Thursday, March 1, 2018

March 2018

Friday March 30, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford and Tony Ernst and WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus) 

In the news tonight:  Connecticut considers reducing misdemeanor maximum sentence; Month-long strike at Hamden factory continues; New York budget negotiations could extend past holidays; Sag Harbor Cinema restoration gets planning board OK
WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports: 
The Connecticut General Assembly held a public hearing Wednesday on a bill supported by immigrant rights advocates and recommended by the Connecticut Sentencing Commission.  The bill would reduce the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor by one day, from a full year to 364 days.  

As it currently stands, a one-year misdemeanor sentence in Connecticut is classified as an “aggravated felony.” That, in turn, could alert federal officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to start deportation proceedings even though the offense an undocumented immigrant has committed could be very minor.   

Several other states have enacted the same reform, including Nevada, California, Washington, and Oregon. 
Striking workers at a Hamden factory are in the fourth week of a walkout. Supporters held another community rally Thursday afternoon. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there:
About two dozen community members and a few of the striking workers from Porcelen Specrail gathered at a busy intersection at rush hour, standing behind an enormous orange banner that read: Fair Contract Now.  The workers, who make an average of 14 dollars an hour, are striking for better wages and more affordable health coverage. 

Hector Zempoalteca, shop steward at one of the two factory locations, said workers used to get more overtime and also had very affordable health insurance. But he said the co-owner retired a few years ago, and current management made an offer the workers couldn’t accept. 
”The strike that we had is something that we had to because people were just fed up with the proposals and the negotiations and in a way to just show the company how we really feel – that we’re tired of what they were putting us through, and time to make a stand.” Chant: Stand up fight back!  

The workers are represented by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.   Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News 
Rick Karlin at the Albany Times-Union reports: 
New York’s legislature was scheduled to reconvene Friday morning to complete the $168-billion 2018-19 state budget, but negotiations could extend past the Easter and Passover holidays.   

Fights over a new fee on opioid sales, school safety issues, education requirements for yeshivas and the amount of taxes that should be extracted from a major health insurance sale remained some of the sticking points in efforts to finalize the budget. 

Brooklyn Democratic Senator Simcha Felder, who caucuses with Republicans, wants an exemption from upcoming state guidelines requiring subjects like math and science to be taught in Yeshivas in a way “substantially equivalent” to the public schools. 

The exemption was sharply opposed by most Assembly Democrats, who have ties to teachers’ unions and education groups.  Legislative leaders say they are close to agreement on the tax plan, which could include shifting income tax burden to a payroll tax and enabling tax-deductible charitable donations to healthcare and school funds. 
Vera Chinese for Newsday reports:  
The rebuild of fire-damaged Sag Harbor Cinema received village planning board approval Tuesday. When reconstructed, the theater will look exactly as it did, complete with the iconic neon sign that was damaged but salvaged from the December 2016 blaze.  

Plans call for rebuilding the first-floor footprint exactly with three hundred square feet added [to] the second floor and 1,200 square feet to the third. The ground level will include a cafe. The theater will be divided into two theaters with seating for about 330. The second floor will house a screening room. 

Project representatives say they hope to begin the estimated 18-month construction in May or June.The nonprofit Sag Harbor Partnership purchased the building for $8 million earlier this year, and needs to raise an additional $5 to $6 million to rebuild. 

The village board of historic preservation and architectural review must approve the project. A public hearing will be held April 12.
Thursday March 29, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers editors Trace Alford, Ramzi Babouder-Matta and Thomas Byrne)

In the news tonight:   Remington files bankruptcy as Sandy Hook ruling expected; Connecticut Democrats want re-vote on McDonald nomination; Southampton gets $1 million grant to raze, rebuild two eyesores; dispute over Thomas Jefferson statue at Hofstra University
Dave Altimari for the Hartford Courant reports: 
The bankruptcy filing by Remington Outdoor Inc. will force some of the victims’ families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre to seek approval from a bankruptcy judge to let their legal fight against the gunmaker go forward. Remington makes the rifle used in the 2012 school shooting.

 Remington will turn the company over to its creditors to now operate. The filing automatically “stays,” or stops, any legal action against the company until it emerges from bankruptcy.  The Sandy Hook families are one of eight pending litigations against Remington. A lawyer for one of the families says she does not expect the families’ case to be affected in any material way. 

But legal experts say beyond stopping litigation against the company, the filing raises the question of what the families could be awarded should they win a judgment against Remington.  Remington’s attorneys steadfastly argue that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects them from the families’ lawsuit. 
Jack Kramer for CT NewsJunkie reports: 
After 18 Republicans and one Democrat voted against elevating Justice Andrew McDonald to Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice on Tuesday, Democratic Senate leaders asked the senators to reconsider their votes.  

Democrats said the vote on McDonald is not final yet. They claim that after a vote has been taken, any senator on the prevailing side may move for reconsideration on the day of the vote or on the subsequent session day.  

Senate Republican President Len Fasano said that’s not going to happen. He said: “Both Republicans and Democrats voted against the governor’s nominee. The vote is done. I look forward to learning who Governor Malloy will nominate next.”  

McDonald, who would be the first openly gay chief justice of a supreme court if approved, will remain a Supreme Court justice. He has three more years remaining on his eight-year appointment. 
Denise Civiletti of Riverhead Local reports: 
Two vacant and dilapidated commercial buildings considered eyesores in Riverside will be demolished and replaced with new commercial buildings in hopes of encouraging more economic development.  

Governor Cuomo announced Tuesday that Southampton Town will receive a $1-million dollar grant to demolish and redevelop the long-empty diner and a kayaking business.  A 10,000-square-foot commercial building containing medical offices and workforce apartments will replace the former diner.  An outdoor kayaking recreation facility and restaurant will replace the former Peconic Paddler.   

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said: “This is exactly the kind of catalyst we’ve been looking for to spur economic development in the Riverside area.” 
Robert Brodsky for Newsday reports: 
Hofstra University students are debating whether or not a statue of Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, should stay on the Hempstead campus. Student organizers calling for the removal launched an online petition demanding Hofstra move the figure from the front of the student center. University junior Ja’Loni Owens posted the petition on about a week ago and received 704 signatures by Wednesday evening.  

