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Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine condemns the Clean Slate Act, which Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law last week. Photo by Raymond Janis

A new state law has public officials from Suffolk County up in arms.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed the Clean Slate Act on Thursday, Nov. 16, which allows certain criminal records to be sealed years after an individual is sentenced or released from incarceration. The law automatically seals certain criminal records after a required waiting period — three years after conviction or release from jail for a misdemeanor and eight years after conviction or release from prison for a felony — if the criminal has maintained a clean record, is no longer on probation or parole and has no other pending charges.

The legislation still provides access to sealed records “for certain necessary and relevant purposes,” such as law enforcement, licensing or employment for industries requiring a background check, employment in jobs interacting with children, the elderly or other vulnerable groups and application for a gun, commercial driver’s license and public housing.

The state Assembly passed the bill in June 83-64, with the Senate also upvoting the measure 38-25. In a signing ceremony, Hochul referred to the bill as a means for creating jobs and deterring recidivism among convicted felons.

“My number one job as the New York State governor is to keep people safe,” she said. “And I believe that the best anti-crime tool we have is a job.”

She added, “When people have steady work, they’re less likely to commit crimes and less likely to be homeless.”

New York becomes the 12th state to enact Clean State legislation, according to the governor’s website.

Homegrown opposition

State and local officials joined first responders and crime advocates outside the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association headquarters in Brentwood on Friday morning, Nov. 17, blasting the measure as out of touch with the needs of residents.

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine (R) acknowledged that there are cases in which records should be sealed but suggested these matters should be considered on a case-by-case basis and determined through the court system instead of the legislative process.

“I think it should be up to the judges,” he said. “I don’t think [sealing criminal records] should be automatic. I think this bill is not the right thing to do, and I think it does weaken the criminal justice system.”

New York State Sen. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) reiterated Romaine’s sentiments: “A clean slate, carte blanche for everyone — that’s just plain dangerous.”

State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) said that while he believes in second chances for convicted criminals, the bill exempts only a “small list” of criminal offenders.

“It doesn’t take into account nearly all the types of egregious crimes that impact so many victims, their families and our entire community,” he said. “Manslaughter, armed robbery, terrorism offenses, hate crimes … these are cases where there’s been due process, where there’s been convictions and sentencing.”

The state assemblyman added, “In these kinds of very troubling times, employers, employees, victims, families, neighbors and community members … all have the right to know.”

State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) said the bill would exacerbate the conditions of the opioid epidemic, expunging the criminal records of drug dealers who continue trafficking opioids throughout the county. He said financial criminals, such as Ponzi schemers and elder scammers, receive similar protections under the new law.

“People are entitled to a second chance, but it shouldn’t be us legislators doing this,” he said. “It should be through the judicial system.”

To learn more about the Clean Slate Act, please visit assembly.state.ny.us/cleanslate.

Stock photo

By Nancy Marr

At a community meeting recently I heard opposition to an IDA plan to help build a new warehouse Do we need another warehouse? Will it create jobs? And, worst of all, will there be no property tax payments, which our school district needs?

Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) were originally authorized by New York State in 1969, governed by the provisions of 18-A of the General Municipal Law. The purpose of IDAs are to advance the job opportunities, health, general prosperity and economic welfare of the State of New York. Four to seven IDA members are appointed by the governing board of a sponsoring municipality. IDAs do not have taxing powers; they typically maintain their operations by charging fees to the businesses that participate in their projects. 

Presently there is an IDA in each NYS county, as well as a number of cities, towns, and villages. In addition to the Suffolk County IDA, there are IDAs in Babylon, Islip, Brookhaven, and Riverhead. Some of the IDAs have favored manufacturing and industrial projects, but many have supported a range of projects, including office buildings, retail establishments, education facilities, sports arenas, and projects for health and not-for-profit service organizations. 

The goal of an IDA is to help companies acquire, construct, improve, maintain or equip certain facilities. It can assist the company by bringing together resources to provide low-cost or low-interest tax exempt or taxable bonds, provide workforce training and recruitment, and help fast-track the permit process. The greater incentive offered by IDA acceptance is the ability to be exempt from local property taxes, state and local sales tax, and the mortgage recording tax. By agreement, the company transfers the title of its land and equipment to the Agency (the IDA); the Agency then agrees to lease the land and equipment to the company which completes the project. When the project is completed by the company, the title is returned to the company and it becomes the legal owner.

