Division of Public Affairs & Education
Some Staten Island Borough Hall staffers don’t survive the cut in new Oddo administration
STATEN ISLAND — Not every Borough Hall staffer has shared in GOP Borough President James Oddo’s “new day.”
Among the staffers who were let go as the Oddo administration came in on Jan. 1 included Nicholas Dmytryszyn, who had served as Borough Hall environmental engineer since 1990 and had been the point man on the Fresh Kills landfill and other key environmental issues for two borough presidents.
Also let go were longtime press secretary Patricia Wilks and her deputy, Paige Gunther. Chief of staff Joseph Sciortino and aide Samantha Smith also were not retained under the new regime.
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” said Oddo, who has been criticized for retaining too many holdover Borough Hall staffers, including Deputy Borough President Edward Burke.
Oddo said, “These are good people. It’s not done out of any vindictiveness. I’m putting together a staff that I’m comfortable with and that reflects my priorities.”
Oddo said it was “particularly painful” to let go of Dmytryszyn, who was the longest tenured of those to be laid off.
“I like Nick,” he said, “I respect Nick.”
But Oddo said that Dmytryszyn, who earned $116,000 a year, was hired at a time when the landfill was a top issue on the Island.
“There are more pressing needs that demand staff trained in those fields,” said Oddo, who has said that promoting health and wellness would be a top priority of his administration.
He said, “We have to reallocate resources to the priorities of Staten Island today.”
Reached by the Advance, Dmytryszyn, a Queens resident, declined to comment on his release or on his longtime Island career.
Ms. Wilks and Sciortino said they understood Oddo’s need to have his own staffers in place.
“He has his team, his vision,” said Sciortino. “There are no hard feelings at all. I’m looking forward to new opportunities.”
“He’s entitled to his own staff,” said Ms. Wilks, who said she spent four additional, unexpected years in the job thanks to the extension of term limits.
Oddo said he would also revamp the Borough Hall communications office, and give his new communications director, whom he has yet to announce, a role in honing as well as delivering the message.
“Not only to communicate what we’re doing,” he said, “but to be in the room to help us find what direction we want to go in.”
He also said that a number of Borough Hall workers with civil service or union protection remained on staff but might find themselves in new roles.
“I’m trying to figure out the lineup,” he said. “If you were a lead-off hitter for 20 years, that doesn’t mean you’re still going to be the guy or gal who grabs a bat first.”
Among those staffers who remain at Borough Hall are Diane Marciuliano, who was former Borough President James Molinaro’s education director; Joanne Nuzzo, who was special events coordinator; Robert McFeeley, a project manager who handles information technology, and aide Michael Petrides Jr., son of the late Board of Education representative, political guru and Petrides Educational Complex namesake Michael Petrides.
Among other changes, Borough Hall counsel John Zaccone resigned.
“I thought it was time to move on,” said Zaccone, who has returned to private practice. “The new borough president would want his own person.”
Zaccone was replaced as counsel by former state Supreme Court Justice John Fusco, a personal and political mentor of Oddo’s and a former Mid-Island city councilman.
A number of staffers have also retired, including Lorraine Witzak, a top assistant to Molinaro. She will be working with the former beep in his new lobbying and consulting job with Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Gilbin LLC.
Also retiring in late February will be Lee Covino, the longtime Borough Hall veterans affairs director. Others who have retired or are retiring include Borough Engineer Michael Nagy; budget director Sean McGovern, and Borough Hall aide Geraldine Del Bagno.
Division of Environmental Permits:
Don’t unleash dangers of liquefied natural gas
The Staten Island Advance is right to urge caution as the Department of Environmental Conservation considers regulations that would open up New York to liquefied natural gas. But that requires the agency first set aside misleading sound-bites, like those of Lisa King, quoted in the editorial as claiming DEC’s goal is simply to enable refueling stations for long-haul trucks.
In reality, the proposed regs would welcome an eventual onslaught of LNG storage and processing facilities of any size for fracked gas from Pennsylvania, and maybe even New York’s southern tier.
Those future facilities could be fueling stations, production plants hanging off of pipelines and gas wells, or massive import/export terminals dwarfing the deadly LNG facility on Staten Island that killed 40 people.
And contrary to proclamations about air quality, the proposed rules do nothing to require the recapture of methane routinely vented from storage tanks to keep them cold.
