 200-acre property that he had named Wardenclyffe after James S. Warden, director of the Suffolk County Land Co., who had handled the real estate deal.

Since 1897, Tesla had been living in style at the Waldorf-Astoria, thanks to his friendship with John Jacob Astor. The inventor would routinely take the Long Island Rail Road out to Shoreham Station to watch his lab take shape, sometimes asking an assistant to commute from the city with a specially prepared picnic lunch.

Tesla had big plans for Wardenclyffe as a transmission center of just about everything, including “press messages, stock quotations, pictures for the press and these reproductions of signatures, checks and everything transmitted from there throughout the world.”

The inventor also planned “to give a demonstration in the transmission of power which I have so perfected that power can be transmitted clear across the globe with a loss of not more than 5 percent.”

Among the many devices and pieces of equipment the lab building contained were two 300-horsepower boilers, pumps, injectors, two galvanized steel water tanks capable of holding 16,000 gallons, and a 400-horsepower Westinghouse reciprocating engine, “driving a directly connected dynamo which was specially made for my purposes,” Tesla later explained. He also had special transformers designed “to stand an electric tension of 60,000 volts.”

But the most important structure was the tower. At the top was a 55-ton steel globe to store electricity, beneath which was a shaft, 10 feet by 12 feet wide, lined with steel and supported by timbers, with a winding staircase running 120 feet into the ground. At the bottom, 16 steel rods plunged hundreds of feet deeper.

“In this system that I have invented,” Tesla explained, “it is necessary for the machine to get a grip of the earth. Otherwise it cannot shake the earth. It has to have a grip on the earth so that the whole of this globe can quiver.”

What Tesla did not have a good grip on was the investment community, including his trusty benefactor J.P. Morgan.

Almost two years before, Guglielmo Marconi had managed to send a simple Morse code transmission from England to Newfoundland using 17 of Tesla’s patents, and that was enough to persuade Morgan to invest in the cheaper, proven technology of radio.
Tesla countered that his Wardenclyffe Tower – together with a half dozen matching complexes erected elsewhere around the globe – would be able to send energy, wirelessly, wherever it was needed.

As Morgan reportedly replied, “Free power to the whole world? But where do we put the meter?”

Marconi’s simple radio transmission based on Tesla’s patents was financially successful “because he was willing to incrementally accomplish something,” said Marc Alessi, an entrepreneur and attorney who has played a crucial part in helping preserve Wardenclyffe.

“When J.P. Morgan questioned why Marconi had beat him, Tesla was like, ‘Well, he’s only doing a single transmission! I’m doing multiple band-width radio with channels!’
“Which is what we use today. Tesla didn’t care about financial success or business. He wanted to move the dial for humanity.”

And it cost him.

Making America glow

Tesla had established the principles for modern electric power even before he left Europe for New York in 1884, perfecting alternating current, or AC, as opposed to the DC current inventor Thomas Edison was banking on.

In 1887, Tesla filed seven U.S. patents for AC motors and power transmission, which caught the attention of Pittsburgh industrialist George Westinghouse, who tracked Tesla down in Manhattan and bought the rights to it all for $60,000. Included: 150 shares of Westinghouse Corp. and royalty payments of $2.50 per every horsepower of electrical capacity sold.

Backed by Westinghouse, Tesla illuminated the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, out-dazzling Edison at the Electricity Pavilion and inspiring Frank Baum to conjure the Emerald City in his book, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Tesla’s triumph in the Windy City helped Westinghouse win the contract to build the Niagara Falls Power Project, which lit up Buffalo for the first time on Nov. 16, 1896.
AC had won the electrical race, but the battle had been costly. Forced to pay lucrative royalties to Tesla, Westinghouse was nearing bankruptcy, and J.P Morgan was close to taking over the company.

But Tesla saved the day.

“He ripped up his royalty contract with Westinghouse for alternating current, and the whole reason was that he wanted to make sure that people had electricity,” said Alessi.

A noble deed, but one that led, ultimately, to Tesla’s own financial ruin. Lacking funds, he was forced to shut down his beloved Wardenclyffe in 1906 and, worse, deed the property to Waldorf-Astoria manager George C. Boldt to settle his hotel bill of $20,000, a bit more than $500,000 today.

Astor, his friend and last financial hope, went down with the Titanic in 1912. Westinghouse died in 1914.

That July 4 demolition was Boldt’s attempt to recover his $20,000, selling Wardenclyffe for scrap. The rubble, however, brought a meager $1,750.

Tesla was philosophical: “My project was retarded by the laws of nature,” he wrote. “The world was not prepared for it. It was too far ahead of time, but the same laws will prevail in the end and make it a triumphal success.”

Success might have been more clearly triumphal had he bothered to commit the fundamentals of wireless energy to paper.

Though thoroughly defeated professionally, Tesla remained a tantalizing public figure, even making the cover of Time magazine in 1931, when he turned 75. (Einstein wrote him a birthday greeting, congratulating Tesla on “the magnificent success of your life’s work.” Tesla, interestingly, had scoffed at Einstein’s theory of relativity and said that “the idea of atomic energy is illusionary.”)

In 1934, Tesla was written up in The New York Times, this time over news of his latest invention, “a peace ray,” that could send concentrated beams of particles through air, “of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 100,000 enemy airplanes.”
(Additional research: See the Reagan-era Star Wars initiative.)

By then the Westinghouse Corp. had quietly arranged to put Tesla up in a pair of rooms at the New Yorker, where he lived for his final decade, leaving only for walks and to feed pigeons in a nearby park. Though once a regular at Delmonico’s, Tesla became a vegetarian in later life, subsisting on vegetables, bread and honey.

He died on Jan. 7, 1943 after putting out the “Do Not Disturb” sign, ignored in the morning by a maid. The coroner ruled the death the result of coronary thrombosis. He was 86.

FBI agents rushed into Tesla suite soon after his passing to impound his papers and keep sensitive materials – the peace ray! – out of enemy hands.

Here’s an unexpected twist: Among the Americans called in to analyze Tesla’s papers was Dr. John G. Trump, uncle of the current president, who was an electrical engineer with the National Defense Research Committee of the Office of Scientific Research and Development.

