Spencer Rumsey

269 POSTS 0 COMMENTS
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.

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.”

Nassau Art Museum Honors Halston, Once America’s Fashion Superstar

halston

To his family, he was Roy Halston Frowick, but to millions of high-minded followers of fashion he was simply known as Halston, a name that stood for style and taste.

Now, for the first time, this distinctive American fashion designer gets his due as the Nassau County Museum of Art turns over its entire gallery space for the most comprehensive retrospective of his works ever assembled in one place outside of a fashion runway.

Focusing on his life and art, “Halston Style” is “one of the most ambitious projects the Museum has ever undertaken,” said Karl E. Willers, director of the Nassau County Museum of Art.

This “celebration of Halston and his achievements in fashion,” as Willers describes it, includes many never-before-seen objects from the designer’s personal archives that he left to his niece, Lesley Frowick, who is the guest curator and author of the accompanying catalogue, Halston: Inventing American Fashion.

“This is a story of a self-made man who rose from the amber prairies to the glittering heights of success in Manhattan,” said Frowick in a statement about the show. “Along the way he created a uniquely American definition of chic that remains relevant to this day—one of simplicity made elegant. He was the first superstar American designer.”

Sponsored by “H Halston Exclusively at Lord & Taylor,” this unique exhibition will include more than 60 Halston fashions, juxtaposed with photographs, artwork, illustrations and accessories, as well as a documentary chronicling his breakthrough Versailles 1973 fashion when he rocked the world and knocked Parisian haute couture for a loop. Among the reasons was Halston’s stunning array of beautiful black models, including the iconic Iman, who later would marry David Bowie.

As Halston put it, “You are only as good as the people you dress.”

Among the highlights of the exhibit are Halston’s trademark pillbox hat design, made famous by Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore it to the Inauguration in 1961 when she was First Lady, and also his innovative Ultrasuede shirtdress garment along with his minimalistic jersey dresses. Masterful examples of the designer’s classic gowns are also abundantly on view as well as sketches of his uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team in 1976 and for the Girl Scouts of America. Museum goers will also get to gaze about Liza Minnelli costume designs, snapshots of Studio 54 when it was at its heyday and Polaroids of him with famous models.

“Halston was the premier designer of the disco age,” writes Aria Darcella in Fashion Unfiltered, “whose minimalistic silhouettes and designs defined not only the fashion at the time, but also American fashion’s place in the global style sphere.”

Not bad for a young guy starting out in the hat salon at Bergdorf Goodman who wound up working with Andy Warhol and even renting his place in Montauk. Halston died in 1990, after entrusting his niece with his archives.

“He always kept a magnum of Dom Perignon in his refrigerator,” Frowick told Women’s Wear Daily recently about her famous uncle. “Funnily, he never drank Champagne. It was for his guests.”

Can visitors to “Halston Style” at the Nassau Museum pick out their faves, take them off the rack and wear them home? Most definitely not, unfortunately. But they can dream!

The show opens officially March 25 and runs until July 9. Nassau County Museum of Art is located at One Museum Drive in Roslyn Harbor, just off Northern Boulevard, Route 25A, two traffic lights west of Glen Cove Road. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and above) and $4 for students and children (4 to12).

Featured photo: Halston, courtesy Nassau County Museum of Art

Schumer: Judge Gorsuch Will Need 60 Senate Votes to Reach the Supreme Court

While President Trump has his hands full lining up support from House Republicans for his overthrow of Obamacare, Senate Democrats have taken a clear stand against his nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, raising the stakes for his confirmation.

On Thursday, after three days of listening to his “lack of candor” at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said his party plans to filibuster Gorsuch, which means that the conservative Colorado jurist will likely have to hurdle the 60-vote threshold to take his seat on the High Court. Right now Democrats are in the minority with only 48 Senators, leaving the Republicans with 52.

“After careful deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” said Schumer. “He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation.

“To my Republican friends who think that if Judge Gorsuch fails to reach 60 votes we ought to change the rules, I say: if this nominee cannot earn 60 votes, a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and President Bush’s last two nominees, the answer isn’t to change the rules—it’s to change the nominee,” said Schumer, who laid out the reasons why he’ll oppose the nomination and urge his colleagues to do the same.

“His career and judicial record suggests not a neutral legal mind but instead someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology,” said Schumer. “He was groomed by the Federalist Society and has not shown one inch of difference between his views and theirs. And finally, he is someone who almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak, corporations over working Americans. There could not be a worse time for someone with those instincts.”

He blasted the 10th Circuit judge for not having “an ounce of courage” to defend the judiciary branch against President Trump’s repeated attacks. “Instead, he just tells us that he’s demoralized, disheartened.”

Asked about his judicial philosophy, Schumer said Gorsuch uttered “banalities and platitudes. We did not get any real answers to any real questions about what he thinks about the law and why.”

