Check out this week’s Smart Talk with updates on Kings Park sewers, Third Track hearings, and more…
January 15th – 21st, 2017
Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW
Local 338 was established in 1925 by a group of young men who set out to change conditions they experienced first-hand while working in the grocery stores. They received support from many organizations, including the United Hebrew Trades Council (UHTC), a Jewish Labor Federation. The union’s first office was located on the Lower East Side in Manhattan and was lent by the Teamsters.
Over the past few years, Local 338 has led many political and legislative efforts, including advocating for the passage of the Compassionate Care Act, which legalizes medical marijuana in New York State and will provide relief for those suffering from a number of debilitating and life-threatening diseases. In addition, they have been a part of campaigns centered on item pricing, wage theft protections and living wage provisions, which ensure that working people are able to provide for their families.
Today, they proudly represent over 15,000 working men and women. Their vision to better the lives of their members and all working people relies upon the unity and strength of their entire membership.
“May our focus be on our communities and our nation, that we will keep the spirit of building our neighborhoods, our communities and our country on strong pillars of interethnic respect, trust, accord and harmony,” – Dr. Isma H. Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, speaking on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Funding for Kings Park Sewers Brings Revitalization Closer to Reality
Vision Long Island, the Kings Park Civic Association, Kings Park Chamber and numerous government officials were out with Suffolk County and the Town of Smithtown last week to thank New York State for their leadership and support in funding for their much anticipated sewering needs.
During the recent Long Island leg of the State of the State tour across the New York, the Governor made a most welcome pronouncement, stating that $40 million in state funds would be allocated for Kings Park and Smithtown sewer improvements. The funds will allow for a greater sewage capacity for both businesses and residents, and set the stage for future growth and revitalization. The Town of Smithtown has recently received a $200,000 grant from Suffolk County to help with sewering needs.
This funding for sewers have been a priority recommendation from local civic and business groups through the recent Visioning process for downtown Kings Park. Vision managed this program with the Kings Park Civic and Chamber, and produced a community based downtown revitalization plan that is the basis for economic growth for Main Street. The sewers have also been a key request of the 90 member Long Island Lobby Coalition for many years.
The estimated cost of the sewer system for downtown Kings Park, which is nearly 90% designed already, is $20 million, about the same estimate for Smithtown’s downtown sewers. An 8 year old engineering study conducted by Cameron Engineering had called for Kings Park and Smithtown to share one sewer system, Sewer District 6, by connecting to the already established waterwater treatment facility. However, connecting both downtowns to the existing plant, which had a $17.1 million upgrade to improve the quality of its discharge in 2009, would limit sewer capacity for each downtown.
“Under that plan Kings Park gets the short end of the stick,” said Linda Henninger, of Kings Park Civic Association and an active participant in the ongoing revitalization planning for Kings Park’s downtown. Henninger would like to see each hamlet have its own plant. “It would be better for Smithtown to have their own system so they could have more of Main Street sewered.”
“This is really the beginning of not only revitalization of our hamlet, which holds so much potential,” continued Ms. Henninger, “but we shouldn’t forget the positive impact it will have on the environment. Sewering is not only important for economic reasons, but also environmental. We’re very happy and look forward to rolling up our sleeves and continue to work hard for and with the community. The civic association is very excited about this funding. Economic revitalization of Kings Park hinges on this effort. This welcome news is the first step in revitalizing.”
“We are absolutely delighted that our community based vision plan has caught the attention of our state representatives and look forward to a brighter future in Kings Park,” said Tony Tanzi from the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce.
“New York State wastewater treatment funding coming back to Long Island to directly aid downtown growth is critical for the health and vitality of our business districts. Perseverance pays off, and it is great to see these local communities get what they have been asking for over these many years,” stated Vision’s Director Eric Alexander.