Owens said students going to class or lunch should not be forced to pass a statue of a man who owned hundreds of slaves. He will lead a protest at the statue Friday at noon.  

A counter-petition created Tuesday received 418 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. It says Jefferson might have been flawed, but he helped establish American independence. 

A counter-protest is planned for Friday.  Hofstra said in statement: “Hofstra supports our students’ right to engage in peaceful demonstrations about issues that matter to them.”
Wednesday March 28, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Michael Zweig, Thomas Byrne, and WPKN Reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: plans unveiled for Bridgeport Live Nation Amphitheatre; breaking the “prison to deportation pipeline”; Watchdogs Call for Inclusion of “Database of Deals” in New York State Budget; East Hampton Town, companies sued over contaminated wells 
Spring of 2019 is the time frame given for the opening of the ambitious Harbor Yard Amphitheatre Project, which has yet to break ground at the site of the recently uprooted Bridgeport Bluefish Atlantic league Baseball Team. 

Earlier today at city hall, design plans for the outdoor concert venue were unveiled. Among those in attendance, Howard Saffan the principal of Harbor Yard Amphitheater
And what about the projects location? Currently the venue’s stage would be located in front of the metro north tracks and close to the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry. President of Live Nation Connecticut and Upstate New York Jim Koplik says that won’t be an issue

What Koplik means by “enclosed” is that a large tent will rise over the amphitheater covering most of the 5,000 plus seats. The city will receive a minimum rent of $150,000 or $3-per-ticket annually. 

The amphitheater will be located next to the Webster Bank Arena, another venue that has attracted such performers as Elton John, Bob Dylan and John Mayer.
A bill before the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee would help break what immigrant rights advocates call the “prison to deportation pipeline.” They spoke out at a press conference and at the hearing on Monday. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more.
House Bill 5543 would strengthen the state law known as the Trust Act, passed in 2013. It provides some protections for undocumented immigrants who are arrested by state or local authorities – many for very minor offenses – but federal agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, were still able to arrest many of them due to data sharing among various agencies and put those individuals into deportation proceedings.

Alok Bhatt, with the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, was at the hearing and explains what the bill would do: “It prohibits all those law enforcement and criminal justice agencies from detaining anyone on behalf of ICE unless ICE is able to present a federal judicial warrant, and it also prohibits notification to ICE regarding release status.

The updated TRUST Act also adds provisions to make state and local interactions with ICE more transparent. The Judiciary Committee has until April 4 to act on the bill.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
Rachel Silberstein writes in the Albany Times Union that in the home stretch of budget talks government reform groups are again urging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include a “database of deals” in the final budget package, due April 1. 

Ideally, the database would list all state economic development benefits, including grants, loans or tax abatements awarded to a particular business or organization. It would also include the cost to taxpayers of each job created, and create a uniform definition of what a “job” is across subsidy programs including full-time, part-time, permanent, and contract jobs, say good government groups. 

A May 2017 audit by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found that the state’s Empire State Development failed to meet more than half of the reporting requirements for tax credit and job creation programs, including independent evaluations of the efficacy of economic development programs, general overviews, and program-specific reports. 
Vera Chinese of Long Island Newsday reports:
Bottled water is being provided to residents of homes that have contaminated wells near the East Hampton Airport in New York.

The Town of East Hampton is providing the water and is taking other steps in response to a lawsuit by a homeowner that alleges the Town permitted local fire departments to drill at the airport, which is town property, using foam containing harmful chemicals which subsequently leached into the wells. Also included in the suit are several chemical manufacturers.

Daniel Osburn, an attorney representing the homeowner, said: “For years these residents have been drinking water laced with dangerous chemicals.” The suit, filed in State Supreme Court on Wednesday, alleges that contaminates have been detected in 118 of 246 wells tested and is seeking immediate hook-up to water filtration systems and connection to a municipal water source.  

The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that exposure to the foam chemicals could be harmful to the immune system, affect fetal health and development, and cause liver damage, cancer, and thyroid problems.

An attorney for the Town of East Hampton declined comment due to the pending litigation, however, Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc acknowledges that this is a priority issue. 
Tuesday March 27, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Lee Yuen Lew, Gretchen Swanson, Michael Zweig, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Immigrant Rights Advocates Seek Expansion of Connecticut’s Trust Act; Aetna Ranks Healthiest Areas in Connecticut; New York State Advocates Push for More Comprehensive Bail Reform; Suffolk Town Code Would Clarify Limit on Helicopters in Residential Districts.
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
The Connecticut Trust Act, which prohibits law enforcement from honoring certain immigration detainers was approved in 2014.  Yesterday, a group of immigrant rights organizations want to see it expanded.

Under the current act, law enforcement and the Department of Correction should not be honoring requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain someone.
However, loopholes and information-sharing have facilitated detection by federal agents of these individuals.

Under the new proposal any civil immigration detainer would be ignored unless it’s accompanied by a judicial warrant. The Judiciary Committee heard testimony yesterday.

The Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (or CIRA) presented information that showed  321 ICE detainer requests issued in Connecticut in 2017. Of those, 130 were sent to Connecticut courthouses. An estimated 40 of the 52 individuals were improperly detained.

According to CIRA, the courthouses with the highest ICE arrest rates are Waterbury, Hartford, and Danbury.
Kenneth Gosselin reporting for the Hartford Courant writes:
Insurance giant Aetna, based in Hartford, is evolving into a health company after its merger with CVS Health Corp., and has joined with U.S. News & World Report to create a ranking of the healthiest communities in the country. 

The ranking of 500 metro areas and counties nationally could provide a road map for communities seeking to improve the health of their residents, Aetna President Karen Lynch said.  The communities were ranked in such areas as community vitality, economy, education, environment, food and nutrition, population health, housing, and public safety.

The initiative dovetails with the vision for CVS Health Corp’s $69 billion
acquisition of Aetna, expected to be completed later this year. A key component of the combination is creating expanded health clinics in CVS storefront pharmacies, expanded versions of CVS’s “Minute Clinics,” walk-in medical clinics operating in more than 1,000 pharmacies.
Andrea Sears reports from Albany for New York Public News Service:
Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a bill April 1, to end New York’s current cash-bail system for people charged with misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies. Critics say his plan is fundamentally flawed; it would force people charged with crimes to pay for electronic monitoring and other services while awaiting trial. 