After a three-day investigation, Trump concluded there was nothing of significance among the Tesla papers, although he later admitted he hadn’t bothered to look at everything gathered. Ultimately, all of Tesla’s surviving material – that the government admitted to, conspiracy theorists remind us – was packed off to the Tesla Museum in Belgrade.

Saving the lab

In 2010, Wardenclyffe was in danger of being bulldozed and redeveloped. The Agfa Corp., which acquired the property from Peerless Photo Products in 1969, had spent more than $5 million cleaning up heavy metal contamination at the site, and the state had given a final OK for sale. Agfa’s asking price was $1.65 million.

Wardenclyffe was about to be sold to a housing developer when Babylon-based film director Joseph Sikorski used $33,000 he’d raised for a movie on Tesla to establish a last-ditch, save-the-lab effort, while his partner, Vic Elefante, did a separate documentary, “Tower to the People,” that shed more light on Tesla’s Long Island connection.

“People are more familiar with the car than with Tesla,” Sikorski said. “I’m trying to rehabilitate his image so people might take a second look.” He decried the TV shows and websites that make Tesla look “like a kook and a mad scientist.”

“By discrediting him like that, we make it harder for serious scientists to look at his work and continue his research.”

In 2012, Matt Inman, the comic creator of The Oatmeal, who said he’d fallen in love with Tesla because he was “a geek,” set up an Indiegogo.com crowd-funding site to raise money for what he called, “Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum.” It raised nearly $1.4 million in 45 days.

According to Alcorn, donations came from more than 30,000 people around the world, followed by a $1 million pledge from Musk’s personal foundation.

(It’s a good start, but just that: According to Alessi, who’s on the science center’s board, rebuilding Wardenclyffe could run more than $17 million.)

“Tesla is someone we call, nowadays, a disruptive person,” said Alcorn, likening him to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Musk. “What they do disrupts the normal pace of things and takes us in giant leaps.”

“He was definitely a futurist,” she added. “In 1926, Tesla was talking about how someday people would be carrying a device with which they would be able to transmit images, words, actual voices and texts and so on, and carry it in their vest pocket.
“And what are we carrying around today?”

Atop the pedestal on which the sculpture of Tesla stands facing his former laboratory in Shoreham, is engraved a quotation of his that runs in English on one side and Serbian on the other. It reads, in part: “Were I to have the good fortune to implement at least some of my ideas, it would be for the benefit of the entire humankind.”

That’s Tesla. Never a small thinker.

LIRR’s Third Track Gets Key NY Senate Approval to Move Ahead

Long Island Rail Road
Long Island Rail Road riders board a train in Long Beach (Photo by Joseph Abate).

While thousands of daily Long Island Rail Road commuters cope with service disruptions as Amtrak makes emergency repairs to Penn Station, this “Summer of Hell,” as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has dubbed the riders’ next two months, was about to become a dire season of stress for the LIRR because a final decision on its $2-billion third track project was suddenly delayed until the end of July—and its fate appeared in jeopardy.

But a late announcement Tuesday, July 11, from state Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan (R-East Northport) has put the proposal from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for Long Island back on track.

As planned, the LIRR would add another track to its busy 9.8-mile corridor between Floral Park and Hicksville where four lines connect. And that’s where local resistance to the ambitious project had always been the staunchest, especially from village mayors and Republican state senators.

“All along, we have listened to our constituents and endeavored to do the right thing,” said Flanagan in a statement. “On behalf of the Senate Majority, Sen. Marty Golden [R-Brooklyn], our representative on the MTA’s Capital Program Review Board and a staunch advocate for the needs of his own community, will vote to allow the proposed ‘third track’ project to move forward.”

Late last month, rather than face a veto from the Republican state senator on the Capital Program Review Board, the MTA had withdrawn its amended $30 billion capital program, which included the third track plan, and then immediately resubmitted it to restart the clock and give the review board another 30 days to decide its fate.

The move had come after concerns reportedly arose that Sen. Golden, Flanagan’s proxy on the board, was going to nix the plan at the behest of Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) and Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), whose districts would be directly impacted by the third track’s construction.

After Flanagan announced his intention to approve the LIRR expansion, Phillips released a statement that she still has “serious concerns about the effect of this project on local residents and their quality-of-life.” She applauded “the diligent process” that the MTA had undertaken to address community issues but questioned its priorities.

“I strongly believe the MTA must strike an appropriate balance between fixing the problems responsible for the derailments, disruptions and delays that LIRR commuters have experienced and making the strategic investments necessary to facilitate the region’s continued growth,” she said. “Given the urgency of returning the system to a state of good repair, I believe that should be the immediate priority.”

Hannon’s office declined to comment, despite repeated requests.

Third track proponents had gotten a boost on June 30 when two of the plan’s most steadfast opponents, Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi and New Hyde Park Mayor Lawrence Montreuil, said that because their local concerns had been mollified they signed a message of understanding (MOU) with the state. Oyster Bay Supervisor Joe Saladino, a Republican, also said that he favored the project.

That left its fate up to Flanagan, observed Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association and a long-time advocate of the third track.

“Yes, he’s a local state senator but he’s also a statewide leader, and he really needs to do what’s in the best interests of the region,” Law said.

And on July 11 that’s what Flanagan said he’d do.

“From the outset, my only motivation has been to do what is right for Long Island commuters and their families, and for the hardworking taxpayers who live here,” he said in his statement. “There have always been short- and long-term issues to consider, and it was wrong for some to pit the promise of something new against incredibly important repairs that exist every day in the lives of real people and real taxpayers.”

Advocates for the third track say complicating the issue was that the two Nassau Republican senators had reportedly placed new demands on the governor in order to obtain their approval—“moving the goal posts,” as Newsday put it—which include getting increased hospital funding and preventing New York City from tapping dormant water wells in Queens because it could deplete Nassau’s aquifer.

In May, Cuomo had appointed Law to his Penn Station Task Force to address short- and long-term problems at the city’s transit hub. That’s why Law was on an afternoon task force conference call with the governor on July 7 to go over the MTA’s plans for the “Summer of Hell.”

