A Mitzvah for Christmas Christmas 2019

A Christmas Remembered- A Mitzvah for Christmas

When I was a teenager Butch and Frankie were my closest friends. They lived on the next street right behind my house. For about four Christmas’s the three of us would set up a tree selling lot. Butch’s uncle was a truck driver and would often be in Wallabout Market in the Bronx. Each year he would pick bundles of Christmas trees for us to sell.

Bill Steck had a candy store on the avenue across the street from the Long Island Railroad. Bill allowed us to run an extension cord to the adjacent lot so we could be there at night all lit up for business. We had an oil drum with the top cut out so we could have a fire to keep us warm.

We bought the trees for $5 per bundle, there were 5 trees in each bundle.There was usually one great looking tree which we could get $5. The remaining trees were less perfect but that is where we made our profit. If a tree was a “Charlie Brown” loser we’d cut off the branches and make wreaths

In the early afternoon on December 24th a man named Eddie from the other side of the tracks came looking for a tree. He looked for a while and quietly slipped away. Eddie had 4 children and he did not want to disappoint them by not having a tree.

We were all poor in that neighborhood but Eddie was a little more poor than most of us. He walked by our lot looking wistful and sure he was out of luck. He didn’t even stop.

“Hey Eddie. Come back in an hour we’ll have a tree for you” I shouted”Ok but I don’t have much money” “Don’t worry”

Butch and Frankie looked at me and asked what I had in mind.”We’ll build him a tree”

We got out the hand drill and started drilling holes in the stem of this pathetic looking tree. We had plenty of branches left over from our wreath making and when we stuffed that stem full of branches it was a great looking tree.When Eddie returned we brought forth the tree.”What do you think?””Looks great. How much?”How much ya got?”I only have 75 cents”


Eddie gave the money to Frankie. Frankie pressed the money back into Eddie’s hand and wished him a Merry ChristmasAt that point Eddie hurried home with his tree.

About a week after Christmas we saw Eddie on the streetI asked “How did the kids like the tree””Oh they thought it was great, but few days later the tree dried out and all the branches and the ornament wound up on the floor but it was great on Christmas morning, Thanks guys”

Ernie Fazio

Thanksgiving 2019

The theme of this holiday is never hard to identify. That is because we live in a country where there is so much for which to be thankful. But one day I heard someone say “you can’t trust anyone these days”. I could not disagree more. We trust other people all the time and with important stuff. Like our lives for example.

Earlier this year I was on a tour bus threading our way through mountain roads and following hairpin turns. The terrain was most unforgiving and if that bus driver was not as skillful as he was tragedy awaited around every turn. Why was I and the rest of the passengers trusting this operator when none of us ever met him before going on that trip?

There is an army of people we may never meet. They sit at consoles guiding pilots to land and take off in a safe manner. There are train engineers we trust to read the road signs and obey the railroad guidelines to get us to our destinations. These are not super human beings. They are well trained in their craft, but otherwise ordinary people

We trust because we must. Life is not possible without that precious element. We trust the airlines to safely reach their destination without incident. We trust our doctors to successfully complete operations and keep us healthy.

We trust our government to protect our rights, our property, and our freedoms. Do we always guarantee that we will be safe? That we will not be betrayed some criminal element? No, I’m afraid that is not possible. That is why we have police to help prevent crime and courts to help us redress our grievances when they do occur

We live in a country of approximately 330 million people. The vast majority of our citizens are unfettered, and unencumbered by restrictions on our movements. That’s because until you do something that requires closer scrutiny you are free.

