NY Budget Agreement Reactions

(WAMC)Late Sunday afternoon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced they had come to an agreement on a budget that will close the state’s 10 Billion dollar deficit. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

The new budget promises to be an early budget – one Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver calls “strong and firmly grounded in reality.” New York’s budgets are notorious for being late: at one point for 20 consecutive years — and Governor Cuomo says having an on-time budget is a “big deal.” Cuomo promises the budgets “real policy initiatives” will make a striking difference… but the swift agreement caught some off guard and apprehensive. Senior Advocate Gloria Wilson of Manhattan-based “Community Voices Heard” is concerned about how the budget will impact older New Yorkers. While Cuomo maintains he is putting the state on a better financial trajectory, Lisa Tyson with the Long Island Progressive Coalition says the tentative agreement still tilts too far in favor of the wealthy. On the other side of the issue, Michael Moran, Director of Communications for the Business Council Of New York State, praises the budget as one that actually puts the state on the path to prosperity and growth.

90% of voters surveyed in a Siena Poll released Monday said an on-time budget was important – Pollster Steve Greenberg says Governor Cuomo is the big winner coming out of this budget: “Voters think an on-time budget is important by a nine-to-one margin.” James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute says women and children make up 77 percent of New York’s poor. A new Institute report finds deep cuts to human services in Governor’s Cuomo’s budget would drive some women and children deeper into poverty, reducing opportunities to move up, and destabilizing those already struggling to get by. Now that it’s been presented, Governor Cuomo’s $132.5 billion state budget deal awaits legislative approval.

MTA proposes putting the brakes on many LI Bus routes

(03/02/11) HEMPSTEAD – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to cut more than half of Long Island Bus routes this summer in an effort to close a $400 million deficit.

Out of Nassau’s 48 bus lines, 25 could be eliminated, leaving entire communities such as Great Neck and Elmont without bus service.

County Executive Ed Mangano (R-Nassau) says since the county owns the buses and the terminals, maybe now is the time to privatize the system.

Mass transit expert Lisa Tyson, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, says the service cuts could force 16,000 bus riders to drive, increasing congestion on local roads.

Public hearings on the Long Island Bus cuts are scheduled for March 23 at Hofstra University.

If approved, the proposed cuts would go into effect in July.

Powerful Long Island

Lisa Tyson

Long Island Progressive Coalition Director

Voted the Best Long Island Activist in 2007 by Long Island Press readers, Tyson has been a tireless advocate for economic, racial and social justice, transparent and efficient government, taxpayers’ rights and LI’s environment for more than 30 years. From battling power plants to facing off against politicians, no cause is too small and no fight is too large when it comes to sticking up for what’s just and fair. LIPC’s efforts contributed to the creation and recent passage of legislation giving state voters the power to consolidate and dissolve the costly, overlapping patchwork of special districts and municipal governments that has resulted in Nassau’s out-of-control taxes. Tyson had a powerful ally in this cause, former Nassau Comptroller Harvey Weitzman. Her resolve will be tested during the reign of Comptroller George Maragos, who has stated he would not be auditing those special districts.

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The Conversation: President Obama and the Left

Last week angry House Democrats, meeting to discuss the tax deal President Barack Obama negotiated behind their backs with Senate Republicans, chanted, “Just Say No!” at a meeting in the basement of the Capitol. In exchange for extending unemployment benefits the president agreed to keep the lower tax rates on America’s richest 2 percent that President George W. Bush had helped enact a decade ago—tax rates candidate Obama had promised to let expire. Those on the Left felt betrayed. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent/socialist Senator from Vermont, filibustered the bill for 8½ hours on the Senate floor, saying that Obama’s “credibility has been severely damaged.” The president did not appreciate opposition to the compromise from within his own party, calling them “sanctimonious” and unrealistic “purists.” Now there’s talk of someone from the left-wing of the party actually running in a primary against the incumbent, shades of Eugene McCarthy jousting with Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968! Has the Left been so dissed it’s time for a third-party challenge? Here to discuss are Lisa Tyson, executive director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition; Janine Melillo, regional coordinator for MoveOn.org; and Nassau Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead).

