Return To Sender: USPS Won’t Close Local Branch
The Northport post office will remain open.
Months after Vision Long Island reported the United States Postal Service (USPS) placed plans to close the Main Street branch on hold indefinitely, Northport is not on the latest USPS list of possible closures.
According to The Observer, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said a new consolidation report did not include the branch, the first official documentation confirming it will remain open.
"I fought to make sure the U.S. Postal Service understands how crucial the Northport Post Office is to the Northport community. I was pleased that the USPS heeded my calls and, even in the face of many post office and mail processing center closures in 2015, the Northport Post Office will remain open. I will continue to advocate for this important community resource," Israel said.
Northport Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin discovered the postal service was considering closing the downtown post office in summer 2012. Some of the services would move to a smaller 3,055 sq. ft. downtown store while all 19 postal carriers would have been relocated to East Northport.
A public meeting at the American Legion hall later that summer drew a packed crowd, while elected officials like Israel (D-Huntington) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) pressed USPS to abandon the study.
Superstorm Sandy delayed their decision into 2013. In October, USPS officials said closure plans were on hold indefinitely.
“I would never say never. I can definitely say not now,” Corporate Communications Manager Maureen Marion said at the time.
Israel left a message for Northport Mayor George Doll with the news that fall. Doll said at the time that he was cautiously optimistic despite not having an official statement.
“The fact it’s not closing is wonderful news. It’s a part of Main Street. It’s part of our commercial district. People who use it may stop in some of the local shops,” he said, adding that it’s also heavily used by merchants and residents.
Eric Alexander, director of Northport-based Vision Long Island, credited public officials, the Village of Northport, the Northport Village Merchants Association and residents to fight the closure.
“It’s great to see Senator Schumer and other federal officials protect a downtown by preserving the hub of commercial and community action,” Alexander said.
Nassau Sewage Plant Deal Aims To Save Taxpayers Money, Improve Water Quality For 1.1 Million Residents
Handing maintenance and operation of three wastewater plants will reduce Nassau County spending by at least $233.1 million, officials announced Tuesday.
“Knowing there is a direct connection between the performance of Nassau County's sewage treatment plants and the water quality of our bays and beaches means water treatment is something we need to be the absolute best at. We believe United Water will help us to achieve this goal by bringing worldwide experience and new technologies to our wastewater plants so that the residents and the sea life get what is deserved and that is the absolute best,” said Rob Weltner, president of Operation SPLASH.
County Executive Ed Mangano unveiled the 20-year agreement with United Water at a meeting of his Wastewater Plant Advisory Committee. Vision Long Island reviewed the presentation from United Water's President Richard Henning and his team.
“This partnership was formed to dramatically improve the County’s ability to protect our environment and the health and well-being of our residents. Together with United Water, we will implement unprecedented advances in environmental protection, odor control, management efficiencies, plant aesthetics and public information. Furthermore, this effort permits a more effective and efficient management of the plants and sewage system following the federal government’s significant investment in storm hardening of our infrastructure,” the county executive said.
A part of French multinational corporation Suez, United will be responsible for the Bay Park, Cedar Creek and Glen Cove Sewage Treatment Plants. Combined, they process wastewater for 1.1 million Nassau County residents.
Nassau County will maintain ownership of all three plants, but United Water will be responsible for operating the plants. Company officials also said they will implement programs to resolve major deficiencies in the system.
Nassau County will also be responsible for overseeing United, with the company providing written reports detailing operation and maintenance every month. Both sides will meet regularly to review performance and county officials will also perform an inspection every year. In addition, there will be a full-scale inspection of all three plants every fifth year to help the county determine if United Water is meeting its obligations.
Company officials have pledged not only to operate the plants to best protect the surrounding wetlands and estuaries, but to also hire Nassau County employees when possible. Part of the agreement calls for United to use certain county employees at the sewer plants to generate no less than $10 million in annual savings. Employees not hired by United to work at the plants would be moved to vacant county positions as part of a no-layoff agreement in the deal.