The press event included Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Town of Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Kings Park Chamber of Commerce members, Kings Park Civic Association President Sean Lehmann, Kings Park School Superintendent Dr. Timothy Eagan, Suffolk County IDA’s Pete Zarcone, Town of Smithtown Planning Director David Flynn, Smithtown Chamber of Commerce’s Barbara Franco and Mark Mancini, Town of Smithtown Councilwoman Pat Biancaniello, Vision Co-Chair and Kings Park resident Trudy Fitzsimmons and over 100 others.
Babylon Votes to Ban New Restaurants and Bars in Village
In a puzzling and rare, if not unprecedented move, the Village of Babylon banned new restaurants and bars from opening in a recent unanimous vote by the Village board. It does need to be said that the Village has done an excellent job managing their successful downtown business district, has won a Smart Growth Award from Vision for their efforts, and has handled successful projects recovering from Sandy. It is also the right of duly elected Village officials to pass laws that have the support of their local community.
The precedence of banning restaurant uses Village wide is however troubling, as there are many other tools that can be used to restrict their growth including regulating seat count, parking codes, traffic impact etc.. Although existing businesses may not want to see the pressure of new competition, the amount of vacancies in the Village is very low so there would not be a massive influx to the area. In addition, many downtowns that are a hub for food like Rockville Centre, Huntington, Patchogue and Farmingdale have added additional restaurants without the weakening of the existing customer base. The new restaurants add to the vitality of the area and give folks more reasons to frequent their location.
A similar moritorium was enacted in 2011 without success and several establishments have opened since that time. The Mayor did note that the one-year ban will not affect any existing bars, but has asked them to close earlier. The Village Board made the move in order to curb new restaurants and bars opening in vacant retail sports, with Mayor Ralph Scordino saying that the plan is aimed at having a balance, and will also help aide traffic congestion and parking issues in the village.
“We just want to get a better count on the volume of traffic and make sure that we have a diversified business district,” Scordino said, adding that “I think that it was becoming more of a bar, restaurant community rather than a vibrant downtown retail business district. So, we want to have diversity in our retail business area,” With this move, the mayor says that he hopes that more retail will come to the area, and that he hopes that establishments will come up with ideas to bring in more retail business.
Custom Roe Walkway Arch Beautifies Patchogue’s Downtown
A $19,000 grant received by the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce from Suffolk County allowed for the construction of a custom-made archway in downtown Patchogue recently, highlighting some of the multi-year work that has been undertaken to beautify the Roe Walkway.
With a total cost of about $75,000, the 23-foot high arch, which was custom made by Spirit Ironworks of Bayport, and adds to concrete work, lighting, fencing, planting beds, and murals along Patchogue’s busiest walkway. No local tax money was spent on this leg of the enhancement, as funding was provided by the county’s Downtown Revitalization Program, with Spirit Ironworks, Long Island’s sole source for blacksmith projects of the sort, undertaking the construction as they have in other projects in Patchogue such as the Lakewood Cemetery, as well as “Captain Bell’s Dream” in Bellport Village. Engineering and installation of the over 2,000 pound archway was taken care of by local personnel as well.
“This piece is beyond what I expected,” said Marian Russo, the CDA’s executive director. “Just the artistic vision that they brought to life, I’m so impressed. I’m speechless.” Russo said the original idea was to get a prefabricated archway. “But I’m glad we took the time and expended the money for a custom-made one. It’s going to be there for a very long time. Can you imagine all the pictures that are going to be taken under that arch?”
The addition is part of a $200,000 project designed to improve safety and appearance for those who visit and live in Patchogue, and matches another Village archway that was erected in 2015 on West Main Street.
You can read more about the upgrade to Patchogue Village’s downtown here.
Public Hearings Held for Third Track Project
Vision board members attended public hearings for the proposed $2 billion, 9.8 mile LIRR third track project between Floral Park and Hicksville were held this week, with more attendees in favor of the plan as compared to past public meetings.