Lisa: The idea that we’re purists is just wrong. This is a bad bill, and it’s basically giving everything away to the wealthy. The estate-tax component of it is a bitter pill that we are being forced to swallow. But does that mean we’re going to run a third-party candidate against him? No. What it does mean is that the grassroots need to build our own power, and we need to be more vocal and more organized just like the Tea Party is right now. Look at the health care bill. The president definitely took the Left Wing for granted on that one. We didn’t get the public option. He could’ve pushed harder to make sure that it was a requirement. He has never been a progressive. When he was coming into office, we always knew that. The question is how much to the right or how much in the middle is he. This latest bill really is scary for us because what’s going to happen in the next two years? How much to the right will he move?

Kevan: Well, during the campaign I will say that Barack Obama probably came across more as a progressive guy than I thought. I don’t know if I would technically agree with Lisa because he’s gone to the center on this one issue. He’s been more than progressive, I think, on health care reform. Again, he had to structure a deal with moderate and progressive Democrats. At the end of the day it’s something that other presidents hadn’t been able to do. I think he’ll have an opportunity to prove to progressive Democrats that he is definitely in line with their policies and what they’d like to see from their president.

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Janine: Progressives need to keep reminding Obama that he was elected quite convincingly by a majority of the voters because he talked explicitly and confidently about moving this country forward in a progressive direction.  This is what people wanted; this is what people expect. And so there is a lot of disappointment around his preemptive capitulation on the fight over the Bush tax breaks for the rich. MoveOn members have been extensively surveyed since the tax deal was announced, and most members oppose it. For starters, the lion’s share of the benefit will go to the very rich, and this is not an effective way to create jobs, according to most economists. What’s more, the deal would cut payroll taxes, endangering the long-term funding of Social Security−giving Republicans just the opening they want to gut or even nix the program.

Kevan: My response to progressive Democrats is: What would you have done on January 1 if there’s no deal in place? What do you say to those millions of Americans who are no longer going to be receiving job benefits? I don’t think that now is the time that we should be challenging within our own party. The president’s only been there for two years. From my standpoint he should be judged on his full term. America spoke on Nov. 2nd. Republicans took back the House. And it’s important that progressive Democrats, independents, everybody listen.

Janine: The most frightening thing is that we know this isn’t the end, or even the beginning of the end, of the Republican tactic of holding the middle class hostage to demand huge and unnecessary bailouts for the rich. Rewarding this tactic now will only encourage them to do it again. As for the president, we will keep urging him to articulate and fight for the progressive agenda he ran on in 2008. And whether he does or not, we will keep doing that ourselves.

Lisa: Right now he has basically put his name on a redistribution of wealth. But a third- party challenge won’t help. We need the left to be stand up and be organized in every district across the country. Having a third-party candidate could give the Republicans the win in the next presidential election. We saw the Ralph Nader effect in 2000, and that’s the last thing we need.

1st Congressional District Residents Protest Randy Altschuler

(East Setauket, N.Y.) — Residents of New York’s 1st Congressional District protested the corporate connections of Randy Altschuler, the Republican candidate for Congress in the 1st Congressional District. They were reacting to a new report by Citizen of New York finding that Mr. Altschuler, the former head of an outsourcing giant, received thousands of dollars from companies seeking a weakening of financial reform legislation, the repeal of health care reform and tax policies favoring the needs of the wealthy and corporations over those of the middle class. Mr. Altschuler is running against incumbent Timothy Bishop (D).
“Our new report details that Randy Altschuler’s campaign is funded through his own personal wealth and corporate interests rather than the people in the 1st Congressional District,” said Bob Cohen, Policy Director of Citizen Action of New York and the primary report author. “Mr. Altschuler received significant funding from the financial services industry and benefited from an onslaught of ads that lied to seniors about health care reform. It’s clear that Randy Altschuler’s corporate sponsors expect to get a good return on their investment, and that’s to get a Congressman who will turn his back on financial reform, repeal health care reform and oppose fair tax policies that are in the interests of working families.” Congress is expected to take up the expiration of the Bush tax cuts next month during its “lame duck” session.