Wall Street-based financial consulting firm PFM Group was hired by Nassau County to independently review the agreement. According to Nassau County and United Water, PFM Group found the contract could save $233.1 million over the 20 years, and may actually save closer to $378.9 million when the savings of personnel reassignments and reduced overtime are factored into the equation.
The recently-announced arrangement was supported by several Long Island environmental activists.
“[Citizens Campaign for the Environment] fully supports the hiring of an established and highly experienced, qualified, professional contractor, specializing in wastewater treatment management. We believe this is an essential component for cleaner bays, estuaries and our ocean. It has become exceedingly clear the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), Cedar Creek and the Glen Cove STP must be operated by a management and engineering firm possessing a proven history of successfully operating and implementing advanced wastewater technology,” Citizens Campaign Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said.
Mangano actually picked United Water to take over maintenance and operation back in 2012. The concept was to create a deal since the county’s Sewer and Storm Water Authority would go broke by 2014 if nothing changed. At the time, he claimed United Water would freeze prices through 2015, never raise them beyond the consumer price increase, taxes would still be collected by the county and employees would not be laid off.
A county source said the new deal does not give jurisdiction over rates to United Water.
Vision Long Island reviewed the presentation from United Water as a member of the most recent Wastewater Plant Advisory Committee.
"With hundreds of millions of dollars in federal capital funding in place to upgrade Nassau sewer infrastructure, it is a wise investment to improve management and operational efficiency. The proposal allows for growth of the sewer systems without increased costs. This provision, along with efforts to improve water quality, will allow downtown redevelopment projects to move forward in the safest and most sustainable manner possible," Director Eric Alexander said.
For more about this story, check out Newsday (subscription required) or Mangano’s press release.
Demands For Transportation Info With LIRR Strike Looming
With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and a coalition of eight Long Island Rail Road unions seemingly at an impasse, a strike later this month sounds very plausible.
And if that happens, the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council (LIRRCC) is calling on New York State to collect and distribute information to passengers of the country’s largest commuter rail system.
“In the event of a LIRR strike, Long Islanders will need to access a variety of sources of information to make intelligent decisions about travel. Much of this material is not readily available through from the MTA or LIRR, and we call upon state government to pull together all this information so that it is accessible through a single source,” LIRRCC Chair Mark Epstein said.
Since 2010, LIRR employees have worked without a contract and been engaged in fruitless negotiations with the MTA. On July 20, 5,400 LIRR workers could walk out on their job.
If a strike occurs, the LIRRCC wants state officials to create a dedicate website, a smartphone app, text and email alerts, and regular communication with local media. They also want the state to coordinate with local elected officials and public safety agencies across Long Island and New York City.
The list of information includes policies on LIRR tickets amid the strike; real-time traffic conditions from the Department of Transportation; information about other mass transit like the Huntington Area Rapid Transit and NICE Bus systems; special traffic regulations; locations and hours for carpooling; and status of New York City’s alternate side parking.
The LIRRCC also asked state officials for consideration of existing and planned road closures; increasing the number of MTA buses from previously reported amounts; creating incentives for high-occupancy vehicle use and access to the Airtran system at JFK International Airport during the strike.
No contingency transportation plans have been released by the MTA, although preliminary plans were leaked last month. According to those reports, shuttle buses would run from six LIRR stations to subways in Queens, while park and rides would be set up at Citi Field and Aqueduct Race Track in Queens.
The MTA has offered a seven-year deal with 17 percent raise over that stretch, first-time required health insurance contributions in the form of 4 percent of an employee’s salary and continued contributions into pensions beyond the 10 years already required. The union counted with a six-year deal with 17 percent raises and no concessions on benefits. Two Presidential Emergency Boards sanctioned by the White House previously recommended a six-year deal with 17 percent raises and 2 percent of an employee’s salary towards health care.
As of Friday, a strike remains possible as negotiations remain fruitless. New York
Representatives Tim Bishop (D), Steve Israel (D), Carolyn McCarthy (D), Grace Meng (D), Joseph Crowley (D) and Peter King (R) issued a statement this afternoon about the current status.