In order to minimize the impact of the property tax abatement, the IDA writes a contract with the company for a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). The amount of the PILOT is set at a rate lower than the property tax, with few or no payments due for the first five years (leaving the school district short).The amount is graduated by a set percentage over the duration of the contract (up to twenty years); at the end the tax paid by the company will be what would be the full amount if not abated. (According to a state law passed in 1993, each IDA must establish a uniform tax exemption policy with input from affected tax jurisdictions.) 

Regulations have sought to improve accountability by requiring that all IDAs file audited annual financial statements giving data about assistance given and jobs created. An IDA Reform bill became law in 2022 to counteract the “friendly” culture of everyday corruption that the legislators found. It included bills to prevent conflicts of interest, unethical profiting by government officials, failure to give public notice of the approval of  projects over $100,000, and required a “clawback;” the recapture of previously granted benefits if job creation and retention goals or other terms of the agreement were not met. 

Although there is the concern that IDA assistance may have been granted to applicants who could have completed their projects without needing help, the IDAs have helped to create a wide variety of projects, remaining in Suffolk or coming to Suffolk from other places. They have helped developers create or expand a variety of businesses, from technical and chemical innovators to health and housing facilities. Because of the requirement that the projects must create new jobs, and retain existing employees, the IDAs help with workforce training and recruitment. All new jobs must follow fair labor laws and by law must be publicized through the Department of Labor, reaching applicants who are under-employed.

Suffolk’s IDA website suffolkida.org can be helpful in familiarizing taxpayers with successful (and sometimes controversial) projects. Town websites, such as brookhavenida.org, have lists of projects  and copies of applications, agreements and resolutions. IDA public hearings are open to learn more about decisions. We can also lobby NYS elected officials to encourage and support new legislation concerning the loss of income for schools. 

Nancy Marr is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https//my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county. 

Pictured above, state Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio. Photo by Rita J. Egan

In New York’s 2nd Assembly District race, incumbent state Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) faces Democratic Party challenger Wendy Hamberger, a lawyer, who could not be reached for comment on this story.

This year’s Assembly district boundaries have changed due to redistricting. While losing Southold in its entirety, the 2nd District has picked up all of Mount Sinai, some of Port Jefferson Station — including its Train Car Park — and a small part of Port Jefferson.

Before entering politics, Giglio was a private business owner. After co-founding the Riverhead Business Alliance, she ran successfully for the Riverhead Town Board. She is completing her first term in the state Assembly.

‘I believe that if people are making money, then they’re able to pay the salaries and keep people employed.’

— Jodi Giglio

Giglio says her professional background has guided her work in government. “I’m a proponent of property rights,” she said. “I’m a capitalist. I believe that if people are making money, then they’re able to pay the salaries and keep people employed.” She added, “I have experience in having payroll and knowing what it costs to pay those bills … I feel that I have life experience in having my own business.”

Giglio was asked how to properly balance the need to build adequate housing with preserving open space. She advocates finding a proper mix of both.

“We’ve done our fair share as far as farmland preservation, as you see the vistas when you’re traveling through my district,” she said, adding, “There definitely is a housing crisis, but the costs of the apartments that the government is subsidizing are so much greater than if it was the private sector creating these opportunities.”

Giglio believes there are too many incentives to go through the government to support new housing, which she says can drive up building costs exponentially. 

“It’s almost an incentive to get the low-income tax credits from HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] to get subsidized and to inflate the cost of the project,” the assemblywoman said. “You’re not incentivizing people to break free from the government.”

At the same time, the state is confronting how to handle its population of undocumented immigrants. When asked if there is a way to curate these individuals to make jobs accessible to them, Giglio supported expanding the H-2A visa program.

“There should be a computer portal where they can go online and say, ‘I want to work here in the United States. These are my skills,’” she said, adding, “As a member of the [Assembly] Labor Committee, I would support that.”

She also said that due to state regulations, New York has created an uncompetitive marketplace for agricultural workers.