The public meetings, held both in the afternoon and evening in three different locations, allowed an opportunity for the public to give feedback towards the project and to understand some of the changes that have been made to make the project a better fit for the community, including grade crossing eliminations, sound barriers, and no residential land needing to be acquired for the needed expansion. The final Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been available, with improvements and modifications to the plan for the third track defined within it. “The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) demonstrates many environmental benefits of this proposal,” said Vision board member and Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College’s Neal Lewis. “The DEIS mentions reducing air pollution; eliminating seven dangerous rail crossings that cause traffic congestion and noise from train horns; and it will enhance development in downtowns called ‘transit oriented development’ as train service becomes more reliable and frequent. “
The two existing tracks of the main LIRR line were laid in 1844 and 1890, with no expansion since; Long Island’s population has surged from 100,000 people in 1890 to over 3 million presently. Because of that restraint, a reverse commute is not possible. Construction of the third track would build 2,250 jobs, $910 in Gross Regional Product, and $910 million in personal income. After ten years, there would be 14,000 new jobs, 35,000 new residents on Long Island, $40 million in new sales tax revenue, $103 million in new property tax revenue, $3 billion in personal income and $5.6 billion in gross regional product. Additionally, 40% of the population increase would be those in the 25-44 year age bracket, which is what is trying to be retained on Long Island, with upgrades to communities in between rail stations including parking garages, sound walls to prevent noise issues as well as visual blight, and improving property values along the corridor.
The outreach efforts won over Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro, who previously raised strong concerns about the project’s impact on his village. At Tuesday night’s hearing, Cavallaro commended project officials’ “good faith job” in addressing his village’s concerns, and said Westbury is “supportive” of the project. “We look forward to working with the railroad and other staff members as we go forward,” Cavallaro said.
“The local community benefits outlined in the DEIS were developed with direct input and planning from local community leaders, Village mayors and local property owners and businesses. Their voices as the most important as they have to grapple with the impact of the project pre and post construction. Slowing the process down a bit will allow the impacted communities the ability to digest these proposals and ensure that mitigation is in place Vision has been a supporter of a Third Track, with proper community planning, input, and public benefits since it was in the concept stage in 2005.” Eric Alexander, Director, Vision Long Island
While the six public hearings were held this week, stakeholders that live in the area along the proposed third track corridor are still able to and encouraged to participate in the discussion and give feedback. The DEIS is available online, and public comment can still be submitted by mail, in person, or electronically by February 15th at 5PM. All comments received during this period will become part of the public record and be considered as part of the project studies. You can click here to submit comments online. To submit by mail or in person:
Edward M. Dumas
Governor Cuomo Unveils FY2018 Budget Proposal
Governor Cuomo unveiled his $152.3 billion budget proposal this week after a week-long tour of localized State of the State addresses, which was received well by many for the effort to reach those on a local level, and shunned by others who preferred the traditional one-day address in Albany.
The 140-page Fiscal Year 2018 Executive Budget Briefing highlighted the fact that the State’s outstanding debt has declined for four straight years and is on track to decline a fifth consecutive year. Also mentioned was the State’s high credit rating, which is the second best possible, and the highest in over 40 years. The proposals outlined in the budget were said to be aimed towards assisting the middle class, a record level of support for our schools, including funding for pre-kindergarten, after school programs, and turning schools into community hubs. It proposes tuition-free college for middle class New Yorkers at State University of New York and City University of New York schools, and community colleges, while also doubling the tax credit for child care and continuing the groundbreaking work of the Medicaid Redesign Team that’s improving the health of New Yorkers at a sustainable cost.
