Marc Alessi and Haran C. Rashes Discuss The Future of Wireless on Long Island and the Changing Needs and Evolving Technology at LIMBA

On January 13, Marc Alessi, an attorney, lobbyist and serial startup tech entrepreneur, was the guest speaker at LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) at the Candlelight Diner. During the presentation, he spoke about where wireless technology is headed on Long Island and how the technology and its needs are changing. He was joined by Haran C. Rashes, Associate General Counsel, Extenet Systems, Inc.

As an attorney and lobbyist, Mr. Alessi has provided outside counsel services to Extenet, the nation’s largest installer of small cell distributed wireless infrastructure — the topic of the LIMBA presentation. He also represents the Tesla Science Center, where he serves as Executive Director. He noted that the TSC will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first cell phone call ever made on April 3, 1973, by Marty Cooper at Motorola.

When Cooper suggested the company should start producing personal portable cell phones, Mr. Alessi said, he was told that it was “technologically impossible. We now know that nothing is technologically impossible. It just takes us a long time to get there.” However, the company was able to build the product and technology within six months.

Mr. Alessi also noted that Motorola was the predominant wireless technology provider from the 1950s to the 1970s and also provided pagers to doctors at hospitals and walkie-talkies to the Chicago Police Department. After using these new devices, the doctors and police officers never wanted to give them up.

Nikola Tesla, after whom the science center is named, predicted the prevalence of cell phones, Mr. Alessi said. Mr. Tesla told The Boston Globe in 1904 that “decades from now, a New York businessman will pull a device out of his coat pocket and call someone in the world wirelessly,” according to Mr. Alessi. He also said that Mr. Tesla was “very collaborative” when it came to sharing his technology, even with Gugliemo Marconi, who was best known for inventing the radio, but he utilized 17 of Nikola Tesla’s patents for his radio transmission.  In 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Tesla was the true inventor of radio. It is important to note that while Marconi was only interested in one-way voice transmission, Tesla was working on two-way voice transmission technology, Mr. Alessi said.

Mr. Tesla built a laboratory in Shoreham, with funding from JP Morgan. Mr. Alessi said the TSC is looking to build a museum and science center on the property and has received money, thanks to “a world record-breaking crowdfund” and funding from major technology companies. “When people think of Tesla, they think of electricity, alternating current … Basically, he brought alternating current to the forefront and basically powered our lives.” After focusing on electricity, “he became passionate about wireless communications. He knew it would transform our lives. He knew it would connect us.”

“It’s important for us to reflect on how important this is in our lives,” Mr. Alessi said. “I’m a little trepidatious to pontificate  onwhere 6G and 7G [technology] goes, but that is a level of connectivity that is going to power the universe.”

Mr. Rashes gave a brief overview of the evolution of wireless technology. He said 1G technology, which was used in the first phone call, was analog-based and delivered only voice data. 2G technology, which came about in the 1990s, allowed the transmission of text. In the 2000s, 3G technology came out, which allowed the transmission of photos and text; on December 31, 2022, 3G was no longer being carried.

The next decade was 4G, which had all the qualities of 3G, but with the ability for users to browse the Internet, transmit video and even use Facetime. In the 2020s, 5G was finally introduced. The two advantages of 5G are the speed at which data is transmitted and its very low latency, meaning that there is no drag on the transmission.

According to Extenet, 5G has download speeds of 300 Megabits per second (Mbps), while the range for 4G was between 12 and 36 Mbps. While 5G will increase capacity for data and voice service, it requires more access points — also known as nodes or cells — because of its smaller footprint and emits a much lower power signal than a macro-site.

Extenet places outdoor small wireless facilities (also known as “small cells”) onto numerous properties and structures throughout the U.S. The company makes sure that its employees follow local codes and guidelines, they use the public right-of-way appropriately, and meet with city planners and local elected officials to identify the best possible site locations. Further, the antenna can take up no more than three cubic feet of space and must be aesthetically pleasing within the communities where they are installed.