“Part of the problem with the Summer of Hell that’s starting with Penn Station and Amtrak was the decades of neglect,” said Law. “Our system has had decades of neglect too. We’ve had the same two tracks that have existed since the 1800s when Long Island’s population was 50,000. We’re now 3 million people. This project’s been on the drawing board for 50 years.”

This most recent third track proposal got rolling in January 2016 when Cuomo announced his support to relieve the age-old bottleneck in the New Hyde Park-Hicksville corridor.

“There are a lot of connections in this one area,” said Mitch Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, a trade association, and a member of the MTA Board. “That’s what causes this section to probably be the most important 9.8 miles of all the miles that the Long Island Rail Road has, without a doubt.”

Law credits Cuomo with pushing the project over the goal line.

“Of course, the governor’s leadership on this was amazing because without him we wouldn’t have gotten this far,” said Law. “He could have easily have laid back and done what [Republican Gov. George] Pataki did and said: ‘All right, when you get everybody on board, let me know, and then I’ll climb on board.’”

To sweeten the pot—and soften community opposition to the third track plan—the governor had added almost a billion dollars that would, among other goals, eliminate seven street-level grade crossings; upgrade stations in Mineola, Garden City, New Hyde Park and Westbury; install six new parking garages; and provide off-site parking and a bus for construction workers so they wouldn’t occupy parking spots for commuters and local residents.

“You’ll have tremendous community benefits,” gushed Law, who noted that currently in New Hyde Park there’s an LIRR crossing where during rush hour the gates “are down 28 minutes of the hour and traffic backs up forever.”

Hannon had reportedly said the MTA should divert the money from the third track project to repair signals along the present tracks, which drew criticism from the proposal’s proponents who countered that there is no trade-off.

“Kemp is not wrong that there are some short-term items that need to be addressed but the fact of the matter is that we need to do both,” said Law. “We need the short-term solutions and the long-term investments.”

“Even if you upgraded the signals just in those areas, you still would not have enough capacity,” Pally explained. “Unless we do this third track, we will never be able to run more trains, ever.”

He noted that the LIRR has invested more than $10 billion in its East Side Access project—still several years away from completion—so it can send trains under the East River to Grand Central Terminal. Meanwhile the LIRR has broken ground on its Mid-Suffolk Yard so it can store trains in Islip. If the third track is finished, Pally said the LIRR would run 20 more trains every day just on the Ronkonkoma branch.

“We always complain about Long Island not getting its fair share, and now we finally
have a governor who’s willing to spend $2 billion,” Law exclaimed. “It would be fiscal malpractice for any elected official to stand in the way of these dollars coming into our region because it’s going to strengthen the Long Island economy for the foreseeable future.”

Barry LePatner, the author of Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward, is skeptical that the LIRR’s third track will move people much faster on Long Island once it’s completed.

“You have a regional limitation on what can really be effective,” said LePatner, a corporate construction counsel in Manhattan. “And this $2 billion solution is not going to solve the major problems that are created by that regional limitation.”

Instead, he believes that the LIRR should think big and deploy a maglev train that uses high-speed rail to revolutionize the transit system for the decades ahead.

“Find another $40 billion and build the damn thing for our children and our grandchildren,” said LePatner. “This $2 billion is not going to make a significant difference.”

But in the present political world of Albany, it may be all the LIRR can hope to get—and even that amount was hanging by a thread until yesterday.

Protesters Rally Across Long Island & Country To Demand Trump Release His Tax Returns

Tax March Protest
Hundreds rallied in front of the IRS office in Hauppauge on April 15 in a nationwide protest demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns to the public. (Spencer Rumsey / Long Island Press)

Tens of thousands of people from Long Island to California joined in rallies and marches across the country on Saturday to demand that President Donald Trump fulfill his past promises to release his tax returns as other presidents before him have done.

The day of the “Tax March” protests was April 15, officially known as Tax Day, because that’s when the Internal Revenue Service has traditionally set its due date. This year the formal filing deadline is April 18th, to compensate for the weekend.

So far, the president has refused to comply, for various reasons. A few years ago he said he would release his tax returns if President Obama released his birth certificate. In 2014, Trump said he’d release his returns if he ever decided to run for public office. But at his first press conference as president-elect, Trump declared that the public is not interested in seeing his returns. That assertion was clearly refuted last Saturday, based on the turnout in more than 100 cities, including the IRS office in Hauppauge. He’s also claimed that he is prevented from obliging because his taxes are undergoing a formal audit by the agency, a procedure the IRS has said is not a factor in preventing him from showing the public how much money he’s made and where it came from.

These concerns about Trump’s business ties have grown increasingly pronounced as disturbing revelations about his family and his aides’ dealings in Russia continue unabated.

Meanwhile, in another reversal of long-standing White House policy, the Trump administration announced April 14th that it would no longer make the names of visitors to the White House available to the public, which President Obama had done. A Trump spokesman said the decision was due “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of visitors annually,” as reported by NPR.

Protesters saw the White House’s action as another suspicious sign of Trump’s unethical behavior. Among the signs held by more than 200 people who stood along Veterans Highway outside the IRS office in Hauppauge, one read: “Corrupt Trump has got something to hide!” Others included: “Show us your taxes!” A man wearing a Jets cap held a poster with a clever pun implying: “Why are you PUTIN off releasing your taxes?”

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) explained in a statement before the Tax March, “Donald Trump is hiding something. And we know where he’s hiding it—not in a safe, not in a vault. Nope, he’s hiding it in his taxes,” she said, adding “we do know that Trump hotels owe hundreds of millions of dollars to Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, the Bank of China. We know he’s done business with Saudi princes, and even investors allegedly tied to the Russian mob.”

For more than 40 years American presidents have routinely released their tax returns—even though it’s not a formal requirement. Warren said the issue is about “who exercises influence—who really calls the shots—over the man who now sits in the White House.”

Tax March Protest Trump Tax Returns
Hundreds rallied outside the IRS office in Hauppauge on April 15 to demand President Trump release his tax returns, including this canine! (Spencer Rumsey / Long Island Press)

Long Island Activists for Democracy helped to organize the event at the Hauppauge IRS, which ran from noon until 1:30 p.m. and included a pair of dogs with anti-Trump signs on their backs as well as young children and a couple of protesters in wheelchairs. Earlier in the morning, demonstrators had gathered in Bethpage at a demonstration that the Long Island Progressive Coalition had helped set up to demand that Trump clear the ethical cloud surrounding his administration.