From  Roe v. Wade guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion to the segregation-busting Brown v. Board of Education, Gorsuch’s refusal to answer whether he agreed with the Supreme Court decisions in those seminal cases convinced Schumer to oppose his nomination.

“Instead of an umpire calling balls and strikes in baseball,” Schumer said, “what we really saw was an expert—a well-trained expert—in dodgeball.”

Schumer took particular aim at Trump’s selection process, criticizing the president for simply picking someone off a list prepared by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society and “groomed by billionaire conservatives.” Schumer said Gorsuch’s background gave him little confidence that once on the Supreme Court the jurist would care to curtail the “dark, secret, undisclosed money,” released by the Citizens United decision in 2010, and now being spent by the millions on television ads to drum up support for his confirmation.

“To say he is neutral in his views is belied by his history since his college days and by his own judicial record,” said Schumer.

Then Schumer brought up a very sore point for Democrats: Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to fill the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last winter, who was rebuffed by Senate Republicans. The nation’s highest court has been operating with only eight judges ever since.

“We all know that my friends across the aisle held this Supreme Court seat open for over a year in hopes that they would have the opportunity to install someone hand-picked by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society to advance the goal of big-money interests entrenching their power in the courts,” said Schumer. “They don’t even mind that this nomination is moving forward under the cloud of an FBI investigation of the president’s campaign.”

He noted that President Obama was under no investigation when he nominated Judge Garland. “It is unseemly and wrong to be moving so fast on a lifetime appointment in such circumstances,” Schumer said.

His objection was preceded weeks ago by New York’s junior U.S. Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, a fellow Democrat, who announced in the beginning of February that she would not vote for Gorsuch and supported the 60-vote threshold.

“The Supreme Court is supposed to be the ultimate arbiter of justice for our citizens,” said Gillibrand in a statement. “Unfortunately, Judge Gorsuch has proven to have a judicial philosophy outside of the mainstream and time and again has subjugated individual rights to those of corporations. I fundamentally disagree with his ruling that a boss should be able to make family planning decisions for an employee and that corporations are people. I plan to stand up for individuals over corporations and oppose his nomination, and I will insist that his nomination meet a traditional 60-vote threshold.”

As Democrats, both on Capitol Hill and around the country, have angrily pointed out, the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) never even bothered to bring Garland’s nomination to a vote, let alone have him appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Additionally, just prior to the November election, some Republicans suggested that they would refuse to vote for a Hillary Clinton Supreme Court nominee had she won.

“The Republicans’ refusal to allow Merrick Garland to get even a hearing to fill this seat was nothing short of a crime against democracy, a twisting of democratic norms beyond all recognition,” said Paul Waldman, a senior writer at The American Prospect, in a recent column for the Washington Post. “Garland should be in this seat, and Democrats should go as far as they possibly can to avoid giving even a shred of validation to the way Republicans stole it.”

And so Schumer has thrown down the gauntlet for Gorsuch and his supporters to cross.

Photographer Joan Weiss Exhibits Otherworldly ‘Illusions & Impressions’ In Manhasset

joan weiss

The way Joan Weiss sees it, there’s always more than meets the eye.

Her images really reside in the mind. Whether she’s honing in on details others might easily overlook, or capturing layers of meaning hidden in plain sight in a landscape vista, this acclaimed Long Island photographer brings an artistic aesthetic to her work that makes a lasting impression.

Not bad for someone who could neither draw nor paint as a kid growing up in Brooklyn—and never saw her artwork stuck on the refrigerator door by her parents. But she did borrow her family’s trusty old Brownie, and that passion for photography—though it took some significant detours over the years as she pursued a high-pressure career as a medical writer and editor—stayed with her.

After she retired a couple of years ago, this Jericho resident devoted herself to becoming a full-time art photographer. What she’s accomplished since 2015 is impressive: She’s been elected to the Board of Directors of the Art League of Long Island and had four solo shows on Long Island, with more to come.

This Sunday marks another milestone in her photographic odyssey that has taken Weiss from Coney Island to Vietnam, when her exhibit, “Illusions & Impressions,” opens at the Shelter Rock Art Gallery in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset. On display from March 25 through April 24, it’s fitting that the largest show yet of her work takes place at a gallery considered by many professional photographers as the best venue on Long Island aside from museums.

“I will be showing 40 photographs, a few of them on the ‘gigantic’ side,” Weiss told the Press, adding that some are five-feet wide. “That will be new for that gallery, but I think it shows those particular photographs to their best advantage.”

Admittedly, her work is edgy, impressionistic and even surreal—and at their best breathtakingly beautiful.

In her photography, she says, “I see textures, and layers, and the way objects interact in geometric patterns to form other creations. I see shadows and reflections, and the blur of human motion, and sometimes an incongruous fusion of these elements.”

Her formal training began at Cornell University when she amazed her friends by signing up for early Saturday morning photography classes. After graduating with a B.S., she went to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she would often be the one wielding the camera instead of the reporter’s notepad. The year was 1968.

