Assemblyman Wants $20 Million For Complete Streets Work
Spending $20 million could save pedestrian and bicyclist lives.
That was the message State Assemblyman Ed Hennessey preached in Patchogue on Saturday, joined by Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco, nonprofits and community groups.
Hennessey called on New York State to spend more on projects in Suffolk County to make streets safer for pedestrians and toughen penalties for hit-and-run drivers. He also asked the state Department of Transportation to use the state’s Complete Streets Policy in the planning and design of road projects.
“If we want to make our roads safer, more user-friendly for everyone, more integrated with our communities, then we need stiffer laws but also better, smarter infrastructure. This is where the necessary funding and the commitment of our NYS DOT to implement the funding become imperative to follow through on the Complete Streets Policy,” Hennessey said.
Complete Streets – strategies to build thoroughfares that safely accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, mass transit and motorists – is a hot topic for organizations like Vision Long Island and Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
"More people are walking, more people are biking," Vision Executive Director Eric Alexander said. "We need to design our roadways with just common sense solutions."
Back in 2012, more than 15 percent of traffic accidents leaving a bicyclist dead in the state and more than 13 percent of New York’s fatal pedestrian accidents occurred in Suffolk County, according to data from the assemblyman’s office. Suffolk County also accounted for nearly 10 percent of all traffic accidents involving fatal and personal injury.
“Long Island has some of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign Associate Director Ryan Lynch said. “Yet New York State only plans to spend 2 percent of its total transportation budget on pedestrian and bicycle safety projects. Governor Cuomo and the leadership of the State Senate and Assembly must prioritize funding for these types of projects to improve safety, mobility and quality of life on Long Island and throughout New York State.”
Hennessey introduced legislation last year that would increase prison terms for drivers leaving the scene of an accident where someone is killed or seriously hurt. If approved, it would double the maximum sentence to 5-15 years.
For more coverage of this event, check out Newsday (subscription required).
Bus Forum Brakes For NICE Driver, Passenger Concerns
A bus driver shared her concerns about the threat of angry passengers attacking and passengers griped about their own qualms.
For more media coverage of the forum, check out Newsday (subscription required).
The Ethical Humanist Society played host to a public forum for the Long Island Bus Riders Union on Monday. Nassau County Legislators joined labor and community advocates in Garden City to hear concerns about Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) service.
Following an incident Feb. 24 where a female passenger assaulted a driver in Franklin Square, NICE officials confirmed they are investigating Plexiglas partitions and other measure to protect drivers. Another passenger recorded the woman and her child on his cell phone before the driver was taken to the hospital; no arrests have been made.
Veolia Transportation took over operation of busses in 2012, current driver said schedule and route changes have enraged passengers. The driver told the panel they’ve been worried angry customers will take out frustrations on them as the most visible part of the company.
Meanwhile, Legislators Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) and Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) joined Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Long Island Federation of Labor and Vision Long Island hear out passengers’ concerns.
Disabled riders like David O’Donnell complained the vehicles are not maintained to be compliant with the American with Disabilities Act.
“The auditory and visual stop announcements do not work properly on the buses and can cause a visually or hearing impaired person to get off the bus at the wrong stop,” he said. “And, the wheel chair securement straps are not maintained and some do not work.”
Valley Stream resident Kimberly Saget addressed the issue of malfunctioning Metrocard machines giving her “read errors” and paying double fares.
“It is very frustrating because my Metrocard would have money on it but I would still have to fish for change to ride the bus,” she said. “I end up not only having to pay for my Metrocard, but I also have to pay again because the machine doesn’t take my card.”
These people rely on the buses to get to work, school, shopping and important meetings, Executive Director of Long Island Jobs with Justice said, and know very well what does not work.
“Nassau County leaders and Veolia need to listen to bus riders and make the necessary changes that will improve the riding conditions for all bus riders,” she said.
The forum also emphasized the impact of public transportation on local businesses and communities.
“Bus riders are employees that are critical to the economic health of the small business community. Their ability to efficiently travel to work stabilizes our communities,” Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said.
Developer’s Love Of Riverhead Behind Shared Office Space
A former lawyer and now the woman behind a Manhattan real estate firm, Georgia Malone quickly fell in love with downtown Riverhead.