In Manhattan, thousands of people began marching in Bryant Park, where they heard Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) reportedly tell the crowd, “Donald Trump is a living breathing conflict of interest, and the American people deserve to know what the heck he’s hiding from this great republic.” Also speaking at the Manhattan rally was comedienne Sarah Silverman, who according to the Daily News, said, “We all are very interested in not only where this president had business ties and who he is beholden to, but why he refuses to show us. And there is no possible explanation other than fishy shit is going on.”

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of people rallied at the U.S. Capitol, where the Huffington Post reported that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), referring to Trump as the 45th president, led the crowd in a chant of “Impeach 45!” The parade also featured Donny the Tax March Chicken, an inflatable plastic poultry mascot made over to resemble the president, complete with golden orange hairdo.

Some organizers for the nationwide protest have reportedly credited Trump’s spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway for providing the inspiration when she recently commented that Americans didn’t care about his taxes. But so many people in Florida came out on Saturday to demand the president release his returns that his motorcade had to change its route back from the golf course to his Mar-A-Lago mansion so he wouldn’t have to see signs reading “Don the Con,” “Go back to New York” and “Show your taxes!”

Monday on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” Conway said the protests were misguided efforts by disgruntled liberals and disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters to get an election do-over.

“Six months after Donald Trump won 306 electoral votes, you have people still trying to make it go away, and this is the president,” she said. She also tried to blame the national Democratic Party for an outbreak of fighting between a small group of Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters at a park in Berkeley, Calif., where more than a dozen people were ultimately arrested.

Apparently President Trump did notice the protests, as he revealed in a flurry of badly worded Easter Sunday tweets, as reported by Politico: “I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican—easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again? Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!”

For those Long Islanders who lined Vets Highway in Hauppauge, the president’s unsubstantiated claim would have been welcome news, since no one seemed to be handing out money that afternoon, least of all protest organizer Ruth Cohen of Long Island Activists for Democracy.

“We are becoming a banana republic,” Cohen reportedly said, “where all the power and wealth is held by a super-small elite.”

According to a copy of his federal tax return leaked to MSNBC in March, Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes in 2005—the most recent return available—on more than $150 million, for an effective tax rate of 25 percent. What, if any, taxes he’s paid since remains to be seen.

Featured Photo: Hundreds rallied in front of the IRS office in Hauppauge on April 15 in a nationwide protest demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns to the public. (Spencer Rumsey / Long Island Press)

With Thor Hurling Heat, Mets Bury the Dread by Crushing the Braves on Opening Day

 

 

Diehard Mets fans know that you take nothing for granted when you face the Atlanta Braves. So many New Yorkers’ hearts have been broken over the years by that damn Georgia team that even with a rare 6-0 lead at the top of the ninth inning on Opening Day, you just can’t afford to relax, even if you’re among 44,384 of your closest friends at Citi Field—the second-largest regular season attendance in the ballpark’s history.

After all, the Braves had two men on base after Robert Gsellman came in to pitch the ninth and promptly gave up back-to-back hits to Mets’ nemesis Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp before registering his first out. Fortunately, everybody could do the math—no matter how many beers drained on that beautiful spring afternoon—and it would take a lot more Braves on base to make the game close, but you still worry. It’s what you do.

So sitting up there in the stratosphere known as the Promenade Section with my Northport comrade, I was a little concerned when suddenly Brandon Phillips made contact and put the ball into play. Then something amazing happened—okay, it’s not that amazing, all things considered—and the Mets suddenly turned a double-play because Kemp had started heading for third by mistake when he should have remained on second.

Just like that, Opening Day 2017 was in the books. The players lined up on the infield and traded high-fives as they headed into the dugout. We fans dutifully headed down the stairs in jubilation, filling the stairwells with chants of “Let’s go Mets!” as we descended from our giddy heights to the ground level below.

On the first day of the season the Mets’ defense had prevailed, but so had the offense, in a great balancing act that portends all kinds of odds-defying omens, prefaced by the thundering dominance of the mighty Noah Syndergaard, the 24-year-old, 6-foot-6, 242-pound righty known as Thor. It was because of him that so many grown men at Citi Field were seen sporting Viking horns and carrying around Styrofoam hammers like some would-be Norse god.

On the mound Syndergaard looked like he was pitching from a mountain top in Asgard. He got seven strikeouts, gave up no walks and scattered five hits, including a triple. With command of his full repertoire, he seemed unstoppable. If a Braves hitter worked out a full-count, you knew that Thor would throw the hammer down and get the out he needed, even when runners were on the corners.

 

 

What we didn’t know until much later was that since the second inning he’d been battling a blood blister on the middle finger of his right hand. He seemed to pay it no mind, hurling 86 pitches through six innings. At that point, the game was scoreless because the Braves fidgety starter Julio Teheran, a string-bean of a young man who never looked comfortable on the mound, had dominated the Mets’ line-up, giving up a couple of hits to Mets’ unsung short-stop Asdrubal Cabrera and a single to the mighty Thor himself.

But it was the pitch selection of Syndergaard, the third youngest Opening Day starter in Mets history after Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver, that made him the most dazzling on Monday.

As the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner put it, Syndergaard’s “sinker—or two-seam fastball—veers sharply away from left-handed hitters at speeds few pitchers can reach with their four-seamers.” Newsday’s David Lennon described Thor’s repertoire thusly: “The 99-mph heat, the insane 94-mph slider, the drop-fade, 88-mph power change.”

“I like to say it’s controlled violence,” Syndergaard has reportedly said about his velocity.

The game had great pitching but also wonderful offense with a huge close play at the plate that involved arguably the Mets’ most popular utility player, Wilmer Flores, whose name echoed from fans in the stands when he came into the game. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Flores had reached on a force-out and then stole second. On first stood Jose Reyes, whose name also gets the crowd singing along whenever he’s announced. Reyes, playing third, was wearing a canary-yellow sleeve on his batting arm just like our multi-million-dollar left-fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who twice drove the ball to the warning track in deep center-field but not quite far enough to clear the yard. He will soon enough.