“It was a turning point in my life,” recalled Weiss, who was known as Joan Solomon back in those days. “I had become sort of the unofficial class photographer,” she said. In April that year, Columbia students protesting the Vietnam War began a nonviolent occupation of campus buildings and subsequently classes were suspended.

“So we just wandered around the campus during the day looking for where the action was,” Weiss said. “We would often hear in the middle of the night that there were riots on campus and the police were going after students. So we, of course, got up to join the action. We were all in our 20s then and had no fear. If the police caught you, they either crushed your skull with their batons or arrested you. One night my shoe fell off and I fell down. I was terrified. A couple of my friends got me up and dragged me off campus.”

Interestingly, her next big solo exhibit, “Vietnam Now,” will be shown at the Art League of Long Island in Dix Hills from May 3 to May 31, featuring about 30 photographs she took during her trip through that war-torn south Asian country last January.

But it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that her work is overtly, or even covertly, political. It’s more profound than that, and harder to categorize.

“I sometimes feel like I’m in a dream, where things are not what they seem but serve as clues to a deeper, more elusive truth,” Weiss explained. “That truth is revealed to me more vividly through the camera lens than through the naked eye.”

As Weiss gained confidence in her art, she began to realize that she doesn’t see the world as others do—and she has grown to appreciate the difference.

“When I travel and members of my group look in one direction to snap a photo, I invariably aim my camera in the other,” she said. “I find interest and beauty where others might see the mundane. I see glitz where others might see grandeur.”

To create a compelling image, she says she takes “a practical approach” that she’s willing to share:

“Go out in atrocious weather. Get into impossible positions. Ruin your clothes.”

And so she does—willingly. But what she brings back with her camera makes it all so worthwhile.

Joan Weiss’ photography show, “Illusions & Impressions,” runs from March 25 through April 24, with an opening reception on March 26 from 1-3 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, 48 Shelter Rock Road, Manhasset. Call 516-472-2933 for more information.

Jimmy Breslin Proved That the Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

The first time I met Jimmy Breslin at New York Newsday I thought he was sitting down because he already had such a huge reputation I didn’t realize that this living giant of New York City was actually shorter than me. But that didn’t stop me from always looking up to him.

I was ecstatic when my publisher hired him away from the Daily News to join our side of the city’s tabloid war in 1988—even if it was for half a million bucks. Breslin was no Times man, as he’d say, although he did once entice the New York Times‘ Abe Rosenthal to join him at a bar in Queens, proving that some of the colorful characters he chronicled actually existed. Now it’s hard to believe that Breslin no longer exists—he died Sunday at age 88 of pneumonia.

At that first meeting in Newsday’s city room, I wasn’t sure why he seemed to single me out when he said the trouble with young journalists today is that we spent too much time at the gym and not enough time in bars getting the real story. He made going to a health club sound like a dereliction of duty. He urged us to put the phones down and get out into the boroughs, walk up the five flights of stairs and knock on doors.

I already knew about the groundbreaking columns that he had turned in, like when he interviewed the man who actually dug John F. Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery and earned $3.01 an hour. Or how as a columnist at the Daily News he was the recipient of the Son of Sam’s letters, which helped lead the cops to the author, David Berkowitz, the serial killer responsible for terrorizing so many young New York women in the summer of 1977. And how he had the presence of mind—and the respect of the men in blue—to write about the policemen who rushed John Lennon to the hospital after the great rock musician had been gunned down outside The Dakota on West 72nd in 1980.

Breslin had a staccato style that was Hemingway-like to my ears, as if I could picture him pounding on the keyboard of an old Smith Corona typewriter. But he also had an eye for detail and a love of language that propelled even his most mundane efforts into something worth reading, because you know, it was Jimmy Breslin, and what he had to say mattered no matter what, whether he was writing about that unique mob boss, Un Occhio, or taking the wind out of a blowhard politician who had turned his pin-striped back on the poor.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed devouring some of his 20-plus books, particularly The Good Rat, about a murder trial involving two cops, and Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game, about the hapless 1962 Mets under beleaguered manager Casey Stengel. I could always hear his distinctive voice, as if he were on the next barstool telling a tale while chomping on a cigar. But I remain a bigger fan of his columns, because that daily deadline pressure brought out the fighter in him—and he was afraid of nothing and no one.

In pursuit of the story behind the headlines, he got severely beaten up at Crown Heights during a race riot in 1991. He was left standing in his underwear holding his press badge, with a black eye and a bloody lip. But the city wasn’t his only beat. He covered the world, too. I learned from his obit that he was standing five feet away from Robert F. Kennedy when the great liberal Senator from New York was shot in Los Angeles after winning the California Democratic primary in 1968. I had missed his column on Three Mile Island in 1979 when it was on the verge of a meltdown that would have had apocalyptic consequences. Breslin didn’t hunker down in a bunker. Instead, he headed straight for the overheating reactor just south of Harrisburg, Penn. He reportedly told his loyal New York driver—Breslin never got his own license—to “step on it—it could be the end of Pennsylvania!”

