James Jordan Recap – Change is coming on Maglev

The Biden administration has plans to improve our rail system and I am convinced they will. But because we are a very big country, we need to do better than European rail systems, and we can. Maglev is a system that will be less expensive to build, less expensive to power and faster than anything they have built in Europe. This is exciting technology that the Japanese Rail company copied from our scientists and incorporated into their Maglev version.

It is a brave new world of ground transportation. James Jordan, Maglev advocate and fellow co-author of Maglev America will be our speaker on March 19th. Join us on Zoom for an interesting discussion, and read more about Maglev technology here.

Mr Boomgarten recap

On March 5, St. Joseph’s College President Donald Boomgaarden, Ph.D., spoke at the LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting to discuss the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the educational system. Dr. Boomgaarden said the pandemic has had a significant impact on universities over the past year — not just on students and faculty, but on administrators. During a recent meeting with Catholic university administrators in New York, he learned of the passing of Dr. Dennis DePerro, the president of St. Bonaventure University, from COVID-19.

Around the same time last year, Dr. Boomgarden learned that a COVID case was confirmed at the college’s Brooklyn campus. As a precaution, he ordered both campuses to be shut down during spring break and then made a determination whether to allow students to return to campus. “Soon, it was clear we were not coming back,” he said. “We had to shift to a new modality.”

St. Joseph’s had already offered online learning, with 27 courses being fully offered online. By the start of t he fall semester, 70% of classes were via remote learning, and 30% on campus; those classes were labs and freshman classes to help them get acclimated to the campus. Dr. Boomgaarden taught his American Roots Music class once a week online, which was a different experience for him. It also gave him a chance to see what the students and faculty are experiencing.

“My experience is similar to that of other professors and students,” Dr. Boomgaarden said. “It’s different from teaching from behind the podium.” He also said that hybrid and remote learning will play a greater role in how students are being taught. “Across the U.S., college faculty are being forced to teach remotely,” he said. “Some of them initially resisted the idea, but now they found it easy to work with.”

The biggest challenge, however, was how the medical students could continue their lab work during the pandemic. To solve the problem, Dr. Boomgaarden said, the school reopened the lab rooms and installed partitions at each station. “We’ve continued to teach many labs on the ground, so we haven’t shifted those important classes into remote modalities,” he said.

Unlike other colleges and universities on Long Island, St. Joseph’s does not rely on revenues from dormitories or dining halls, but it had been able to stay financially afloat during the pandemic, with no layoffs or furloughs of its full-time employees. Meanwhile, enrollment numbers started to improve and may be higher than in 2019. 

He recalled being at Loyola New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit; the university administrators were unsure if or when they were able to recover, so, in a panic, they started laying off faculty and staff, but when the city recovered and the campus reopened, the faculty returned “demoralized and unprepared,” he said.

Dr. Boomgaarden said he recognized how the pandemic affected students’ mental health and well-being. He announced that, starting in the Fall 2022 semester, the college will launch a Program in Social Work. The program will prepare students for jobs as mental health consultants and help meet a rising demand in mental health services.

To help students in need, Dr. Boomgaarden announced the formation of a COVID-19 relief fund. This is for students who are having difficulty paying tuition or who are facing food insecurity. He said he has had students telling him that they cannot attend class next week because of their job. A majority of students, mostly those in the Brooklyn campus, are first-generation students. “They don’t come from wealthy families,” he said. 

He said the community has been vey generous, providing students with devices and WiFi connectivity so they can keep up with their online classes. “They didn’t have the problem of how to use the technology,” he said. “They just didn’t have the machines.” 

When asked about the concept of free education for college students, Dr. Boomgaarden said “there’s certainly merit” in that, but issues have to be addressed, such as who will pay for it, how much will it cost and if the students will receive a quality education. He pointed out that, during the pandemic, the private schools seemed to do a better job in educating the students, while the pandemic “showed limitations” of free education. “Education is not cheap,” he said, adding that the concept of free education needs to be “grounded in reality.”

Dr. Boomgaarden said St. Joseph’s is the least expensive private university on Long Island and New York City. The school also offers special discounts on tuition for students, which makes the pricing “comparable” to public city and state universities. He pointed out that the Excelsior scholarship program that Governor Cuomo began only applies to state schools, which he called “a huge mistake” and wondered why the program couldn’t be applied to private schools. “Private schools are a huge generator of financial improvement and a tremendous resource for the state of New York.”

A question was raised about the “deficits” students will face regarding learning. Dr. Boomgaarden said that he has confidence in these students, in that they will have the resilience to overcome the way classes are taught. He added that “one of our primary duties” as instructors is to keep students engaged during the learning process. 