The next time you see a cop, a service person, any public servant and all the good people who will be working as we enjoy our holidays, just give them a smile. It may very well make their day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

From the LIMBA staff

Norman Rockwell “Freedom From Want”

Labor Day 2019

Appreciating All Who Make Our Lives Possible

Sometimes I will observe a craftsman busy at his work and you can see the concentration written on his face. You can see it in his eyes and the furrows on his brow. When you see that level of focus you can bet he or she is dealing with a problem that is “not in the book”
As a practioners in any pursuit we operate from a body of knowledge that we gained from apprenticeships or formal studies. But there comes a time when all that we learned does not seem to answer the question at hand.
This will happen with auto mechanics, lawyers carpenters or doctors. No matter how any of us make our living there will come a time when we will have to make that leap of intuition, invention or risk in order to go forward. We probably do it more often than any of us give ourselves credit.
It is this belief in the working person that creates respect. Respect is one of those outward signs that validates us all. We all like it and we are rewarded for showing it.
The attitude toward labor in the early days of the industrialization was more like labor as a commodity. It was just another ingredient that you added to the formula. Capital, Labor and raw materials and at the end of the pipeline you got a finished product. That concept is no longer acceptable. The modern worker in the industrialized west wants more than that. Frankly I think he deserves more than that. Being part of an equitable labor market regardless of where we are in that mix, we all do better.
Workers who have decent working conditions, adequate compensation and good healthcare are the backbone of a functioning democracy. Only when we have the time and some energy left to participate in our communities do we prosper as truly enlightened society.
When I began this essay I lauded the efforts of all the contributors of this economic juggernaut we are all part of, but, if we do not foster equitable rewards to the people that put their shoulder to the wheel we lose our position in the world and we risk losing our hard won democracy.
Lastly we do have a disparity of wealth and that represents an enormous difference in the resources of our citizens. Is that a problem that we should mitigate? Yes it is. But it would not be as big an issue if the bottom rung of the economic ladder wasn’t so deeply sunk the mud. No person who works a 40 hour week should be living in a Kelvinater box under the expressway.
The best way to tip your hat to the hard working people of this country is to make sure that all that toil have a living wage.

This Labor Day let’s think about, and appreciate all of the people that work to make our lives possible. We salute you. Happy Labor Day

Ernie, Bill, Marguerite, and Ken

July 4th 2019

July 4th Message 2019 — Ernie Fazio

We are about to celebrate the founding of The United States. Think about what we chose to call ourselves. The United States? Really? Are we still united? Have we allowed ourselves to drift apart? Maybe we are now like an old marriage that has grown tired and unexciting.

Let me caution those among us that think the end is near. It isn’t! But the strength of our fabric is being tested. That is not new. We have had crisis before and serious divides that we eventually dealt with. We will again.

There was nothing in our history that was more divisive than our Civil War. After killing 600,000 of us we managed to repair that horrendous chapter of our existence and go on.

Think about the positives that we embrace. With 330 million people we live in relative peace with each other. I do not wish to present this country in a Pollyanna fashion because I realize as well as anybody else, this is not a perfect country. We are like the person who once asked, “Why is it I am always in a state of becoming? Why is it that I never am?” The person who stops growing is dead either physically or intellectually.

The country that stops growing is also dead. But in the same manner as the individual, this country has grown in fits and starts. We may well be in that phase, but that hiatus in our growth will end, and growth will continue.

When I refer to growth I am looking at the way we treat our people. How we devise policies that fosters world peace. Over my own lifetime I have seen an America that created peace and prosperity for us and trading partners (The Marshall Plan). I have seen a country that treated soldiers returning from WWII fairly by offering them what came to be known as the GI Bill. (In previous wars we stiffed the veterans after the wars were over and that goes back to the war for independence)

This nation’s founders knew from the beginning that we were not emerging in the world as a “finished product”. We still had slavery, women and poor people could not vote. We made those adjustments and many others.

The Constitution was created to form a more perfect union. We were not perfect at birth. We are not perfect now, but no one can deny that we came a long way. And no one can deny we have a long way to go. I promise you we will.

The journey is not over!

