Today, I came across a very interesting letter about the Lighthouse Project in the Garden City News dated July 31, 2009. It was interesting because it was not actually about the Lighthouse Project; it was about me.
The letter came from Christine Mullaney, who spoke at the hearing and did not identify herself in her letter as the Recording Secretary for the Eastern Property Owners' Association (remember them?). Rather than editorializing here, I will instead print the full text of her letter and the full text of my response that I sent to the editor of the Garden City News. You can make your own decision, though it probably says something about the quality of the Lighthouse Project that some people are now trying to make me - a guy with a blog - the issue.
Ms. Mullaney, if you're out there (and your letter suggests you are): I hope you will make up for what you did not do the first time around, and that your colleagues in the Eastern Property Owners' Association refused to do when I asked them for interviews in June. If you would like to respond to anything I have said here, you are welcome to email me or post a comment on this site. Either way, I would be glad to post your full comment, unedited, on the main page of this site and debate you on the issue. I look forward to your reply.
You can all send a letter to the editor of the Garden City News if you think it's worthwhile.
Letter From Christine Mullaney
To the Editor:
[Irrelevant Information - I do not want to publish other names here]
I would like to draw all residents' attention to a very professional blog site that makes crystal clear the political strategy necessary to bring the Lighthouse project to fruition. Putting other relevant issues aside, the blogger (who characterizes himself as "an independent advocate") states: "Mass transit for the Lighthouse site is both necessary and, in my view, inevitable...I hope for the sake of this project that we do not hear more about mass transit for the Hub before final approval."
"Independent Advocate" warns not to "get bogged down in petty nonsense like the distance of a light rail from housing" and specifically targets Garden City residents who "were in a lather over this light rail idea..." He cautions not to mention light rail now because "it will only serve to gin up opposition and could at some later point strangle the debate."
The blog site is http://lettherebelighthouse.blogspot.com To access the comments I referenced, put in Hub vs. Lighthouse in the upper left corner and hit "search blog". The current posting includes a Comprehensive Guide to Public Comments, basically a talking points memo for Lighthouse supporters.
There are many reasons to not support the Lighthouse project as it is currently structured, including the safety of our water supply and viability of our business district. Mass transit, in the form of a light rail running from Mineola through Garden City, may not be a part of the current proposal but it is a real threat that will destroy this Village. The public comment period runs through August 17. Write Town of Hempstead, Lighthouse Project Public Comment, One Washington Street, Hempstead, NY 11550. Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a public hearing on August 4, 9:30 am, in the playhouse at Hofstra University. Although this hearing is officially restricted to comments on the draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS), Lighthouse supporters have been encouraged to pack the place and a "let there be light(house)" blog Twitter correspondent has reported that a flash poll will be taken of attendees to gauge support or opposition.
(Source: Garden City News, 31 July 2009)
To The Editor:
Regarding the letter from July 31, 2009, concerning my blog, Let There Be Light(house) (“Lighthouse Political Strategy,” from Christine Mullaney). As the sole author of this site, I would like to set the record straight on a few of the issues raised by Ms. Mullaney.
First of all, the author condescendingly refers to me as “independent advocate” throughout the letter, suggesting my objectivity and independence are not what I claim they are. Let me be as clear as I can: I started this site of my own volition, I run it in my spare time, all articles and Twitter postings are mine and mine alone, and I know details about the Lighthouse Project and the State Environmental Review (SEQR) process because I took the time to research the issues and get my facts straight. When I speak on my site, I speak only with the moral authority I have gained as a writer with a loyal reader base of citizens who, like you, only want the best for their home. I am what I say I am: a 20-something resident of North Bellmore who truly believes the Lighthouse Project is the right move for Long Island, and I have never made a dime off of my site.
These references are made worse because the author did not make clear her position with the Eastern Property Owners’ Association, which is ironic since she seems to have accused me of not honestly representing myself. This may be clear to residents of Garden City, but it was not made clear in the letter itself. To make matters worse, she twisted the words and the original intent of the post “Hub vs. Lighthouse,” which was addressing a specific comment made by Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg at the Nassau County Planning Commission. I was making the distinction between the Hub as a Nassau County program and the Lighthouse as a private development, and I believe my characterization of Garden City as being “in a lather” about light rail was accurate when you consider that the author claims light rail will “destroy [Garden City]” without offering a shred of proof.
Long Island is at a pivotal point in its history, and the Town of Hempstead is considering a project that will, much like Levittown did, shape our destiny for generations to come. Much like returning GI’s sought their American Dream in suburbia, we must now stand up and decide how Long Island will be suburbia in the 21st Century. Long Island is in trouble economically and falling behind the rest of the region. We just saw OSI Pharmaceuticals depart Long Island for Westchester County, killing the dream of Long Island as a center for biotechnology. In a former job as a management consultant, I reverse commuted from Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station to clients in New Jersey, Westchester, and Connecticut. Those trains are packed with reverse commuters, when at the same time eastbound Long Island Rail Road trains are practically empty. With new policies that preserve our suburban way of life and improve it in certain ways, those people could have jobs on Long Island and contribute to the local economies of villages such as Garden City. In the same vein, I hope there will be a new commitment to apartment-style housing on Long Island for younger people such as myself. I feel I am being forced off Long Island, and thousands others like me feel the same way. If more of an effort was made to retain your children – all of us educated with your tax dollars – we could be house-hunting and starting families in communities like Garden City in 10 years. We could be members of local civic groups and work together to create a better home for everyone, but instead we are constantly pushed away and told that we are the problem. The Lighthouse Project will not (and by nature cannot) solve these problems by itself, but it can be a great catalyst to a new system that preserves the classic suburban way of life while still moving us forward in intelligent ways.