Mr. Rashes said the biggest issue is the time because it takes 60 to 90 days to get approval of the small cell placements. Another issue is NIMBYism, in which the residents do not want the poles in their neighborhoods. The third issue is the “elephant in the room,” namely health and safety issues regarding cellular transmission. Mr. Alessi said 250 health studies have been done on the human body’s exposure to cellular transmission since the 1980s and the FDA conducted its own study in 2018, none of them showing adverse health effects, “but people are still freaking out.”

Among the misnomers Mr. Rashes heard about 5G transmission are that it is a new technology, it is unregulated, it relies on frequencies in the ionizing radiation band of electromagnetic frequencies, it causes changes in the weather, it increases lightning strikes and it causes COVID-19 and other illnesses. He said that the Federal Communications Commission has found small cells to be safe, provided they are properly placed.

“All 5G frequencies and 5G equipment have to be approved by the FCC and comply with FCC-mandated safety measures,” Mr. Rashes said. “They have done the safety checks and we have to comply and conduct a study on every single thing we install to make sure it complies with the commission’s standards.”

While 5G is in “the early stages” on Long Island, Mr. Rashes pointed out other parts of the world are working on implementing next-generation cellular technology. “I don’t know where it’s going to go and where it’s going to hold,” Mr. Rashes said of 6G and 7G technology, “but we can all dream what functionality we will have then, and we hope that we’ll be around to have the capacity and bandwidth to support it.”

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net/.

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*Photo is attached.

About LIMBA

Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney Discusses Tackling the Gang Violence and Drug Epidemic at LIMBA

Ray Tierney, Suffolk County District Attorney, was the guest speaker at the September 23rd LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting. During the presentation, he talked about how his office is addressing gangs, violent crime and the prevalence of illicit drugs in the county.

On the issue of gun violence, Mr. Tierney said that 50% of all incidents take place within a 22-square-mile area of Suffolk County in eight communities, including Wyandanch, Bay Shore and Brentwood, among others. Eighty percent of all “shots fired” cases do not get reported, much of which can be attributed to gang violence. He said nobody calls 911 out of fear of retribution (or deportation if they are an undocumented immigrant). He also said that “a tremendous amount of gang violence and gun violence” goes “underreported” by local politicians, which is wrong. “It’s malpractice to ignore that.”

When he came into office in January, his first priority was to establish a Gang Unit in which investigators from his office work with federal and Suffolk law enforcement to “target the drivers of violence.” He also reinstated the Shot Spotter program, which can measure the location and trajectory to which a bullet was fired. That data is sent to local law enforcement so they can determine where the shots came from. When shots are fired, police are notified so they can respond and investigate. Very often, the shots fired are not reported for fear of retribution.

Mr. Tierney said his office has also provided outreach to several communities plagued by gang violence. “They were very receptive of this,” he said. “These residents want a stronger police presence in their neighborhoods.”

When he was a federal prosecutor, Mr. Tierney prosecuted 87 members of the MS-13 gang. As Suffolk DA, he discussed the recent prosecution of an MS-13 gang member for the shooting death of an 18th Street Gang member; the bullet went through the victim’s head and into the upper chest of a store employee. The employee initially didn’t want to testify because of fear of deportation, so the Suffolk DA’s office obtained a work visa for her and relocated her family to a safe location.

Another topic Mr. Tierney discussed was the drug epidemic in Suffolk County. “Suffolk County leads New York State in opioid deaths,” he said. “That is unacceptable.”

The most prevalent illicit drug that is increasingly causing the most deaths is fentanyl, which, Mr. Tierney said, is blended into other drugs such as cocaine. “It’s 100 times stronger than morphine,” he said. “This is killing our kids.”

The problem with prosecuting cases regarding fentanyl, according to Mr. Tierney, is the “arcane” set of laws in New York State which lists which drugs can be subject to prosecution. He said a drug dealer can be prosecuted for selling cocaine, but if apprehended with fentanyl, the dealer cannot be prosecuted under state law, and would require federal assistance, which is not always possible. To get the state Legislature to toughen the drug laws, the DA hired Maureen McConnell, a former Nassau County Assistant District Attorney, to lobby state legislators to update and revise state law to make it possible to prosecute drug-related and other crimes.