Memorial Day 2019

Memorial Day 2019A year ago or more I joined the American Legion. I should have joined long ago. The comradeship is great fun. I never had the harrowing experience of ever being in a battle zone, while many of these seasoned veterans saw some awful things in their tours of duty in uniform. In this group I feel a deep sense of patriotism and that love of country is contagious. What I do hear being discussed is the way they interact with the community. They enjoy the places where they live and appreciate their fellow citizens. Many of our fellow citizens will say “Thank you for your service” and I’m sure they appreciate it, but they don’t ask to be praised and the reason that they served was based on their love of country.There is a light hearted banter I enjoy hearing while sitting down among my fellow vets. One night I was mulling over what some of these people saw while serving in the military. Many are old and some are infirm but once upon a time they were young and virile warriors. As they taunt and tease each other you come to realize that they rarely talk about what they have seen.Perhaps they are just basking in the realization that what they fought for is here for their grandchildren to inherit. I may be making too much of this but there is a happiness about them despite the frailties of age that they deal with. The knees and shoulders that are no longer the painless springs that served them when they were young are not things you hear them complain about.We wish them all the best this Memorial DayErnie Fazio

Meeting Recap – Fire Island & National Parks Discussion

On April 26, Alexcy Romero, superintendent of Fire Island National Seashore (FINS), was the guest speaker for LIMBA. He talked about what FINS does and some of the sites that National Parks Service oversees.

A New York native, Superintendent Romero joined FINS in October 2018. He previously worked at the Public Health Sanitarium at the National Recreation Area. He also served as district manager at the Breezy Point District, assistant supervisor at Prince William Forest Park, supervisor and deputy supervisor at National Capital Parks East and supervisor at George Washington Memorial Parkway.

The National Parks Service is one of nine agencies within the U.S. Department of the Interior. On August 25, 1916, then-President Woodrow Wilson established the Organic Act, which called for the creation of the National Parks Service. Before that, in 1872, Yellowstone Park was established as the first national park.

Superintendent Romero said the purpose of the National Parks Service is to “promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations,” as stated in the Organic Act. Its park managers are dedicated to protecting the parks’ natural resources for this generation and for generations to come.

There are 481 national parks in the U.S., including Hawaii and the territories of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam. Some examples include Acadia National Park, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, Great Smoky Mountains, Stonewall Inn National Monument, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Antietam National Battlefield, Fort McHenry National Monument and Cesar Chavez National Monument.

Superintendent Romero discussed the characteristics of Fire Island. Stretching across 19,758 acres and surrounded by 15,000 acres of open water, Fire Island is home to 350 year-round residents and hosts 2.5 million visitors every year. It also has two marinas, two historic sites on the National Register and 26 campsites. This year, he said, Watch Hill Marina will offer “glamping” experiences for visitors, complete with European-style design and comfortable beds.

Nationwide, there are 307 million tourists who visit within 60 miles of a national park and spend $16.9 billion, according to Superintendent Romero. Additionally, FINS has created 218 jobs and collected $25 million in revenues from the parks’ visitors.
Among the projects FINS is working on, Superintendent Romero said, include working with the Army Corps of Engineers on replenishing the beaches along Fire Island up to Montauk Point and Moriches Inlet, preserving the Fire Island lighthouse and the William Floyd Estate, updating the permitting system regarding off-road vehicles, conducting a vulnerability study on the rising sea levels that includes looking at beach erosion and measuring the sea levels over the next 10 to 20 years, and working with the towns of Islip and Brookhaven in rezoning the dune district. When asked about the damage done by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Superintendent Romero said FINS is continually working on rebuilding the shorelines.