Unique small businesses litter Main Street, she said, and the town’s government is very forward thinking. In fact, their pro-business mentality is part of the reason Malone is opening shared office space in Riverhead.
“It tries so hard to get business,” she said.
Malone and business partner Amir Korangy are still preparing 30 W. Main Street, although the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter. Up to 34 offices, plus counter space, could be available by July.
“It’s a novel idea but I think it’s something Riverhead could really benefit from,” she said.
Renovations to the tune of $1.7 million are underway. Malone and Korangy found much of the three-story brick building in a state of disrepair, with a new roof, brickwork, elevator, facade restoration and other repairs necessary. HVAC work was expected to begin next week, as glass for the walls separating offices should begin to appear.
Plans call for two 4,000-square foot floors of shared office space. The second floor offices will be smaller, Malone said, designed for younger entrepreneurs who can’t afford to lease larger spaces. About 22 offices will be available here. The third floor will consist of 12 larger offices more suitable for accountants, lawyers and other traditional businesses.
Counter space will also be available for a lower rate.
Malone said their venture is not a business incubator or think tank, which have experts guiding rookie entrepreneurs and taking a cut. Instead, 30 W. Main Street will simply house offices for rent.
“It’s a different concept for Long Island,” Malone said.
All three options will include access to lounge areas and a kitchen, as well as an allotment towards faxes and other services.
Not only will the offices house small businesses and their staff, but the project is also expected to create new jobs. At least 20 construction jobs are expected during renovations and a full-time office, bookkeeper and maintenance staff will work in the building.
The project has also received support from the Riverhead IDA. After a pitch from Malone and Korangy, the agency approved a series of tax abatements, including 10 years of property taxes. Malone was still gracious for the IDA’s support, and pledged to champion the rest of Main Street.
“It’s not about how to market my building. It’s about how to market Riverhead,” the developer said.
Anyone interested in renting an office should call GM & Co. at 212-838-6888. For more coverage of this story, check out Riverhead Local.
Affordable Transit-Oriented Housing, Bay Park Sewage Plant
Top Mangano’s 2014 State Of County Address
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is confident his administration is making progress against the brain drain.
Speaking to a large crowd at the Space at Westbury for his fifth annual State of the County Address on Tuesday, Mangano said jobs, entertainment and housing are all components of the solution. Nearly 20,000 jobs have been retained and created, he added.
“Jobs are coming back to Nassau County,” the county executive said.
And according to the state Department of Labor, Nassau County’s unemployment rate recently dropped to 5.1 percent. That’s lower than many across the state and country, Mangano said.
Housing, he continued, is a major concern. The county executive highlighted the lack of property tax increases during his tenure, but admitted the starter home for many in this generation is actually an affordable apartment. Mangano said Nassau County officials have created more than 1,000 transit-oriented housing opportunities in public-private partnerships, and expect more.
“Our program encourages developers to convert empty office buildings into apartments,” he said, adding they’ve earmarked federal money to study conversion in Baldwin, Lynbrook and Valley Stream.
Mangano also announced the Nassau 200 – a panel of 200 Millennials with the goal of ending the brain drain. These Nassau County residents born between 1979-1995 will consult with county officials determine potential neighborhoods and business development.
Meanwhile, the county executive has been challenged with debt since he took office in 2010. Mangano’s administration inherited a $378 million debt and a flawed tax assessment system. By freezing property taxes, eliminating 123 administrative positions within the county government and promoting economic development, he told the crowd they’ve reduced much of that debt.
Originating in 1948, Nassau County has an unusual arrangement where taxes collected are divided normally with school districts and other districts, but all tax refunds and errors must only be paid by the county. At the same time, residents are frequently challenging the region’s high taxes, building pressure on the county. Mangano said in his speech that system accounts for more than $1 billion in debt and can only be changed by the New York State Legislature.
“We will work together to craft legislation that will correct this billion dollar wasteful system and build the consensus necessary to get it passed because it places an unconscionable burden on every taxpayer,” the county executive said. “It needs to change.”
Reflecting how elected officials reached out across the political aisle after Superstorm Sandy struck in October 2012, Mangano mentioned the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. He highlighted the $830 million secured to rebuild and continued to push for an ocean outfall pipe. Treated wastewater is currently released into Reynolds Channel, although environmentalists believe that body of water is too stagnant while oceanic release would remain safe for the environment.
