Archive for the ‘The Island Now’ category

Cuomo might run for governor again – By George J. Marlin

January 16, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, January 10, 2022 on The Island Now’s website:

Readers of my column know that during most of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s time in office I was one of his staunchest critics.

When he was first elected, I did agree to be the “conservative” voice on his transition team and on his Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors. However, I was quickly disillusioned.

The man I thought would govern as a centrist quickly moved to the far left. He abandoned his solemn promise not to raise taxes and he promoted and signed into law extremist legislation on social issues that I opposed.

From his second year in office until he resigned in 2021, I maintained a “Cuomo Watch;” critiquing his fiscal, economic and social policies.

When accusations against Cuomo hit the papers—I was at first skeptical. I grew up with many Italians in Queens County and knew they hug and kiss—both men and women—particularly at family, social and religious gatherings.

I am not a hugger. But I have been hugged by both Mario and Andrew Cuomo. It’s part of their ethnicity.

But after reading the Report of Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Harassment by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released by state Attorney General Letitia James on August 3, I concluded the governor may have pushed the “affection envelope” too far and was politically cooked.

I was reminded of the post-Watergate comment made by Richard Nixon during the famous May 1977 David Frost interview concerning his political enemies: “I gave them a sword. And they stuck it in. And they twisted with relish. And I guess, if I’d been in their position, I’d have done the same thing.”

I, like others, sort of enjoyed twisting the political sword into Cuomo. Many experienced what the Germans call “schadenfreude,” which means “joy over some misfortune suffered by another.”

When he resigned in late August 2021, I wrote at that time that his fall was inevitable. His ruthless approach to governing took its toll. He had few friends and a long list of enemies.

And when Albany Sheriff Craig Apple filed a criminal misdemeanor complaint against Cuomo for allegedly touching a female aide “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires,” it fortified my belief that Cuomo had to depart.

Since that time, however, circumstances have broken in Cuomo’s favor.

In November, Albany District Attorney David Soares delayed Cuomo’s arraignment to January because the sheriff’s complaint was “potentially defective.”

As Cuomo waited to be arraigned, there were other developments: The district attorneys of Nassau and Westchester declined to prosecute him for any sexual harassment allegations.

Next, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office ended its investigation into Cuomo’s mishandling of nursing homes during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.

While there is no doubt in my mind that his wrongheaded policies caused the deaths of thousands of our seniors living in nursing homes, the DA’s office concluded “there was no evidence to suggest that any laws were broken.”

Then on January 4, Albany prosecutors moved in court to drop their case because there was not enough evidence to “meet our burden at trial.” Albany City Judge Holly Trexler granted the district attorney’s motion.

Looking back, despite his cries of innocence and unfair treatment, Andrew Cuomo had to leave office last year.

First and foremost, his political support collapsed.

The other reason: If he remained in office and was impeached and convicted, he would be unable to run for office ever again.

The New York State Constitution states: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, or removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any public office of honor, trust or profit under the state.”

But now with various charges dropped, a January 7 New York Times headline declared that “Some See a Possible [Cuomo] Comeback.”

Will he seek his old post? He certainly has the money in his campaign chest to finance a comeback. He may run to vindicate himself to spite his critics and to restore his family’s honor.

Such a move, in my judgment, would be a mistake. It would open old wounds and his enemies would have a field day sniping at him.

The brooding, angry, former governor must not let his pride cloud his thinking. Cuomo should be mindful of the Biblical proverb, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Gov. Hochul:  Please Fix NIFA – By George J. Marlin and Adam Haber

November 15, 2021

This article Adam Haber and I wrote appeared on the The Island Now web site on Monday, November 15, 2021.

Is The LIRR Only For The Rich? – By George J. Marlin

August 11, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, August 9, 2021 on The Island Now’s website: 

Memo: To Nassau County Elected Officials

A recent New York Times Sunday editorial, “Is This Railroad for the Rich?” insinuated that the LIRR is maintained and operated to cater to wealthy commuters from gated communities like Garden City. And I’m curious what all of you make of it. But first, a little background.

My guess is the editorial was a reaction to criticism of The Times editorial writer Mara Gay’s comments about her “ghastly” Memorial Day experience on the island.

“I was on Long Island [Memorial Day] weekend and visiting a really dear friend, and I was really disturbed,” she said. “I saw, you know, dozens and dozens of pick-up trucks with expletives against Joe Biden on the backs of them, Trump flags, and in some cases dozens of American flags, which, you know, is also just disturbing because essentially the message was clear. It was: This is my country; this is not your country. I own this.”

The message is essentially clear? I think not. To infer that displaying a U.S. flag, particularly on a national holiday is racist, is by its very nature an absurd comment.

I have displayed a flag on a 14-foot pole since my family moved into our home 20 years ago. Our flag, waiving on our front lawn, has nothing to do with Trump or deep-seated racism. It is an expression of pride in being Americans.

And since Mara Gay’s remarks went viral on the internet, I have noticed that more of my neighbors, of all races and creeds, have been hoisting flags.

The Times editorial of June 27, 2021, took Mara Gay’s comments one step further. It accused the state and the MTA of “squandering its investment in the expansion of the commuter rail” to cater to owners of single-family homes in exclusive neighborhoods like Garden City.

The editorial’s implication is clear: single-family zoning laws are a relic of Long Island’s racist past and should be abolished to permit the construction of multi-family housing, particularly around railroad stations.