"We are pleased that representatives from labor and management spent nearly five hours negotiating on Thursday in an effort to ensure the continued operations of the Long Island Rail Road. We remain optimistic that an agreement can be reached without any disruption of rail service, however, we are troubled that no further negotiations are currently scheduled. We strongly urge both parties to work through the weekend to reach a deal to benefit the diverse ridership of the Long Island Rail Road."
Are Baby Boomers Choosing Multi-Family Housing?
The accepted belief is that older Americans are leaving single-family houses in the suburbs behind for apartments and condos in downtown environments.
But the Wall Street Journal reported last month that baby boomers are more likely to hold onto their single-family housing.
Reviewing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the article finds population growth for Americans aged 70 and older is the lowest in the densest communities. That marks the only age group to see this trend.
In addition, the amount of boomers living in single-family homes in 2013 is the same as it was in 2012 and 2006.
At the same time, Fannie Mae analysis of the Census data finds more and more boomers are becoming empty nesters and retiring from the workforce.
The Wall Street Journal also touched on a study by real estate website Trulia. That report found the number of households headed by Americans aged 70-74 in multi-unit housing has been dropping for years, even before the recession.
This all seemingly conflicts reports and data that suggest baby boomers are moving into multi-unit housing.
The Wall Street Journal itself published a story last August about boomers sharing downtowns with younger, artistic crowds. They referenced Census data analysis that found boomer population declined at a more significant rate 40-80 miles outside of the country’s 50 largest cities than within 5 miles of those cities. A different study found more Americans age 55 and older are living in condos, up from 7.3 percent in 2005 to 9.6 percent in 2011.
And according to an EPA report on infill and Smart Growth from February, the housing market will likely grow for both rental and owned homes that match the needs of empty nesters. They may have been the first generation living in the suburbs, but many retirees cannot or choose not to drive and are left with a large house and yard to maintain by themselves. At the same time, the American Seniors Housing Association said Americans aged 55-75 want to stay connected with the community, volunteer and find urban environments appealing.
The question remains unanswered - do baby boomers prefer living in single-family suburbia or downtowns with multi-unit housing? Perhaps the answer lies in the fine print. The definition of a baby boomer according to the U.S. Census Bureau is someone born between 1946-1964. That puts the oldest boomer at 68, too young for the Trulia study. Even using the 1943-1960 dates preferred by generational theorists and others, the oldest boomer could only be 71.
“Anyone born before 1946 is technically not a baby boomer,” AARP Associate State Director Will Stoner said.
Reinforcing this argument, the Trulia study used in the newer Wall Street Journal also found the share of households headed by Americans aged 50-69 – the Census-approved ages of baby boomers – living in multi-unit housing rose to 21.6 percent in 2013 after hovering around 20 percent for nearly two decades.
Stoner also suggested it could be a difference between desires and supplies. Both millennials and boomers prefer walkable downtowns with transit and entertainment options, he added, but Long Island and many other communities simply don’t have them.
“If there isn’t housing available, they’re not going to move because the option isn’t available in their communities,” he said.
GOP Proposes $11 Billion Shell Game To Fund Highways
If nothing changes, the Federal Highway Trust fund could hit zero by next month and be $18 billion in the red by 2024. But a proposal with temporary fixes by Republicans in the House of Representatives has Democrats up in arms.
Ways and Means Committee approved a bill Thursday to move $10.8 billion around to sustain highway and transit funding for states until May 2015.
Sponsored by committee chair Dave Camp (R-Michigan), the legislation calls for pension smoothing, increase customs user fees and transfer $1 billion from a fund to fix leaking underground fuel tanks.
"I know these policies are not perfect, but they are viable, have been used by the House and Senate before and should pass both the House and Senate quickly," Camp said. "With these policies, we can steer clear of another crisis showdown, and we should."
