Friday, June 5, 2009
Posted by Nick at Friday, June 05, 2009
Apologies for not posting more regularly these last few days. I am active in the high tech community in the city, which some have dubbed Silicon Alley, and I spent a lot of time around the city for Internet Week. I'll tell you - there is some fascinating stuff out there, being done right here in NY, and I plan to use some of it for this blog in the coming months.
We have had some interesting Lighthouse-related developments. I'm not going to do a straight coverage of the meeting since others have done that for me. Instead, I'm planning both a roadmap for what to expect moving forward, and a quick dose of realism. This is a great time to be optimistic, but things are never as good as they seem, just like they were never as bad as they seemed in March and April.
David Paterson Gets Involved
David "If We Could Only Flood the Tunnels, There'd Be No Way to Get to New Jersey" Paterson, a Hofstra graduate, Hempstead native, and Governor of New York, became publicly involved with the Lighthouse for the first time this week. The Governor met with Charles Wang in Manhattan on Thursday afternoon, and Mr. Paterson pledged his full support for the Lighthouse.
The biggest news coming from Gov. Paterson's office was the appointment of a special liaison to guide the Lighthouse through the required reviews at the State level. This person will also help secure funding to improve state roads around the Lighthouse site, such as Hempstead Turnpike and the Meadowbrook Parkway. It is clear that the Governor is taking a more active role in the process, and his support could only help the process moving forward.
Buried within the press release announcing today's meeting was a line that Tom Suozzi "brokered" the meeting between Kate Murray, the County Executive, and Lighthouse principals. I think this is a good time to remind everybody that Mr. Suozzi is also up for re-election this year, and, like any good politician, he'd like to win. Therefore, he is giving himself credit for "brokering" a meeting that was announced at another meeting that he did not personally attend. I wish he would've left the grandstanding at home and solely concentrated on making today's meeting a success.
Lovefest at County Offices
Speaking of the meeting, Charles Wang and Kate Murray sat at the same table for the second time in a week, after not meeting for almost 5 months. The aftermath of the meeting was nothing short of a lovefest, with Charles Wang and Kate Murray holding hands, and all sides praising each other while vowing a new way forward for the Lighthouse. It was a positive development, though we can never forget there is much more to do.
Here is the biggest thing that came out of today's meeting: The Town of Hempstead has promised to hold hearings on the completeness of the DGEIS no later than July 7. We will discuss in detail what this means in the next section...
We saw progress this week, but what does it mean, and what should we be looking for in the coming months?
When Kate Murray promises to hold a completeness hearing, she means that she and her consultants (and political contributors), F.P. Clark, will convene a hearing to determine whether the DGEIS (environmental review document) is complete and acceptable for this stage in the process. In other words, they are determining whether the process is ready to move into the mandatory public comments period. Section 4 of SEQRA requires at least 14 days notice before holding a public hearing, so that would mean Public Comments on or around July 22 if all goes well (Blogger's Note: This assumes approval on July 7, the required public announcement in the media July 8, and the 14-day waiting period).
This blog has already covered the subjective language of SEQRA; the law only states that the Lead Agency (Town of Hempstead) must determine the DGEIS is "suitable for public review." Only the Final EIS has the legal burden of being both complete and correct, since Public Comments are supposed to factor heavily into the final decisions that are made between developer and Lead Agency. (Blogger's Note: If I'm confusing you - SEQRA is the law, SEQR is the process)
The coming weeks will be crucial in this process. If Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead are serious about moving the process forward, they will take the next logical step and approve the DGEIS for public comments in the beginning of July and hold those hearings later in July. If the previous issues arise again, in which F.P. Clark sent news dumps on a Friday afternoon with issues, 90% of which Lighthouse consultants have deemed irrelevant to completeness, we could be stuck in a quagmire for months to come. The proof will come with actions, and we must always be vigilant.
We have heard nothing but good news about the Lighthouse this week. More than anything else, it is clear that work is now going on at all levels of the government, including the federal government, New York State, Nassau County, and the Town of Hempstead, to ensure the reviews are done as promptly and thoroughly as possible. I am very optimistic about our future progress, and you have every reason to be optimistic as well. However, blind optimism is just as dangerous to the movement as blind pessimism.
You are seeing, in real-time, exactly why I have been pleading people to get informed, and why I had Movement Week posts (there will be more to come, by the way) dealing with problems like pure hockey fans and low-information voters. Many people who do not have enough knowledge of the Lighthouse and the process (and even some members of the media, who should know better) are immediately accepting this as good news and announcing a new leaf for Kate Murray and the Lighthouse (these are the same people that declare the Lighthouse dead and demand a move to Queens at the slightest hint of bad news).
Let me be clear: This is far from over. To let up now would be disastrous.
Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead do not have the strongest record in this field. I became so active in this development because my neighborhood has not seen a development at the Bellmore Army Base 13 years after a deal was reached (with wide support in our community). There are similar delays with the prostitution-riddled Courtesy Hotel in West Hempstead, which Kate Murray has not closed down despite repeated promises to do so, and which has taken years to re-develop because Murray and her government stood in the way. I have said it before, and I will say it again: the proof will be in the pudding. Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead should be commended for this new policy of openness in relation to the Lighthouse, and I am thrilled she is now attending meetings and saying the right things. However, saying the right thing is not a substitute for doing the right thing, and the real proof will come in the Supervisor's actions in the coming months.
In addition, we have to look at the three political principals now in this process: we have two politicians from opposite parties trying to get re-elected this year, and quite possibly the least popular Governor in the United States. There is every reason to be optimistic, but it would be naive to not expect politics to intrude in some way or another. There is also the very real danger that more levels of government getting involved in the process could give the Town of Hempstead cover to push the blame away from itself.
Our grass-roots movement has made incredible progress in a short period of time, but this should not be a signal to give up. In fact, I think this is a signal that we must advocate our cause more strongly than ever, but in a positive way. The key now will be to congratulate politicians on their progress and remind them that our vote depends on more substantive action with the Lighthouse as the process moves forward. We should continue to plan that public rally (which should be right around the completeness hearing), we should continue to go to meetings, and we should continue to reach out to our elected leaders to make it clear exactly how much this issue means to us as Long Islanders who are concerned about the future direction of our home.
Do not take everything you read about the Lighthouse at face value from the mainstream media or bloggers - even this one. You must have a basis of knowledge, both about the Lighthouse and the SEQR process, to understand that the overall health of the project goes beyond the last piece in the media or the blogosphere. The head fake is a clear and present danger, since Kate Murray, Tom Suozzi, or David Paterson could say one thing and then do another when the rubber is supposed to hit the road. This is why we need to watch the body; while the head can fake, the body will always betray the true direction.
Kate Murray, Tom Suozzi, Charles Wang, and David Paterson all promised big things this week. It is up to us to continue to pressure them and make sure they follow through on what they have promised. Politicians sitting in a room can make promises, and we as voters must demand action.
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