“We have to tell our state legislators, ‘Stop paying lip service on public safety and start doing something about it,” he said. “Give me the tools I need to do my job.”

Mr. Tierney was elected Suffolk DA in 2021. He served as a Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney for 14 years and spent eleven years as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in its Criminal Division. Prior to running for Suffolk DA, he was Executive District Attorney in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office. Throughout his career, he prosecuted thousands of cases. He has been honored for his work, receiving the Federal Law Enforcement Association Prosecutor of the Year Award, the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force Meritorious Service Award, Federal Agent’s True American Hero Award, the Southampton Town Police Department’s Full Court Press Prosecution Award and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office Distinguished Trial Advocacy Award.

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net.

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About LIMBA

Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

LIMBA Hosts East End Supervisors’ Roundtable on October 6

Elected Officials Will Discuss the Latest Issues Affecting Their Towns

LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has announced that it will present an East End Supervisors’ Roundtable on Thursday, October 6 at the Southampton Inn, located at 91 Hill Street in Southampton. Featured speakers will include Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Shelter Island Town Supervisor Gerry Siller. The roundtable event is sponsored by Gershow Recycling.

The elected officials will discuss the latest developments in their respective towns, as well as trends affecting the east end of Long Island, such as affordable housing, tourism, the environment, water quality and economic development.

Ms. Aguiar, a former sergeant detective with the NYPD Counterterrorism Division, is the first Latina to be elected Riverhead Town Supervisor. Mr. Schneiderman was first elected Southampton Town Supervisor in 2015 and again in 2019, and previously served as Suffolk County Legislator. Mr. Russell spent 15 years as Town Assessor before being first elected as Southold Town Supervisor in 2005. Mr. Siller first served as Supervisor from 1998 to 2001 and was re-elected in 2019 and again in 2021.

“This will be a very informative session for all those who attend,” said Ernie Fazio, Chairman, LIMBA. “Our guests will address the issues that affect not only their constituents, but Long Island at large, considering the East End’s importance as an economic engine to the region’s environment and sustainability. We will also open the floor to our attendees, who may have questions of their own about what is going on in the East End.”

Lunch starts at noon, followed by the panel discussion at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 for LIMBA members, $65 for non-members. Tickets are available at the door for $75 each, and tickets for tables of eight can be purchased for $440.

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net/.

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About LIMBA

Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

Anti-Defamation League NY/NJ Director Scott Richman Discusses Rise of Antisemitism at LIMBA

On May 20, Scott Richman, Director of the New York/New Jersey region of ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), was the guest speaker at a virtual LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting. During the presentation, he spoke about the growing number of antisemitic incidents.

Mr. Richman said there is a “very disturbing trend.” According to the ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, the number of antisemitic acts has risen in the past eight years nationwide, from 751 to 2,717. New York State had the most, with 416 incidents. “That comes more than one incident every single day just in New York,” he said, adding that the regions with the highest rates of antisemitism in the state are Long Island, New York City, Westchester and Rockland Counties.

He also pointed out that Hasidic Jews have been targeted. According to Mr. Richman, there were 88 assaults nationwide, 51 of which occurred in New York State. He broke down the numbers within the state even further, showing that 48 of the 51 assaults happened in New York City. Of those 48 assaults, 34 took place in Brooklyn.

One of the short-term reasons for the rise in these incidents, Mr. Richman said, was the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in May. As a result, the number of antisemitic acts went up 148% when comparing May 2020 to May 2021. “Put simply, the Jewish people in this country were blamed for the War in Israel,” he said. Another reason was the “stressful environment” after the COVID lockdown and concerns about the economy, prompting people to look for a scapegoat, he said.

There were also long-term reasons, according to Mr. Richman, the main one being social media. He pointed out that those on social media will share hateful ideas with each other and will recruit others to join their groups. He noted that Payton Gendron, who murdered 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York back in May, was “radicalized” by social media.