“I want to move this discharge two miles out into the ocean, thus protecting our environment and increasing recreational boating and fishing opportunities, as well as strengthening our economy,” he said.
For the entire address, visit the county online. For additional press coverage of the address, check out News 12 or Newsday (subscription required).
Survey: Still Hope For Long Island Business Market
The big picture isn’t promising, but there are signs of life for local businesses on the island.
A survey of 604 Long Island small businesses in the retail, services/finances and transportation/construction/manufacturing industries and revenues capped at $10 million released last week revealed owners were or expected to see some growth and had more faith in local leaders than Washington, D.C.
The study, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union and Stony Brook University Center for Survey Research, found just 12 percent of participating business owners were confident the federal government would improve business conditions in the next 12 months, down from 27 percent in the 2012 study and 21 percent in the 2011 study. Local government scored a little higher with 39 percent in the latest study, but Long Island businesses have the most faith in local business leaders. The votes of confidence have risen over the years, from 49 percent in 2011 to 62 percent in 2013.
Long Island businesses owners believed both the local and national economies are growing stronger in recent years, with Nassau and Suffolk getting the edge. Of the businesses surveyed, 36 percent rated the local economy as good, compared to 32 percent the year prior and 13 percent in 2011. On the other hand, 33 percent scored the national economy as very good in 2013, compared to 27 percent in 2012 and just 9 percent in 2011.
Back home, these business owners expected slightly greener pastures for the present and future. The number describing their financial health as good or higher rose to 68 percent from 2013 from 64 percent in 2012 and 52 percent in 2011. Just over half expected their business to be in the same shape within the first six months of 2014, although the number of executives expecting to see improvement early in the subsequent year rose by 3 points from 2012 to 35 percent in 2013.
The survey also revealed that many local companies expect to make more sales. Of executives projecting sales for the following year, 46 percent said they would see more in 2014. That’s slightly higher than 45 percent in 2012 and 29 percent in 2011.
Somewhat surprisingly, these same executives admitted slightly weaker predictions for their businesses. The number likely to expand within the next five years dropped back to the 2011-level of 51 percent after 56 percent in 2012. More local business owners also said they could downsize within five years – 22 percent in 2013 compared to 18 percent in 2012 and 25 percent in 2011 – or outright close up shop – 18 percent in 2013 compared to 17 percent in 2012 and 21 percent in 2011.
But when asked about staffing, very few suggested cutting employees. In fact, 71 percent of surveyed local business owners said last year that they expect to maintain the current number of employees in 2014 and 24 percent anticipated hiring more. In 2013, 16 percent said their staffing increased, compared to 14 percent the year before.
New staff was also a common denominator for expansions. Of all 165 business owners who expected to grow within five years, 73 percent anticipated hiring more employees. Almost every executive wanted to expand their client bases, but only 26 percent wanted to acquire another company and just 25 percent wanted to move to a larger location.
For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday online (subscription required).
Almost Half Of Long Island Living Beyond Means
More than 43 percent of Long Island homeowners are spending more on their homes than the federal government recommends, a significant rise since the turn of the millennium.
The percentage of households with rents above the affordability level increased from 40.5 percent in 2000 to 50.6 percent in 2012, according to the study, while the percentage of homeowners above the affordability level rose from 26.4 in 2000 to 33.9 percent in 2012.
New York Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report examining housing costs across the state and what taxpayers are paying to live here. The general message is simply the price of rental or owned housing is climbing as household incomes drop.
“Regardless of where they live, more New Yorkers are feeling pinched by rising housing costs,” DiNapoli said. “When half your income goes to pay for a place to live, you are going to be stretched thin on other every day purchases. This unfortunate trend has troubling implications for our economic growth and for New Yorkers’ quality of life.”
The report uses Census data between 2000 and 2012. Those figures are then considered under the federal guidelines that put housing affordability at less than 30 percent of household income, which includes rent, utilities, fuel, mortgages and taxes.
According to the study, 43.7 percent of all renters and homeowners in Suffolk County and 43.9 percent in Nassau County spent too much on housing in 2012. Those figures are part of an 18.6 percent rise in renters’ housing costs and 9.9 percent homeowners’ housing costs between 2000-2012. At the same time, homeowner’s median incomes slipped by 1.6 percent and renter’s median incomes fell by 7.1 percent.