Citing only existing fire codes, the so-called regulations are a far cry from the “tough new standards” that the DEC boasts.
The department has a long way to go before unleashing this dangerous technology upon our state.
Division of Environmental Remediation:
Looking For Toxins At Ridgewood Site
FULL TEXT: State agencies will oversee an investigation slated to begin later this year regarding the extent of contamination at the former site of two knitting mills in Ridgewood, it was announced.
The Times Newsweekly received last Tuesday, Dec. 24, information from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regarding a “draft investigation work plan” currently being created for the former Philru Knitting Mills located inside neighboring one-story structures at 1614-1632 Madison St., between Myrtle and Wyckoff avenues.
Public comments on the plan are being accepted by the DEC through Friday, Jan. 10.
According to the DEC, the investigative work will be performed by 1614 Madison Partners LLC, under supervision by the agency and the state Health Department, as part of the Brownfields Cleanup Program, which offers incentives to property owners to clean up contaminated locations for reuse and redevelopment.
The goal of the investigation is to determine “the nature and extent of contamination in soil, surface water, groundwater and any other parts of the environment that may be affected,” as noted in DEC documents.
Reportedly, the site was first developed in 1914, with several small, one-story commercial buildings erected on the site. It was redeveloped in 1936 to include a post office and a gasoline garage which had an underground site.
By 1943, the two locations consisted of a knitting mill and a gasoline service station, which went out of business 14 years later. A second knitting mill was opened in the gas station’s place in 1957, and the dual mills remained in operation until 1988.
The knitting mill on the former gasoline station site was converted that year into an auto repair garage; the other mill was closed in 2006, it was noted.
Presently, both buildings—with the exception of a portion of the northern end of the lot—are vacant, according to the DEC.
Once the investigation is completed, the findings will be reviewed by the DEC in determining whether action is needed to clean up any contamination found on the site.
Further information on the draft investigation work plan may be viewed by the public through Jan. 10 at the Washington Irving branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, which is located at 360 Irving Ave. in Bushwick, about three blocks south of the site.
For project related questions, contact Larry Alden of the DEC by phone at 1-518-402-9767, by email to ljalden or by writing to him care of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Environmental Remediation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7016.
Site related health question may be sent to Mark Sergott of the New York State Department of Health, BEEI, Empire State Plaza-Corning Tower, Room 1787, Albany, NY 12237. Questions may also be sent by phone at 1-518-402-7860 or by email to BEEI.
Division of Environmental Permits
Public Input Period Ends for Rockaway Pipeline, Opponents Vow to Keep Fighting Project
With the public comment period over for a plan to install a natural gas pipeline underneath parts of Queens, including the Rockaways, opponents still have not abandoned their efforts to stop the controversial project.
Residents were given about two months, until early December, to sound off over the Rockaway Delivery Lateral Project and must now wait for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s final assessment of the project, followed by a vote by Congress. The $265 million project would, if approved by federal legislators, build a gas pipeline that runs through Gateway National Recreation Area, including Jacob Riis Park and Jamaica Bay, as well as install a gas metering and regulating station in two hangars at Floyd Bennett Field.
Defended by the two companies that want to bring the project to fruition – National Grid and Williams Transco – as necessary to address growing energy needs in New York City, opponents have said the project would disrupt the area waterways’ ecosystems and set a precedent allowing private, for-profit companies to lease public park land, among other concerns.
J.K. Canepa of the Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline said her group traveled to Albany Wednesday for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address to ensure their message of opposition stays relevant.
“We are concerned about natural gas as a contributor to climate change,” Canepa said. “Yes, it does burn relatively cleanly and puts out a small amount of carbon dioxide when compared to gas, oil or coal. But what it also puts out is methane.”
Williams and National Grid released an Environmental Impact Statement in October assessing how the 3.2-mile, 26-inch pipeline would impact parts of Queens and Brooklyn, which was subject to a public comment period through Dec. 9. Both companies have argued the proposal would make it easier to get natural gas to parts of the city in a safe way.
“We are investing heavily in our gas infrastructure to ensure reliability, safety, and to connect our customers to the energy they need to heat their homes and run their businesses in the most economic manner,” said Ken Daly, president, National Grid New York in a statement. “This project is critical to provide the additional clean economical natural gas supplies that our customers need; it supports the regional environmental goals, and it will help the local community in its ongoing rebuilding efforts.”