“Social media is an enormous driver of hate, but it could also be an enormous force for good,” he said. The problem with social media, he said, is that it is not regulated. There is no liability for what is posted. The mainstream social media companies have put in place policies to help curb this, but it is not enough and not enforced well enough. Then, there are sites, such as Telegram, Gab and Discord, which have no content moderation policies.

Mr. Richman also said that society has become more polarized. “We live in a very divided time,” he said. “People take sides, which makes it very hard to control hate.”

Lastly, he pointed out that there has been a general emboldening of extremists on both the left and the right. For example, the ADL has been keeping track of white supremacist propaganda. In 2017, when the ADL started tracking such acts by white supremacists, there were 20 such incidents in New York State. In five years, those instances of white supremacist propaganda in New York State grew tenfold.

The ADL has monitored right-wing groups such as The Proud Boys, whom Mr. Richman said are the subject of a civil lawsuit related to their alleged role in the January 6th insurrection. ADL is serving as co-counsel on that lawsuit. They also follow left left-wing groups such as Antifa and the Nation of Islam.

Prior to joining the ADL, Mr. Richman was the Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee for Westchester (NY) and Fairfield (CT) Counties. In that role, he was responsible for directing the day-to-day operations of this top regional office dedicated to advocacy on key issues impacting the American Jewish community.

In addition, he spent 10 years at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, where he assisted in the rebirth of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union. He also served as the Founding Director of Dor Chadash, a nonprofit startup which engaged young professionals in the New York area. Originally from Jericho, he is currently a resident of Westchester.

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net/.

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About LIMBA

Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

Frank Boulton Discusses the Formation of the Long Island Ducks and the Atlantic League at LIMBA

Frank Boulton (second from right), Founder/CEO/Owner, Long Island Ducks, was the guest speaker at the LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting at Fairfield Properties Ballpark, home of the Ducks, on May 6. Also pictured (left to right): Al Vitters and Ken Nevor, Board Members, and Ernie Fazio, Chairman, LIMBA; and James Gaughran, New York State Senator.

On May 6, Frank Boulton, Founder/CEO/Owner, Long Island Ducks, was the guest speaker at the LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting at Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip. During the presentation, he talked about the formation of the Ducks and the league in which it plays, the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

Before becoming involved as a baseball team owner, he worked for the financial firms Smith Barney and UBS Securities. In the mid-1980s, he bought the New York Yankees’ minor-league Class-A team in Prince William County, Va., and the Class-AA Albany Colonie Yankees.

During the Major League Baseball strike in 1994, he went down to Homestead, Florida to look at some prospects. “I came up with the idea of a boutique league with 200 of the best unsigned players,” Mr. Boulton said. “That’s how the Atlantic League came about.”

In 1993, Bud Harrelson, who played and managed with the New York Mets, teamed up with Mr. Boulton to form the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Then, from 1997 to 2000, the duo worked tirelessly to bring the Long Island Ducks to life.

Since its formation, the team has won nine divisional titles and been in the playoffs for 15 of the last 17 years. This year’s 27-man roster consists of eleven former MLB players and eight other players with AAA experience. Mr. Boulton said he wants to keep the Ducks as a local team, with local players on the roster. “If they are from Long Island, they’ll get the call,” he said.

One of the disadvantages of owning a minor league baseball team, Mr. Boulton said, is that the roster can change in an instant when a major-league team wants to buy a player’s contract. This past season, eleven Ducks players had their contracts purchased. He said it could happen the night of a game, and the starting pitcher could get the call.

The team plays 132 games in 2022 over 150 days; 66 of them are home games. The ballpark seats 6,002 people, with 20 luxury boxes, a picnic area that can hold up to 300 people, a party deck and a restaurant that seats 125 people. Since its inception, the team has welcomed nearly 8.5 million people to its games, many of whom are repeat fans. Funding for the stadium came from $22.5 million in federal funds, $14.5 million from the Empire State Development Corporation, $5 million from Suffolk County and $3.5 million from Mr. Boulton himself.

Mr. Boulton added that the revenue generated by the Ducks comes from ticket sales (single-game, season and mini-game packages), food and beverage sales. He said that group ticket sales are “a big part of our business.” Further, the Ducks are the only team in the Atlantic League that doesn’t charge its patrons for parking.

