Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Posted by Nick at Wednesday, July 08, 2009
The Lighthouse finally came up for hearing about 4 hours after they started yesterday in the Town of Hempstead. We heard 2 and a half hours of angry citizens complaining about a cell phone carrier installing towers in their neighborhoods, even though most of them were demanding things that were included in the bill up for discussion. By the time the Lighthouse was brought up, it seemed almost anti-climactic, especially since the media had already announced the hearing date before the vote.
Despite this, it was a momentous day for the Lighthouse Project, and the first true step forward in over 4 months. I wanted to share a few brief take-aways from yesterday's proceedings.
I have often voiced my displeasure with the media throughout this campaign, since it seemed far too many pieces gave in to lazy sensationalism instead of true reporting. Once again, through this process, Newsday's Town of Hempstead reporter has shown a tendency to write lazy pieces that are not thoroughly fact-checked.
It's been almost constant, from deliberately picking out people in Islanders gear to interview in order to further the stereotype, to acting as if there is a mystical process, to speaking of financing from China as if this is something new (news flash: our government wouldn't have 2 cents to rub together if not for China holding our debt), to threatening anyone who pointed out these issues. The most recent piece about this meeting identified the incorrect date for the hearing, did not seek comment from either side, and incorrectly reported the public hearings would be held at Town Hall.
I am a fervent believer in citizen journalism, but it is a serious problem when bloggers adhere to higher standards of journalism and quality of reporting than a writer from a major newspaper with a sterling history. Newsday must take actions to improve the quality of its reporting on the Lighthouse, because Long Island's future is too critical. The Lighthouse must be presented to the general public in a correct, objective fashion.
Any readers who have been disappointed by this should contact the media outlet directly and voice their concerns. I can help with contact information if necessary.
Real and True Progress
I applauded the Town of Hempstead for committing to move the process forward when the first face-to-face meetings occurred, and at the same time I cautioned that the proof was in the pudding. Yesterday, for the first time, this new period of openness included more than just words. The Town was very accommodating, and there are now public hearings scheduled over the summer, when Kate Murray herself could not guarantee that last month.
Speaking of the Supervisor, she was in attendance and an active participant in all areas of the docket. That is also a welcome development
Overall, things are looking up from the Town's perspective. I also had another pleasant chat with Town Attorney Joe Ra, who again apologized for our misunderstanding last month. I appreciated that; it takes a real man to apologize as freely as he did. I look forward to participating in my own way with moving the process forward, since our goal now must be to capitalize on the positive momentum.
In my brief remarks, I mentioned that there had been a lot of rancor on both sides about the Lighthouse. I was speaking in the context of voters on the ground, but Kate Murray actually disagreed with me. I'm not sure if that's a sign of something or just a politician's perspective on the proceedings....You're all welcome to give your two cents in the comments section.
Still No Organized Opposition
We have heard noises about lawsuits coming from Garden City and the Village of Hempstead (note to all non-Long Island residents: the Village of Hempstead is not the same thing as the Town of Hempstead). However, there has still not been any organized opposition emerging to the Lighthouse. All the speakers yesterday were in favor, and a true Can-Do spirit seemed to permeate the proceedings. Everyone who raised a concern raised it in the context of finding a solution so the Lighthouse can move forward, and that is, in my opinion, the right way to do it.
Speaking of the threatened lawsuits, I've spoken to a few lawyers who all said that Hempstead and Garden City would be, in essence, laughed out of court if they attempted to sue. Hempstead has been debating their downtown revitalization for decades and still doesn't have anything vaguely resembling a plan, so it's unreasonable to expect the Lighthouse to read their minds. In the same vein, Garden City has telegraphed its punches, saying it will sue if its "demands" are not met. If they attempted suit, it would be clear they were suing out of opposition, not out of a belief that the law has been broken. A judge cannot decide a case on that criterion, but he/she can certainly take it into consideration.
Overall, the threat of a lawsuit is present, but if the momentum continues and things remain above-the-board I believe these communities will stand down.
Public Comments Nuts and Bolts
As prescribed by SEQRA, we have now entered into the mandatory 45-day public comment period. Due to a clerical error at the hearing, I incorrectly reported yesterday that the mandatory public comment period will run through August 31. It will, in fact, run through August 17 and begin immediately.
During the mandatory public comment period, citizens are invited to write to the Lead Agency (Town of Hempstead) with comments, concerns, and suggestions on the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). These comments will play a significant role in the final scope of the project and, as an outgrowth, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
In addition, there will be a public hearing...
More on the Public Hearing
Public hearings are now scheduled to run all day on Tuesday, August 4. There will be one session from 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM, and there will likely be another in the early afternoon (I've heard 2:30 PM - 5:30 PM). In order to accommodate as many people as possible, the hearings are being held at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse, a 1,000-seat theatre at Hofstra University. I will have more details on location and directions as we get closer, and anybody who wishes to attend should plan to get there early in order to get a favorable spot on the speakers' list.
During my discussion with Joe Ra, he told me that there would likely be more details on the hearings coming out in the next week, because the Town wanted to move this forward at the earliest possible date (this is likely why the hearing took so long - the Lighthouse seemed like a last-minute addition to the docket). Over the next week, the Town will be discussing the issue with other agencies and interested parties to determine if another session is necessary.
This is where you guys come in. I said this during the hearing yesterday, and I will say it again. I believe there should be a nighttime hearing, because that is a popular week for vacations, and many citizens who want to be heard may not be able to get the time off from work. If you believe a nighttime hearing is necessary, use the link on the right-hand side of this site to call the Town of Hempstead and say so.
What Can You Do?
The most important thing you all can do is alert your friends and neighbors about this. Try to bring at least a few people with you, so as many people as possible can have their voices heard. Many people still do not know the full story behind the Lighthouse, and rather than blame the media we must be the evangelists who share the stories and drum up support.
I hope you will also direct more people to this site. We are planning some large public events in support of the Lighthouse, independently of the formal process, and we'll need all the help we can get. As always, thank you...you guys have grown this beyond my wildest dreams already, but I know we can make it even bigger.
Yesterday was not a time for soaring rhetoric or impassioned advocacy, but it was still one of the most important dates we've seen so far. Overall, I am very excited for this new phase of the Lighthouse process. As I've been saying for months, the public comments are the big show. This is the time we need to show our numbers, both to apply positive pressure on the government and counteract any negative effects. We must be out in full force, since this is also the last, best chance for organized opposition to emerge. They have not been present at any point in this process, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.
I hope all of you will make plans to be there on August 4, and I hope you will all continue to grow our movement and make your voices heard. Our future is too important to leave to chance, and we must stand up for what we know Long Island needs.
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