Democrats criticize the plan, saying it’s letting Republicans and Congress off the hook for developing a long-term solution. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) proposed legislation for a six-year transportation bill that was defeated along party lines earlier this year.
“It is a mistake to take the pressure off this Congress and kick it down the road,” Blumenauer said, adding it will likely be even harder next year in the partisan atmosphere of a presidential campaign.
Created in 1956 to finance the country’s Interstate Highway System, the Highway Trust Fund. In 1982, funding for mass transit was added. The fund has been the home for federal fuel tax beginning at 3 cents per gallon in the beginning to 18.4 cents per gallon in 1993.
For years Congress passed long-term plans and properly funded the account. But since the new millennium, the Federal Highway Trust fund has been leaning heavily on transfers from the general fund – including $12 billion in 2014. By 2024 at this rate, general funds would account for one-third of the fund’s revenue.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has already warned the fund would no longer have money for promised aid to states in the first week of August. Gradually slowing down, the account would be empty by the end of the month.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said publicly he wants to bring it up for vote in the House next week. Reports, however, question if the GOP boss has enough votes to pass it without Democratic support.
For more media coverage, check out Long Island Business News (subscription required) and the Wall Street Journal.
HUD Boss Donovan Confirmed As New OMB Leader
The White House announced changes to federal housing leadership this week.
Formerly the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Shaun Donovan will become the next director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Senators on both sides of the aisle confirmed his appointment on Thursday.
A White House statement praised Donovan for his work during the recession and the wake of Superstorm Sandy. He assumed office in 2009.
“While we have made significant strides by investing in areas that are helping to grow the economy, creating good jobs, and promoting more effective and efficient management in government, Shaun knows there is more work to do, and today's bipartisan vote ensures the dedicated professionals at OMB will have a proven, effective leader to build on the progress we've made,” President Barack Obama said.
Meanwhile, Julián Castro has become the 16th Secretary of HUD. The mayor of San Antonio, Texas since 2009, Castro was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday.
A White House statement praised Castro as a proven leader and champion for safe, affordable housing.
Dear friends and colleagues: On behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, we are pleased to share the good news that the Senate confirmed Shaun Donovan today as Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Julián Castro as the 16th Secretary of HUD yesterday. We appreciated the support from our stakeholders during this transition period and look forward to continuing the important work that we do together to better our communities.
“I know that together with the dedicated professionals at HUD, Julián will help build on the progress we've made battling back from the Great Recession -- rebuilding our housing market, reducing homelessness among veterans, and connecting neighborhoods with good schools and good jobs that help our citizens succeed,” the president said.
For more about these changes, check out the New York Times and Daily News.
Thoughts On What's Missing From Downtown Smithtown
The following is an editorial by Vision Long Island Intern Nicolas Shearman.
In the past 15 years as a resident of Smithtown, I can count on two hands the number of times I have walked across Main Street. This is despite the fact that I’ve attended school and church on the street for over a decade and live within three miles of downtown.
It is a sad reality that I know very little about my hometown’s historic core. Prior to the auto-centric suburban development in the 1950s, Smithtown was a farming community with a collection of pedestrian friendly downtown areas. Kings Park, St. James, and Smithtown were centers of residential use, commerce, and industry.
Transit diversity within the town was greater in the 19th century than it is today. The town was home to a bicycle craze in the 1890s; local bicyclists urged the town to construct bike paths. Eventually, Suffolk County constructed a path running along Jericho Turnpike.
On a scorching hot day last month, I walked downtown Smithtown in search of answers. If Main Street was once home to pedestrians and mixed-uses, what changes can be made to restore the town’s vitality?
Pedestrian activity on Main Street was minimal during my four-hour visit. The most activity was found in shopping centers, where people walked quickly to and from their cars. Shopping centers primarily contained retail space, whereas older buildings built to the street contained mixed uses. Residential space above shops and offices was limited. Rows of vacant storefronts with decaying facades did little to add to the area’s aesthetics.