“We need a Congressman who’s going to serve the interests of the 1st Congressional District, not someone who’s beholden to corporate fatcats like Bank of America. Randy Altschuler is not that Congressman,” said Lisa Tyson, the Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “Bank of America recently resumed its foreclosures on families in Long Island and elsewhere despite a pending 50 state Attorneys-General investigation of their foreclosure practices. The new Citizen Action report is frightening because it raises the question of whether corporate interests are trying to buy our democracy and thwart the will of the people of the east end of Long Island.”

The report, “Corporate Cash, Personal Wealth: Randy Altschuler’s Campaign Funding and What it Means for Long Island,” is based on data from the OpenSecrets.org web page maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics and press accounts. Among the report’s findings are as follows:

Randy Altschuler is funded primarily by a combination of corporate interests and his own personal funds rather than by individuals, raising serious questions as to whether he is accountable to corporate donors or to the working families of the 1st Congressional District. Two-thirds (65%) of his total contributions were from his own personal funds and PACs rather than from individuals.

Of Mr. Altschuler’s contributions from other than his personal funds, a disproportionate share were from the financial services industry and other industry groups with a vested interest in lax regulation — the kind of regulation that nearly led to the collapse of the U.S. economy in the fall of 2008. Specifically, he received $217,546 from the securities and investment industry, $37,600 from the real estate industry, and $31,560 from lawyers and law firms.

Mr. Altschuler, a strong health care reform opponent, benefitted enormously from support from corporate -funded PACs that oppose reform. Specifically, he indirectly received at least $147,694 in the form of advertising targeted at Timothy Bishop, a strong health care reform supporter. The ads were funded by the “60 Plus Association,” a so-called “Super PAC” that has placed more than $4 million in ads nationwide against House Democrats. Factcheck.org has found that the advertisements are seriously misleading.

Randy Altschuler received a disproportionate share of his contributions from out-of-state contributors and from those outside of Long Island, likely reflecting the importance of Mr. Altschuler’s candidacy to out-of-state corporate interests. 41% of his contributions have come from out of state as compared to 20% for Tim Bishop, and $141,320 of his contributions have come from Long Island, as compared to $429,051 for Mr. Bishop. Generally, incumbents receive more out of state money than challengers.

The report recommends the passage of public financing of elections legislation, so that candidates can focus on the needs of working people in their communities rather the needs of powerful special interests that fund their campaigns. The bill, co-sponsored by Tim Bishop, has a “matching fund” provision to help candidates who are running against wealthy self-funded candidates like Altschuler.

“I am here in support of Congressman Tim Bishop, a man who truly represents the best interests of his constituents,” said Paul Gold, a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “He stands for fair elections reform and transparency in campaign contributions. In contrast, Randy Altschuler receives disproportionate funding from the financial services industry and the insurance industry, which benefit enormously from lax regulation and opposition to financial and healthcare reform. He and his party would take us back to the Bush years of corporate abuse and financial deregulation, the failed policies that created the economic mess we find ourselves in today.”

Huntington Town Board Sinks AvalonBay Proposal

By Spencer Rumsey on September 22nd, 2010


The Huntington Town Board rejected a rezoning proposal Tuesday night in a 3-2 vote that would have created a “transit-oriented district” to allow a developer, AvalonBay Communities, to build 490 apartment units on 26 acres in Huntington Station.

Avalon Glen Cove North in Glen Cove. The Avalon Bay company wanted to build a similar development in Hungtington Station rejected the zoning needed to move the project forward Tuesday, Sept. 20.

The decision came after months of increasingly heated wrangling as opposition grew to the proposed apartment complex, and the issue became caught up in local town politics. The developer had promised to set aside at least 20 percent of the rentals for affordable housing and provide the Huntington school district with up to $1.5 million in mitigation costs to make up for an anticipated influx of new students. The item on the agenda drew hundreds of people.

Outside Town Hall protesters chanted that AvalonBay, a nationwide builder of high-end developments, was unfair to local builders by using contractors and workers from Connecticut and elsewhere. Inside Town Hall, the corridors were jammed, and voices were loud.