In response, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway) fired off a letter to Williams and National Grid pressuring them to preserve the environment of parts of Queens, including Jamaica Bay. Though he has not publicly supported or opposed the plan just yet, Goldfeder’s biggest argument revolved solely around sustainability.
“It’s not about being greedy. It’s about doing the best we can for Jamaica Bay,” he said. “The bay is an economic attraction for the community and we need to ensure we’re not hurting it, but making it better instead.”
Canepa said environmental safety was only one of the coalition’s several bullet points leading the opposition to the project and the group would spend the coming weeks
holding meetings to calculate the next plan of attack.
One of the coalition’s talking points has revolved around the readiness of New York to rely more heavily on renewable energy. A report published by Stanford University engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson and his colleagues argued the same point, arguing against natural gas and explaining how New York could become completely renewable by 2030 relying only on wind, water and sun without losing money.
“Natural gas is excluded for several reasons,” the report said. “The mining, transport, and use of conventional natural gas for electric power results in at least 60 to 80 times more carbon-equivalent emissions and air pollution mortality per unit electric power generated than does wind energy over a 100-year time frame. “
In his report, Jacobson argued the conversion would create more jobs than lost, since most energy would be from within the state. It would also create long-term energy price stability, since fuel costs would be reduced to zero, Jacobson said.
Cuomo Lays Out Plan for Sandy Recovery Money
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, detailing on Tuesday how New York will spend $17 billion in superstorm Sandy recovery money, vows to fix bridges, buttress the coastline, protect the city’s subway system and open a new college.
The governor—appearing with Vice President Joseph Biden at the state capitol—outlined a diverse mix of proposals ranging from helping struggling communities to training thousands of New Yorkers on how to handle emergencies. It was the governor’s broadest remarks on his plans to spend federal dollars given to Albany, part of a $60 billion package awarded to Sandy-devastated areas by the federal government.
“The new reality in New York is we are getting hit by 100-year storms every couple of years,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We have to wake up to that new reality by completely reimagining our state to be ready for any future disaster.”
Mr. Cuomo said the state would build 125 weather detectors across the state to provide accurate, timely information on minute-by-minute conditions. Large, inflatable plugs could cover entrances to the city’s subway system, costing about $5 billion. New York will replace or repair 104 bridges across the state, and another $257 million will bring tide gates and emergency generators to the city’s airports, including a flood wall at La Guardia. The state is proposing to spend $47 million on backup power for gas stations.
Mr. Cuomo’s most unorthodox idea may be the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and a new college, part of the SUNY system, to train students on responding to natural disasters and learning counterterrorism strategies. His administration says the college will involve law, public and international affairs, cyber-engineering and more. The governor also wants to train 100,000 New Yorkers on emergency response, providing them with kits.
Mr. Cuomo’s plan comes months after former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed spending $20 billion to make the city more resilient, ideas widely supported by new Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mr. Biden heaped praise on the governor, as Mr. Cuomo sat smiling.
“One of the things that impressed me the most, governor, is your foresight here and your ingenuity,” Mr. Biden said. “That is the kind of thinking we need from other governors. That is the kind of thinking we need around the country.”
Not everyone was thrilled at the plan. Some advocates of marginalized communities, like the Rockaways and poorer stretches of Staten Island, said they wanted a firmer commitment to rebuilding affordable housing and helping poor New Yorkers.
“All the ideas are great, but we can’t only discuss resiliency,” said Nathalie Alegre, a coordinator for the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding. “We’re eager to see and hear more from the Cuomo administration what it will do specifically to help the most vulnerable.”
Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, predicted the governor would face many challenges while putting the plan in place, including how to make technologies like inflatable plugs and sea walls actually work. She said the long-term costs associated with the proposed solutions could eventually trouble the government and taxpayers financially.
“What is the maintenance costs of these things once we build them? The maintenance money won’t come from the federal government,” she said. “…There is nothing particularly wrong with the things he announced today, but it doesn’t solve the whole problem.”
Many of the plan’s parts won initial praise. Eric Goldstein, an attorney with the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said using tidal wetlands to protect flood-prone coastal communities was a great strategy.
“These are exactly the kinds of safeguards we need as our primary lines of defense to protect lives and property in an era of increasingly unpredictable weather,” he said.