In addition to serving as the team’s Founder, CEO and Owner, Mr. Boulton is Chairman of the QuackerJack Foundation, the charitable arm of the Ducks. He is a member of the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame, the Bay Shore High School Hall of Fame, and the Long Island Business Hall of Fame. He has received numerous honors from many business and nonprofit organizations. He is a graduate of Villanova University and a resident of Brightwaters.

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net.

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About LIMBA

Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

LIMBA Members Tour Caithness Long Island Energy Center Power Plant in Yaphank

On April 1, Ross Ain, President of Caithness Long Island, LLC, and Bill Wareham, Plant Manager, Siemens Energy, which manages the Caithness Long Island Energy Center, hosted a presentation and guided tour of the state-of-the-art natural gas-fired power plant. During the presentation, they took turns discussing the plant’s technology upgrades, efficiency and emissions.

Tim German (center), Operations Manager, Siemens, guides a group of LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) members through a tour of the Caithness Long Island Energy Center power plant in Yaphank on April 1. The tour followed a presentation by Ross Ain, President of Caithness Long Island, LLC, and Bill Wareham, Plant Manager, Siemens Energy, Inc.

In 2003, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) issued a Request for Proposal to provide power for its customers. Two years later, Caithness was chosen. Construction of the 350-megawatt plant began in 2007 and came online in 2009.

“Thanks to advances in power generation, we are able to produce more energy with fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a comparable plant utilizing outdated technology,” Mr. Ain said.

Caithness currently has a 20-year agreement with LIPA to provide energy to its customers. “We guarantee availability and efficiency,” Mr. Ain said, adding that, between 2009 and 2021, LIPA customers saved $426 million in fuel and other costs. Further, Caithness reduced CO2 emissions by 440,000 tons a year — a reduction of 36%.

The Yaphank plant generates 21% of the electricity on Long Island. The plant features an air-cooled condenser that uses less than 20 gallons of water per minute — far less than what other power plants on Long Island use. “That is because we are the most efficient, cleanest plant and we operate around the clock since it is the most efficient plant of its kind on Long Island,” Mr. Ain said. “We also have an excellent environmental record, operating well below strict permit limits. We are also very safety-conscious; we have never had an accident.”

The new gas turbines are very fast, Mr. Wareham said, in that they can start up and provide full power within half an hour. The plant is operationally flexible and can run on natural gas or distillate fuel oil.

The plant currently has a roster of 19 full-time employees. It is set 100 feet above sea level, adding a high level of storm protection against flooding, according to Mr. Ain. There is also a large buffer zone that separates Caithness from the residential areas which are approximately one-half mile away. “There are no wetlands here and there are no parks, rivers or endangered species on the premises,” he said.

In addition, Mr. Ain said, Caithness gives back to the community. Each year, the power producer gives out $25,000 in scholarships to students from Patchogue-Medford, Bellport and Longwood High Schools, and supports several community-based groups, including the Boys and Girls Club.

After the presentation, LIMBA members took a tour of the facility.

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net/.

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* Photo is attached.

About LIMBA
Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

Eastern Suffolk BOCES Chief Operating Officer Julie Lutz, Ph.D. Discusses the Changes to Public Education on Long Island at LIMBA

On March 11, Julie Lutz, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer, Eastern Suffolk BOCES, spoke at LIMBA’s (Long Island Metro Business Action) virtual meeting on the topic “Public Education on Long Island: Shifting Demographics, Costs & Outcomes. Why It Matters?”

During her presentation, Dr. Lutz described the shifts in Long Island schools over the past decade. While school districts such as Central Islip, Riverhead, Brentwood and Wyandanch have seen increases in enrollment, the number of students enrolled in Suffolk County public schools overall dropped 12.1%, according to Dr. Lutz.

Between the 2012-13 and 2020-21 school years, the number of children considered to be “economically disadvantaged” was up 27.4%. “Even wealthier school districts fell into this,” she said, adding that Long Island school districts saw a 27.2% bump in economically disadvantaged students, compared to a 6.1% increase throughout the rest of the state.