Affordable housing and Smart Growth proponents cautioned that more expensive housing could undercut economic growth by eliminating discretionary spending and drive the area’s workforce away to cheaper regions.
“The Long Island Builders Institute strongly concurs with the assessment of affordability contained in the report prepared by State Comptroller DiNapoli’s office. The lack of affordable housing, especially on Long Island, reduces our ability to attract young people and families, which significantly impacts the ability of our employers to find the employees they need to grow their businesses in New York State,” CEO Mitchell Pally said. “In addition, the lack of affordable housing for our seniors deprives them of the ability to downsize when appropriate, leaving many of them in houses which are too large and too expensive for them to live in.”
Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said the report is hard evidence of the challenges facing housing affordability at home.
“His insightful report provides backing to policies that will reduce the brain drain in on Long Island,” Alexander said.
At the same time, 1.7 million rental New York households had gross rents at least 30 percent of their income in 2012, a 25.7 percent jump from 2000. Back in 2000, 43.1 percent of Suffolk County’s renters and just 39.2 percent of Nassau County’s renters were above the affordability threshold. Fast forward to 2012, and those numbers have grown to 54 percent in Suffolk and 53.2 percent in Nassau.
For more coverage of this story, check out CBS and Newsday (subscription required).
Half Measures On CO Don't Protect Enough From Exposure
In hopes of preventing future tragedies in the workplace, the towns of Brookhaven, Hempstead and Huntington are looking to amend their current building codes. If passed, carbon monoxide detectors would be required "in all new places of public assembly". Town hearings will be held March 25 for both Brookhaven and Hempstead, and April 8 for Huntington.
However, officials at The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College warn these steps are not adequate to protect the public from CO exposure. For instance, proposed laws in the Towns of Hempstead and Huntington don’t appear to require monitors in office buildings. Instead, they call on the State Legislature to address those facilities. There should be no distinctions made between existing structures and "new" buildings. Similarly, there is no rationale for making a distinction between structures such as office buildings where large numbers of people can be exposed to the poisonous gas and "restaurants and spaces of assembly." The town bills also fail to recognize the medical journal evidence that low-level exposure is dangerous, and that an inexpensive solution is available, by failing to require digital readout monitors in all offices, commercial spaces and residences.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the World Health Organization recommends exposure to no more than 9 PPM over extended periods of time to avoid psychological effects. Flu-like symptoms can develop in vulnerable populations after an hour in 30 PPM, while all human beings will develop flu symptoms after an hour in 35 PPM. Federal labor standards restrict exposing employees to more than 50 PPM CO over eight hours.
Based on outreach to home energy audit technicians, the Sustainability Institute estimates about 150,000 homes and other buildings are making Long Islanders sick.
For Long Islanders, the Sustainability Institute recommends not waiting for the laws to change and instead immediately take action by installing CO monitors with low level digital readouts in their homes and workplaces. Residents are also urged to get home energy efficiency audits, which will include carbon monoxide tests.
Now Playing On The Green Screen
Come for the dinner and stay for the show.
The Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island, in partnership with Natural Awakenings magazine, are hosting a dinner and movie series with a green flavor.
Scheduled for every Thursday between Feb. 13-April 17, the screening begins with a vegan soup supper provided by Sweet to Lick Bakery. The film is then shown, followed by a discussion with guest speakers.
The series began with a showing of 2009 documentary “No Impact Man,” followed by a conversation with Amy Peters from Sustainable Sea Cliff Co-op, Mary Callahan from Three Castle Farm and Annetta Vitale from Reed Channel Farm.
Vision Long Island will participate March 20. Executive Director Eric Alexander will follow a presentation of “Save Our Land, Save Our Towns,” a film about land use and sprawl in Pennsylvania. More details are available here.
All screenings are to be held at the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island in Garden City. Admission is a $15 donation or $12 for students and seniors, although a multi-night discount available.
For more information, contact the society at 516-741-7304 or online.
Learn To Be Pesticide Free At March 22 Trade Show
Bugs, weeds and disease are hazards to plants, but warding them off doesn’t have to require chemicals.
Green is the name of the game at the 14th annual Long Island Organic Turf and Tree Show next month. Created by Neighborhood Network, the trade show is an opportunity for professionals to demonstrate organic techniques and network.