There is a severe lack of tree shade on all streets in the downtown. At the end of my stroll, my skin was badly burned and I dripped with sweat. I couldn’t even find a water fountain to quench my thirst.
Basic measurements and observations reveal that Smithtown is designed for the convenience of the automobile, not for human comfort.
The lack of trees on Main Street makes the strip feel like an asphalt jungle. Over 1,500 feet of sidewalk on Main Street and Singer Lane front vast expanses of uninviting parking lot. The few young bicyclists and pedestrians I encountered struggled to cross streets due to constant traffic and excessive street widths.
As a third-year college student, I will soon make decisions regarding post-graduate life. Will I continue to live in Smithtown? Do I want to continue to live in Smithtown?
Like many of my peers, I seek to live in a walkable community where I can live, work, and play without using a car. Access to open spaces, such as preserved farm and parkland, is also a need. The benefits of living in walkable communities near open space are innumerable, as seen in nearby areas.
Northport, a local downtown known for its vibrancy and walkability, exhibits the many social benefits of decreasing car use and traveling by foot. As an employee of two businesses on the downtown’s Main Street, I experience daily the amenities of living in a neighborhood designed for humans rather than cars. I have befriended residents of apartments above Main Street’s shops. People of all different generations interact in the village park, located at the foot of Main Street. Local shop owners speak each morning as they ready their storefronts and restaurants for large amounts of foot traffic. The community’s farmers’ market, concerts and summer events contribute to Northport’s strong social fabric and quality of life.
As a student, parishioner and patron of Main Street in Smithtown, I have not experienced the strong social ties present in successful downtowns like Northport. Narrowing Smithtown’s streets, planting street trees and improving the aesthetics of facades not only will increase pedestrian comfort. Simple, initial changes will provide people with an attractive destination to socialize, work, and shop.
Further changes to downtown Smithtown could include buildings apartments above existing retail and office space, or redeveloping shopping centers into multi-story, mixed-use blocks to foster social activity found in downtowns like Northport.
In Eastern Long Island, land preservation partnerships between local governments, non-for-profits and landowners have proven successful. These partnerships must be forged in Smithtown. Parcels of land, small and large, should be acquired as parkland and used as community gardens and farms. This can add open space, honor Smithtown’s agrarian roots, build a stronger sense of community and satisfy popular desire for local food systems.
Transit must be available for town residents to significantly decrease car dependence and realize the benefits of walkable living. Bike paths, such as those present in Smithtown at the turn of the last century, should be reintroduced. The construction of a streetcar line to connect areas of high walkability or commercial activity should be a consideration. Such a line could connect shopping centers along Jericho Turnpike in Commack, downtown Kings Park, downtown Smithtown, St. James, Stony Brook and Smith Haven Mall.
Join Sandy Volunteers In Helping One Of Their Own
Join Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon, Lindy Manpower, Friends of Long Island, United Way of Long Island and others this Sunday in helping a Sandy volunteer begin a new chapter in his life. Ed Andersen has been a vital cog in Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon, but he's quietly been fighting leukemia and chemo at the same time. Volunteers will demolish this veteran's damaged house and unveil a special surprise.
The approved demolition crew should arrive his Babylon home by 9 a.m. Everyone else is invited on site at 12:30 p.m.
For questions and RSVP, contact Theresa DiPietto-Roesler with Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon at email@example.com or 516-443-6866. Check out the event flier here.
Learn How 12 Steps Can Create An Organically-Green Lawn
The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College is proud to announce a new educational series: “12 Steps to an Organically Green Lawn.”
They've drawn on the lessons learned from many years of working with Long Island organic landscapers, organizing educational seminars and many other sources to put this series together.
The series will be featured on Facebook and Twitter over the summer. Follow them on both for easy to follow, do-it-yourself tips to make any lawn thick and green without toxic pesticides. The series is also available here on their website.
Now Playing: Long Island International Film Expo
Get your tickets now for the 17th Long Island International Film Expo.
“The 2014 Facts of Life” began July 9 at the Bellmore Movie Theater and continue until July 17.