In addition, there has been “a growing number of English Language Learners” (ELL) in Suffolk’s schools, Dr. Lutz said. In fact, the number of ELL students increased 66.6% from 2010-11 to 2020-21. As of October 2020, there were 42,163 ELLs on Long Island, which is 18.2% of the state’s total ELL population (including New York City). For students with disabilities, the number in Suffolk rose 7.3%, compared to 6.8% on Long Island, 6.0% in Nassau and 3.7% for the rest of the state.

In explaining the differences between wealthy and poor school districts, Dr. Lutz said that 61.4% of Suffolk students attend a district of below average wealth. Among ESBOCES districts, that figure is 69.4%, and it is 45.5% among Western Suffolk BOCES districts. In addition, 1.1% of students experienced homelessness at some point during the school year, compared to 0.9% for the rest of the state (excluding New York City and Long Island).

Dr. Lutz also pointed out that the least wealthy districts on Long Island are majority-minority; 67.7% are Hispanic and 20.7% are Black. The wealthiest districts, meanwhile, are 54.6% white, 22.2% are Hispanic and only 3.5% Black.

Dr. Lutz said that “parents come to Long Island for the educational quality.” During her presentation, she pointed out that, in 2020, the graduation rate was 91.5% on Long Island, compared to Suffolk County (90.3%), the rest of the state (87.5%) and New York State outside of New York City (88.7%). Furthermore, of the Long Island students who graduate, 86% go on to college.

Long Island school districts graduate a high percentage of students with Advanced Regents diplomas — 58.4%, compared to the rest of the state at 38.9%, according to Dr. Lutz. “If Long Island were its own state,” she said, “we would be number one in the nation in the number of 2022 Regeneron Science Talent Search semifinalists with 49.” That would be greater than California (45) and the rest of New York (44).

Eighty to 90 percent of the students in ESBOCES’ career and technical training programs go on to higher education. “This dispels the myth that students in our schools don’t go to college,” Dr. Lutz said. “These students are getting trained [in the trades] and are able to get job offers [after graduation]. There is sometimes a hurdle students need to jump over to get into the BOCES program, but these programs keep giving students a leg up.”

The problem is that Long Island is short changed when it comes to school aid from Albany. “The share of state aid to Long Island is 12.5%, but we educate 15.8% of the state’s children,” Dr. Lutz said. “Long Island needs its fair share of state aid. More money is coming from our pockets. Not only do we get less, but the purchasing power [of the state aid money] is also less.”

According to Dr. Lutz, over two-thirds of the schools’ revenues on Long Island are funded by property taxes. “As a result, we see many families moving to other parts of the country that are more affordable,” Dr. Lutz said.

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net.

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About LIMBA
Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

Award-Winning Broadcast Journalist Waldo Cabrera Discusses “Black History from an Afro-Caribbean Standpoint” at LIMBA

On February 25, Waldo Cabrera, an award-winning broadcast journalist, spoke at LIMBA’s (Long Island Metro Business Action) virtual meeting on the topic “Black History from an Afro-Caribbean Standpoint.”

During his presentation, Mr. Cabrera explained that the first documented slave revolt in the “New World” happened on December 26, 1521 in Hispaniola (now broken into two countries: the Dominican Republic and Haiti). A group of African slaves who worked in the sugar plantations owned by Diego Columbus, son of the explorer Christopher Columbus, revolted. They tried to prove “they would not be submissive” and used violence and force during the uprising, Mr. Cabrera said. However, “it was not a good end for them,” he said, when Columbus ordered the military to end the revolt.

Last year, Mr. Cabrera worked with a group of students at City College of New York to bring the story to life. For the film, titled Visualizing Resistance, he spent six months with the students documenting the project, from planning to the final presentation. They also reviewed original documents from the Dominican Studies Institute to learn more about what really happened during the 1521 revolt.

By mid-December, the students completed their project. On the 500th anniversary of the revolt on December 26, 2021, the college issued a press release announcing the film’s completion. During his presentation, Mr. Cabrera showed the film to the LIMBA members.