The Significance Of Black History Month

I never thought much about that very specific body of knowledge. This is an important and significant segment of our population.

When programs about Black History started I was curious and began to listen. What I learned is that the black history is very rich and varied. In terms of music, science, art and literature It is at least as rich as any ethnic group that ever set foot on this continent. When you consider that the black presence goes back four hundred years, it stands to reason that their story is so interwoven with the entire American experience.

But that is only half the story. There is an equal benefit to the rest of America. It is incumbent on all of us to know our own heritage as well as the story of the many other ethic contributors. Knowledge of each other is important if we are ever going to respect each other.

We all owe a great debt to each culture that made us the intellectually and culturally powerhouse that is America.

Black history is important to the self image of our black brothers and sisters. It is a story that gives them a firm footing to participate in the politics and economy of this great country
But part of their gift to America accrues to the rest of us. Let us rejoice in recognizing black America and thank them.

Ernie Fazio

Ryan Madden recap

Click here for a link to an an upcoming forum on this topic
Here is a list of resources provided by the speaker
The speaker can be reached at 877-235-6537 or rmadden@lipc.org
https://www.nyapp.org/
Click here for more information.
This link was sent about information related to the Isias storm.

On February 19, Ryan Madden, Sustainability Organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC), joined LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) to discuss “Reimagining LIPA and The Municipalization of Power.”
Mr. Madden discussed how LIPC was an integral part of passing the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019 which will help to ensure the New York economy will end its reliance on fossil fuels. He also explained why power should be controlled by local municipalities. Public power will be more efficient, save money, and result in greater customer
satisfaction. There would no longer be tens of millions of dollars being paid to PSEG management. The municipalization would also allow LIPA to receive federal government funding such as FEMA grants.

After Tropical Storm Isaias hit Long Island, LIPA launched an investigation into PSEG in an attempt to uncover errors that were made. Mr. Madden said there is now distrust and dissatisfaction with PSEG because of the failures and the hiding of information that occurred during the storm. LIPA understands that a change needs to be made. He said, either LIPA will
negotiate new terms with PSEG, or LIPA will bring everything in-house and municipalization will occur. The LIPA Board of Trustees are responsible for making the decision. If municipalization does occur, the line workers from PSEG will still continue to do their job, and they will not be
laid off. The line workers would be paying community members and have more of a say in policy.

The municipalization of power would also give LIPA the opportunity to move towards more sustainable power sources, according to Mr. Madden. By 2040, Long Island must have 100% renewable energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines. In addition, LIPA will be legally required to move away from fossil fuels. He also said there is a possibility that the Peaker Plants will be decommissioned in order to create space for power storage sites. Plans are underway for the purchase of a power wind facility, possibly funded by private investment, and ratepayer fees.

The municipalization of power would not mean that LIPA would fully take over, Mr. Madden explained. LIPA would take over the management grid but not the generation of power, (LIPA already owns power lines, poles, and distribution.) The PSEG union would carry over to the new New York system.

While considering this transition, there has been research into places around the United States where public power is being used. California has transitioned to a fully municipalized power infrastructure. In New York, there are villages that have publicly operated power. Some of these
villages include Greenport, Rockville Centre, and Freeport, all of which have reported a good record in cost and reliability for many decades.

The catastrophic snow, wind, and ice that occurred in Texas was alarming to many. Mr. Madden said failure in Texas was due to the lack of supply to meet the incredibly large demand. The grid operator failed to add the supply that was needed. This is an example of why it is important to
have a transparent plan with stakeholders and a plan for emergency response, he said.

Citizens can advocate for this change by calling the Governor Cuomo hotline at 866-961-4293 or signing the Reimagine LIPA statement HERE.

President’s Day Musings

President’s Day Is a consolidation of Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthday. Recently it has become a recognition of the services of all presidents. That was a a noble thought but a misguided one.

Washington and Lincoln made major contributions to the creation and later to the continued existence of this magnificent experiment.

When we break free of this present pandemic and subsequent economic setback we have suffered, we will be back on this ever-imperfect quest of creating a “more perfect union.”

Having the privilege of living in this great country, I have memories oh the administrations of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, GW Bush, Barak Obama, and Donald J. Trump.

Among that group there were a few giants but none of them came close to the legacy of Washington and Lincoln Here’s why these two extraordinary presidents deserve our devotion.

Washington was in a unique position. He had the option to serve as king with no such notion of terms. Instead, he chose to serve two elected terms as president and then he retired to his farm. Powerful people rarely walk away from a position of power, but those choices set the example for other presidents that followed him. The two-term legacy lasted until Franklin Roosevelt made the case for not “changing horses in midstream.” Truman corrected that unwise change.