So up came Cabrera, who stroked a single that Braves’ center fielder Ender Inciarte grabbed off the grass. He fired a bullet to his catcher, Tyler Flowers, who faced Flores racing for home. Unlike last September when Flores foolishly slid head-first and wound up on the disabled list when the Mets made their Wild Card bid against the Giants, this time Flores slid like an obedient Little Leaguer, his front right foot bouncing on the plate right before Flowers (whose Spanish name would be Flores) could apply the tag.

But the umpire called out our Flores, outraging us all. Mets’ coach Terry Collins—now in his seventh season, bless him—challenged the call. As we watched the slide replayed on the giant video scoreboard, we knew he’d gotten it right and the umpire was wrong. Flores was really safe, and the Mets had established a 1-0 lead. From that humble beginning, the Mets sent five more batters to the plate—11 in all that inning.

Our inspiring center-fielder Curtis Granderson drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, doubling our score. When it was his turn, right-fielder Jay Bruce, looking a lot more relaxed at the plate than last year, earned a bases-loaded walk, making it 3-0. During the off season, the Mets had unsuccessfully tried to trade the dismal but highly paid Bruce, and whenever he came up to bat Monday, the crowd made his name sound very similar to boos. The guy sitting next to me, who’d come with his 25-year-old son from the far reaches of Westchester County, cracked us up when he loudly proclaimed: “Did you miss the public address system announcement that we should please refrain from throwing bottles and cans at Bruce just yet?” After all, it was Bruce’s 30th birthday so we cut him some slack, and appreciated all three of his walks during the game.

But whose bat would speak the loudest on Opening Day? That was the question. The answer proved to be another good sign of brighter days ahead—although let’s not jinx it. The big blast in the home opener came from Lukas Duda, the Mets’ quirky first baseman, who also has been known to disappoint us occasionally. He hit a double that cleared the bases.

And let’s not forget Cabrera, who went 3-for-5, reportedly the first Met to record three hits on Opening Day since Mets captain David Wright battled the Nationals on March 31, 2014. On this day, sadly, Wright watched from the dugout, nursing another possible career-ending injury, a cervical disc herniation, which will force him to recuperate in Florida as the team travels without him.

But we fans showered Wright with cheers when he stood with the team along the first base line for the pre-game introductions. Later we all got to greet Hall of Famer Mets catcher Mike Piazza, who looked rather snappy in a dark blue business suit as he presented a folded American flag to the veteran of the day in a ceremony by home plate. Social media circulated a nice photo of three Mets greats: Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and John Franco sharing a laugh—proving that the so-called feud between the two D’s was over. (It had begun after Strawberry had publicly accused Gooden of a drug relapse.)

Mets fans also showed some very impressive magnanimity—if I do say so myself—to a few former players now wearing Braves uniforms who joined their team along the third base line. A standing ovation greeted the great knuckle-ball thrower R.A. Dickey and everybody went hoarse cheering for our favorite big guy on the mound, Bartolo Colon. When he turns 44 in May, he’ll be the oldest active player in Major League Baseball. We don’t know what his earned run average will be this year, but we’ll never forget when he hit his first home run last year. Letting Colon leave Queens for a $12.5 million one-year contract with Atlanta seemed like a sensible move on the part of Mets’ ownership, given all the presumed riches on our pitching roster (not to mention the team’s record $154 million payroll).

But after the season opener, the normal sense of Mets fan dread is rearing its ugly head again. Will Syndergaard’s blister heal for good? Will Long Island’s own Steve Matz overcome his elbow inflammation? What about Seth Lugo, who’s got some serious elbow issues of his own? And for that matter, will the Mets’ Dark Knight, Matt Harvey, ever return to his lights-out form?

These are all valid worries, but we’ll save them for another day. After all, when you’re a Mets fan, you’re always thinking about tomorrow, if not waiting ’til next year.

Cinema Arts Centre Hosts ‘1984’ Global Protest Screening

1984 National Screening Day Protest

Big Brother will be watching—or more accurately, millions will be watching Big Brother, as movie theaters across the country and world, including the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, collectively host a National Event Day screening of the dystopian thriller, 1984.

Based on George Orwell’s presciently terrifying novel, the movie by writer-director Michael Radford stars Richard Burton as a villain, Suzanna Hamilton as a romantic, and John Hurt as Winston Smith, a dutiful drone in a totalitarian state, who begins to fathom the depth of his oppression by a government that he always took for granted.

The film will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on April 4 at nearly 200 independent art-house movie theatres across the country and several internationally, with a post-film discussion at the Cinema Arts moderated by Prof. Marty Haas, who teaches American history at Adelphi University. The date of the screening is especially relevant because it was on this day that Smith began his rebellion by making his first entry in his forbidden diary. It’s what Big Brother’s Thought Police would call a “thought crime” because they don’t want anyone thinking independently. Smith’s job at the government’s Ministry of Truth had been to rewrite history, eliminating inconvenient truths and erasing incongruent facts. For some reason, he suddenly woke up.

The timing of the mass screening is also pertinent because many American theater owners strongly believe in supporting the National Endowment for the Arts, which would be eliminated in the federal budget proposed by President Trump. This coordinated screening is intended to serve as a forum and protest for those who see any attempt to curtail the NEA as an attack on free speech and creative expression through entertainment. The synchronized global screening is a joint effort by the United State of Cinema and Art House Convergence. Cinema Arts Centre is also an organizer of the event.

“A lot of us have felt that [with] the current administration, a lot of our most essential values are sort of under assault,” Dylan Skolnick, Cinema Arts Centre’s co-director, recently explained to the L.A. Times. “In particular, things like the existence of actual facts. And 1984 has had this sudden uptick in popularity because it really explores a lot of those issues.”

