Mass Transit Tax Credit Passes
Senator Charles Schumer announced that the Mass Transit Benefit Tax Credit, among others, was passed by Congress Tuesday night in the Tax Increase Prevention Act (HR 5771), also known as the “tax extenders package'. The tax credit which expired January 1, 2014, passed with a one year extension allowing the benefits to be collected retroactively for 2014.
“This bill includes the extension of the mass transit benefit to keep more money in mass transit commuters’ pockets", said Senator Schumer.“These critical tax breaks for teachers, commuters and others will help stretch every dollar earned by New Yorkers, and that’s why I pushed so hard to make sure they were extended for 2014".
This benefit is available to commuters who receive employer offered transportation benefits and ride the bus, take the LIRR, take the subway or use another form of public transportation to commute to work. It will restore a tax benefit giving mass transit commuters the same tax break as those who commute by car receive for parking costs. Mass transit commuters will be able to receive up to $250 in tax benefits each month for the 2014 tax year. In the previous year, 2.7 million commuters nationwide took advantage of the benefit.
The bill consisting of almost 50 tax benefit is set to go to President’s desk this week for signature.
For more coverage of this story, check out Senatr Scumer's press release.
LIPA Rejects Off-Shore Wind Farm, OKs Solar Arrays
The 11 solar arrays in Suffolk County got the green light from LIPA on Wednesday, but plans for an off-shore wind farm were sunk.
LIPA trustees voted on plans to create 280 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy promised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his LIPA reform legislation.
The approval for solar will let LIPA begin creating plans for 11 arrays in Calverton; Manorville; East Shoreham; Medford; Yaphank and Kings Park. Expected to be turned on by 2016, the solar panels should create 122.1 MW of green power.
The trustees, however, dismissed Deepwater Wind’s $1 billion Deepwater ONE project. Stationed 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, 6 MW turbines on platforms in 100-120 feet of water would generate more than 200 megawatts of power by 2018 and hook up to the LIPA electrical system on the East End. Deepwater Wind, who already has a federal lease for the project, believes it could eventually produce up to 1,200 MW.
Several trustees expressed concern about the expensive price tag and possible elimination of tax loopholes with Deepwater ONE.
Instead, LIPA will work with PSEG-LI to issue another bid for the remaining 160 megawatts in 2015.
More than a dozen environmental advocacy organizations, including Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Sierra Club, released a collective statement in response to LIPA’s decision.
“We’re disappointed that Governor Cuomo failed to keep his promise to bring 280 MW of new renewable energy to Long Island this year. Failing to fulfill this promise means we will continue to fall behind as other states embrace the economic and public health benefits of investing in offshore wind.
While we are happy to see more solar energy business opportunities for Long Island, the outcome is a missed opportunity to build a thriving new offshore wind industry in New York.
Governor Cuomo promised our families a modern utility with more renewable energy. He’s failed to follow through on that promise, costing us jobs and economic opportunities in the process. Now, we’re counting on PSEG-LI to work quickly toward building the modern utility we were promised and taking action to bring offshore wind power to our homes and businesses.”
In the leadup to LIPA’s decision, Deepwater One promoted a pair of Stony Brook University studies supporting their proposal.
The first study found a 250-megawatt offshore wind farm would have “essentially no impact” on ratepayers’ bills. The study’s authors called the potential impact “inconsequential” — possibly less than half a percent.
Accommodating the growing demand for electricity on East End was a major part of PSEG’s Utility 2.0 plan for LIPA. According to current trends, demand will outgrow supply by 2016, and local zoning would heavily restrict options. Utility 2.0 proposes building additional natural gas generating facilities to add 25 MW by 2019, although the study finds Deepwater One’s proposed 250 MW farm could provide the power amid the restrictions.
After running the numbers, the study’s authors believe building such a wind farm would increase residential customers’ monthly bill by 0.5 percent in 2019 and commercial customers’ bills by 0.6 percent. That does not account for any benefits from reduced transmission costs, improved reliability and reduced emissions.
The second study found a single offshore wind farm could create several hundred jobs on Long Island for several years, and that the development of a local offshore wind industry could, as demand for the technology grows, put thousands of Long Islanders to work.