Referring to migrant workers, she observed: “They’re leaving New York state, and they’re going to New Jersey, to Connecticut, to Pennsylvania to work because they can work 100 hours a week and they can make top pay to send back to their countries whereas New York has limited them.”

On the topic of the MTA-LIRR, Giglio favored the electrification of the rail. “Our main infrastructure needs to be electrified,” she said.

To reform the railroad, she believes the state government should address public safety concerns within public transportation, adding, “A lot of people are afraid to take the Long Island Rail Road, myself included. I drive in [to the city] now.”

Tying into this issue is the question of rising homelessness throughout the area. To reform these deeply rooted social problems, Giglio favors an aggressive push toward addressing the mental health crisis.

“We need to really pay attention to mental health,” she said. “Mental health exists, and a lot of people need our help.”

One of Giglio’s central policy concerns centers around declining trust in law enforcement. According to her, rebuilding confidence in the police department starts early.

“We need to encourage kids that want a career in law enforcement, and that is the only way we can establish trust,” she said. “We need to ensure that we have a more diverse police department, which starts in the high schools.”

In bolstering economic growth and supporting young families moving into the area, Giglio also proposed ways to remediate Long Island’s affordability crisis, focusing on promoting the technology sector.

“Keeping people here on Long Island is really [about] drawing in Silicon Valley,” she said. “Bringing in companies to make electric batteries, coming up with new designs, 3D printing and robotics, that’s the stuff we need. We need to be the hub for that here on Long Island.”

Giglio said she wants to continue growing the manufacturing sector on Long Island, as these jobs often offer higher starting pay and a better standard of living. 

“Those types of jobs, where they’re starting out at $25 or $35 an hour, are the types of jobs we need,” she said.

Discussing the future of nuclear energy on Long Island, she expressed reservations, particularly concerning public safety. However, the decommissioned Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant is located in her district, and she supports using that property in some capacity.

“We might as well make good use of it, whether it’s as a parking lot for people to use the beach or a dock for people to launch off of or something benign,” she said. 

Moving on to the topic of infrastructure, she expressed irritation over Long Island’s roadways, which she considered widely in disrepair due to overuse. 

“The number of trucks that come in and out of Long Island to deliver material and supplies … I think our roads see a lot of disrepair because of that,” she said.

She took issue particularly with past planning of the Long Island Expressway, which she regarded as shortsighted. “It was a mistake to do the Long Island Expressway in asphalt,” she said. “It should have been done in concrete, which costs a little more money but would have lasted a lot longer.”

In addition to failed infrastructure planning, she sees the lack of reliable waste disposal options as a cause for concern. “We’re going to have a garbage crisis on Long Island,” she said. “We need to find new markets. That’s another one of my priorities, finding new markets for recyclables.”

In an age of increasing polarization, Giglio said she has tried to conduct herself respectfully. She condemned the practice of legislators dismissing one another out of hand. 

“I think that happens too often in politics where people are just dismissed because they can, because they have power,” she said. “I see it happen every day in Albany.”

To reform this culture of division, Giglio said she has made a concerted effort while in office to reach out to her colleagues across the aisle: “I voted ‘yes’ for the reparations commission,” she said. “I was the only one in the Republican Party that voted ‘yes,’ and I did it because I want to know what they’re feeling. I want to learn what they’re feeling.”

Elaborating on her position, she added, “You can’t get to the root of a problem until you understand the feelings of where it’s coming from.”

Giglio’s reelection for another term in office depends on the will of the voters, who will go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, says declining labor participation on Long Island gives him cause for concern. Photo of labor demonstration from Pixabay

On Monday, Sept. 5, Americans took off from work in honor of the contributions made by laborers throughout their national history. This Labor Day was an opportunity to catch up with Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy. During an exclusive interview, he discussed some of the labor trends on Long Island, the success of remote work and the role of unions today.

How would you describe the current state of the labor force on Long Island?

First, we still haven’t recovered all of the jobs lost during the [COVID-19] pandemic. We’re about 30,000 jobs shy. However, we have a strong labor force — I think we have about 1.5 million people in it. Still, our labor participation rate is not as it once was prior to the pandemic. There are still people on the sidelines.

What labor trends on Long Island do you find most troubling? Also, which trends are most encouraging?