It was noted that tax receipts have been down on the state, prompting a more fiscally conservative approach toward this proposed budget, moving ahead with state operating expenses at an increase of less than two percent, and balanced on a cash basis in the General Fund, as required by law. Boots to education support are proposed, with a $1 billion boost to school aid, and an extension of the current reduced tax rate being proposed for another 3 years. $1.4 billion in settlement monies are set to be invested into one-shot investments, with $100 million being designated towards downtown revitalization initiatives, with the remainder in other various projects, with $400 million being slated for a new round of investment in Buffalo. Little of the settlement windfall was slated directly for Long Island, which is struggling with public transit needs outside of the MTA system including a parity in funding for buses, and specific infrastructure needs that have not been addressed such as funding towards an ocean outfall pipe at the Bay Park sewer treatment plant.
$2 billion was set aside for clean water investment, as well as funding towards a $10 billion upgrade to JFK airport, with a sizable amount of funding for that initiative hinted to be financed through the private sector. The state’s highest tax rate, 8.82%, towards those earning over $1 million a year was proposed to be extended by the Assembly last year, with that being thought of for this year. This has a great potential to strain relations between the Democratic-led Assembly and the Republic-led Senate, as the Senate Majority leader fears that the increase would push wealthy New Yorkers out of the state. However, relations between the two state houses and the executive branch have seem to be calm, with the Senate Majority Leader saying that reports of “bad blood” between the State Senate and the Governor may have been overstated.
Slow Revenue Growth Troubles Local Governments, Long Island Sales Tax Revenue Up
Many of New York’s local governments are coping with slow or no revenue growth, making it difficult for them to maintain services while keeping pace with rising fixed costs such as health care, according to the 2016 annual report on the state’s local governments released earlier this month by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“New York’s municipal governments are seeing sales tax revenue growth slow and state aid remain essentially flat while they and school districts are coping with tax cap and tax freeze initiatives that limit growth in property taxes,” DiNapoli said. “As local governments adapt to changing circumstances, my office will continue to support them with training, analysis and guidance.”
Local government spending growth has increased between 0.9 and 2 percent annually since 2010. Spending by school districts remained below 1 percent for three years starting in 2011, but ticked up at a higher rate in the last couple of years, when compared to counties, cities, towns, villages and fire districts, due to increases in state aid to schools.
DiNapoli’s report found that local sales tax revenue growth fell from 3.6 percent to 1.8 percent in the first nine months of 2016 from the same period a year earlier. While revenue collections varied by region, counties are particularly reliant on sales tax revenues. Nassau and Suffolk Counties seem to have broken from that trend, however, with growth rates of 3.5% and 3.44% respectively in the 4th quarter of 2016, growing 2% and 1.8% for the year. Those amounts are higher than the average of growth in New York State of 1.4%.
“It is difficult at this time to precisely explain the slower growth in many counties. While Internet sales continue to outpace brick and mortar storefront sales, gasoline prices were about 12 percent lower in 2016 compared to 2015. Meanwhile, stagnant wage growth and higher costs of health care and housing could be placing downward pressure on retail sales, and therefore sales tax collections,” said New York State Association of Counties President William E. Cherry, Schoharie County Treasurer.
School districts, towns and villages rely on the property tax for approximately half of their revenues. The property tax levy limit that took effect in 2012 effectively restricts reliance on property tax revenues to fund increases in local spending. In recent years, the tax cap’s allowable levy growth factor has been less than 2 percent.
Unrestricted state aid for municipalities (AIM) has been frozen at $715 million for five years. However, large financial settlements with banks and other financial institutions have bolstered state revenues and some of the windfall has been targeted to programs that help local governments.
Opposition in Connecticut and Rhode Island may Derail Northeast Corridor Expansion
Plans to upgrade Amtrak’s northeast corridor between Washington D.C. and Boston, the busies commuter rail segment in the country, is coming off its rails as residents and electeds of Old Lyme, Connecticut and other surrounding areas are so far opposed to the idea due to concerns of decreased property values and safety issues.