Offshore wind can create jobs and economic benefits to the local economy. The study anticipated about 11 jobs per megawatt and a 250 MW farm could create at least $645 million in new economic development activity would be possible. Such a project would require construction and production of turbine components, both of which could present opportunities for Long Island’s skilled labor base in the aerospace and maritime industries.
Analyzing legislation, polices and restrictions about renewable energy by various state and federal governments, along with the market demand, the first study’s authors believe Long Island can have a wind farm producing 8,850 megawatts.
For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).
Prelinary Poll Supports Toll Balancing Proposal
The Move NY plan to add and adjust tolls across all New York City MTA bridges was introduced in March. Now there are numbers that appear to support the proposal to balance the region’s tolls and reduce traffic into and around New York’s Central Business District.
In announcing the poll results, Matthiessen indicated that, “the first priority is to persuade our elected officials to commit to a fully funded, five-year capital plans for the MTA and state highways and bridges. Once that decision is made, Albany can and should publicly debate the options for funding our transportation infrastructure. This poll makes clear that the Move NY plan should be one of the options on the table.” What isw unclear with the poll is the support of Queens and Brroklyn residents and businesses that will likely see the increase on adjacent brides to Manhattan. Public support from all of those is critical to advance a far reaching proposal like this.
A Global Strategy Group poll of 1,003 registered voters from the 12-county area serviced by the MTA conducted in November found a plurality of support for an proposal to balance the cost of tolls in New York City, before hearing any details. Forty-five percent of all those polled backed such a idea (with 34% opposed); Long Islanders also support the idea (52%) than oppose it; both drivers around the region (42%) and transit riders (45%) are more likely to support the plan than oppose it.
According to the poll supported by AAA and others, once respondents hear the details of the Move NY plan as well as arguments in favor of it, the number in support jumps to 62 percent with only 31 percent of respondents opposed.
"These poll results make it clear that there is substantial public support for the concept of a fair tolling system and for improving our roads and bridges and transit system," said Alex Matthiessen, campaign director for Move NY, which will release the final plan in January. "By simply making the city’s tolling system fairer, we can unleash the resources the region needs to address our pressing transportation infrastructure problems."
At the heart of the Move NY plan is a “toll swap” – in which tolls on the city’s outer bridges (e.g., Throgs Neck, Whitestone, Triboro and Verrazano) are lowered by nearly 50% (E-ZPass) while tolls are restored or added, respectively, to the CBD’s East River bridges and along 60th Street, where traffic is the most congested and drivers tend to have more transit options. Move NY planners point out that the 60th Street screen line is critically important as that is what enables the toll reductions on the Throgs Neck and other outer bridges as well as where the majority of drivers cross in entering the CBD. Without it, only drivers from the east (Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island) would pay the new tolls even though more drivers are coming from the north. The new CBD tolls would match those charged at the Queens-Midtown Tunnel: $15 cash or $10.66 with EZ-Pass for roundtrip. Existing tolls at the MTA tunnels and Port Authority-owned bridges and tunnels would remain unchanged.
Every day, 11.5 million people use public transportation to travel into and around New York City and 2.5 million cars cross over bridges and tunnels, along with 3.5 million people traveling south of 60th Street. And in the second most congested city in the country, they’ve seen four toll hikes since 2009 despite the most serious service cuts in a generation. Tolls spiked ever since the MTA was created in 1968. The cost to cross the RFK Triborough Bridge in 1980 was just $3, rising to $8 in 2000 and $15 in 2013. By 2030, they project the toll to cost as much as $40-$50 (cash, roundtrip).
At the same time, an estimated 50,000 cars, trucks and taxis leave highways daily to use the free Queensboro Bridge instead of the Triborough Bridge or Queens-Midtown Tunnel that each cost $7.50 cash (or $5.33) one-way. A New York City map of vehicle crash locations highlights both sides of the Queensboro Bridge at hotspots for injuries and fatalities. As “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz says, “you can’t hit a pedestrian or cyclist on a highway because they’re not there.”
Under the Move NY plan, all MTA tolls would be non-stop (gateless and cashless). Drivers could pay with EZ-Pass – or have their license plate photographed and be mailed a bill.
Meanwhile, 70 percent of those polled last month do not support a proposal like former Mayor Bloomberg’s 2008 congestion plan. Just 19 percent of those driving in the city would back the 2008 plan compared to the 45 percent that support the MoveNY (before they know the benefits).