Scheduled for March 22 from 9:05 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at Molloy College Suffolk Center in Farmingdale, the event is to feature four workshops. Public and private experts will chat about identifying pests, promoting high-quality turf and non-chemical practices.
Individual registration runs $60, although discounts are available for groups. Vendors are still being accepted at $250, which includes trade show registration.
Contact the Neighborhood Network at 631-963-5454 or online for more details.
Working But Poor Conference Coming March 28 At Touro
Space is still available for the fourth annual Working But Still Poor Conference.
Hosted by Long Island Jobs With Justice March 28 at Touro Law School in Central Islip, the event reflects the needs of the community and examining the systemic structures that keep people struggling.
The conference will begin with an opening plenary by attorney and community advocate Frederick Brewington. The day is filled with workshops touching on improving transportation, navigating welfare law, wage theft and everything in between. Congressman Tim Bishop will conclude the event with a closing plenary.
Registration is $30 and can be completed on-site or at Long Island Jobs With Justice website. The fee also includes breakfast and lunch.
Tourism Symposium At St. Joe’s College March 28
Spend a morning learning how Long Island can become more popular with tourists.
St. Joseph’s College Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) has announced their Tourism and Downtown Revitalization Projects symposium for March 28. Scheduled for 8-10 a.m., the event will be held at the school’s Patchogue campus.
The symposium is slated to begin with a networking breakfast before the meat of event – a panel featuring Renaissance Downtowns CEO Don Monti, Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone and Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri – begins.
Following a Q&A session, New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association Chairman John Tsunis will offer some closing remarks.
Visit HTM online for more information or call 631-687-1285 to register for free.
State Sets April 11 Deadline For Sandy Aid To Homeowners
No new applications from homeowners seeking financial assistance in the wake of Superstorm Sandy will be accepted after April 11.
NY Rising announced the deadline for Long Island earlier this week.
According to a letter published online, their Housing Recovery Program has distributed more than $280 million in payments to 6,388 recipients for damages from Sandy, Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Lee. That includes $201 million to 4,650 Nassau residents and $65 million to 1,350 Suffolk residents.
NY Rising officials claim every applicant who filed by Jan. 20 has received a check for home reconstruction.
The new deadline comes a year after the Housing Recovery Program began accepting applications in April 2013. Homeowners already in the program, in the process of receiving their award or seeking clarification of their award are not affected by the deadline.
But with concerns that many Long Island homeowners have yet to apply, the Friends of Long Island urging residents to seek assistance and begin filing. They can be contacted at email@example.com or 631-316-8430.
Open Door For Affordable Veterans Housing
Applications are now being accepted from Long Island’s veterans for affordable housing, but don’t wait.
Just 60 apartments are available in The Concern Liberty Apartments complex in Amityville. That includes 48 1-bedroom apartments and 12 2-bedroom units.
The housing will be available beginning April.
Applicants must have served in the armed forces and fall within the income limit. The annual cap for one person is $36,785, while the limit for a household of four is $52,550.
To apply, either visit Concern for Independent Living online or mail a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Concern for Independent Living, PO Box 358, Medford, NY 11763.
EmPower Solar Contest Enlightening Young Minds
Solar energy is at the forefront of renewable energy movement, and one Long Island company wants area teenagers to join the charge.
EmPower Solar and the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College have kicked off the 2014 EmPower Solar Student Competition. Long Island and New York City high school students will vie for a trip to France and $6,000 scholarships by going green at home.
The contest emphasizes science, technology, engineering, math and creativity. Teams of two-four students must investigate adding solar power to an existing building in their community and make a presentation to be judged.
Once each team has picked a home or building, their job is to analyze its solar potential, write an essay and produce an original and creative YouTube video. Last year’s winner can be seen here.
Everyone is invited to attend the May award ceremony at the Town of Hempstead’s Energy Park, where the winners will be announced. The top three teams will win scholarships up to $2,000 a person and internships-for-a-day. The winner will also receive an all-expense paid trip to the 2014 Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France.
The Decathlon was originally created by the Spanish and American governments in 2007 as a competition to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Spain hosted the first two in 2010 and 2012, with France hosting this year’s event.
For more information or to register a team, visit EmPower Solar online. The deadline to register is March 14.