Here at the Cinema Arts, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Since Trump became president and the conservative Republicans cemented their control of both houses of Congress and soon the Supreme Court, sales of Orwell’s dystopian novel have soared, propelling the book first published in 1949 to the best-seller lists. The central theme is the heroic struggle of one individual against tyranny. Orwell prophetically saw the planet divided into three superpowers: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. He also predicted nuclear missiles, microprocessors and “Newspeak,” which we know today as alternative facts, thanks to Trump’s spokesperson Kellyanne Conway.

Radford won the rights to the novel from Orwell’s widow Sonia by promising to adhere closely to Orwell’s vision. Working against the clock with his producer Simon Perry, he was actually able to finish the film so it could premiere in the same year of its title. It’s haunting, disturbing and inspiring. And it couldn’t be more relevant to what’s going on today in our beleaguered republic.

The National Event Day Screening of 1984 will be at 7:30 p.m. on April 4th at Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington. cinemaartscentre.org .

Lawsuit Could Still Drive a Stake Through Jake’s 58 Gambling Casino

Jake's 58 Hotel & Casino
Jake's 58 Hotel & Casino in Islandia opened for business on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 (Long Island Press photo)

The video lottery slots are up and running at Jake’s 58 in Islandia. So are the crowds—and the traffic. Still hanging overhead is a pending lawsuit filed last September by Concerned Citizens of Suffolk County in State Supreme Court claiming that the Village of Islandia broke the law when it permitted any gambling at the site of the former Marriott.

“We believe that in addition to the numerous procedural deficiencies surrounding the issuance of this permit, the operation of a gaming facility is not a permitted use in Islandia under the code of the Village of Islandia,” said Ira Bezack, a Hauppauge resident and Melville lawyer, who’s the in-house counsel for this citizens’ group.

According to him, Islandia code explains why the new owners don’t even use the words “hotel and casino” on the side of the building. Jake’s 58 may be an inscrutable name to drivers whizzing by on the Long Island Expressway, but it links the LIE exit number to Jeremy Jacob, the owner of Delaware North, the Buffalo-based gaming and entertainment operator which opened the facility about a month ago.

“We’ll be a good neighbor,” Chuck Kilroy, the president and general manager of the hotel and casino, told the Press last month. “I think people will be pleasantly surprised at how the property operates and how we’ll become a member of the community.”

With a contract from Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation, Delaware North opened up Suffolk County’s first gambling venue on Feb. 27 with 265 video lottery terminals (VLTs) on hand. Now it has almost 300 VLTs and plans to install 1,000 by the summer.

Suffolk OTB President Phil Nolan, former Islip Town supervisor, has said publicly that he expects the facility’s first 1,000 machines to be insufficient, and intends to ask the State Legislature to allow Jake’s 58 to expand to 2,000 VLTs.

“I don’t think that Delaware North put in $32 to $34 million into renovating this hotel in Islandia for a thousand VLT machines,” said Bezack. “I think this is an investment in the hope that Governor Cuomo or anybody who’s sitting in that office will eventually allow the same type of gambling in New York that they have in Connecticut.”

Suffolk OTB is hoping that the slots-only casino will pay off big time, enabling it to emerge from bankruptcy—it filed for Chapter Nine protection on May 2012 before Chief Judge Carla Craig in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn—and unload its debt. It owes $3 million to the New York Racing Association, plus at least $15 million to its other creditors, which includes Delaware North. Some observers say the actual figure is three times that amount. But if all goes as planned, OTB says the new venue will let it pay $13 million to Suffolk County for its first decade of operation.

Suffolk OTB’s Nolan reportedly said that he expects the organization to be completely out of the red in five years and eventually be able to ostensibly contribute an estimated $73.9 million annually to public education.

Critics of the casino don’t see how that’s going to happen, given Suffolk OTB’s debt burden. But other factors may be at work as well. According to a study of gambling conducted by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, revenues from video lottery terminals drop precipitously the longer the parlors stay open.

“The actual revenue collections are always below the expected revenue forecasts,” Lucy Dadayan, the senior researcher who ran the study in 2016, told Newsday, adding that Jake’s 58 would surely succumb to the same fate.

There wouldn’t be one VLT in Suffolk had not Albany granted OTB the right to operate gaming machines in the 2013 law pushed by disgraced ex-State Sen. Dean Skelos, who is appealing his conviction on federal corruption charges. The former New York Senate majority leader’s measure gave Nassau OTB and Suffolk OTB the right to place 1,000 video slots within their county lines.

Nassau OTB couldn’t find the right location to overcome community objections, and ended up leasing its share to Resorts World Casino New York City, which installed them at its Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Originally, Suffolk OTB tried to make a deal in Medford, but met community opposition. Then the Village of Islandia stepped in, thanks to three-term incumbent Mayor Allan Dorman. Coincidentally or not, when the Islandia Marriott along Exit 58 by the Expressway went up for sale, Delaware North swept in last summer.

One of the plaintiffs in the pending lawsuit, which was filed last September, is former Islandia Deputy Mayor Neil Munro, who just ran against Dorman on March 21 and lost. It was reportedly Dorman’s first hotly contested election in a decade. Among the allegations in the suit before Judge William Ford in Riverhead are that the village approved the special permit to operate the casino “in less than two minutes,” according to attorney Paul Sabatino, Bezack’s co-counsel in the suit along with Anton Borovina. Sabatino told the Press that the resolution wasn’t even written down until “several days after the vote.”

Mayor Dorman did not respond to requests for comment.

Last week, Dorman handily defeated Munro, 507 to 258. Dorman, 66, president of the Suffolk County Village Officials Association, has lived in Islandia for 38 years. He heartily supported the casino contract, saying that it brought jobs and allowed the village to cut garbage collection fees while providing free senior bus service. His challenger, Munro, 54, who’s lived in Islandia 31 years, was a village trustee from 2005 to 2009, as well as deputy mayor. He’s a manager at Staller Associates, a real estate company in Islandia. Besides defeating Munro, Dorman cemented his support on the village board by knocking off a challenge from former Deputy Mayor Diane Olt, who was running for trustee.

“I don’t agree to a casino without a public referendum,” Munro told the Press. “It was jammed down everybody’s throat without discussing it.”