This way private companies continue profiting off a system that disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color—a practice of wealth-based detention. Sixty-three percent of people in New York State jails have not been convicted of a crime, but cannot afford bail for release.

Kesi Foster of Make the Road New York said: "People who have not gone to trial yet should be considered and presumed innocent. There's punishment in the proposal." He said the governor wants to also increase the number of misdemeanors with no pretrial release, meaning more people could be held without possibility of release before trial. 
Kelly Zegers writing for The Suffolk Times reports:
The Southold Town Board may consider additions to town code to make it clear that helicopter landings are not permitted in residential districts.

Councilman Bob Ghosio, Town Board liaison to the helicopter noise steering committee, said: ”We found according to our zoning code it wasn’t permitted to begin with.”

Drafted language follows the reasoning that if landing helicopters in residential zones If it’s not an allowed use in the code, it’s not an allowed use at all,” town attorney Bill Duffy said. The helicopter committee also brought up the potential for problems with seaplanes. 

Mr. Ghosio said: “Some real estate agents are advertising that seaplanes could be used to access waterfront homes” Councilwoman Jill Doherty said she’d like to make sure the code specifies exceptions for landings currently allowed at helicopter pads in places under the town’s jurisdiction, such as Robins Island. 
Monday March 26, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN reporters Melinda Tuhus and Tony Ernst and WPKN editors Lee Yuen Lew and Neil Tolhurst)

In the news tonight: hundreds wait to testify on gun accessories, adding to hundreds on line; March For Our Lives marchers gather in Shelton, CT; Republican Representative Zeldin votes agains a $1.3 trillion spending bill; one thousand March For Our Lives in Sag Harbor, Long Island
Supporters and opponents of two bills that would change what types of gun accessories or firearm parts are available in Connecticut made their cases Friday during a Judiciary Committee public hearing. Hundreds signed up to testify Friday and more than 350 people submitted testimony online. 

One bill would ban bump stocks and one would ban so-called ghost guns. “Ghost guns” are homemade guns or parts that can be made into a gun. Bump stocks and other rapid enhancement devices became a target of gun control advocates following the Las Vegas shooting. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy submitted a written statement in support of the two bills. 

NRA argued the ghost gun bill would end the centuries old practice of manufacturing firearms for personal use by imposing requirements that far exceed those in federal law.

The Judiciary Committee has until April 4 to send the bills to the House. 
About 600 people attended a March for Our Lives rally in Shelton, Connecticut on Saturday, one of several cities and towns in the state holding events in solidarity with the huge rally in Washington, D.C., organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida, massacre on February 14th. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there and has this report:
Almost all the speakers were students. Tyler Monroe, a senior at Shelton High School, read a poem that included these lines:

“I am afraid to go to school every day because I over-analyze the good-byes I say to my mother every morning. And as I walk up to the big brick building, I think over the lines I said in my mind, wondering if they were worthy of the last words she ever heard me speak. Weapons do not belong in a building where the sharpest things should be students’ minds.” (applause)

Other students enumerated the number of school shootings since the one that occurred in 2012 in nearby Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 first graders and six educators, after which Congress took no action whatsoever to rein in gun violence. High schoolers in Connecticut and around the country vow this time will be different. They urged everyone old enough to register and vote out those in the pocket of the NRA, the National Rifle Association.
Denise Civiletti of Riverhead Local reported:
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) voted against the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress to fund the government through the Sept. 30 end of fiscal year 2018. 

The First District congressman was one of 90 House Republicans who refused to support the omnibus bill, which was released late Wednesday with a noon vote on Thursday, allowing lawmakers very little time to digest the 2,232-page bill. The bill passed in the House (256-167) with the support of 145 Republicans. It passed the Senate 65-32. 

The bill has “many positive elements,” Zeldin acknowledged, but “…it is also filled with unnecessary spending.”

 Zeldin said: “Digging deeper, it’s clear who the biggest losers are: our children, who continue to get saddled with more and more crushing levels of debt, to the tune of $64,000 per person and no end in sight. I won’t ransom away our children’s future and kick the can to them.” 
Beth Young at East End and WPKN News report:
More than a thousand people joined the March for Our Lives in Sag Harbor Saturday and listened to a call for stricter federal gun laws.

The event was organized by Sinead Murray, a Pierson High School senior: “As students, we fear for our lives every day walking into school. People aren’t listening to young people, because we aren’t registered and we don’t vote. There’s a table over there to register to vote. They won’t hear us until we make ourselves heard.” 

Speakers focused on voter registration and replacing eastern Long Island's Congressional Representative Lee Zeldin.  Sag Harbor resident Jackie Hilly, is a past director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence: "Our member of Congress is totally owned by the NRA.  He does their bidding and its our job to vote him out of office."

Gianna Gregorio, an East Hampton High School senior: “My family has always owned guns and I respect the 2nd Amendment. I want to enjoy life in public spaces without being afraid of someone ending it."
Friday March 23, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford and Danniella Tompos)
In the news tonight: major NRA fundraiser scheduled on eve of Hartford rally for stricter gun laws; bill protecting coverage for prosthetics moves to Connecticut Senate; Southampton, East Hampton may get funding to help commuters; funeral services set for Newsday journalist Les Payne
Russell Blair reports for the Hartford Courant:
The Connecticut chapter of Friends of the NRA is holding a major fundraiser tonight, the night before a crowd as big as 10,000 is expected to descend on the state Capitol and push for stricter gun laws.

The NRA event will be held at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Proceeds from the event will benefit the NRA Foundation, a nonprofit run by the NRA that gives out money for gun-related training and education programs.

Among the groups that benefit are the Boy Scouts of America, the Connecticut Yankee Council, the Groton Sportsmen’s Club and the Town of Stratford.

On Saturday, Hartford will host the state’s March for our Lives, one of a series of demonstrations being held across the country, to call for an end to gun violence. The March was organized by students in response to last month’s mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. 
A bill protecting health insurance coverage for prosthetics passed through a Connecticut legislative committee and will go to the state Senate for vote. 

The Committee for Insurance and Real Estate unanimously voted earlier this week to support the bill that would require fully insured plans to adopt prosthetic coverage and reimbursement policies at least equal to the coverage Medicare currently provides.