His path through the harrowed halls of the Fourth Estate took him from the old Long Island Press in Jamaica, Queens, where he was a copy boy, to the New York Journal-American, where he was a sports writer, to the New York Herald Tribune, where he started writing a column, and later to the New York Post, New York Magazine and the Daily News, where I first found him. With Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese and Hunter S. Thompson, he was one of the pioneers of New Journalism in the 1970s, practitioners of a unique blend of subjectivity and objectivity that never compromised on integrity—and my inspiration as a journalist. In recognition of his career, Breslin won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 “for columns which consistently champion ordinary citizens,” the board explained. But he didn’t rest on his laurels. Not for a moment. He still had many more stories to tell, with hundreds of thousands of words boiling within him, waiting for the right moment to hit the page.

During my time at Newsday, I never edited Breslin, but I did know some copyeditors whom he’d bark at when he was on deadline and didn’t like them messing up his lede. I knew he was cantankerous, and didn’t suffer fools, but I wish he hadn’t hurled a racist slur at the young Korean-American woman reporter who had sent him an in-house message criticizing one of his columns for being sexist. His politically incorrect attitude led to his brief suspension in 1990. As he said in an apology to the staff: “I am not good and once again I can prove it.”

That was the flipside of his larger-than-life persona. He could share a drink with Norman Mailer, no slouch when it comes to big egos, and regard himself as the great American novelist’s peer—they did run a Don Quixote-like municipal campaign together in 1969, with Mailer aiming to become mayor and Breslin City Council president (their big issue was to make New York City the 51st state). But he would also venture into the farthest reaches of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens to shine the light on the unsung New Yorkers who make the city actually function—or whose lives were worth telling when tragedy struck close to home. He himself had come out of a rough and tumble world.

While he was still a kid in Queens, his alcoholic dad abandoned Breslin’s family. From that low point, Breslin rose to the heights of the city. And he did it without fear or favor.

Breslin called it the way he saw it—and we hung on every word.

Mockstrosity Tour Hits Long Island With Heavy Metal Laughs

mockstrosity

It’s certainly the first—and definitely not the worst—in fact, it could be the most unusual heavy metal show ever to hit Long Island. Never before have these three extraordinary bands from west of the Rockies appeared at the Revolution Bar and Music Hall, and Amityville may never be the same after they leave.

What brings Mac Sabbath, Metalachi and Okilly Dokilly to LI on the last Sunday night in March is the 2017 Mockstrosity Tour, covering 26 cities in 26 days, leaving tattered cultural expectations in their wake.

As the tour promoters say, their misguided mission was simple: They would amass “the most motley collection of costumed musical miscreants ever assembled. Our shortsighted ambition would prove to be our demise as one by one a hapless triad of lawless vagabonds have now come together to form a blasphemous axis of musical mockery far more powerful than we could have ever imagined…or hope to contain.”

It looks like they succeeded beyond their sickest imagination—purists, be warned.

Founders of what they call “Drive-Thru Metal,” Mac Sabbath mixes reimagined Black Sabbath classics with raucous comedy and borderline-horrific theatrics, complete with a smoking grill, laser-eyed clowns, bouncing burgers and many more surprises. Buzzfeed dubbed Mac Sabbath as one of the “13 Metal Bands You Didn’t Know How to React To,” while LA Weekly put them on their “Best Tribute Band” list in 2015. One look at the band in full regalia is frightening and funny at the same time.

“Heavy music, like heavy food, is best consumed voraciously and without much thought,” writes LA Weekly’s music critic Lina Lecaro. “But the McGenius behind Mac Sabbath is that they obviously put a lot of thought and skill into their quirky musical cooker, which roasts greasy fast-food corporations as much as it pays tribute to the pummeling rock of Ozzy and Sabbath. Like many gimmick-driven grinders, the members shroud themselves in secret sauce.”

The band includes Grimalice, the Catburglar and Slayer McCheeze backing up creepy clown Ronald Osbourne on vocals. With their “clever, freak-fried takes on Sabbath’s lyrics (‘Pair-A-Buns’ to the tune of ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Frying Pan’ to the tune of ‘Iron Man’),” Lecaro says, “these happy meal menaces sizzle life, and always serve up more than the empty calories of most cover bands.”

America’s Got Talent alumni Metalachi is the world’s only heavy metal mariachi band. Hailing from Hollywood via Juarez, Mexico, Metalachi is a musical/comedy stage show that somehow blends the world of Spinal Tap and Cheech & Chong into an over-the-top stage spectacle. The group is a 5-piece ensemble of classically trained mariachi musician brothers who have been fused together with the molten power of metal.