The $120 billion plan put forth by the Federal Railroad Administration is this first proposed upgrade to the northeast corridor in about 40 years, and would cut travel time between Boston and New York by 45 minutes 2 hours and 45 minutes. Four new tracks would be laid on a 35-mile stretch in Connecticut, and 15 miles laid in Rhode Island. Opponents say that the new tracks would go through farmland, wetlands and private property at much higher speeds than the current 50 miles per hour that is permitted in some areas. The current Amtrak route is further south than the proposed new tracks, and is unable to accommodate higher speeds and additional trains. 1.4 million passengers rode between Boston and Washington D.C. in 2015, and it is estimated that demand for travel will increase by as much as 38% by 2040 when all modes of transportation are considered.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal (D), said the plan is a “non-starter” in his state and called on the FRA to instead upgrade the existing rail. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, also a Democrat, is opposed as well. “There must be other options to this harebrained, half-baked proposal,” Mr. Blumenthal said in an interview. Other states along the northeast corridor that are wanting to move ahead with the expansion are expressing frustration over Connecticut’s stance fearing that the FRA may move funding to areas south between Washington D.C. and New York instead. “We need a corridor that provides more options and more trains for commuters,” said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “And a corridor that can efficiently and reliably serve a population that is growing quickly.”
The new plan, if it moves ahead, would add 22 new stations along the north east corridor, while still servicing those in Connecticut south of the proposed new tracks. The 50-mile segment in question would more than double daily train capacity along that portion from 42 to more than 100. The FRA said the agency must reach an agreement with state officials from Connecticut and Rhode Island and its congressional delegations before it can make changes to the corridor. It also needs funding from Congress and states along the northeast route.
Contact Your Assembly Member and Senator for Bus Funding
As the New York State budget is released, public bus advocates on Long Island have taken note that there is once again no mechanism towards a dedicated funding stream from the state for Nassau and Suffolk bus systems outside of the State Transportation Operating Assistance funds (STOA) which has a fixed formula for funding throughout the state. As proposed in this year’s recommended budget, $5 billion will be appropriated for transit assistance; $4.5 billion will go to the MTA, with a $30 million increase, and other transit systems receiving $502 million collectively.
Non-MTA transit in the downstate region continues to receive less than its fair share in funding towards local operating and capital costs. With the fiscal climate in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties being seen as uncertain and challenging, cuts to public buses are once again being proposed in Nassau, and have already been seen in Suffolk, as a means to balance the budget. Without a dedicated funding stream for Long Island’s transit system, continuality of operations and needed expansions will again be in question, jeopardizing the livelihood of some of Long Island’s most vulnerable- especially as the only state funding for Nassau and Suffolk are at risk of being reduced due to cuts to the system, perpetuating a downward spiral.
All Long Islanders are urged to contact their Assembly member and Senator, urging them to add dedicated funding for Nassau and Suffolk’s bus systems’ operational and capital expenses to this year’s budget. You can find your Assembly member here, and your Senator here. Please email email@example.com if you or your organization would like updates and to pledge support towards upcoming efforts to get Long Island’s fair share in public transit funding.
The 2017 Complete Streets Summit
Please join us for the 2017 Complete Streets Summit on Thursday, March 30th, from 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM at The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, located at 7180 Republic Airport in Farmingdale.
This event consists of a contingent of chambers of commerce, civic associations, local governments, engineering and professional trade groups, transit advocates and members of the public who want safe streets for all modes of traffic. The group looks to coordinate Complete Streets planning efforts, communicate on fi nding opportunities for local projects, act as a clearinghouse for information and lobby with a united voice for safe roadways.
Past Complete Streets Summits, held at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale, have been gatherings of government leaders, planners, engineers, nonprofi ts and other community stakeholders who support policy changes to design roadways for all uses – not just automobiles. The Summit was a chance to remind participants of the campaign’s significance.