More than 20,000 Connecticut residents suffer from limb loss or limb change, according to Connecticut Amputee Network, or C.A.N. C.A.N. cofounder Brenda Novak said her insurance plan did not fully cover her prosthetic leg in 2015. It cost her $21,000.

Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., who introduced the bill, said: “Connecticut remains the only state in New England that has not passed fair prosthetic insurance coverage legislation.”
Amanda Bernocco for 27east reports:
Southampton and East Hampton towns may get funding to help provide public transportation from Long Island Rail Road stations to job centers as part of a plan to ease commuter traffic. New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. recently announced that the Assembly’s budget proposal includes $500,000 combined for the towns. If approved, he intends to include the funding every year. 

Getting would-be train riders from South Fork stations to their respective jobs is a key part of a plan to ease traffic along County Road 39 and Montauk Highway. Additionally, LIRR will add three trains to the morning and evening commutes in 2019. 

The state funds should cover about half of the anticipated costs of hiring taxis and buses for each town. Southampton and East Hampton town officials could also hire Uber drivers to transport commuters from the train stations. According to officials, commuters could be asked to pay a small portion of the cost.

Board members from both municipalities will meet next month to discuss financial options. 
Craig Schneider for Newsday reports:
Pulitzer Prize-winning Newsday journalist and columnist Les Payne died of a heart attack March 19. The 76-year-old journalist championed racial equality and investigated injustice from Long Island to South Africa.

A public viewing will be held 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. His funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the church with burial following in Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn.

Former Newsday editor Howard Schneider said Payne “served as the conscience of Long Island, raising issues of racial and social justice that a portion of our audience living in a largely, white suburban community didn’t always want to confront.”

Schneider added: “It made him controversial, sometimes unpopular, but always on the right side of history.”
Thursday March 22, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Ramzi Babouder-Matta, Thomas Byrne, and Mike Merli)  In the news tonight: contract approved for homecare workers in Connecticut; four months later, a budget deficit looms for Connecticut; internet sales tax fight rages on in New York state; apartment parking proposal in Riverhead draws public criticism
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports: 
Legislation that increases the pay to $16.25 an hour for unionized homecare workers passed the Senate 32-0 and the House 127-16.  

Republican lawmakers were largely opposed to the process that allowed these 8,500 workers to join a union back in 2012, but a majority of Republicans were able to set aside those feelings about labor and vote in favor of the contract. 

The contract for the homecare workers approved by both chambers Wednesday will raise their wages from $13.25 an hour to $16.25 an hour.  

The contract also includes worker compensation coverage, which will allow the homecare workers to work beyond the current 25.75 hours per week cap. That’s because working beyond 26 hours would force the client to purchase workers’ compensation, an unaffordable option for an elderly or disabled person who needs care at home. 
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
The Connecticut state budget is expected to end the year in the red by about $192.7 million.  That’s lower than the deficit was a month ago, but still enough to require some help from lawmakers to bring it into balance. 

Legislative leaders say the budget will be taken care of before they adjourn on May 9.
However, because Connecticut adopts a two-year budget, there’s actually no requirement for them to balance the second year of the budget. That means they can adjourn with a deficit on the books. 

Governor Malloy believes the legislature should balance the budget. 
Rick Karlin writing for Albany Times Union reports: New Yorkers who shop online may soon be paying a state and local sales tax on each purchase.   

Treasury officials from local governments all over New York State are urging their Senators to support a plan proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to impose a sales tax on online sales which are currently tax free. But the plan is running into opposition from politicians and web retailers.   Brick-and-mortar retailers support the plan because it levels the playing field, said Democratic Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy.  

This issue may become a national concern soon.  In April, the United States Supreme Court will hear a case that will determine whether states can tax a retailer that doesn’t have a physical presence in the state.    The New York State budget should be decided by April 1.
Denise Civiletti writing for Riverhead Local reports: 
A proposed code change that would require the developer of apartments within a public parking district to provide off-street parking spaces for the apartments drew criticism from a handful of downtown property owners during a public hearing last night at Riverhead Town Hall. 
Main Street restaurant owners have been complaining about a parking shortage near their businesses and proposed 
Friday March 23, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford and Danniella Tompos)
In the news tonight: major NRA fundraiser scheduled on eve of Hartford rally for stricter gun laws; bill protecting coverage for prosthetics moves to Connecticut Senate; Southampton, East Hampton may get funding to help commuters; funeral services set for Newsday journalist Les Payne
Russell Blair reports for the Hartford Courant:
The Connecticut chapter of Friends of the NRA is holding a major fundraiser tonight, the night before a crowd as big as 10,000 is expected to descend on the state Capitol and push for stricter gun laws.

The NRA event will be held at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Proceeds from the event will benefit the NRA Foundation, a nonprofit run by the NRA that gives out money for gun-related training and education programs.

Among the groups that benefit are the Boy Scouts of America, the Connecticut Yankee Council, the Groton Sportsmen’s Club and the Town of Stratford.

On Saturday, Hartford will host the state’s March for our Lives, one of a series of demonstrations being held across the country, to call for an end to gun violence. The March was organized by students in response to last month’s mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. 
A bill protecting health insurance coverage for prosthetics passed through a Connecticut legislative committee and will go to the state Senate for vote. 

The Committee for Insurance and Real Estate unanimously voted earlier this week to support the bill that would require fully insured plans to adopt prosthetic coverage and reimbursement policies at least equal to the coverage Medicare currently provides.

More than 20,000 Connecticut residents suffer from limb loss or limb change, according to Connecticut Amputee Network, or C.A.N. C.A.N. cofounder Brenda Novak said her insurance plan did not fully cover her prosthetic leg in 2015. It cost her $21,000.

Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., who introduced the bill, said: “Connecticut remains the only state in New England that has not passed fair prosthetic insurance coverage legislation.”
Amanda Bernocco for 27east reports:
Southampton and East Hampton towns may get funding to help provide public transportation from Long Island Rail Road stations to job centers as part of a plan to ease commuter traffic. New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. recently announced that the Assembly’s budget proposal includes $500,000 combined for the towns. If approved, he intends to include the funding every year. 