Opponents seemed to outnumber supporters, judging from the proliferation of their printed red-and-white signs proclaiming “Stop AvalonBay and Downsizing Huntington,” their white-washed Burger King crowns stamped with the phrase “Say no to AvalonBay,” and the many blue and red Conservative Society of America T-shirts.

The Town Board room itself was filled to capacity. The local fire marshall wouldn’t even allow AvalonBay’s attorney from the law firm Farrell Fritz to view the proceeding.

Noting the intense atmosphere, Supervisor Frank Petrone said, “Your passion speaks loud and clear.” He added, “This town could be better for all the energy this has produced.”

Councilwoman Glenda Jackson, a Democrat, noted that she’d been “appalled” at some of the “vicious comments” from opponents to the project, which she said were “over the top.”

She said that as a single parent who’d grown up in the town and had lived in Huntington Station, the project would go far in addressing the housing and economic needs of her community. But many of the opponents didn’t agree.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Petrone said before the vote was cast, “you’ve shown leadership; don’t show dividedness.”

Under the terms of the rezoning proposal, the law needed a super majority to pass.

When Democratic Councilman Mark Cuthbertson followed Republican Councilman Mark Mayoka in opposing the measure, the crowd knew the law was toast.

Democratic Councilwoman Susan Berland, who’s made no secret of her political ambitions (such as for the supervisor job, some say), had previously announced her opposition to the zoning’s high density allowance (18 units per acre).

Cuthbertson cited the school board’s rejection of the Avalon project (after voting in favor of it last year), and said that “without their good faith” he couldn’t go forward.

In the end, two Democrats and one Republican defeated the measure, and only Supervisor Petrone and Councilwoman Jackson, both Democrats, were in favor.

After the vote, Berland told the Press that she still held out hope that AvalonBay would come back to the town with a proposal for much lower density, such as 14.5 units per acre. The site now allows for 109 single-family homes.

AvalonBay had said that without the higher density zoning it wouldn’t develop in Huntington.

Supporters of the project were disappointed, to say the least, but they were not surprised because the town board had been backpedaling for months.

“Their job is to lead,” said Lisa Tyson, executive director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “They reacted.”

Photo Gallery: Town Hall Overflows with (N/Y)IMBYs

By Village Tattler, on September 21st, 2010

(N/Y)IMBYs are easy to tell apart by their signs

Town Hall was filled beyond capacity Tuesday night well before public hearings began at 6pm.  A surly mob outside the door clamored for security to allow them into the meeting.  Studio 54 in the glory days never had so much intensity penned up behind the velvet ropes.  Instead of throbbing music and debauchery, the lucky ones on the inside were treated to a vote on whether to downzone Huntington Station for Transit Oriented Development, a hearing on term limits and lengthy public comments.  The Town Council voted against allowing TOD zoning in the Station and therefore stymied AvalonBay’s efforts to construct a massive 490 unit development south of the tracks in Huntington Station.  Mercifully, Supervisor Frank Petrone moved the vote on TOD ahead of the public commentary.  Once the vote was taken and TOD/Avalon defeated, many of the 102 speakers who had signed up for three minutes at the podium decided to find something else to do.  Photos from the evening follow. 

Lisa Tyson of the Long Island Progressive Coalition expresses her dismay at the outcome of the vote and the tone of the debate

Lisa Tyson of the Long Island Progressive Coalition expresses her dismay at the outcome of the vote and the tone of the debate

Avalon Supporters Speak Out Before Town Board Meeting

YIMBY, LIPC gathered to endorse economic development through AvalonBay in Huntington Station on Tuesday.

A group of close 30 people gathered outside Town Hall on Tuesday prior to the Town Board’s Sept. 7 meeting to announce their endorsement of the Avalon Huntington Station project.

Members of The Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC) and The Coalition to Support Avalon Huntington Station spoke positively about the AvalonBay Transit Oriented Development being proposed in Huntington Station along with a small group of Huntington and Huntington Station residents.