Their unique mix of raucous humor and innovative music has reportedly drawn praise from the likes of Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Hellyeah), Eric Wilson (Sublime), Billy Idol and Howard Stern. LA Weekly also put Metalachi on its list of LA’s “Top 5 Tribute Bands” of 2015.

“Metalachi roll metal and mariachi music together in to a big zesty burrito with just the right amount of heat,” writes LA Weekly’s Lina Lecaro. “Like the most garish ’80s glam bands, they don painted faces and wigs; they just top ’em off with sombreros and sometimes fancy polyester, too. The shtick works because the guys are skilled mariachis, especially their horn and violin players, who attack their solos like Speedy Gonzales meets Slash.”

They started building their following in North Hollywood, and struck it big, so to speak, on the Hollywood Strip. Their scorching rendition of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” would be ideal with some flaming margaritas, Lecaro recommends.

Rounding out the line-up and all the way from Phoenix, Arizona, come Okilly Dokilly, a very unlikely looking band performing what they describe as “Nedal,” a subgenre of metal inspired by Ned Flanders, the overbearing goodie-two-shoes neighbor on The Simpsons. Although these guys are certainly animated, they’re definitely not cartoon figures. The band includes Head Ned, Red Ned, Thread Ned, Stead Ned and Bled Ned.

They say they draw most of their lyrics from Ned Flanders’ direct quotes. Last November they released their debut album, Howdilly Doodilly, and they’ve since reaped worldwide attention from the likes of Time, Maxim, US Magazine and other outlets. Their first video was for the song “White Wine Spritzer,” an ode to Flanders’ favorite stiff drink.

After hearing one verse, you’ll never be afraid again to order that drink in front of your friends when you’re at a bar; you just have to summon the emotional intensity that Okilly Dokilly bring. It’s not at all what you’d expect from a bunch of nerdy looking guys in pink sports shirts, dark green sweaters and nondescript slacks. Their high energy shows try to “weave together comedy and brutality,” the band boasts.

“Guttural screams and pounding drums provide a soundtrack for the pummeling of an inflatable donut as green sweaters and round glasses blur across the stage.” Now that’s a sight for sore eyes.

On March 26, the Mockstrosity Tour comes to the Revolution Music Hall, which is at 140 Merrick Road in Amityville. Doors open at 7 p.m. General admission is $20, for ages 18 and over.

Mac Sabbath photo credit: Paul Koudounaris

Hollywood Insider Patricia Bosworth Hosts Rare Screening of “A Place in the Sun” at Cinema Arts

cinema arts

In another fascinating installment of Hollywood comes to Huntington, acclaimed author, actress and editor Patricia Bosworth will be on hand at the Cinema Arts Centre on March 15 for a special big screening of the 1951 critically acclaimed masterpiece, A Place in the Sun.

The classic stars 18-year-old Elizabeth Taylor and Bosworth’s pal, Montgomery Clift, who was at the top of his game at age 29. Bosworth will be hosting the event in conjunction with the release of her new memoir, The Men in My Life, which just came out.

Bosworth’s father, Bartley Crum, a well-known lawyer who’d defended “The Hollywood Ten” after they were blacklisted in the McCarthy era, had introduced her to Clift while she was still a teenager.

“We’re thrilled to have Patricia Bosworth come to Cinema Arts Centre and put a marvelous film like A Place in the Sun into historical context, as well as the life of her friend, Montgomery Clift,” said Raj Tawney, director of publicity and promotions at CAC. “Bosworth has had a life of ups and downs like all of us, and she’s someone who has pursued her dreams with realistic results. It wasn’t all glamorous, but through her journey, she became one of the top Hollywood biographers. We’re looking forward to having Miss Bosworth share her life stories which are detailed in her new book.”

Tawney credits this unique evening to Jud Newborn, Cinema Arts Centre’s curator of special programs, who will be hosting the event.

“For year and years, Dr. Jud Newborn has brought Hollywood to Huntington,” said Tawney. “The list of guests is so long and legendary, an outsider would think they’re living on the wrong coast.”

Newborn said that he and Bosworth chose the 1951 movie because she not only knew the troubled star but she wrote his definitive biography, which became one of her biggest bestsellers.

“But there’s more,” Newborn told the Press, “because the film introduces the coming decade of repression and stultifying conformity which Bosworth covers in her acclaimed new memoir—along with the tremendous burst of wild creativity (and wild living) which that atmosphere unleashed. This was especially the case in Manhattan at the elite Actors Studio, where Patricia studied with such friends as Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda.”

She later wrote biographies about them, too.

“Clift—like Patricia’s beloved younger brother, whom she lost to suicide—was a closeted homosexual, tortured by the toxic climate of the era,” notes Newborn, “while other friends like Fonda shared Patricia’s struggle to burst free from the suffocating role women were supposed to conform to. A world where men dominated them and pressured them for sex, then punished them for some of the inevitable consequences, like the shame of having to endure abortions, which were illegal, humiliating and often botched procedures.”