Getting would-be train riders from South Fork stations to their respective jobs is a key part of a plan to ease traffic along County Road 39 and Montauk Highway. Additionally, LIRR will add three trains to the morning and evening commutes in 2019. 

The state funds should cover about half of the anticipated costs of hiring taxis and buses for each town. Southampton and East Hampton town officials could also hire Uber drivers to transport commuters from the train stations. According to officials, commuters could be asked to pay a small portion of the cost.

Board members from both municipalities will meet next month to discuss financial options. 
Craig Schneider for Newsday reports:
Pulitzer Prize-winning Newsday journalist and columnist Les Payne died of a heart attack March 19. The 76-year-old journalist championed racial equality and investigated injustice from Long Island to South Africa.

A public viewing will be held 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. His funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the church with burial following in Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn.

Former Newsday editor Howard Schneider said Payne “served as the conscience of Long Island, raising issues of racial and social justice that a portion of our audience living in a largely, white suburban community didn’t always want to confront.”

Schneider added: “It made him controversial, sometimes unpopular, but always on the right side of history.”
a code change that was the subject of last night’s public hearing was written to address these issues. Michael Butler, developer of ground-floor shops and workforce housing apartments, objected to the proposal saying downtown sites can’t support underground parking garages because of the riverfront’s shallow depth to groundwater. 
A solution not yet formally proposed requires a developer to make a payment in lieu of parking, or PILOP, when on-site parking is not practical. If successful, funds generated by that program would help the town provide additional downtown parking.
Wednesday March 21, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Michael Zweig, and WPKN Reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Search for permanent Top Cop in Bridgeport moves forward; New Haven activists call for public comment to be allowed at Police Commissioners meetings; a debate over Trump's brand divides Tower residents in Stamford; Suffolk Police to equip vehicles with instant access to translation tools  
The future for Bridgeport’s top cop AJ Perez remains in question as the Mayor, a close friend of the chiefs, prepares to launch a search for a permanent police chief.

Brian Lockhart in the Connecticut Post reports Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration is considering moving ahead with the charter-required nationwide search for a department head, announcing that “an outside consultant” has been hired to determine what the community wants in a police chief. 

However many in the community believe this is all smoke and mirrors with the assumption being Perez would apply and, ultimately, be made permanent with a contract given his relationship with the Mayor which dates back to the 1990’s. 

Callie Heilmann, head of Bridgeport Generation Now, a good government group said: “Bridgeport deserves the most progressive, forward thinking, reform minded management, and I have not seen strong leadership.” Perez’s tenure has been troubled, with 23 homicides in 2017 in Bridgeport. One of those was the shooting death of 15-year-old Jayson Negron by a rookie cop. 
A New Haven community activist against police brutality attended a New Haven Board of Police Commissioners meeting Tuesday night, hoping to see a change in procedure to allow public comment. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:

Barbara Fair, who was roughly arrested last year at a protest for crossing an invisible police line, and whose charges were later dropped, was hoping the commissioners would vote to allow public comment at their meetings on any issue related to police behavior. The six commissioners discussed the item, but two raised several pre-conditions. 

Fair said afterward: “Most of the commissioners wanted us to have that, those two didn’t, and so, now, you know, one wants to go through the chief and the chief has to approve it, and Garcia and the chairman also are saying maybe it should go through Corporate Counsel. I don’t understand this. We’re not drawing any legal papers up. We just want to be able to say something at a meeting.”

Right after that discussion, a police official read a list of a dozen citizen complaints against various officers. The result in every case was either exoneration of the officer or the case was closed because the complainant did not follow up.  Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News. 
Mary Jordan reports in the Hartford Courant that the latest test of President Donald Trump's popularity is playing out inside Trump Parc, Stamford's tallest building. 

The turbulence has been driven not only by discontent with the Trump company's management of the building but also because some residents believe the affiliation with the president is hurting the value of their condos. 

Tax assessments and appraisal values of many units have dropped below what they were before the 2016 election. Many real estate agents now de-emphasize the building's name, instead touting the address, "1 Broad Street." 

The "Trump" brand has been stripped off buildings in Toronto, Manhattan and Panama since the president's election. Taking it down in Stamford would be especially awkward because the resident who owns Trump Parc's priciest condominium is Trump friend and professional-wrestling mogul Vince McMahon - the husband of Linda McMahon, who heads the U.S. Small Business Administration. 
Four hundred and fifty Suffolk County Police vehicles will be equipped with portable tablets providing instant access to translation services as the department looks to make advances in working with foreign-language speaking residents. 

In Newsday, Michael O’Keeffe reports Suffolk Police plan to spend $2.25 million over the next three years to give patrol officers instant access to translation services. 

The Long Island Language Advocates Coalition appreciates the steps the department has taken to improve language access, but they feel more needs to be done.  Cheryl Keshner, the Coalition Director said, while “there are people in the department who are trying to make it work, it is not being implemented consistently”. 

Ninety-seven percent of the force has received four hours of classroom instruction on language assistance, but the Justice Department said Suffolk Police have only partially complied in other areas, including consultations with the Latino community. 
Tuesday March 20, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers editors Neil Tolhurst and Michael Zweig.

In the news tonight: Malloy’s bump stock ban to get committee hearing;
Connecticut regulators consider electric rate billing requirements change;
Long Island Sound crossing not ruled out; Cuomo budget plan includes cell tower standards, angers municipalities
Christine Stuart reports for CT NewsJunkie:
Governor Malloy’s bill banning bump stocks did not have a public hearing or vote in the Public Safety and Security Committee, but the Judiciary Committee will hear testimony Friday morning on a similar bill. Bump stocks were used in the Las Vegas shooting where the shooter was able to fire an estimated 90 shots in 10 seconds.

Since the beginning of the year, Massachusetts, California, Washington, New Jersey and Florida have banned bump stocks on a bipartisan basis.

Most of the gun-related legislation will go to the Judiciary Committee which is considered a friendlier committee for such debates despite the one-vote Democrat margin. The Connecticut Citizens Defense League says it is feel-good legislation since these devices can be made using common household items and are not often owned by legal gun owners.

Connecticut already bans certain firearms and limits magazine capacities.
James Madore reports in Newsday that New York State hasn’t ruled out building a bridge across Long Island Sound to Westchester, or linking Connecticut with Long Island. 