The most troubling is that a lot of our workforce has not come back. The economy cannot expand unless our workforce participation rate increases, and that gives me concern. The other thing that gives me concern is that the Federal Reserve is going to aggressively go after inflation by increasing interest rates. With employee productivity at record lows, that could mean layoffs in the future.

Speaking of layoffs, do you believe there is already a labor shortage on Long Island?

No, I don’t think there’s a labor shortage. I think that if there’s any kind of a shortage, it’s people not wanting to come back to work. 

How does the cost of labor factor into these growing economic concerns?

Well, the cost of labor is very important, and that’s part of what caused the inflation. Not only did we have all of that extra money that the federal government put in, but we arbitrarily increased the minimum wage. That led to higher prices in the marketplace. 

I’m not denigrating the minimum wage [$15 an hour on the Island] — it’s only $31,000 a year. It’s very difficult for one person to pay for rent, food and electricity living on the minimum wage, but it did have an economic impact.

Do you think that the gradual development of remote work will have a positive long-term effect on the labor force?

Well, it depends where you are. The quick answer is yes. Two things have happened during the pandemic. Number one: Employers learned to have a different business model that didn’t require everybody to come into the office. They were able to reduce the amount of space that they needed to rent. 

The other thing was that employees found they could have a better quality of life by working remotely. They didn’t have to commute two hours a day to get into the City. On the other side of the coin, Goldman Sachs just announced that there’s no more remote work and everybody has to come into the office in New York City.

Do you think a schism is emerging between those who work from home and those who go to the office?

I wouldn’t call it a schism, but I will tell you that how people work and how businesses operate have changed. I think that congestion pricing in the City is a big influencer on all of that. 

If people don’t want to ride the trains, they usually drive in and have to pay more money. They might insist on working remotely. They also might insist on getting higher wages from employers. Some businesses might relocate out of the City because it is too expensive and too onerous for their employees.

So I think you have several things that will impact where people work and how people work.

How has the relationship between workers and public transit evolved here on Long Island?

I will tell you this: The Long Island Rail Road is [operating] at about 50% less than its prepandemic ridership. I took the train about three weeks ago, and the train was empty. Even when I jumped on the train at Penn Station at about 4:30 — which is normally packed — the train was empty. 

What accounts for the popularity of labor unions today?

People have felt this was a very difficult time during the pandemic. Some people have taken a look at life’s choices and are saying, “Hey, I’m not getting paid enough to do this stuff.” They want better benefits, a proper workplace environment and a salary commensurate with their skills. That’s why unionization is at one of its highest points in years.

What is your long-term forecast for the regional economy on Long Island?

Our regional economy is doing well. Historically and even currently, Long Island has always been able to fend off bad economic times. I think we are doing fine and we will be doing fine. 

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

Staff shortages, a growing issue nationally, have made their way to the Village of Port Jefferson.

Earlier this month, the Port Jeff Village Board of Trustees accepted the resignation of Joe Palumbo, the village administrator. This departure comes on the heels of various other vacancies throughout the village government.

Public sector staffing shortages are not unique to Port Jefferson. Americans are voluntarily quitting their jobs at record numbers, likely compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptive effects on the workforce. Climbing quit rates nationwide have given rise to a phenomenon called the Great Resignation. 

In an exclusive interview, Mayor Margot Garant gave her thoughts on the issue of staff shortages, outlining the challenges of keeping positions filled.

Mayor Margot Garant, above. Photo from Port Jeff Village website

‘The challenge we have in general when filling these positions, of course, is competing with the private sector.’ — Margot Garant

“The challenge we have in general when filling these positions, of course, is competing with the private sector, which is allowing for a much more flexible work environment,” she said. 

Garant said the recent departures from the village government are out of her control. The private sector often offers higher pay with a better work-life balance. 

“We cannot do a work-from-home program because people are bound to the collective bargaining agreements, which doesn’t give us that flexibility,” the mayor said.

The civil service system also imposes a set of strict criteria that complicates the staffing of small municipalities, according to Garant. To remediate these concerns, the administration has emphasized hiring and promoting internally, and dispersing responsibilities between multiple offices, a maneuver Garant said can save time and energy.