Before she became an accomplished writer—she’s been a freelancer for the New York Times, a managing editor of Harper’s Bazaar and contributing editor for Vanity Fair—Bosworth acted with Helen Hayes, Audrey Hepburn and Paul Muni, and was directed by Arthur Penn and Elia Kazan.

“Patricia flourished,” said Newborn, “all the time fighting a secret numbness that she’s only now overcome, and brilliantly, in her liberating new memoir that reveals a life as dramatic as those of her most famous biographical subjects.”

Directed by the legendary George Stevens, A Place in the Sun paired Elizabeth Taylor in her first adult role with Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters in a griping, class-conscious tragic romance, based on Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 best-selling novel, An American Tragedy. This 1951 film, set in upstate New York, is actually a remake of Josef von Sternberg’s 1931 more somber version, which had kept the original title.

Nominated for nine Oscars (including Clift for Best Actor and Winters for Best Actress), this Hollywood classic won six: Best Director for Stevens, Best Screenplay for Michael Wilson and Harry Brown, Best Black/White Cinematography for William Mellor, Best B/W Costume Design for Edith Head, as well as Best Dramatic Score and Best Editing. It lost the Best Picture nod to An American in Paris.

The on-screen chemistry between Taylor and Cliff apparently worked for Hollywood, which later paired them in 1957’s Raintree County. At the time, Taylor had just finished making a movie with another closeted gay actor, Rock Hudson, in Giant.

In 1956, Clift left a dinner party at Taylor’s Beverly Hills house (her marriage to Michael Wilding was on the rocks), drove down the windy road and had a near-fatal car crash, his famous face a bloody pulp. Taylor came to his rescue and kept him alive before the ambulance could arrive. When it did, it was accompanied by a pack of Hollywood photographers, but she reportedly threatened them that if they took one photo of the disfigured actor, she’d never let them photograph her again. They relented.

Interestingly, Clift later starred with Marilyn Monroe in the 1961 film, The Misfits. Monroe said he was “the only person I know who is in worse shape than I am.” In 1966, Clift died in his Manhattan apartment, reportedly watching The Misfits on TV. He was 45. Monroe had died three years before in her L.A. home, reportedly an overdose. She was 36.

Bosworth knew them all. But tragedy had hounded her, too. Both her father and her brother committed suicide. She named her memoir to honor them.

This special evening begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, at Cinema Arts Centere, 423 Park Ave., Huntington. The event includes a dessert and Prosecco reception featuring local jazz guitarist Mike Soloway. Tickets are $20 for CAC members, $25 for nonmembers. As a bonus, you get a 20 percent off when you buy a copy of Bosworth’s memoir. For information, call 631-423-7611 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.

Featured Photo: Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, starring in A Place in the Sun, photo courtesy Cinema Arts Centre.

GOP Health Care Plan Raises Serious Concerns For LI & NY, Say Rep. King & Experts

Congress doesn’t know how much the American Health Care Act will cost or what its impact will be on the federal deficit, but the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare passed two Congressional committees Thursday with President Donald Trump’s encouragement.

Those who’ve seen the details released so far say it would impose higher costs on some of those who gained insurance under Obamacare while putting millions of Americans at risk of losing their health insurance altogether. Here, it could strain Long Island’s hospitals that serve the most vulnerable population, put severe pressure on health insurance companies, and raise the tax burden on New Yorkers.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who could play a key role when the final bill comes up for a vote on the House floor, said he has serious concerns about the proposal.

“I have concerns about how many people are going to fall through the cracks and how big a fiscal impact it will have on New York,” he told the Press.

“I am certainly not convinced to vote for it,” he said. “It’s going to cost New York billions of dollars, mainly because of the cuts in Medicaid as we go forward.” He put the figure at $4 billion. But he didn’t expect the final version to be ready for passage for at least two weeks at the earliest.

“It’s still a work in progress,” the Congressman said.

His Republican colleague from Long Island, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), did not respond to repeated calls for comment although thousands of Suffolk residents in his district stand to lose their coverage.

“At first look, it appears that the House bill neither truly repeals nor meaningfully replaces the Affordable Care Act,” said Janine Logan, senior director of communications and population health at the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, which represents all Long Island’s 23 hospitals including Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System) and Catholic Health Services’ facilities.

“This is bad news for New York,” she said. “Capping Medicaid funding will be financially devastating to the state budget and to the thousands of New Yorkers with modest incomes, many of whom are elderly or disabled, who will no longer be guaranteed coverage. About 70 percent of the Medicaid spending is for the elderly and disabled of all ages.  Continuing Medicare and Medicaid cuts to hospitals without reducing the number of uninsured patients they will have to serve is just as devastating.”

She explained that the House bill fundamentally alters the structure of Medicaid, shifting a greater burden from the federal government to the states. Under the ACA, New York State greatly expanded its Medicaid program. “It is how on Long Island the uninsured rate has gone from 10 percent to 5 percent in three years,” Logan explained.