State Department of Transportation executive deputy commissioner Ron Epstein said it’s too early in the planning of a proposed Sound crossing to eliminate any options. The department commissioned a feasibility study that was released in January and now is seeking input from engineers, planners and financial experts.

Epstein acknowledged a Sound crossing from the Island’s north shore to Westchester or Connecticut has been debated since 1938, when the first proposal was made.

Fierce community opposition on both sides of the Sound has scuttled every plan so far. Now, State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and town supervisors in Oyster Bay and Smithtown have each promised a fight, saying a crossing would damage the environment, increase traffic congestion, and boost state debt.
Rick Karlin in the Albany Times-Union reports:
Governor Cuomo’s budget plan includes a proposal that would set statewide standards for approving and charging for the use of cell towers, telephone poles or other fixtures used by wireless providers to carry their signals via the emerging 5G technology. 

Municipal officials say it impinges on their local control of cell towers while state officials say local governments would still deal with cell tower applicants.

5G wireless transmitters need to be placed as close as 500 feet apart. A town could have dozens or hundreds of devices. 

AT&T’s Northeast President Marissa Shorenstein called it “an economic development issue.” She noted other states have already moved ahead with the kind of uniform regulations and price limits that they want in New York. 
Monday March 19, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Gretchen Swanson, Trace Alford and Tony Ernst)

In the news tonight: Connecticut ACLU Looks To Help Students Disciplined for Walkouts;
CT Constitution Says Reps Can Be Expelled. Will that include Arce? Fish Farming Company aims to grow stripers eight miles offshore; Riverhead native son lost in Iraq military helicopter crash 
Jordan Otero Sisson and Nicholas Rondinone report in the Hartford Courant:
On Wednesday at Farmington High School, 75 chanting students marched up Monteith Drive and back to classrooms after a 17-minute peaceful protest, part of a national movement against gun violence. They were unsure what awaited them inside. 

They had defied school administrators, who told them they would not be permitted to speak about specific policy goals tied to the movement during school-sanctioned assembly. They were warned to participate in approved events. They walked out anyway. 

American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut is looking to help students who feel their rights were violated. Reports of discipline include detention and suspensions. A First Amendment violation could be at play if students received punishment exceeding what is typical for cutting class. 

Senior Julia Conturso said: “We are not afraid. We’re here to fight for what we believe in.” The school system emphasized the demonstration was a non-partisan show of support for Parkland victims. 
There’s no historical record of a legislator ever being expelled from the Connecticut General Assembly. However Article 3, Section 13 of the state’s constitution does give the legislature the power to expel members.  The Section is now under consideration as a potential way to remove Representative Angel Arce (D-Hartford). 

On  March 7, Mr. Arce vowed to resign amid a scandal over texts sent to a 16-year-old girl in 2015.  Almost two weeks later, Mr. Arce has yet to resign.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz has asked his staff counsel to research disciplinary and expulsion options.

The General Assembly’s disciplinary procedures present a cumbersome barrier for legislators investigating misconduct.  Further, many believe voters who “hire” representatives should be the ones to “fire” them.

Representative Arthur O’Neill (R-Southbury) says: “People hope a legislator in serious jeopardy of becoming a subject of such an investigation would leave voluntarily.” 
Jon Diat writing in the East Hampton Star reports:
Manna Fish Farms aims to become the first on the East Coast to farm fish in offshore federal waters.The East Quogue company, headed by Donna Lanzetta, will operate a 1.5-square-mile underwater fish farm set eight miles off Shinnecock Inlet.  

Ms. Lanzetta plans to use submersible cage and automated feed technologies to grow local, wild species of finfish such as striped bass. The majority of the stripers would be sold from Dec. 15 to June 1, when the New York commercial season for that species is closed.

In late December, the New York State Economic Development Grants program awarded Manna a $250,000 grant toward the purchase of submersible cages in which fish will reside underneath an automated feeding buoy. 

Ms. Lanzetta ultimately hopes to purchase upward of 12 cages, at about $250,000 each, for the farm. 
Denise Civiletti reports in Riverhead Local:
Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs, a 2007 Riverhead High School graduate, was among the seven military personnel who perished in the crash of an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in western Iraq. Four of them, including Briggs, were members of the 106th Air National Guard in Westhampton Beach. The decorated airman leaves behind his wife Rebecca and two young children.

Briggs was an outside linebacker and a running back for the Blue Waves. Riverhead High School varsity football coach Leif Shay described Briggs as tough and smart and “a true leader [who] exemplified what it means to be a man.”

Among Brigg’s friends and classmates posting condolences on Facebook was Nicole Cancel who wrote: “He was a beautiful and genuine person inside and out and gave his life for his country.” 

The U.S. military said the crash is under investigation but the cause did not appear to be enemy action.
Thursday March 15, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Ramzi Babouder-Matta, Thomas Byrne, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut lawmaker on quest for extra hour of sunlight; Information Technology company to open Hartford hub; Connecticut Bill Would Restore Voting Rights to Parolees; students protest gun violence at schools across Long Island
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Lack of sleep and the associated health issues are just two of the reasons Representative Kurt Vail is still pushing for legislation that would have Connecticut stay on daylight savings time.

The Republican from Stafford Springs can’t personally introduce legislation this session, but he said the General Administrations and Elections Committee has agreed to draft a bill and hold a public hearing on the issue. The bill, as of Monday, had yet to be drafted and published, but, according to Vail, it will be similar to his legislation last year.

Vail proposed staying on daylight savings time throughout the year and moving to the Atlantic Time Zone.

Last year’s bill got a public hearing, but it was never voted out of committee. 
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Infosys, a global consulting and information technology services company, will be opening one of its four innovation hubs in Hartford and promises to create 1,000 jobs before 2022. The hub, which hasn’t settled yet on a property in the city, will have a special focus on insurance, healthcare and manufacturing, according to the company.

Infosys inaugurated its first Technology and Innovation Hub in Indianapolis, Indiana and has already announced a Technology Innovation Hub in Raleigh, North Carolina and a Design and Innovation Hub in Providence, Rhode Island.

Connecticut’s hub will include insurance and healthcare labs that focus on smart underwriting, claims fraud, loT and Cloud, and will employ cutting-edge data security and data-sharing features to help Infosys clients comply with all applicable privacy laws while promoting innovation.