Lincoln was great for a different set of reasons and a change of opinion that led to the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln did not start out with a passion for the freeing of the slaves, but he was a man that was on a constant growth pattern. That growth brought him the friendship of Frederick Douglas and other intellectuals. When the Civil War was over, he declared “malice toward none and charity to all”. His determination saved the union and his attitude to the South was generous and forgiving. Had he lived to administer the “reconstruction” that followed that era would have been considerably different, but he did save the union.

Recently we have re-learned that democracy is incredibly fragile. We will last as a democratic nation only if we are careful as to who we elect to that powerful office. Never fail to vote.

Observations on the “Green New Deal”

The President has embarked on what is being called “The Green New Deal”. Here are some of the pluses and minuses that I see.
In my opinion that these changes were happening anyway because “green technologies” are getting less expensive and fossil fuels which are already losing the grip that they once had. Add to that fact, there are $20 billion in subsidies for coal, oil, and gas and we can see where this is going. Remove those subsidies and green power wins.

On the negative side of this equation is that there will be a major disruption in the employment of a relatively large number of workers if we move fast, but on the other hand moving slowly will not cut it. We are drowning in our air pollution.

We will need to allocate a lot of financial resources to training young people and retraining older people. Years ago, we had a furniture company in Northern Vermont called Ethan Allen. Ethan Allen picked up stakes and moved to China. We did have a retraining program, but it clearly was not enough. This time we need a plan that addresses our new needs specifically. We need a plan that foresees the disruption and precludes most of the fear of loss associated with the changes.

President Biden stated that we have an enormous fleet of vehicles. If we make all those replacement vehicles electric, as he has promised, we will employ one million people in that transition. Most of these vehicles are automobiles and postal delivery wagons. These vehicles usually travel less than 40 miles per day. Recharging these batteries overnight will enhance electric utilities plant use, making them more profitable. That in turn may create demand for modern power plants which will create even more jobs.

Then there is the rebirth of rail travel which will certainly employ electric trains, but unlike the European models America will not be using overhead feeders. These overhead feed systems are called catenaries. Catenaries are vulnerable to wear and pose hazards of their own. Our systems will have electric coils embedded in concrete guideways and will not be vulnerable to wind and weather. That technology is known as MAGLEV. If we commit to rebuilding our rail system with Maglev, the dream that was championed by Senator Moynihan will become a reality.

In addition, this high-speed rail system will preclude much of the use of airplanes for distances less than 1000 miles. Presently airplanes are responsible for 4% of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. That does not seem to be a lot, but high-altitude carbon pollution tends to remain in the stratosphere a long time.

It is not as if the President is dreaming of a “Brave New World’, we are there. We are at the precipice. There is nothing in this essay for which the technology does not exist.
There is nothing left to the story but just to do it.

–Ernie Fazio

Mitch Palley Recap

On February 5, Mitch Pally, Long Island Builders Institute CEO, discussed the urgency of redeveloping underutilized shopping centers on Long Island during the LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting. The transformation of these shopping centers would focus specifically on revamping existing office and retail complexes and turning them into residential units. 

Mr. Pally said the demographics of Long Island are changing, with more people living in single-family households than ever before. Many of those people who want apartments are either unmarried, young people, or single parents. As a result, demand for rental apartments will outpace supply. 

When embarking on a project this large, many wonder how much will it cost and what obstacles are going to be thrown their way, Mr. Pally said the cost of development is seemingly at the forefront of the builders’ minds as the cost of land is at an all-time high. Lee Silberman, CEO of Suffolk County Habitat for Humanity, pointed out many Long Islanders struggle to live comfortably while maintaining economic stability. Therefore, redeveloping underutilized centers would provide vast amounts of living space that will benefit the community. 

When remodeling these centers, it is critical to take into consideration the target market and the location, Mr. Pally said. Ultimately, these apartments would be mainly geared toward younger people who are seeking affordable housing with all amenities located nearby. In this particular instance, the apartments are going to be located within walking distance of stores. “If you need your car to get a bottle of milk, we haven’t accomplished anything,” he said. If the development is located near a main corridor, there will most definitely be a bus route in place. While the bus system may require some renovation, officials are willing to undergo these changes to amplify public transportation in hopes of it being an integral part of the new housing units. 

According to Mr. Pally, building codes and regulations sometimes discourage developers from building affordable housing. Building officials in many towns say it’s the zoning laws. These vacant properties at the moment are zoned as retail or offices, “so we have to change the zoning either individually by each property or collectively across-the-board to allow this to happen,” he said. “That is one of the great impediments to making this happen.” 