Traffic and congestion is the most pressing issue among those polled, with 82 percent calling it a serious issue. However, the cost of tolls caused concern for 81 percent of voters while the condition of roads garnered 77 percent. Nearly three-quarters of the voters said they’d be more likely to support a proposal that improved the condition and speed of the bridges and highways.
If the Move NY plan moves forward, voters believe that various forms of transportation are likely to improve as a result. More than three in five respondents believed the investments in subway signal systems would increase the frequency of trains and expand countdown clocks on subway platforms throughout the system. Sixty-eight percent believe the proposal will also add more Express Bus routes and service.
According to the poll, the public believes that elected officials should make transportation infrastructure a priority. More than four in five of those polled believe the condition of roads and highways should be a priority for electeds, while 78 percent said congestion should also be a priority. Respondents also called on elected officials to pay attention to the cost of transportation, with 72 percent calling the cost of tolls a priority issue and 68 percent calling the cost of riding mass transit a priority issue.
For additional coverage, read this Newsday story (subscription required). Check out the full poll results here.
2050 Population and Employment Forecasts Draft Released
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) has releasesd the Draft 2050 Population and Employment forecasts for 31 counties in the New York Metropolitan Region. Public review of the draft began on Wednesday and will close at 4 p.m. on Thursday, January 22, 2015. The Draft 2050 Population and Employment Regional Forecasts are components of the Socioeconomic and Demographic (SED) Forecasts produced by NYMTC for use in the next Regional Transportation Plan.
Once Completed, the 2050 Population and Employment Forcast will serve as a tool in addressing transportation related
issues, developing regional plans and making decisions on the use of federal transportation funds. The 2050 SED forecasts includes population, employment, labor force, and household forecasts for the region at the county level, and a tool that allocates the county-level SED projections down to the Transportation Analysis Zone (TAZ) level. The SED forecasts are for the 31-County Forecast Region segmented into five subregions. The Draft presents the baseline results, and a brief description of the methodological approach used to generate the forecast, and a
summary of the forecast outputs.
Two public meetings will be held on Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 2:30PM and at 6:30PM at 25 Beaver Street, room 510, New York, NY 10004, to provide an overview of methodology and preliminary results. These meetings may be attended in person or via webinar. To attend in person RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call in information will be provided upon registration.
Comments should be sent in writing by
4 p.m. on January 22, 2015 to:
New York Metropolitan Transportation Council
Attn: Larisa Morozovskaya
25 Beaver Street, Suite 201,
New York, NY 10004
Draft report and forecast tables available for viewing: Draft Report Draft Forecast Tables
For more information of this story or to register for the webinar, check out NYMTC Online.
First Tenant Moves Into New Farmingdale Transit Housing
The first tenant of a downtown Farmingdale housing development neighboring the LIRR station moved in Monday.
Jefferson Plaza formally opened its doors earlier this week, with Village Mayor Ralph Ekstrand, Vision Long Island and developers TDI and Bartone Properties touring the building.
“The administration has been nothing but supportive and it’s a pleasure working with them. The community seems to be receiving this very well. We have nothing but positive feedback to report,” developer Anthony Bartone said.
Jefferson Plaza is the largest of several Smart Growth projects underway in Farmingdale, a transit-oriented development that broke ground by the train station in November 2013.
The building opened Monday replaced a parking lot with 39 apartments and 6,000 square feet of retail. Construction is underway across the street on a vacant warehouse that will be replaced with 115 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail. That building is likely to open in June.
Once complete, the two-building project will include a theater room, courtyards with barbecues, facilities to conduct conference calls, a brick walkway leading towards Main Street and an underground parking lot with a 172-vehicle capacity.
“Everything is progressing as planned,” the developer said.
Monthly rent is expected to start around $2,300 for each apartment, although 10 percent will be rented at cheaper rates for residents making less than the area’s median income. The price of the units will vary with the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
As of Tuesday, Bartone said some of the 39 apartments were still available and the Long Island Housing Partnership has yet to hold the lottery for their four price-reduced units.
“We have several hundred people who expressed interest,” he added. “Since we just opened the building yesterday, we’re going to start having open houses.”
IDA Starts Countdown On Fourth LaunchPad Incubator
A business incubator will receive financial incentive to build a $4 million branch in the Village of Great Neck Plaza.