Online registration is available here. You can also register by contacting Vision Long Island at 631-261-0242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Technical Assistance Grants for Affordable Solar Projects Available
NY-Sun is now accepting applications for the Affordable Solar Predevelopment and Technical Assistance program. This new funding opportunity supports the development of solar projects for multifamily affordable housing and community solar projects serving low-to-moderate income (LMI) households, with up to $200,000 for each approved proposal.
Many LMI households are unable to access benefits from conventional residential solar installations. To help expand access to solar benefits for LMI households, NYSERDA is seeking proposals for projects leading to:
Projects related to on-site solar installations for owner-occupied houses are not eligible for funding through this solicitation. However, NY-Sun provides support to LMI homeowners through the Affordable Solar Program.
Applications may be submitted by local governments, affordable housing, community organizations and service providers working to make solar accessible to LMI communities in New York. NY-Sun will accept and review applications on a rolling basis until all funds are exhausted. Visit the program webpage for more details and the application.
If you have questions about the solicitation, please email email@example.com.
DOE Solar in Your Community Challenge Grant
The Solar in Your Community Challenge is an 18-month, $5 million prize competition to support community-based solar programs and projects aimed at providing solar access to low and moderate income communities. The Challenge is aimed at supporting innovators across the U.S. to create scalable solutions that will bring solar to nonprofits, LMI households and local and tribal governments. Selected teams will be provided with seed funding as they complete milestones, receive technical assistance from an online marketplace of qualified experts, and compete to win final prizes from May 1, 2017 to October 31, 2018.
If you are interested in learning more about the Solar in Your Community Challenge and forming a team, please visit the program webpage. The application deadline is March 17, 2017. This program is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative and is administered by SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
Intern with Vision Long Island!
Vision Long Island is looking for interns! Our staff likes to say we “wear many hats,” and interns will have to do the same. Interns will assist with planning, design, outreach, event planning, writing, research, attending meetings, reporting, photography, video and more. Bring your unique skill set to the table! We are looking for energetic and conscientious individuals with an interest in urban/suburban planning from a bottom-up perspective. This is a valuable opportunity to work with great people and learn about the issues impacting Long Island. Strong writing skills a plus.
What’s happening on your Main Street this weekend?
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Garvies Point Museum and Preserve
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Bow Tie Port Washington
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Cold Spring Harbor
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Port Jefferson Historical Society
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Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Celebrated
Vision was out this week at the 32nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast in Islandia with over 700 community, business and government leaders joining in honor of Dr. King’s message.
Rev. Charles Coverdale from the First Baptist Church of Riverhead and longtime host of the Breakfast spoke about the need to stand boldly not simply in private but in public to address injustice, with opening remarks given by Dr. Isma H. Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island and an interfaith activist. “May our focus be on our communities and our nation, that we will keep the spirit of building our neighborhoods, our communities and our country on strong pillars of interethnic respect, trust, accord and harmony,” said Dr. Chaudry.
Congressman Lee Zeldin spoke of the importance to unite civil rights icons like Rep. John Lewis and our President-elect, saying that when they are divided, so is our nation. “Challenges exist, but so do solutions, community, unity, prayer and common purpose,” Zeldin said in his message “Dr. King believed that violence begets violence, and that racial tensions could only be truly overcome through peaceful discussion. All Americans, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or religion, must bind together in these trying times for our nation to move forward stronger.”
County Executive Steve Bellone suggested that while we have to acknowledge our incoming President we should call out outrageous comments or policies and not stand silent. Other elected officials in attendance included Suffolk County Presiding Officer Duwayne Gregory, Legislator Monica Martinez, Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent Demarco, Town of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, and Town of Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards.
The celebration was the last under the committee’s founder and president, Julius O. Pearse, who announced his resignation. Pearse was the first African-American police officer in the village of Freeport in 1962, saying that he remembers the marches for civil rights, and being the target of discrimination, and the struggle to have King’s birthday recognized as a federal holiday.
Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee of Nassau County, Inc. is a non-profit organization which has given out more than $275,000 in scholarships to date.
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