Another issue that Mr. Pally addressed was how to build affordable housing in the most environmentally friendly way. He said that energy efficiency is an integral part of all of this, and the ability to power more of these types of projects with solar energy is becoming more common because it’s more cost-effective. Additionally, PSE&G said it is starting to work on solar energy, but it would take a while for people to integrate it and get used to it. “Evidently it’s much easier to convert when you have the density available to do it,” he said. “It’s much easier to put solar panels on an apartment complex that has 400 units than it is to go house to house, so you’ll see more of that in the coming years.”

Transforming empty office and retail spaces into residential units has been tremendously beneficial in other parts of the country, Mr. Pally said, so there is no reason why it can’t work on Long Island. “We’re not saying take over the entire shopping center, but take over portions of it and put residential apartments there in that regard,” he said. “It is good for the environment. It is good for the economy. It is good for the local community. It is good for the regional community. And it is good for the state of New York.”

Jerry Kremer and Anthony Figliola

On January 22, Jerry Kremer and Anthony Figliola of Empire Government Strategies (ESG) spoke at the LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting to discuss “Insights on Our Times.” 

Mr. Kremer discussed how the New York budget is completely dependent on federal assistance from Washington. According to Governor Cuomo, New York currently has a $12 billion deficit. However, the U.S. Senate majority leader is a New York native, which should help the state obtain more financial resources that will help close the budget gap. 

He also noted that New York State, especially New York City, was hit harder by the pandemic than other parts of the U.S. Over 250,000 residents fled New York last year due to both COVID and the state’s confiscatory tax structure. Many landlords have been forced to lower rent prices and precluded evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent.  

Mr. Figliola added that the COVID-19 pandemic placed an extreme financial strain on the state government at a cost of $9 billion and growing. For example, a new $5,000 return-to-work tax credit was given to small businesses and restaurants for each new employee they hired. The credit alone cost the state $50 million. 

Mr. Kremer explained that the state government has proposed a new budget that will help to counteract the financial crisis. Some of the examples include the legalization of marijuana for recreational use which is expected to produce $50 million in revenue. Online sports betting would certainly raise revenue, they said, but, due to some limitations, it is unclear how much money it would bring in. The state recently imposed a new tax on vacation homes, and on vacation rentals. An increase in income tax is also being proposed, but the amount is still unknown. 

Mr. Kremer also mentioned the proposed budget also includes spending $306 billion on infrastructure, $190 billion on transportation, $33 billion on economic development, and $100 million on downtown revitalization, as well as a two-year extension on the autonomous vehicle testing program. 

When asked about renewable energy sources, Mr. Kremer and Mr. Figliola said that the Governor is committed to using natural resources to run the state’s energy grid. This includes wind power and natural gas. 

Mr. Figliola also explained possible changes in healthcare standards in New York. The government plans to increase spending for telehealth visits, which, he said, are lowering the number of emergency room visits from 911 calls in New York. He also noted that Medicaid and Medicare systems are not efficiently run and place a huge financial burden on local governments.

MLK Birthday Remembrance

The long vision is what eventually prevails. We celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. for what he achieved in his lifetime, and more importantly what he saw as the future.
 “But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land”
The road has been rocky and there have been numerous setbacks along the way but there has been progress and there will be more progress in the future and more setbacks. The human condition is fragile, but in many ways resilient.
As a nation we suffered the pain and death of more than 600,000 of our people in the civil war. We then saw the assassination of a beloved president. Then there were the many sins of the reconstruction period, and a litany of other travesties directed toward the individual and the state. We survived all that. We will again.
Now we are suffering under the weight of an insurrectionist. A man who has lied to the American people constantly. A man who would rather see this nation torn asunder than to relinquish the trappings of power. But giving up the power that he holds will certainly happen.
Will the journey back to being the country we all love be short? I don’t think so, but I liken it to the wounded soldier when he comes back to a new normal. I’m thinking of Senator John McCain when he said he would never volunteer to go through the pain that he had suffered as a prisoner of war, but I know that, that experience made me a better man than I might otherwise have been. (not an exact quote).
Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who knew the danger that he faced every day. One of Doctor King’s brave disciples was John Lewis. Mr. Lewis was called the conscience of the Congress. These are the real heroes of this world and because they exist in every generation, our country will survive. “The road gets rougher, it’s lonelier and it’s tougher” (a line from an old Frank Sinatra song)
Because of the bravery of Reverend King and the many good examples of humanity we have, celebrate this day with gratitude.

Ernie Fazio