Thanksgiving Message 2018

I usually reflect on the universal nature of this holiday and that is worth noting, and of course, it is still its greatest asset. But let us appreciate the specific elements of our society. When you pass a hospital on your way to work think about the myriad skills employed within those walls that are helping our neighbors, friends, and sometimes our own families. Are we thankful that they serve?
Down the road you pass a police station and a fire department. They are there to help when the most painful and dire events happen in our lives. Shouldn’t we be thankful for them?
Then we pass a courthouse and a law firm within those walls we resolve injustices that are sometimes in our lives. Such as law firms filing suits against Flint Michigan for causing poison in the water supply or suing the tobacco industry for promoting products that were killing us.
Along the way you pass a school and you know our children are getting educated by dedicated teachers. The teachers that helped you create the self that you are. You remember the coach that helped you find the confidence that still serves you to this very day.
Then there are the commercial and industrial buildings along the way. The places where our parents, our neighbors, our friends, and we ourselves work to carve out a living. Where bright, ambitious business people are creating a future for themselves and the country.
Then there are our government structures that are based on documents that are like roadmaps to un-ending betterment. We began this audacious experiment we call the United States of America still sanctioning slavery, depriving women of the vote, and we limited the right to vote to the propertied class. I think the founders were well aware of the shortcomings. I quote these words from the preamble of the Constitution.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Unionestablish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Have we arrived at our destination? Not yet, but stay tuned we are a “GREAT COUNTRY” and we are always in the state of becoming.
When you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner and Uncle Charlie says something obnoxious, here is what you should say. “Pass the gravy, this is a great meal Happy Thanksgiving Uncle Charlie” (don’t forget to smile.)
Happy Thanksgiving – Ernie Fazio and the LIMBA team

“Don’t Thank Me For My Service” with Colonels Alan Vitters & Michael Canders


At Friday’s program Michael Canders and Alan G. Vitter gave us interesting insights into the military careers of two outstanding leaders. To be sure the experiences of each of them were different.

“Don’t Thank Me For My Service” was the theme of the meeting and they settled on that title for their presentation as a result of an article of that name appeared in the NYT written by Matt Richtel.

According to these now retired senior officers the phrase comes off as trite, and shallow. Perhaps we should be asking questions about the state of their being.

Colonel Vitters experience goes back to Vietnam. As a platoon Leader in the 82nd Airborne Division he saw the nitty gritty of war and experienced the terror of the moment as much as the enlisted personnel that he led. Vitters is the recipient of Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge.

When he returned to the U.S. he was selected to participate in the prestigious “Honor Guard” and had a significant role in the state funerals of Truman, Johnson and Hoover.

He knew he wanted to be an educator and eventually earned his PhD in management. As an assistant professor at St Joseph’s College he has an emphasis in helping veterans.

Colonel Canders had wartime experience in Iraq. Canders however never saw the close-up battles that have deeply affected others. Canders said that there was always the possibility of IED’s but that was a random chance.

Mike spoke about the sacrifice of the families. According to him he always felt that he was doing exactly what he wanted to do. The families were often in the dark and concerned about the safety of those family members in the military.Colonel Canders is now working as the Director of Aviation Studies at Farmingdale College.

There were in the audience that had some affiliation with veterans and some of them were veterans themselves, so there were many questions and comments.

Col. Vitters introduced the idea of reinstating the draft. Since there is no longer a draft we lose the opportunity to meet people from around the country. That may be contributing our differences. Both agreed that the burden military is borne by too few.

A question was asked about the effect of war on enlisted personnel vs officer. Colonel Vitters suggested that the effects of battle are more profoundly felt by the enlisted soldier that the officer, because the officers are schooled in the whole scope of the risks and resposibilyies of the field, whereas the enlisted soldier is only physical trained to perform and use his weapons

Rosemarie Kluepfel was there and she announced the giving away a house to a qualified veteran by Fairway.

Meeting Recap – District Attorney Tim Sini


Tim Sini spoke about what he has accomplished and what he is continuing to do as Suffolk County District Attorney. He was elected in November 2017 and took office the beginning of this year with a focus on internal reform. He said that meant getting rid of bad actors who did not serve the office properly. So far, Mr. Sini has made 220 personnel decisions; this included firings, reassignments, demotions and promotions.