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, approximately 300,000 Long Islanders are at risk if Obamacare is repealed. The state could lose $2.4 billion annually. But part of the problem of assessing what the Republicans have approved so far in their rush to make President Trump’s campaign promise come true is that their alternative omits key details.

As Logan put it, “The House plan has not yet been scored for cost by the Congressional Budget Office, and it does not provide specifics on how its provisions would be paid for.”

What is known so far, she said, is that it would eliminate current tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies.

“The most generous assistance under the ACA has gone to those with low to modest incomes,” Logan said. “The plan instead offers limited tax credits based on age and not income.”

According to a recent study by S&P Global Ratings, up to 10 million Americans would lose the health insurance they gained through Obamacare. Insurers would be allowed to charge people between the ages of 50 and 64 insurance premiums at five times the rate charged to younger people—under the ACA it was three times. Tax credits would reportedly begin at $2,000 for people in their 20s, and gradually increase to $4,000 for people over age 60.

“If the intent here is to not only repeal but improve upon the Affordable Care Act, we don’t think the House bill meets that standard,” said Terry Lynam, a spokesman for Northwell Health. “There’s not a lot to like about it.”

Hospitals that rely on Medicaid funding to offset the cost of providing care to their population could be harmed by the new reform as it’s been rolled out so far, he noted.

“In New York you have a lot of hospitals that are barely breaking even or are in the red,” he said. As for Northwell Health, widely regarded as one of the most successful health care providers in the region, its operating margins are still thin, he said, so any additional impact could be damaging in the long run.

“We recognize that there are flaws in the Affordable Care Act, but we think it needs to be renovated, not demolished.”

Professor Debra Dwyer, a health economist at Stony Brook University in the College of Engineering who specializes in public policy, has been studying the health care issue for some time. She told the Press that she’s alarmed by the details she’s seen so far in the House Republicans’ new plan.

“It’s kind of amazing to me how they’re targeting the vulnerable populations,” she said. “They’re literally targeting older people and poorer people—those who are more likely to be sick—and their argument is that they cost us more. But the whole reason for having a social welfare network system is to protect the most vulnerable, which is why Medicare came about: to cover the aged and the disabled. Now they’re targeting the 50-64 year olds who are going to have to get less in tax credits and pay higher premiums.”

For Long Island’s health care system, the impact could be severe as well, she noted.

“We have some hospitals that are going to be hit pretty hard,” she said, singling out Stony Brook University Hospital and Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in particular because they serve Suffolk County’s more vulnerable population and made investments in response to incentives from the Affordable Care Act.

“They took in a lot of the uninsured,” Dwyer said. “They did it in good faith that they would have these Medicaid expansions, and people are getting coverage.” But these hospitals could take a hit in reimbursements, she explained, and end up with uninsured people coming to their emergency rooms because they could not afford to see doctors regularly. She said that many insurance companies that serve Long Island also created Medicaid plans based on its expansion under the ACA, but if it’s retracted as proposed by the House bill, then these companies won’t get the return on their investment.

“There’s a lot of companies we have to worry about,” she said. “The hospitals are going to feel it. The health insurance companies are going to feel it. The hundreds of thousands of people that are going to lose coverage are going to feel it.”

She pointed out that the Republicans in Congress have specifically targeted funding for Planned Parenthood, which is the primary source of breast cancer screenings and maternal care for poor women. She said the cuts “will increase the number of unwanted babies because of birth control, and it’s also going to increase cancer.”

She was skeptical of the Republicans’ plan to offer health care savings accounts as a safety net.

“These vulnerable populations are living paycheck to paycheck,” Dwyer said. “They don’t have savings. They can’t afford to lay out the money for insurance and wait for a tax refund—and the tax refund they’d be getting back is not going to be big enough.”

Long Island’s Congressional Delegation Weighs In On Controversial Raid In Yemen

Yemen raid

The acknowledged highlight of President Trump’s Joint Address to Congress Tuesday night was the two-minute ovation given to the grieving widow of U.S. Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, who died in a controversial raid on an al-Qaeda compound in Yemen on Jan. 29.

Lingering questions regarding the ill-fated mission—the first one in that country since 2014—have prompted calls for a congressional investigation into how the operation was planned and approved so early in the Trump administration’s tenure, rather than relying solely on a Pentagon inquiry, which is customary yet could take months and never be made public. Long Island’s congressional delegation is split over the issue. Meanwhile, the United States launched new airstrikes in Yemen Wednesday night.

Besides the death of Chief Owens in January, the Pentagon said three members of Navy SEALs Team 6 were wounded. In turn, they killed 14 militants but also 20 civilians, including an 8-year-old daughter of a radical US-born cleric who’d been killed previously by a U.S. drone strike. A $70 million MV-22 Osprey damaged during the assault was also destroyed during the mission to keep it from falling into al-Qaeda’s hands. Whether the mission got vital intelligence about the terrorist organization is still being debated, along with whether Trump should have even approved the raid at all, considering he’d barely been in the Oval Office a week.