“Today we’re here to say we support Avalon Huntington Station,” said Lisa Tyson, Director of the LIPC. “There has been a new coalition formed called the Coalition to Support Avalon Huntington Station – over 25 organizations and growing have joined that coalition.”

Members of the YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) campaign were on hand for the press conference as well. The YIMBY campaign, a project of the LIPC, is an affordable housing movement across Long Island that mobilizes housing supporters to say “yes” to initiatives that propose good affordable housing projects. The LIPC, the local affiliate of Citizen Action of New York, is a 31-year-old organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development, revitalizing local communities, creating effective democracy, enhancing human dignity, and achieving economic, racial and social justice.

During the Town Hall meeting hundreds of letters were delivered to the Town Board from Huntington Station residents who say they are in support of the development.

“We have talked to many Huntington Station residents who believe that AvalonBay is the type of development that is bringing solutions to the community,” YIMBY organizer Maritza Silva-Farrell said. “Today, we are here to deliver more than 300 handwritten letters from Huntington Station constituents to the Town Board, sending their message, ‘Yes In My Backyard.'”

On top of the members from the YIMBY and LIPC support groups, several members from AvalonBay were also present, including Christopher Capece, the Development Director at AvalonBay.

“Not only have we had a large number of individual supporters and homeowners throughout the township, but we also have a coalition of groups that support us that represents thousands of people and I think that really speaks to the broad support that we have out there,” Capece said. “The press conference today was an example of that. I think it’s great.”

Avalon Huntington Station supporters also responded to false information that the AvalonBay opposition has allegedly distributed in the community.

“For too long Huntington Station has been the sight of far too many of the problems that are facing the Town of Huntington: inadequate police protection, gang violence, and now the closing of the Jack Abrams School,” said Richard Koubek, President of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition. “As a result the people of Huntington Station are afraid, angry, and frustrated due to years of neglect.

Koubek added, “Unfortunately a loud group of anti-AvalonBay people have exploited this situation, nitpicking at the AvalonBay proposal and spreading rumors and misinformation that have driven up the political heat in Huntington Station – this is why the Huntington Township Housing Coalition formed The Coalition to Support Avalon Huntington Station. … As of this morning, we have 26 stakeholder organizations from the Town of Huntington who have stepped forward with formal endorsements of this coalition.”

Opponents to Avalon Huntington Station have cited the re-zoning of the land as the major problem with the proposal. However, AvalonBay officials have said, the only property that would be re-zoned is the 26.2-acre parcel of property where Avalon Huntington Station would be located. The remainder of the half-mile radius would not be re-zoned, according to AvalonBay officials.

But still AvalonBay opponents are not content with the Transit Oriented Development proposal. Jennifer LaVertu of Huntington Station is one of the main opponents of Avalon Huntington Station. As a member of the community, she said she is not happy where the AvalonBay support is coming from.

“The YIMBYs live in Brooklyn and Amityville and Yaphank and want to tell me what to put in my backyard?” LaVertu said. “Who are we kidding here?”

The AvalonBay proposal is the agenda for the Town Board’s Sept. 21 meeting.

“Each Town Board member has to have the courage to rise above the current clamor and to do the right thing for the future of Huntington Station and for the future of all of Huntington,” Koubek said. “AvalonBay is an unprecedented opportunity to pump millions of dollars into the ailing Huntington Station economy. This is a once in a generation opportunity, economic development during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

Town Board Rebuffs Mayoka’s Call for Moratorium, Will Move Forward with Avalon Vote in Two Weeks

By Rosey Mulderrig, on September 7th, 2010

Tuesday’s Town Board meeting started out with a bang. This was the last meeting before September 21st when Board will vote on whether to downzone 29 acres in Huntington Station for Transit Oriented Development (TOD). If TOD zoning is approved, AvalonBay will have cleared all zoning hurdles and move a step closer to beginning construction of a 490-unit high-density housing development in Huntington Station. If approved as written, high density TOD zoning is also approved for any developer that can assemble a 10-acre parcel of land within half a mile of Huntington Train Station. A group of TOD supporters held a rally in the front of Town Hall while opponents in a car with a bullhorn circled, loudly proclaiming all that they say is wrong with TOD. Among the Supporters who call themselves YIMBY’s (Yes in My Back Yard) were Dee Thompson, President of the NAACP’s Huntington Branch, Richard Koubek, President of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition and Lisa Tyson, Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. Ironically, Thompson, Koubek and Tyson do not actually live in Huntington Station, the neighborhood that will have AvalonBay’s development in its backyard if TOD zoning is approved.