In building up the DA’s office’s talent pool, Mr. Sini has hired experienced prosecutors as well as entry-level hires, whom he sends to training programs to prepare for their new roles.

As DA, he has added new units to the office: the Gang Unit, which seeks to investigate and prosecute gangs, including MS-13, and works with the U.S. Attorney General’s office; the Enhanced Prosecution Unit, in which they collect and disseminate evidence in order to prosecute the impact drivers of crime; and the Environmental Crimes Unit. Mr. Sini said the latter unit needed to be formed because the illegal dumping of solid waste and construction materials has gone unchecked for a very long time in Suffolk.

The purpose of the prosecutor, Mr. Sini said, is not to be an advocate, but to administer justice. When putting a case together, the DA’s office is obligated to share any and all evidence with the defense to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Under the Brady Rule, the prosecution is required to hand over any evidence to the defense that may benefit the defendant. The purpose is to make sure there is less liability to committing violations of discovery and to take away the role of gamesmanship because the goal is to distribute justice, not win the case. When the defendant is free, it is usually not because they are innocent, but because the prosecutor may have withheld evidence that would have benefitted the defense.

The three other areas the DA’s office has focuses on, according to Mr. Sini, are drugs, human trafficking and public integrity. His office is focusing on targeting drug dealers; for nonviolent drug dealers, his office would provide diversion therapy rather than prosecute them. In discussing human trafficking, the victims are either forced into the sex trade or placed into slave labor. He said these trafficking victims are either homeless or suffer from drug addiction and mental illness; those forced into prostitution will receive treatment instead of facing arrest, according to Mr. Sini. Since November 2017, his office has prosecuted 300 cases, compared to zero under the previous DA. Mr. Sini also said he is ridding the county government of corruption, in which taxpayers and business owners pay the price.

National Grid President John Bruckner


John Bruckner spoke about what National Grid is doing to provide better service for its customers.
In his presentation, Mr. Bruckner said that National Grid US has 4 million gas and electric customers and has 8,000 employees (4,000 of them work in downstate New York). In addition, New York businesses represent 60% of National Grid’s US presence.

National Grid is investing $3 billion between 2017 and 2019 to modernize and enhance the resiliency, reliability, safety and capacity of its natural gas system, which includes replacing 585 miles of aging gas pipelines. In addition, the utility currently has a new state-of-the-art gas control center on Long Island and two major liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in Holtsville and Greenpoint to meet the demand on peak winter days.

Mr. Bruckner discussed two major projects: the Rockaway Lateral and Newtown Creek. For the former, National Grid is looking to tap into the lateral off the Rockaways and deliver the gas to Long Island. That project is currently in its permitting stage and is awaiting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. For Newtown Creek, Mr. Bruckner said he is looking for deliver renewable energy sources, such as biogas, which can be produced at the Newtown Creek’s wastewater facility.

Other new facilities include a best-in-class gas control center located in Melville, a Consumer Advocacy Center in Brentwood and the MetroTech Sustainability Center. These new facilities, Mr. Bruckner said, are focused on safety, customer satisfaction and cost.

In 2016, National Grid launched its Neighborhood Expansion program, in which National Grid customers would get their neighbors to sign up with the utility and convert to gas. It started in East Hills and has since expanded to Dix Hills, Hampton Bays, East Islip and Stony Brook. In East Hills, 1,000 customers were connected, resulting in more than $1 million in energy savings.

Mr. Bruckner added that National Grid is taking part in New York’s 80×50 Challenge, in which the goal is to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% by the year 2050, and REV (Refining Energy Vision), another state initiative to make a “greener” economy by creating more renewable energy sources; the No. 1 issue concerning this initiative, Mr. Bruckner said, is affordability.

National Grid has also been involved in the community and the educational sector, according to Mr. Bruckner. Some of the schools and organizations in which National Grid is involved include Brooklyn Technical High School, Stony Brook University, Girls Inc., Energy Tech and the State University of New York.