As of now, there is no specific date when the hub would open. 
Andrea Sears of the Connecticut News Service reports:
The Connecticut General Assembly held a committee hearing today in Hartford to consider a bill that would restore voting rights to about 7000 residents in pre-trial detention or parole.

Kenneth Ray, Chair of the Full Citizen Coalition to Unlock the Vote, said that “disenfranchising voters doesn’t increase public safety or help reintegrate the formerly incarcerated into their community.”

According to Ray, the legislation would bring Connecticut’s voting rights into line with every other state in New England.  Ten other states and the District of Columbia allow people on parole to vote.  Vermont and Maine have no restrictions on voting rights.  “It’s a constitutional right, it’s a civil right…and it’s time Connecticut moves forward,” said Ray.
Joie Tyrell writing for Newsday reports:
Students in districts across Long Island walked out of school buildings or participated in other demonstrations Wednesday, joining a nationwide protest to remember the victims of last month’s shooting massacre in Florida, and to call for greater gun safety.

Demonstrations spanned the Island, from the Lawrence school district in western Nassau County to the Bridgehampton district on the East End. Mostly organized by students, they were part of a national mass movement to memorialize the 17 people shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Many Long Island districts organized school-sanctioned tributes or walkouts Wednesday. Some districts had warned students that they could face disciplinary action for walking out of class. Still, the protests were lauded by state education officials.

In a joint statement, state education department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said: “These young people, united in peaceful protest to demand action by our Congress on gun violence, are turning tragedy into a teachable moment for our federal lawmakers.” 
Wednesday March 14th, 2018  (Thanks to volunteer editors Michael Zweig and Tony Ernst)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport officials take part in today’s student walkout to protest violence in schools; big changes on the Democratic Town Committee in Bridgeport’s South End;  New York State Senate Probes NYC Plan to Export Homeless Upstate; advocates say immigrants whose protections are expiring should renew
From Hartford Courant reporters Nicholas Rondinone and Jordan Otero Sisson:
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim joined City Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson and students of Harding High who showed solidarity with the national “Walkout” today in recognition of the tragedy at Parkland Florida, and in protest against gun violence at schools everywhere.

In the Hartford Courant Nick Rondinone and Jordan Sisson reported “thousands” of students across Connecticut left their classrooms with a message: “Enough.” A large contingent of students in Farmington disobeyed administrators and left the high school. Police said they could not leave campus, but they did. Outside nearby town hall, they shouted, “The system is broken.”

Valencia Harris, an 18-year-old Wilbur Cross High School student, said: “In New Haven, some of us are more prepared with clothes for funerals than job interviews”. 

Connecticut students have said they have felt compelled to speak up as members of Generation Z, the age group following the millennials that has only known a world after large-scale tragedies such as the massacre at Sandy Hook School in Newtown. 
Reported by WPKN News:
The 90-member Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee will select party officers tomorrow evening at a restaurant owned by party leader Mario Testa, who is seeking another two-year term. 

Recounts took place following last week’s primaries, and a change occurred in the 131st District where a slate led by former city councilor Mary Bruce, former City Librarian Scott Hughes and activist Jorge Cruz won six of nine seats against the slate of long-time District Leader Mitch Robles.  According to Lennie Grimaldi at, Hughes is expected to become district leader.

Robles and City Council members Jack Banta and Denese Taylor-Moye ran on the same slate. Those three would now make up the minority bloc to the Bruce-Hughes-Cruz slate, unfamiliar territory for any candidate backed by party leader Mario Testa. 

The district covers the South End of Bridgeport, Downtown and a portion of the West End. --------------------------------------------
Carl Campanili reports in the New York Post that the New York state Senate is opening an investigation into the de Blasio administration’s policy of exporting New York City homeless families elsewhere in the state. 

It was discovered last week the City is paying a year’s rent to encourage the homeless to leave the Big Apple’s shelters for apartments upstate. 

Senate Investigations Committee Chairman Terrence Murphy told The Post on Sunday that he’s opening a probe and will hold a public hearing on the matter after being briefed by an infuriated state Sen. Fred Akshar, who represents the city of Binghamton and Broome County, where the homeless are being shipped by the city. 

Broome County officials found out when families came into the Social Services office to apply for other benefits but not rental subsidies. They were told New York City had already taken care of their rent. 
The New York Immigration Coalition on Tuesday urged immigrants with expiring protections from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and Temporary Protected Status or TPS, to renew participation in those programs before a Monday deadline. 

March 19 is the cutoff for immigrants from El Salvador and Haiti to re-register with the federal government for TPS, a provisional exemption from deportation given to people from countries in turmoil due to war, and natural disasters. 

Haitians and Salvadorans were told they could renew TPS for a final 18 months as the Trump administration will terminate their participation in 2019, citing changing conditions in their countries. 

About 31 thousand Salvadorans and 10 thousand Haitians in New York are TPS holders. 
For young immigrants who came or stayed illegally as minors, DACA is an executive action shielding them from immigration enforcement. They can re-enroll while federal court orders are in place in a legal fight to save that protection. 
Tuesday March 13, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford, Michael Zweig and Thomas Byrne)

In the news tonight:  Report: Budget raid on energy funds will hurt Connecticut economy; Catholic Church to close three schools on Long Island; New York Dems target congressional Republicans with anti-guns ad campaign; Percoco guilty on three counts
The Times Union reports:
In a split verdict, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's former top aide Joe Percoco was found guilty of committing honest services fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services, and solicitation of bribes and gratuities on Tuesday, two months after the start of a federal trial that cast a cold light on pay-to-play culture in state government.

Percoco was found not guilty of three other counts against him, conspiracy commit extortion, extortion and a bribery count.

The two Syracuse executives were acquitted of most of the charges they faced connected to allegations they paid bribes to Percoco, both men face more charges in another trial dealing with alleged fraud in upstate development projects that is slated to begin in June.

Sentencing will be held June 11. 
Gregory Hladky reports in the Hartford Courant that the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board has warned that Connecticut lawmakers’ deficit-driven decision to “sweep up” $127 million in energy efficiency program funds will trigger far larger economic losses.

The Board found that siphoning the money would result in $275 million in lost energy efficiency savings and cause the burning of an additional 1.6 million gallons of fuel oil to heat homes.