“Right now, we’re looking to absorb some of the responsibilities of the village administrator between Barbara Sakovich, our clerk; the treasurer’s office; Kevin Wood, who’s in charge of all our technology; and Rich Harris in the Building Department,” Garant said, adding, “We are also bringing on a new deputy clerk. … That is an appointed position, and we’re thrilled to have that happen because she knows us, she’s a resident and it’s a promotion from within.”

Village resident Ana Hozyainova closely followed the issue of staffing shortages during her recent candidacy for trustee. In an interview, she criticized consolidating multiple responsibilities to a single person, arguing that this practice leads to conflicting obligations and confusion for village employees.

“The head of the [building] department, who resigned in March, was replaced with a temporary person who shares a prosecutorial role in the village administration,” she said. “To me, these two positions should not be combined because one role is a prosecutor who addresses negligence or incompatibility with the code, and the other helps to resolve those things.”

Hozyainova said that a growing number of vacancies on various boards are also causing concern, adding that she is most alarmed by the vacancies in the Building Department.

“The Building Department provides permits and helps the village residents and businesses navigate the building code,” she said. “There is no plan reviewer at the moment, no senior planning person, and these are essential positions that help interface between the businesses, the residents and the government.”

Hozyainova believes there may be unnecessary delays for residents and business owners if these positions remain unfilled: “When there’s a lack of those positions on a permanent basis, the communications start to break down and the permitting process is extended unnecessarily.”

Hozyainova fears staffing shortages will result in two principal consequences: a lengthier permit application process and rising costs.

“At the moment, many of the plans are being sent to an external agency for review,” she said. “An external agency generally costs more than an internal agency.” With too many transient agents, she also believes there is less institutional memory within village government, which can be exhausting for permit applicants.

Garant presented a contrasting judgment, stating that the critical positions within her administration are in place. With these spots filled, she maintains that there will still be an effective administration and delivery of village services. 

In areas where diminished services may be of concern, the mayor said outside consultancy firms can operate as a “stopgap” at a reasonable expense to the taxpayer.

“We’re very careful not to give them carte blanche,” Garant said. “Usually, we’re very conscious of making sure that compensation does not exceed the amount we would be spending on the individual employee.” She added, “Nine times out of 10, we’re actually saving money because we’re not responsible for the benefits package for the outside consultant.”

On the whole, Garant suggests difficulties staffing a small municipality are inevitable given growing nationwide economic uncertainty.

Stock photo

Suffolk County’s One-Stop Employment Center will host a job fair in Selden on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

The event, running from 10 a.m. to noon, will be at the Middle Country Public Library, 575 Middle Country Rd. Advanced registration is required.

Employers scheduled to attend the fair include the Long Island State Veterans Home, Stony Brook University, Europastry, East/West Industries, Northwell Health, Mary Haven Center of Hope, and Long Island Cares, among others. Bring your resume and dress for success!

To register, visit eventbrite.com/e/middle-country-library-job-fair-tickets-227903344037 or call the county employment center at 631-853-6600.

Job seekers in need of proper business attire can contact the center’s Career Couture shop at 631-853-6769.

Right, Laura Burns of Nesconset just recently graduated from St. Joseph’s College, though she finds her job prospects diminished due to the pandemic; left, Matthew Hoth of Miller Place said he was unable to do his internship at a mental health care facility due to COVID-19. right photo by Claudia Reed; left photo from Hoth

Recent college graduates on Long Island are faced with uncertainty as they begin to pursue their respective careers. Their 2020 graduating class will encounter a number of challenges as they enter one of the most daunting job markets, not seen since the Great Recession of 2008. 

Not only did the COVID-19 crisis truncate their last semesters of college, it stripped them of graduation ceremonies. It put jobs, internships and other opportunities on standby. Some local graduates are being forced to adapt and stay sharp while they wait for the job market to rebound. 

Nesconset resident Laura Burns, who recently graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue with a political science degree, said when the pandemic hit it felt like “everything was spiraling out of control.” 

“A lot of my classmates, myself included, lost a lot of local opportunities because of COVID-19.”

— Matthew Hoth

“I remember taking my last midterm and then they canceled all classes before spring break. We didn’t even get a last goodbye,” she said. “It felt like we were forgotten.”

Burns was disappointed that she could have a proper graduation ceremony, saying it would have been a special moment for her and her family, as her mother also graduated from the college.  