“The students were more proud to be part of [the project], because they didn’t look at it as a race-centered project,” Mr. Cabrera said. “They were given a task to create a living document. … They knew they had to deliver on it.”

Mr. Cabrera also discussed a second slave revolt, this one having a more positive result. In 1791, African slaves in Haiti revolted against their masters, and “Haiti paid a dear price for that,” Mr. Cabrera said. This included the burning of the crops and battling French soldiers. In 1825, France recognized Haitian independence, but asked Haiti for 100 million Francs in reparations (equivalent to $21 billion today). According to Mr. Cabrera, it was the largest slave revolt since Spartacus’ unsuccessful efforts against the Roman republic in 1900 B.C.

When asked what Black History Month meant to him, Mr. Cabrera replied, “Society tells you what color you are. To me, it’s a matter of reflection. It’s a matter of educating yourself on who you are and where you’re from. I like to focus on the positive aspects of where you come from. Others may understand Black History Month from an American standpoint; I understand it from an Afro-Caribbean standpoint. I seek voices from different angles.”

Mr. Cabrera is the Executive Producer of The National Video Journalists Network (NVJN). He has won an Emmy® award and numerous Long Island Folio and Press Club of Long Island Awards.

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net/.

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About LIMBA

Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

NYS Assemblyman Fred Thiele Calls to Restructure LIPA as a Public Power Company at LIMBA

On February 4, New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele spoke at LIMBA’s (Long Island Metro Business Action) virtual meeting in which he called for the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to be restructured as a public power company.

During his presentation, the assemblyman described how he voted against the LIPA Reform Act of 2013, which, he said, was supposed to revamp electric operations on Long Island in order to improve customer service, enhance emergency response and preparation, reduce the cost of LIPA’s debt and ensure safe and adequate service. Mr. Thiele voted against it because it lacked transparency, accountability and oversight. “It was the best ‘no’ vote I ever cast,” he said.

He explained that the current structure acts as a “three-legged stool”: PSEG LI, which is a third-party manager that runs the utilities on a day-to-day basis; LIPA, a nonpublic utility which contracts with other privately run utilities; and the Department of Public Services of Long Island (DPS LI), whose only function is to provide recommendations to PSEG. “There is a lack of transparency,” he said of this operation, adding that PSEG is “the least regulated and has the least oversight.”

He said National Grid — which is responsible for operating and maintaining LIPA’s electrical grid under a management services agreement with the power authority — was “a failure” during Superstorm Sandy, considering that Long Islanders pay the highest utility rates in the nation and get little to no return on investment. “They overpromised and underdelivered,” he said. “Their customers haven’t gotten what they paid for.” On what he described as a dismal response by PSEG LI to Hurricane Isaias, he said, “There were problems with communication and customer response times; these were problems that needed to be addressed.”

The assemblyman advanced the idea of making LIPA a publicly run utility. He pointed out that public utilities are “financially feasible” and more reliable than privately operated ones. Citing an options study that LIPA conducted after Hurricane Isaias, Mr. Thiele said that public utilities can help customers save $65-$75 million a year on their energy bills. In fact, he and New York State Senator James Gaughran introduced a bill that would make LIPA go public. The bill currently has 12 co-sponsors in the Assembly — nine Democrats and three Republicans — and 90% of those who publicly commented on the bill were in favor of it.

Under the proposed legislation, there would be a Legislative Commission on the Future of LIPA, an eight-member group that would report to the state Legislature what would be needed to restructure LIPA as a publicly owned power authority by the end of 2025. The Commission would also establish an Advisory Committee comprised of stakeholders in the fields of labor, business, government, education, higher learning and social justice; consumer and civic organizations; and local Native American tribes.

The problem with LIPA, Mr. Thiele said, is that, historically, the governor’s office, which is based in Albany, controls the utility and the trustees are appointed by the governor, the speaker of the Assembly and the state Senate majority leader — none of whom are from Long Island. He said he and Senator Gaughran hope to meet with Governor Kathy Hochul soon and have this bill included in the state’s proposed 2022-2023 budget.