Several observations: First, the LIRR does not cater solely to the rich. In fact, the vast majority of commuters are working-class folks, such as first responders, civil servants, construction workers, clerical workers, etc.

This has been particularly true throughout the pandemic. Many white-collar employees, to this day, have been working from their homes, not commuting.

Second, ownership of single-family homes, particularly on Long Island, was encouraged and codified, not by racists, but by New Deal Progressives who authored the GI Bill of Rights that included FHA/VA home loans with no down payments.

In the name of “regional planning,” Federal Housing Administration social engineers designed requirements on lot size, house width and distance from adjacent homes that forced banks to lend on suburban single-family homes instead of older city 16-foot row houses.

I doubt if Mara Gay and her confreres on The Times editorial board are familiar with this history, hence their calls, in the name of social justice, for the state of New York to override local zoning laws to force the building of apartment buildings.

The Times argues, “The city’s suburbs, especially in underdeveloped Nassau County, need to build more too.” It goes on to insist that Albany override local zoning laws and “make it legal to build multi-family housing on land near transit stations currently occupied by single-family housing.”

“Democracy,” The Times concludes, “is no defense for the behavior of these local governments. There are no citizens of Garden City; its residents are New Yorkers.”

Nassau Elected Officials:

Do you agree with The Times’ claim that people who pay local taxes are not citizens of their municipalities and should have no say in governing policies?

Do you agree that our democratically elected local government officials are unfit to make decisions regarding zoning laws?

Do you agree that the MTA is squandering money to improve and expand the LIRR?

Do you agree that the LIRR is a mode of transportation exclusively for the “rich”?

Do you agree with The Times’ demand that the state override local zoning laws and impose the construction of apartment buildings?

Do you agree that single-family homes should be demolished to provide space for multi-family housing?

As a Nassau County taxpayer and a citizen of the Town of Hempstead, I would like to learn your views on the issues raised by The Times before casting my vote this fall.

I look forward to hearing your responses.

Will the MTA return to normalcy? – By George J. Marlin

June 16, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, June 14, 2021 on The Island Now’s website: 

The past year was a tough one for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

Gov. Cuomo’s COVID-19 shutdown caused mass transit ridership and fares to drop to historic lows.

And while the state’s economy is rebounding in 2021, the MTA’s return to normalcy is proceeding at a much slower pace.

Many private-sector employees have grown accustomed to working at home and are not in a rush to be dashing commuters. Others concerned about their safety are loathe to ride the crime-ridden subway system.

This reluctance helps explain why ridership numbers are still pretty dismal.

At the end of May, the Long Island Railroad had recovered 37 percent of its passengers; Metro North, 32 percent; subways, 41 percent; and buses, 52 percent.

Only the MTA’s bridges and tunnels are back to pre-pandemic traffic. The explanation: people avoiding mass transit are taking to the roads. (In our own backyard, the Northern State Parkway and the Long Island Expressway are a testimony to this phenomenon — they are constantly clogged.)

To manage the severe drop in revenue and to balance its books in 2020, the MTA borrowed $2.9 billion from the Federal Reserve, diverted capital project dollars to the operating budget and obtained $14.5 billion in one-shot revenue in COVID relief from Washington.

If the regular income streams fail to return to pre-pandemic levels and if the MTA does not receive additional federal, state, and city aid, or cut expenses, it could get ugly. The MTA’s $54.8 billion 2020-2024 capital program, which includes 517 projects, could be jeopardized.

The office of the state comptroller agrees.

A recent report released by Tom DiNapoli made this observation: “In a scenario with low ridership and no new capital assistance, the MTA may also be forced to reprioritize its capital program, thus pushing much-needed repairs and modernizations further into the future.

A reduction in the program would risk undoing progress in making the MTA safe, accessible, and reliable.”

In these troubling times, New York City mayoral wannabees have been proposing remedies they believe will save or improve our region’s mass transportation system. Sadly, some of them are just plain dopey.

Take for instance candidate Andrew Yang’s plan calling for the city to take control of subways and buses.

That idea is not new. Back in 1984, gubernatorial candidate Mario Cuomo issued a similar proposal. He argued his generation should decentralize the previous generation’s consolidation of mass transit.

However, shortly after Cuomo became the state’s chief executive, the head of the MTA, Richard Ravitch, lectured him on the absurdity of his idea, and it was never mentioned publicly again.

Why is it a dumb idea? Because the MTA was created by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in the late 1960s to save the financially ailing and decrepit subway and suburban rail lines from ruination.

The key to the restructuring was the incorporation of the very profitable Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) under the MTA umbrella.

Toll revenue surpluses from TBTA’s facilities have been used to help defray the subway system’s never-ending annual operating deficits.

The MTA has also issued tens of billions of bonded debt to finance capital improvement plans that benefit mass transportation throughout the New York Metropolitan areas.

Such financing a city-controlled subway system could not do on its own. The financial markets that underwrite bonded debt would not have confidence in the City to manage the system let alone to come up with the dollars to pay off the debt.

Establishing a NYC Transit Authority independent of the MTA is impractical, and would only lead to a fiscal and operational meltdown.

It is difficult to believe that Andrew Yang is so ill-informed to make public such a ludicrous proposal.

The MTA is in serious trouble. And the recent leadership shake-up at the Authority will probably not help matters.

Therefore, if New York’s political class does not wake up and begin realistically addressing the MTA’s severe revenue loss and exploding debt burden, commuters will be left holding the bag. They will have to endure huge fare and toll increases, as well as service and repair cutbacks.