Frustrated by the recent election results while awaiting the court ruling on the casino permit, Munro and his allies met March 25. He said they saw many improprieties on Election Day, but did not expect the outcome to be overturned by the State Board of Elections. They plan to meet again next week.

According to Bezack, Delaware North has promised more than it can—or will—deliver. The company has agreed to pay the Village of Islandia $3.2 million annually, and coughed up $2.5 million before the recent election.

“That’s more than the village will ever see,” said Bezack. “In about a year and a half, their permit will expire and they’ll want to scale back their contribution significantly.”

Added Sabatino: “At a minimum, this entire project is taking on the look of a classic bait and switch, both economically and legally.”

He said that based on public comments, the economic viability of the casino depends on its getting 2,000 VLTs, despite the state statute’s limit. He also claimed that the New York Gaming Commission should not have granted the casino’s operating license, because under state law, the facility had to be in compliance with all of Islandia’s code provisions. His side argues that it was not.

“If the case is decided on the law, we should win,” said Bezack, “but unfortunately this is not a legal issue—it’s a political issue. The State of New York wants it, the County of Suffolk wants it, the Village of Islandia wants it. Now, is this judge going to buck politics? Or is he going to decide the case on the law? We are hopeful that Justice Ford, as is his duty, will decide the case on the law and not be swayed by political concerns.”

The plaintiffs contend that if Jake’s 58 is engaged in business activity not permitted by village code, then it should not be permitted to continue, let alone bring in hundreds more VLTs.

“I’m a vigorous opponent of the expansion of gambling,” said Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown), whose district includes Jake’s 58. “I believe OTB should be allowed to fail. For government to go into the business of gambling to support its operation is bad public policy. It’s immoral in my view for government to be involved when we know a certain percentage of people will become addicted with real ramifications for families and businesses.”

Last year, Fitzpatrick filed a bill to rescind the authorization for the video lottery terminals but couldn’t get a Republican co-sponsor in the State Senate, so it died in his Assembly committee. He told the Press he’ll try again this session in Albany because he wants OTB “to go away and cease to be a cancer on the body politic of Suffolk County.”

“The caution to the village,” Fitzpatrick warned, “is that sometimes municipalities get a little punch-drunk—there’s a sugar high from the money that comes in—and they end up committing to spending, for which revenue may not be available a few years down the line. They’re on the hook for these commitments… The village is certainly going to enjoy a short-term windfall, but the social cost is going to borne by the entire county.”

Islandia does not have its own police, fire or ambulance service, and so must depend on Suffolk to provide those services.

“I’m not against gambling,” said Bezack, the lead attorney for Concerned Citizens of Suffolk, “but there are so many other places in Suffolk County that are much more amenable, like Grumman out in Calverton. Gambling has its place, but not in a residential community. This is going to be a full-blown casino.”

Asked for comment about the issues raised by Jake’s 58, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declined. Supposedly Jake’s 58 has been on a hiring spree, employing more than 300 staffers and dozens of security guards. The casino is open daily from 8 a.m. until 4 a.m.

Apparently, the county is betting that it will only continue.

Trump Obliterates Obama Environmental Regulations

On Tuesday President Trump signed an executive order at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency that directs federal regulators to rewrite the rules that curb carbon emissions in the U.S. while rolling back many other environmental regulations.

With EPA head Scott Pruitt, Vice President Mike Pence, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and a group of purported coal miners looking on, Trump put his pen to work dismantling a major component of President Obama’s climate change policies. Dubbed the “Energy Independence Executive Order,” it starts to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan, rescind a temporary ban on new coal leases on federal lands, eliminates a federal guidance to factor in climate change when making policy and gets rid of the federal researchers who measure the social cost of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide.

Trump said he signed the executive order to grow America’s wealth, gain energy independence and end “job-killing regulations” so the country can “put our miners back to work.” As he declared, it marks an end to “the war on coal.”

The executive order sparked a huge reaction nationwide. Here in New York, the response was vehement, whether from elected officials or environmental activists.

“If there was any doubt that big oil was back in charge under the Trump administration, today’s executive order lays that to rest,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.). “It reads as if it was written in an Exxon board room, with no regard for the health and safety of the American people, or the planet. This executive order is nothing more than a giveaway to big oil at the expense of the health and safety of our children and the bank accounts of hard working middle-class families. Simply put, the Trump administration has put the health of the American people and the future of our planet on the back burner all for the sake of lining the pockets of big oil and extreme-right special interests.”

New York’s junior Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also weighed in with this tweet:

Her spokesman said, “New Yorkers are on the front lines of climate change, and rolling back this plan ignores science and the threat of extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy. Climate change will hurt our fishing industry, and rising sea levels will result in more New Yorkers residing in flood zones.”

Long Island Republican Congressman, Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) applauded Trump’s action Tuesday, saying that President Obama had overstepped the bounds of the Constitution by ordering the EPA to overhaul the nation’s energy market through regulation and without an act of Congress.

“I support President Trump’s executive order calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly review and revise the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan,” said Rep. Zeldin in a statement. “While I support clean and renewable energy on Long Island, I am opposed to unfunded EPA mandates that ignore the role of Congress and the Constitution.

“On Long Island we pay some of the highest electricity rates in the nation, and, as proposed, the Clean Power Plan is expected to double electricity rates,” Zeldin continued. “The solution is an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy that lowers rates, is reliable, and protects the environment. I will continue working across the aisle to protect the valuable natural resources we treasure on Long Island, to support clean energy research and safeguard our environment.”

His Democratic colleague from Long Island, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), didn’t see it that way.

“President Trump and Scott Pruitt deny basic science and do what big oil companies tell them to do, even when it means jeopardizing our national security, environment, and public health,” said Rice in a statement. “But it’s people in places like Long Island who will pay the price of polluted air, rising sea levels and extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy.

“We have an opportunity on Long Island and across New York to create a lot of good local jobs by leading the transition to clean energy,” Rice told the Press in a statement. “I’m going to keep working to make sure we seize that opportunity, even if the Trump administration continues to deny basic facts and lead us in the opposite direction.”

She was joined by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who slammed the executive order for derailing important environmental regulations.