The St. Joseph’s grad had to rethink her initial future plans. 

“Before COVID hit I was thinking about maybe pursuing a graduate school or law school — that’s what I felt was the practical thing to do,” she said. “Even if I wanted to try to get a job in political science it would be pretty difficult right now.”

Burns said some of her friends have gotten part-time jobs working at grocery stores for the time being. 

Potential short-term options such as working at a restaurant or other retailers are unavailable, as Suffolk County is only in Phase One of the reopening process. Most retailers will be able to reopen more during Phase Two. Restaurants will have to wait even longer. 

Burns said she will most likely plan on taking classes at Suffolk Community College and could continue to pursue acting, something she has done since she was younger. 

This past February, the job market looked promising with employers adding 273,000 new positions, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor. 

Just last week, more than 2 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits, according to a U.S. Department of Labor weekly report. It brought the total number of jobs lost to over 40 million. 

Matthew Hoth of Miller Place, who graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a master’s degree in data analytics, is trying to stay optimistic and positive about his future job prospects. 

“A lot of my classmates, myself included, lost a lot of local opportunities because of COVID-19,” he said. 

Hoth had an internship lined up with a local health and mental health care facility, but that all changed when the coronavirus hit.  

“I had talks with them for a while, I was really looking forward to interning there,” the recent graduate said. 

In addition, his last semester was going to be used to network and make connections in his field. He and his peers missed out on attending workshops that could have brought him face to face with potential employers. 

“I had some leads on some jobs locally, but then everything kind of stopped dead in its tracks,” Hoth said. “Right now, I’m trying to get more program certifications to add to my resume and updating my LinkedIn [account].”

To fill the void of the internship and in an effort to add some work experience to his resume, Hoth is considering freelancing, special projects and working remotely.  

“With companies cutting and laying off people it is discouraging to see,” he said. “But I’m optimistic that the economy and job market will eventually bounce back,” he said. 

Victoria Arcuri

Victoria Arcuri of Holbrook, a recent graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology, was looking forward to starting a full-time position at a creative agency in New York City she had interned at during her last semester of school. Due to the effects of the pandemic, the agency had to put her postgraduation hiring on hold but extended her internship. 

“My boss was like, ‘right now we are not in the position to hire you, but there is still a possibility for a full-time position,’” she said. “Without COVID, I’d have a full-time job right now.”

“I remember taking my last midterm and then they canceled all classes before spring break. We didn’t even get a last goodbye.”

— Laura Burns

Due to social distancing restrictions, Arcuri, who studied graphic design, and her fellow classmates also missed out on other potential professional opportunities. Their senior exhibition, an event where students get the chance to present their portfolio in front of professors and professionals in the industry, was instead held online this year. 

“At first I was disappointed, but I realized there were worse things going on than not having the show,” Arcuri said. 

After commuting to school for the majority of her college career, the FIT grad had hopes of moving to Brooklyn once she started her full-time job. Those plans have now been stalled as well. 

The Holbrook resident said if she can’t secure a full-time position with the agency, she’ll look for other options in the short term.  Freelancing and contract work could be a possibility, given a potential business climate where there is more work done remotely. 

At her internship, presentations and meetings with clients are done through Zoom and they can send most of the things they’re working on via email. 

“In graphic design we do most of our work on a computer or on our laptops, so it wouldn’t be too bad if I worked from home,” Arcuri said. “Though if I had a choice I’d prefer to be in a studio.”

She reiterated that many college grads are a bit scared about their own futures.  

“Some companies and businesses might not come back the same, a lot of them have taken a big hit and that will affect us,” Arcuri said.

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As Election Day rapidly approaches, we have been busy at TBR News Media interviewing candidates for our 2018 election preview issue coming out Nov. 1. In grilling politicians on everything from taxes and education to women’s rights, there has been some striking presumptions made on a topic not directly raised, but one we feel can no longer be ignored.

There have been repeated statements made by incumbents and challengers alike about millennials and their desired future on Long Island that are misguided at best and blatantly wrong at worst.

Millennials, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, is a term for Americans born between 1982 and 2000. The oldest members of this population are turning 36 this year. No longer youths or young adults needing guidance, but full-time adult employees in your office and local businesses building their careers and families.