A partnership between the Nassau County Film Commission and Long Island Film/TV Foundation, more than 100 short and feature-length films are being shown this year. A number of panels are also held during the festival, including some on distribution, scriptwriting and legalities.
Awards are bestowed during the Closing Party and Awards Ceremony on the last day. Audience votes and a judging committee will decide on the best director, story, feature film, short film, Long Island film, student film, animation and foreign film. Technical awards for best actor, actress, cinematography, art direction and lighting will be presented today. Winners will receive trophies and prizes ranging from cash to equipment rentals to editing time.
For more information about the Long Island International Film Expo, check out their website.
Public Invited To Federal Transportation Meeting July 17
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) have announced a public meeting about the New York metropolitan transportation planning process on July 17. The meeting, federally-mandated to evaluate transportation planning, is slated for 6:30-8 p.m. at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) office on 199 Water Street, 22nd Floor in Manhattan.
For security concerns, participants must RSVP with Rosenberger by email or calling 212-668-6091.
Federal law requires urban areas with at least 50,000 residents to have a designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO) to carry out continuous and comprehensive transportation planning. NYMTC is the MPO for New York City, Long Island and southern portions of upstate.
For all transportation providers to continue receiving federal aid, FHWA and FTA must certify NYMTC’s compliance with regulations at least once every four years. NYMTC was previously certified compliant in June 2011.
This public meeting includes evaluating the planning process and documenting the process on a periodic basis. Taxpayers can talk directly with staff from FHWA and FTA about the transportation planning process in the NYMTC area.
Written comments should be received no later than Oct. 31 to be considered for the review. Your comments can be emailed to Karen Rosenberger.
Anti-Gang Group Announces 14th Anniversary Gala
Anti-gang nonprofit S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth Inc. has announced details for their 14th anniversary gala.
Entitled “Oh The Places You’ll Go,” the event is scheduled for Sept. 18 at the Coral House in Baldwin.
S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth Inc. was founded in 2000 in response to the brutal murder of Uniondale resident Eric Rivera by alleged gang members. Former gang member Sergio Argueta and co-Founder Michael Hernandez launched community service projects and pushed for alternatives rather than just harsher penalties.
These days, the Uniondale-based organization is one of the largest gang-prevention and intervention agencies in the Northeast. They’ve reached more than 78,000 people through workshops and presentations, and fostered strong relationships with Long Island community members.
For reservations, sponsorships or more information, contact Rashmia Zatar at 516-483-1350 or by email.
Oct. 31 Date Set For LI Homeless Coalition Conference
The Long Island Coalition for the Homeless has announced a date for their next major event.
The 26th annual Keys for the Homeless Conference is slated to occur Oct. 31 at Touro Law School in Central Islip.
This year’s conference will focus on housing first, rapid rehousing and addressing the needs of Long Island’s most vulnerable populations.
Specific workshops have not yet been announced as proposals were accepted through today. The nonprofit, however, is still accepting nominations for the Unsung Hero Award and Helen Martin scholarship – awarded to those who have experienced homelessness and require financial assistance to pursue higher education.
Tickets at the door will go for $75, although early registration is priced at $70. Discounted sponsorship rates are also available by Aug. 1
Visit them online to register or for more information.
The YMCA Boulton Center
37 West Main Street, Bay Shore
Tickets and more information available here
Cold Spring Harbor
The John W. Engeman Theater
250 Main Street, Northport
Plaza Suite - Friday, July 11 at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 12 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, July 13 at 2 p.m.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Saturday, July 12 at 11 a.m.
Shut Up, Sit Down and Eat - Sunday, June 29 at 7 p.m.
Tickets and more information available here
9 Railroad Avenue, Patchogue
Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band - Friday, July 11 at 6 p.m.
Ol' Skool Summer Soul Jam - Saturday, July 12 at 10 p.m.
Cold Steel with Gothic Knights, Sanitarius and ShitKill - Sunday, July 13 at 8 p.m.
Tickets and more information available here