The Nassau County IDA approved LaunchPad Long Island for sales, mortgage and property tax breaks for their latest downtown location last week. Co-Founder Andrew Hazen said they had been waiting months for the IDA’s approval.
“We are choosing the contractors to build out the space and we hope to be in there by February,” Hazen said.
LaunchPad is expected to lease 7,200 square feet in a 22,500 square-foot building on Grace Avenue. Once complete, the new site will offer co-working spaces for at least 36 startup companies. The IDA believes it will create 50 permanent jobs, generate $12 million in economic impact and produce $90,000 in net tax benefits.
This location marks their fourth, following Stony Brook, Huntington and Mineola. While the Stony Brook location focuses on college kids, LaunchPad houses about 60 companies in the other two venues. None of the startups have left quite yet, Hazen said, although many are expanding in terms of staffing, resources and finances. Mineola is the oldest location and will celebrate its second anniversary this winter.
Meanwhile, Hazen confirmed he’s also exploring other parts of the island for future LaunchPads. Long Beach and Patchogue are both current possibilities.
The recession, Superstorm Sandy and brain drain have left many Long Islanders underwhelmed and concerned about the economic future of their home. But the co-founder said LaunchPad provides hope, as well as resources and expertise, which leads to startups that ultimately lead to jobs and prosperity.
“I think LaunchPad gives people that hope, that belief,” he said.
The group touring Great Neck Plaza during Smart Growth Saturday back in September visited the Grace Avenue site as a potential home for the incubator.
For more on this story, check out the Long Island Business News (subscription required).
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
A Christmas Story - The Musical - Friday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20 at 3 and 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 21 at 2 and 7 p.m.
Frosty - Saturday, Dec. 20 at 11 a.m. and Sunday, Dec. 21 at 10:30 a.m.
Tickets and more information available here
9 Railroad Avenue, Patchogue
That 70s Band & Hi Def - Friday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m.
Saturday Night Dance Party - Saturday, Dec. 20 at 10 p.m.
Tickets and more information available here
Bay Street Theater
The Long Wharf, Sag Harbor
Mixed Nuts: A classic holiday Nutcracker... with a twist! - Friday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 20 at 1 and 7 p.m.
The Vendettas Rock and Roll Holiday Spectacular - Sunday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m.
Tickets and more information available here
Mayor’s Comments On Rumored Casino At Source Site
Village Mayor Peter Cavallaro sent a message to local residents and businesses and folks around the region on prelimnary concerns about a proposed casino development adjacent to his downtown. While Vision Long Island, has not reviewed any casino proposals, impacts of casino proposals to successful main street business districts are a deep concern and to be carefully wieghed to the potential economic benefits for county governments. Mayor Cavallaro's full statement is below and was also featured this week in Long Island Business News.
As a life-long village resident, and someone who has spent all of my time in village government trying to better our local community, like many residents, I am concerned about the rumored casino at the Fortunoff site. I believe that these kinds of uses have a generally deleterious effect on the local communities where they operate.
Since reading the various published reports, I have had several discussions with people involved in the process and have been told that no decision has been made at this time and that several locations are still under consideration. I do believe that the Source/Fortunoff site is under serious consideration. I have expressed my concerns about the potential impacts on the community of having this kind of use nearby, and I have had several preliminary discussions with certain of our other elected officials, and we will all be monitoring this situation closely. I plan on arranging a meeting with all of our local officials in the near future to discuss this matter, and I will keep the community informed of any developments or information that we receive as we receive it.
I have requested that there be public comment on any proposed site selection, that the impacts of any project be fully assessed, and that appropriate mitigation be provided. While I am hopeful that a more suitable site will be selected (e.g. Belmont Park or similar), it is important that we continue to monitor the process to the extent we can, and be prepared to articulate our community’s concerns at the appropriate time.
It is my understanding that the proposal does not need the approval of any local government bodies, since OTB is a state authority and is exempt from local zoning laws. As the site in question is in the Town of Hempstead (outside the village), the town board in Hempstead would have some influence as to site selection and other related matters. Nassau County is also an interested party, but I assume that they are indifferent as to where the casino is located, as long as the county accrues the benefits of its establishment.
I hope that this response answers your questions and concerns, but please feel free to contact me via email, or by phone at village hall (516-334-1700, 111) or in the evenings or weekends at my home at 997-2096. I would be happy to discuss this with you in more detail.
Peter I. Cavallaro