It’s inaccurate to say mid-30-somethings on Long Island aren’t at all interested in owning their own suburban home complete with the idealistic white-picket fence to raise a family in, just like the one many of us grew up in, as is regularly asserted by many candidates. It is not a question of desire, but of ability. Spending more than $450,000 on average for a house with an additional $10,000 or more per year in property taxes — according to a report released by property database ATTOM Data Solutions in 2017 — is simply not in the cards for many of this generation. Oh, and we’re well aware those property taxes will only continue to increase.

Politicians are quick to talk about how transit-oriented hubs will reduce the need for cars, as millennials like walkable communities and prefer to use public transportation. Walkable communities are great, but millennials, like every other generation, want to be able to afford to buy nice, new cars.

The 2016 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, found roughly 80 percent of Suffolk residents commute to work alone via car, truck or van, and an additional 8 percent carpool. Having and owning a car is necessary to get to and from work, grocery stores or visit friends. It’s also another added expense for a generation saddled with crippling student debt.

Another oft-repeated sentiment is this generation isn’t as interested in having and raising children or are doing so later in life. A middle-income, married couple should expect to spend more than $280,000 to raise a child born in 2015, with projected inflation factored in, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a lot to consider in an area with a high cost of living and higher taxes, when the average worker’s wages are holding around the levels reached back in 1970, according to the Pew Research Center. Simply put, wages haven’t kept up.

These are real issues to those living on Long Island, millennials or not, cutting across all age groups. What we need are politicians in office who will make policies aimed at tackling these problems to improve our quality of life and keep the hope of the American Dream alive on Long Island. What we don’t need are more presumptions about people’s wants and desires.

Signing off, not just a millenial, but a multigenerational staff.

Dan Graziosi

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in 2017 there were more than 550,000 homeless in the country. Three alumni from Ward Melville and Commack high schools have asked a simple question: How many are stuck that way simply because nobody can see their résumés?

“You never really know why someone became homeless,” said Dan Graziosi, 22, a Ward Melville graduate. He is chief executive officer of Lazarus Rising, a nonprofit created in 2015 that helps homeless people write their résumés and get ready for job interviews. 

“A lot of the people don’t necessarily see the skills that they themselves have, and sometimes showing this person that they have value is almost more important than making a résumé for them,” Graziosi said.

Matthew Sobel

Co-founders of Lazarus Rising, Ward Melville alum Matthew Sobel, 23, and Commack alum Matthew Rojas, 23, gave birth to the organization wondering, as sophomores at the University of Delaware, that if creating a résumé for them was difficult — two people who considered themselves privileged — then how tough would it be for a person without access to resources such as a computer?

“There’s a really unfortunate number of people who are experiencing homelessness,” Rojas said. “While some are unfortunately addicts, a lot of them don’t have basic things like a printer, Microsoft Word or they just haven’t had an interview in a long time.”

As they first walked into a Delaware homeless shelter in 2014, just a block away from their freshman dorm, the two did not have much in the way of community service experience. Yet at the shelter they met a man named Jeff, that while he had fallen on hard times since the 2008 recession, he also had years of experience managing more than 20 people at a warehouse. The only problem was his résumé was five pages of a single-spaced biography rather than the commonly accepted single page bulleting a person’s most applicable skills.

“It kind of took our breath away knowing that an employer is throwing that right out the window,” Sobel said. “It’s not Jeff’s fault — he just didn’t know what standards there are in résumés.”

In 2015 Sobel, Rojas, Graziosi, along with several other friends and compatriots, incorporated their talents into the non-profit Lazarus Rising, all while they were still undergrads. 

Matthew Rojas

“There is a subset of the homeless population that have the skills to be an amazing employee, but they simply lack the skills that we take for granted like being able to write a résumé,” Sobel said. “We all realized we came from super-fortunate situations, being from where we came from and what schools we came from. I came into college with minimal community service. It’s one of those experiences you really can’t understand until you do it.”

Lazarus Rising has grown to host more than 200 volunteers offering their services either in school or during their free time. They have college chapters at Binghamton University, University of Delaware, University of Maryland and the University of Pittsburgh and professional chapters in New York City and Philadelphia. Graziosi estimates that the organization has aided more than 300 homeless participants.