Justified or not, Garden City has a reputation as a community full of the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) mentality, and I have admittedly been very harsh when discussing the village’s actions on my blog. I attended the Eastern Property Owners’ Association annual meeting on June 1, 2009 to hear Supervisor Murray speak about the Lighthouse. As the Supervisor was discussing all the proposed projects in the area, and the time it takes to perform a thorough environmental review, a resident stood up and asked “How long does it take to say no?” This resident received a thunderous round of applause, the loudest of the night. On some level, it becomes a Boy Who Cried Wolf situation, because it is hard to take people who complain about everything seriously. There may be issues, such as water quality, that should be discussed in an open, honest manner, and in the context of solving the problem, not derailing the project. Despite what some residents seem to believe, Garden City is one voice, and its will should not override the broad base of support that has become clear through all the public meetings and outreach seminars held about the Lighthouse. Despite active calls to arms in this paper and the Garden City Life, the turnout was still overwhelmingly in favor of the Lighthouse Project, and two Garden City residents spoke strongly in favor of the development.
I have said it on my blog, and I will say it here: I do not understand the concerns voiced by many Garden City residents about the Lighthouse. In a piece from Garden City Life that ran on July 31, 2009, a village trustee said he did not want to raise traffic issues because he feared this would be seen as an endorsement of mass transit. To me, this is shockingly small thinking and far more disingenuous than anything the author accuses me of doing. To Ms. Mullaney’s point: when I said I considered mass transit “inevitable,” I was sharing my opinion, which is the same as if I had said Mad Men is the best show on television. I have called members of Congress and found there was not a funding request for any light rail solution included in the 2010 Transportation bill – which means the issue is off the table until at least 2015. I lived right across the street from a light rail for 3 years when I was in college (much closer than any Garden City residents would be if this system were pursued at a later date), and it never once disturbed my quality of life. In fact, the Long Island Rail Road, which is 1.5 miles from my home, makes more noise. I do not understand these concerns, but I hope Garden City residents that are concerned will propose a viable alternative.
In the same vein, the village that lies in the shadow of the 8th largest mall in the United States, and which used to be home to the “Fifth Avenue of Long Island,” is suddenly complaining about unfair retail competition. If the Lighthouse can become an economic engine and bring needed jobs and investment to the area, it will, like a rising tide, lift all boats. A successful Lighthouse Project can only benefit commerce in Garden City, and if Garden City can offer something to carve out a comfortable niche for its commercial districts, everybody wins. I am an entrepreneur myself, and I believe the best way to deal with “unfair” competition is to create an unfair advantage in your favor.
Now, on to the issue about “Talking Points” the author brings up. Once again, the simplest explanation is the correct one. I had many readers emailing me asking me to proofread and give tips on their public comments. In addition, a poll on my site said readers wanted guidance, and 120 postings on the blog are hard to review and coordinate in real-time. Therefore, I gave my readers what they asked for and condensed a lot of my main arguments on why the Lighthouse is a good project. I did not receive the blessing from the Lighthouse Project or anybody else for that.
Ms.Mullaney may have succeeded in her goal to make Garden City residents aware of my site, but I think it says something about her that she chose to write a letter to the Garden City News instead of taking her issues directly to me. To be clear:
There is a link on every post on my site to email me – the author did not.
The site allows comments – the author did not comment.
There is a link to follow and/or message me on Twitter – the author did not do this.
We both spoke at the August 4 public hearing, at a similar point during the day, but Ms. Mullaney did not make an effort to engage me in conversation (I was not aware of this letter at the time or I would have engaged her myself).
I am always willing to have an honest and fact-based discussion about the merits of the Lighthouse Project (or anything else in the community), because our future is too important to leave to rumor and innuendo. You can check a post from June called “Addressing an Opponent’s Concerns,” in which I have a spirited but honest debate with a resident of East Meadow who opposes the Lighthouse. However, the author, and many others in Garden City and elsewhere do not seem to want this. Long Island has been hamstrung for too long by villages who believe their narrow interests override the needs of the many, and I believe it is time to reverse this thinking.
I hope you will all come to Let There Be Light(house) – lettherebelighthouse.com – and discuss this in an open, honest manner. Long Island loses if we can’t get beyond demonization and identity politics to do something for the greater good. I would rather discuss issues in the context of solving them for the sake of this special home of ours, and I hope we can agree on that.
North Bellmore, NY
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