The Town Hall meeting was unusually crowded for a 2pm session. It was standing room only with most of the attendees showing up out to support their position on whether or not AvalonBay and TOD is good for Huntington. Resident Chris O’Donnell is so firmly against the development that he says he recently listed his house and will follow through on selling it and moving his child to a new district if TOD is approved.

Lisa Tyson says that Huntington does not need any more single family housing but must move forward with multi-family units to keep up with the times. She says that Long Island needs this TOD and implored the Town Board to approve TOD. She told them that this smart growth development will be their legacy.

Huntington Station residents Emma and Rick Riccardo went door to door with a petition against TOD zoning and found that 99 percent of the roughly 100 neighbors they visited are against the proposed development. Emma says that the schools cannot possibly handle any more students when some are already learning in closets. She has worked in the hospital and says that adding roughly 1,000 more people will stress an already overworked and overwhelmed staff. She also feels that trying to get an ambulance down Park Avenue with the additional cars that TOD will contribute is “an accident waiting to happen.“ She concluded saying “beehives are busy, good and useful but when you disturb them, well, see what you get.”

Huntington Station resident Dan Fucci says that although AvalonBay is powerful and has lots of money behind them, he feels that he and those who oppose the development have “the eye of the tiger and they intend to go the distance and win.” Fucci appealed to the Town Board to stand with the Huntington residents who live the American Way rather than aligning themselves with outside forces.

Alissa Taff commended the Town Board for moving ahead with their consideration of TOD despite threats of litigation it has aroused. Ken Christiansen, founder and director of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition says that it is important to look at the economics of the whole thing. He stated that the development would put spendable dollars on the street, which in turn will bring investors into the area.

Richard Koubek says that AvalonBay will bring $100 million in much needed funds to an economically challenged community. “When completed, AvalonBay will bring 360 families who could earn $120,00 a year with very few school children. With 122 units of affordable workforce housing for families who could earn between $45,000 and $120,000 a year, most of it rental housing, AvalonBay will help stem the flight of young workers and senior citizens who can’t afford“ to live in Huntington.

Huntington Station resident Zoe Taylor is a strong supporter of the development.  Her sons have moved away to lead successful careers and lives in another state. If housing were more affordable, it is possible that they would have remained and made solid contributions to Huntington, she opined

As the debate continued, both sides represented themselves very passionately, albeit the Say No to AvalonBay folks were a bit more boisterous. Councilman Mark Mayoka expressed his concern that the Town needs to focus on ridding the area of escalating crime before it adds high-density housing. He put forth a resolution to place a one-year moratorium on the vote for TOD zoning while the town focuses on fixing the area and investigating the impact the Avalon project will have on Huntington. Mayoka’s resolution was not seconded. Supervisor Petrone reiterated that he is committed to the down zoning vote taking place on September 21st and that is when it will happen.

Schneiderman picks up progressive backing in AG race

Thursday September 2, 2010 2:44 PM By William Murphy

Pictured is Lisa Tyson, director of the Long

AG candidate Eric Schneiderman continues his apparent Democratic primary strategy of identifying every group that tilts the slightest degree to the left, wrestling them to the ground and extracting an endorsement.

Thursday’s groups included the Long Island Progressive Coalition, Local 259 of the United Auto Workers, and 1119 SEIU, representing health and hospital workers.

About 20 members of those groups wave Schneiderman signs and cheered thinly in the hot, humid weather at a news conference outside state Supreme Court in Mineola.

“We are so proud to endorse Eric Schneiderman, the true progressive in the race for attorney general,” Lisa Tyson, director of the LI Progressive Coalition said. “As a lifelong progressive reformer, there is no question where Eric stands on the issues.”