Long Island’s senior member of the delegation, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is chairman of the Sub-Committee on [Counterterrorism and Intelligence], and gets briefed on these kinds of operations.

“I can’t go into details other than to say that this was many months in the planning,” King told the Press. “It was approved by every military official. It was encouraged by every military official, and certainly [Defense] Secretary Mattis endorsed it, and supported it.”

King says that after every operation, whether it’s successful or not, the Pentagon conducts an “after-action report.”

“Basically, what went wrong on this [Yemen mission] could have gone wrong at almost any time,” said King. “Without going into detail, there were no mistakes made. There’s always risks.”

According to Coleman Lamb, a spokesman for Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), who serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, she supports further congressional action.

“Rep. Rice agrees that Congress has a role to play in answering serious questions about how this mission was planned and executed and what led to the death of Chief Owens and dozens of civilians,” Lamb told the Press. “She believes strongly that there should be nothing remotely political or partisan about this. Members of Congress from both parties should come together and get the facts.”

Her other Republican colleague from Long Island, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), is content to leave Congress out of it, and let the Pentagon go through its normal protocols, according to his communications director, Jennifer DiSiena.

“The next step is for the military to complete a 15-6 investigation,” DiSiena told the Press in an email. “A 15-6 would take place within the Army and is intended to be a timely, thorough and legally sufficient investigation.”

Zeldin, a Major in the Army Reserves, serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is a member of the Congressional Military Family Caucus.

Freshman Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), a minority member of the House Committee on Armed Services, as well as the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa, was unavailable for comment, despite repeated requests to weigh in.

Chief Owens’ father Bill, a Navy veteran, was so angry about the raid that cost his 36-year-old son’s life that he refused to meet with President Trump at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware when his son’s body was returned to American soil on Feb. 1. According to the Miami Herald, the father criticized the special operation and the aftermath.

“The government owes my son an investigation,” Owens said. “Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation.”

The morning of Trump’s address to Congress, the New York Times editorialized that “Mr. Owens deserves to know whether his son died in a worthwhile pursuit or a botched mission of dubious value.”

In Congress on Tuesday night for the president’s speech, Carryn Owens, Ryan Owens’ widow, sat with tears streaming down her face in the front row of the balcony next to Ivanka Trump. The president singled her out, saying:

“Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero—battling against terrorism and securing our nation.”

As for the point of the mission, Trump cited his Defense Secretary James Mattis.

“I just spoke to our great Gen. Mattis, just now, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.”

As Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) told NBC News in early February, however:

“When you lose a $75 million airplane, and more importantly, an American life is lost…I don’t believe you can call it a success.”

In a talk with news anchors Tuesday before his speech, Trump blamed the generals “who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

“I wouldn’t have said it that way,” King told the Press. “The fact is, ultimately the president is responsible.”

Asked to respond to what Bill Owens had said about his son’s death, King demurred.

“Listen, I can’t begin to understand the father’s grief, so I would respect whatever he says and understand his right to say it. I would never question him,” King replied. “But his main objection to it—which was ‘Why are we in Yemen?’—it was President Obama who decided last fall that we should carry out operations in Yemen.”

Recently, White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed the mission was discussed in the White House under former president Barack Obama, though members of the former administration allege that is not quite true.

According to the Washington Post, Colin Kahl, a former Obama administration official with knowledge of what the Pentagon presented to the National Security Council on Dec. 19, said that the request had no specifics about the raid; instead it was a broader request from the military to carry out raids in the country. Kahl said the outgoing Obama administration decided to let Trump review the request once he occupied the White House after inauguration.

How many details were available then remains unclear, hence the doubts lingering over Owens’ death.

In its Tuesday editorial, the New York Times urged Congress to demand answers to serious questions that it claimed may not be answered in a timely enough fashion by a Pentagon inquiry, stating:

“The most important is whether national security officials in the Trump administration carefully considered the risks and potential benefits of the operation, and explained them to Mr. Trump before the president approved it just five days after taking office.”

It noted that Obama administration officials “did not sign off on it before” the president left office. “Mr. Trump was reportedly briefed on the plans over dinner with members of the national security team, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his domestic policy counselor, Stephen Bannon.”

Congressman King became livid about the assertion that President Obama had rejected the mission.

“That’s a typical New York Times lie. It’s a lie,” King told the Press. “President Obama did not disapprove it in any way. There were reasons why it was put off for several weeks which had nothing to do with any president’s decisions.”

King said he was privy to those details, but he wouldn’t comment on the record.

So far the raid is under investigation by the Department of Defense, according to Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer. An officer in the Navy Reserve, Spicer told the White House press corps in his briefing the morning after Trump’s Joint Address that he’d been watching the State of the Unions for 30 years and he’d “never seen a sustained applause like that” for the widow Carryn Owens.