Mr. Thiele is currently serving his 13th term in the New York State Assembly. During that time, he authored legislation which created the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund (CPF) Act. Under the Act, the five East End towns on Long Island established dedicated funds for land preservation and water quality protection, with the money coming from the 2% real estate transfer tax. Since its enactment 20 years ago, the CPF has generated more than $1.7 billion and has resulted in the preservation of more than 10,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land. Mr. Thiele is Chairman of the Local Governments Committee and serves as a Member of the Rules Committee, Environmental Conservation Committee, Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee and Transportation Committee.

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net/.

 

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About LIMBA

Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott Discusses County’s Handling of Opioid Crisis and COVID-19 Pandemic at LIMBA

On January 21, Dr. Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County Health Commissioner, spoke at LIMBA’s (Long Island Metro Business Action) virtual meeting.

During his presentation, Dr. Pigott described how Suffolk County was prepared to handle the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. He also talked about his start in the agency, where he operated a community health program for persons of color and later served as Medical Director for Suffolk County Emergency Medical Services, overseeing the county’s emergency medical technicians.

“They are a very underappreciated group,” he said of the emergency medical personnel. “When you call to complain about a heart problem or a lung problem, the EMTs are always there. That is why I always try to give our emergency medical people the recognition they deserve.”

One of the issues his department had to deal with was the opioid crisis. When people were experiencing chronic pain, Dr. Pigott said, the doctors wrote prescriptions for these painkillers, not aware of their addictive qualities. After these opioids were pulled off the market, many people resorted to illegal drugs for their pain.

Dr. Pigott said there are medications to overcome drug addiction, such as methadone, which, he said, will help addicts in their recovery. One of his prior positions was as a Physician at a local methadone program in Huntington. “It’s not always about detox or staying sober,” he said. “Rather, it’s about needing medications to help you with your recovery.” When asked how long someone must be on methadone before they have fully recovered, he said, in his experience, the person’s age is the best predictor of maintaining sobriety without medication. He noted that those under the age of 30 may have an easier time managing the withdrawal that comes from tapering down the medication than older addicts.

The next topic turned to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 8, 2020, the first COVID case was confirmed in Greenport. Dr. Pigott said the infected person was a local resident who did not travel and was not in contact with a lot of people.

The number of COVID cases in Suffolk quickly rose to 1,658 on April 10, 2020. Dr. Pigott said the pandemic put a strain on the local healthcare system. “Hospitals were overcrowded and overflowing with people who were seriously ill,” he said. “There was a lack of ventilators. We also couldn’t perform colonoscopies, lung scans and elective procedures.”

He also said the situation was worse at the local nursing homes. According to Dr. Pigott, there were approximately 4,100 Suffolk County residents who died as a result of COVID, of which there were 742 COVID confirmed deaths and 267 COVID presumed deaths at nursing homes, according to the New York State Department of Health. Funeral homes were overwhelmed, as they had to rent refrigeration trucks to store the bodies. “We lost a lot of people to COVID in 2020,” he said. “This was a situation we never want to see happen again.”

By the summer of 2020, the numbers started to go down, only to go up again in the fall, Dr. Pigott said. He said the surge in infections came during holidays, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The peak number was 863 on January 19, 2021. At the time, Americans were urged to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. “These have been very effective,” he said of the vaccines. “We saw a significant reduction in hospitalizations, especially among seniors.” He added that the number of seniors over the age of 65 who were hospitalized went down by two-thirds after they were vaccinated.

Dr. Pigott said the two best ways to protect oneself against omicron or other strains of COVID are to get vaccinated and wear a mask. He recommended the N95 masks because they are the most effective against the virus, whereas neck gaiters, bandanas and cloth masks do not offer the same protection.

On January 3, the positivity rate in Suffolk hit a record high of 28.1%. On January 18, the positivity rate fell by half to 13.9%. Dr. Pigott noted the downward trend in positive cases, but added, “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Dr. Pigott is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University. He is a graduate of Brown University, Brown University Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Cambridge Hospital in 1997.

For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net.

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About LIMBA

Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.

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