Volunteers for Lazarus Rising often spend approximately one hour with a homeless person working on his or her résumé. They then spend more time after completing mock interviews or even help the person navigate applying for jobs online.

Rojas said that it is one of the greatest satisfactions of his life having helped these people get back on their feet. “It’s a feeling that what I’m doing actually makes a difference,” he said.

Meanwhile the group hopes to expand its reach in New York state and eventually Long Island, most likely through local colleges like Stony Brook University.

All three alumni are out of college and have either found jobs or starting ones, but that has not stopped any of them from being active in the organization. While Graziosi will soon be taking on a job as a technology consultant for Ernst & Young, a professional services organization, he still plans to run as the nonprofit’s CEO into the foreseeable future.

Graziosi’s mother Sheila, a Setauket resident, said what her son and his friends have been able to accomplish has not only changed their lives, but the lives of many homeless.

“He’s amazing — I’m just so proud of him,” Graziosi’s mother said of her son. “He’s really getting so much out of it.” 

Lazarus Rising is looking for more volunteers. For more information about volunteer opportunities or to donate to Lazarus Rising, visit lazarusrising.org.

Cutting costs, growing local economy, combatting climate change, modernizing transportation among Romaine’s goals for ‘18

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine at his state of the town address April 3. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is nothing if not confident about the future of the town he oversees.

Brookhaven Town’s leader delivered his annual state of the town address at Town Hall April 3 in which he touted its financial footing while also looking toward the future.

“The state of Brookhaven Town is good and getting better,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven Town, though not perfect, is still a town full of promise and hope. It is up to all of us who live here to help realize that promise.”

“Brookhaven Town, though not perfect, is still a town full of promise and hope. It is up to all of us who live here to help realize that promise.”

—Ed Romaine

Brookhaven has a structurally balanced budget for the current fiscal year that stays within the state mandated tax levy increase cap, in addition to maintaining its AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s financial services company. Romaine detailed a few cost-saving measures he said he’d like to accomplish going forward, including more sharing of services amongst other municipalities as a way to streamline government and save taxpayer money.

“Sharing resources and services to reduce the size, scope and cost of government is one of the best ways to control and reduce expenses,” he said, adding the town remains in the running for a shared services grant from New York state that, if selected, would add $20 million to Brookhaven’s effort. “We must continue to closely monitor our capital and operating expenses. Our residents cannot pay more in taxes. Too many Long Islanders are leaving.”

He said growing the local economy through additional jobs was another priority for him and the town going forward. Romaine said he still hopes Brookhaven will be selected as the second national headquarters for Amazon, which he said could bring in about 50,000 jobs to the town. He also praised the work of the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, an arm of municipalities dedicated to funding projects that will stimulate job creation and economic growth.

“The IDA closed on 20 projects that will result in $435 million of private investment and the creation of 4,050 permanent or construction jobs,” the supervisor said. “In addition, the IDA has 13 approved projects that have or are about to close in 2018, with the potential for another $440 million of private investment into our town, creating or retaining another 1,000 jobs.”

Romaine detailed several “green” initiatives already underway or on the horizon in 2018, noting the real threat to Brookhaven posed by climate change and sea level rise.

“With the largest coastline of any town in New York state, the Town of Brookhaven knows full well that global climate change and sea level rise is real and poses significant challenges in the decades ahead.”

— Ed Romaine

“With the largest coastline of any town in New York state, the Town of Brookhaven knows full well that global climate change and sea level rise is real and poses significant challenges in the decades ahead,” he said.

He said the town has adopted a practice of “strategic retreat” from commercial and residential development in low lying areas to allow nature to reclaim wetlands. He called land use and zoning among the most important powers a town government possesses. He also pointed to the imminent closure of Brookhaven’s landfill as a wakeup call in need of attention in the coming years. He said the town is ready to work with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and other towns to formulate a regional plan for solid waste disposal.

The supervisor also made an impassioned call for updates to the Long Island Rail Road, including electrification of the Port Jefferson line east beyond the Huntington station, adding he co-authored a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority asking for just that with Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

“It is time for a better transportation system, one based on 21st century innovation, not 19th century technology,” Romaine said.