“This executive order unravels important measures that are meant to keep the air we breathe clean for families and children,” said Suozzi in a statement. “Even if New York has clean power plants, polluters in other states will negatively impact our air quality. We can’t let that happen.

“Keeping our environment safe is not a partisan issue,” Suozzi added. “As co-chair of the bipartisan Long Island Sound Caucus and a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, we need to work together to protect our ever-changing climate. [Tuesday’s] actions go too far.”

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, who represents parts of Queens and a sliver of Nassau, called Obama’s Clean Power Plan “evenhanded” and predicted it could prevail in court.

“This executive order will certainly be challenged in the courts and I hope they will see Trump’s executive order for what it is—an ill-conceived and potentially dangerous plan that could hurt Americans and people around the world,” said Meeks in a statement. “Smart regulations help protect our environment and ensure that our children enjoy a beautiful world, as so many generations have before them.”

In Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a joint statement with California Gov. Jerry Brown that reaffirmed both states’ commitment to exceed the targets of the Clean Power Plan and reduce carbon pollution.

“Dismantling the Clean Power Plan and other critical climate programs is profoundly misguided and shockingly ignores basic science,” the governors’ joint statement said. “With this move, the Administration will endanger public health, our environment and our economic prosperity.

“Climate change is real and will not be wished away by rhetoric or denial,” it continued. “We stand together with a majority of the American people in supporting bold actions to protect our communities from the dire consequences of climate change.

“Together, California and New York represent approximately 60 million people–nearly one-in-five Americans–and 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product,” added Gov. Cuomo. “With or without Washington, we will work with our partners throughout the world to aggressively fight climate change and protect our future.”

Their statement noted that New York and California lead the nation in ground-breaking policies to combat climate change. Both states, which reportedly account for roughly 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, have adopted advanced energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to meet and exceed the requirements of the Clean Power Plan and have set some of the most aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in North America–40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The governors concluded, “New York and California will continue to work closely together–and with other states–to help fill the void left by the federal government.”

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that he’s leading a coalition of 23 states, cities and counties in opposing President Trump’s executive order designed to curtail the Clean Power Act.

The coalition includes the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the chief legal officers of the cities of Boulder, Colorado, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and South Miami.

“We strongly oppose President Trump’s executive order that seeks to dismantle the Clean Power Plan,” they said in their statement released Tuesday afternoon. “Addressing our country’s largest source of carbon pollution—existing fossil fuel-burning power plants—is both required under the Clean Air Act and essential to mitigating climate change’s growing harm to our public health, environments, and economies. We won’t hesitate to protect those we serve—including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change.”

Schneiderman’s office pointed out that the EPA had adopted the Clean Power Plan “through a multi-year stakeholder process that drew heavily on the experience of states and utilities in reducing power plant greenhouse gas emissions…These states recognize that, on such a crucial issue that is already costing taxpayers billions of dollars in storm response and other costs, state action alone will not be enough and strong federal actions like the Clean Power Plan are needed.”

Activists were practically unanimous in slamming Tuesday’s executive order.

“Anyone with Twitter knows that President Trump fails to grasp the impact of his words,” said Travis Proulx with Environmental Advocates of New York. “But today, he’s demonstrated a failure to grasp the devastation of his actions as he’s placed our health and security at risk. With the stroke of a pen, President Trump thinks he can repeal facts and bully us back to the dirty and dangerous ways of the past. He may view this as a moment of ‘American Pride,’ but he and his administration are the only ones who don’t get that no one voted for air that makes our kids sick.”

He urged Cuomo to step up.

“If it wasn’t clear to Governor Cuomo before today why he must place his climate and clean energy policies into law, he must get it now,” said Proulx. “Climate action cannot be sustained through executive actions alone; New Yorkers need the force of law to protect them. As New York joins with California to fight for state-based climate action, it would be wise to replicate the wisdom of California by enshrining our goals and programs into law. President Trump may be a lost cause, but his actions are causing millions of New Yorkers who know that climate change is getting worse to engage. New York State owes it to them to provide security in knowing that their government is looking out for them.”

Heather Leibowitz, director of Environment New York , called Trump’s executive order “an opening salvo. There’s a lot that the administration will have to do to actually rewrite the Clean Power Plan,” she told the Press in an email. “The fact remains that the Supreme Court has affirmed that carbon dioxide is a pollutant governed by the Clean Air Act, which obligates the EPA to address it.

“There’s certainly other things the administration could try to do to slow our transition to clean energy,” Leibowitz warned, “but ultimately, I think the trend is unstoppable. Slowing it down can certainly do harm, but we’ll be doing everything we can at the local, state and federal level to limit pollution and grow clean energy.

“When it comes to climate change, everyone lives downwind,” she said. “Allowing more pollution will increase the risks we in New York City and Long Island face from more extreme weather, coastal flooding and heat waves.”

Leibowitz didn’t buy Trump’s explanation that repealing the Clean Power Plan as well as lifting other environmental protections will lead to many more jobs in coal mining.

“Already in the US, more than 2.5 million Americans go to work every day in the clean energy industry, one of the fastest-growing sectors of our economy,” said Leibowitz.

According to an analysis by the Energy Department released in January before Trump’s inaugural, coal mining in the U.S. reportedly accounts for 75,000 jobs, while renewable energy, which includes wind, solar and biofuels, has yielded more than 650,000 jobs nationwide.

“The Clean Power Plan is one of the biggest steps forward to address climate change and promote clean air in the history of our nation,” noted Adrienne Esposito, Long Island’s executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The President cannot obliterate a federal law just to give a gift to his friends in the fossil fuel industries.”

Esposito pointed out that our region is especially vulnerable to the unfortunate by-products of fossil fuel.

“Long Island is in the air shed of Midwest power plants, which means their pollutants travel to Long Island and degrade our air quality, and are deposited in our bays, harbors and estuaries,” she told the Press in a statement. “This means our waters will contain more nitrogen leading to toxic tides, and will become more acidic, which kills shellfish and changes the ecology of our local waterways. We need Congressman King and Congressman Zeldin to stand up and stop this public health and environmental nightmare. We have made tremendous progress in protecting our air and water in our nation. No one voted to ‘Make America Polluted Again’ so let’s stop this environmental assault.”