“This diversion of electric ratepayer funding for state budgetary needs will have harmful consequences for Connecticut,” the Board stated in its latest annual report, including solar industry lost jobs. 

In order to help solve a massive budget deficit last year, the General Assembly took the $127 million out of energy efficiency funds that are financed through surcharges on ratepayers’ bills. The action effectively chops 33 percent of the funding available for programs to help homeowners and business cut their energy costs. 
Denise Civiletti at Riverhead Local reports:
The Catholic Church announced on Monday that three of its Long Island schools will close on this year.

According to the Diocese of Rockville Center’s website,  Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School in Riverhead will close at the end of the current school year and forward its remaining students to St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip.  Also, St. Isidore School in Riverhead and Our Lady of Mercy Regional School in Cutchogue will be combined into the new St. John Paul II school, to be located on the property  currently housing St. Isidore.

Declining enrollment and cost savings were given as reasons for the closures.  Enrollment among the three schools declined 37% and first grade at Our Lady of Mercy has only three students. The schools have received  subsidies of more than 19 million dollars in the past decade. 

Deeply regretting the pain and disruption parents, students, and staff will experience, Dr. Kathleen Walsh, diocese superintendent of schools, said: “Strengthening enrollment at our remaining schools will create a more vibrant and effective Catholic educational environment.”
Rachel Silberstein reports for Times Union:
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Democratic Party are calling out congressional Republicans who have accepted money from the NRA and have advanced pro-gun legislation. 

The Democrats’ multimedia campaign touts the governor’s 2018 gun-safety agenda. The ads highlight seven New York congressman alleged to be obstructing federal-level protections and who have “A” ratings from the NRA. 

The campaign targets a Congressional Republican “concealed carry” proposal that would allow people with criminal records from other states to carry concealed firearms into New York. The campaign coincides with the upcoming nationwide student-led protests March 24. 

Locally, students from schools around the Capital Region will walk out to protest gun violence on March 14—a month after the Parkland shooting. Following last month’s Parkland mass shooting, in a coordinated approach to gun-violence prevention the governor formed a coalition with neighboring states to intercept illegal firearms. Meanwhile, state lawmakers are mulling a bump-stock ban and other gun control measures. 
Monday March 12, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers editors Gretchen Swanson and Neil Tolhurst and WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight:  workers at Hamden manufacturer picket for better benefits; co-housing proposed on the North Fork; Long Island school taxes up 2.6 percent
Sixty workers at a Hamden company that makes aluminum gates walked out March 5 after their union, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, rejected the company’s latest offer. On March 9 dozens of other union members and community supporters joined them on the picket line. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more.
The company, Porcelen Specrail, offers no pension plan and effectively no health insurance, since the high out of pocket payments are beyond the reach of workers who make an average of just over 14 dollars an hour. They are striking for better pay, better health care and a 401K plan.

Union attorney John Fussell said the federal mediator working on the case issued a statement Thursday night for the parties to come back to the table.

“He had issued a statement to both the company and the union to come back to the table. I called the company’s attorney last night, left a message to say that the union is prepared to go to the table to negotiate, and so far have not heard back from the company’s attorney.” (chant: We got the power!)

The company says it can’t afford to pay more because of competition and mechanization. The union says its members can’t live on what the company is offering.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
John Hildebrand and Michael R. Ebert report for Newsday:
School property taxes across Long Island are projected to grow at their fastest pace in five years to an average 2.6 percent increase. They will rise next year by an average 2.78 percent in Suffolk County and an average 2.42 percent in Nassau County. Those numbers may be revised downward after state lawmakers adopt a financial aid package for districts.

Long Island school taxes already rank among the nation’s highest.  Nassau is one of nine large U.S. counties where homeowners pay over $10,000 a year in property taxes and Suffolk is close behind at $9,333.

The increase in projected levies — both the county averages and the district-by-district figures — was calculated by Newsday, based on numbers provided by 123 of the Island’s 124 school districts.

More than 60 percent of homeowners’ tax bills in the region stem from educational costs.
Beth Young reports in East End Beacon:
Most advocates for sustainable housing here ask government to help find a place for working people and seniors to live. One new group, Sustainable Housing Network of the North Fork, founded by real estate agent Virginia Gerardi of Shelter Island, takes a radically different approach.

Gerardi spent the past five years visiting and researching the “co-housing” movement across America—in which a group of people buy a piece of property together, sharing tools and expenses for common areas, while retaining their own private space.

She believes the co-housing concept could work in Southold Town, which recently changed accessory apartment rules to encourage people to build apartments in their homes. Gerardi said,:“People buy land, have shared values, develop the community they want to live in…recreating a village atmosphere.”

Sustainable Housing Network of the North Fork’s next meeting is at Greenport’s Floyd Memorial Library tomorrow, Tuesday, March 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Friday March 9, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford, Thomas Byrne and Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight: Connecticut considers individual mandate, two penalties; police seek exemption on mental health treatment gun law; Long Island Cares sees food aid increase; New York lawmakers propose school hunting classes
Mackenzie Rigg for The CT Mirror reports:
A legislative committee aired two bills Thursday that would establish a state individual health care mandate and push back on Congress’s recent repeal of the Obamacare penalty.

Governor Malloy proposed preserving the most vital elements of the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate. Under his bill, residents would be fined $500 or 2 percent of their income annually if they fail to have coverage.

The Insurance and Real Estate Committee proposed a second bill with a 9.66 percent penalty capped at $10,000, and option to pay the penalty or put it into a state-managed health savings account. Health care is considered affordable when all payments equate to 9.66 percent of income, according to Yale University research

The National Federation of Independent Business opposed he insurance committee’s bill. 
Christine Stuart for CT NewsJunkie reports: 
Connecticut law enforcement officers testified at the state Capitol Tuesday about police suicide and mental health treatment. 

Officers want the General Assembly to resolve 2013 legislation banning assault weapons and large capacity magazines, a barrier to treatment, they say. Instead, the officers support an exemption for law enforcement that returns their service weapon even if they sought mental health treatment. 

Currently, firearms are removed for six months from anyone voluntarily checking into an in-patient mental health facility and for 60 months for an involuntary admission to a psychiatric hospital. Yale University psychiatry clinical instructor James Rascati said rather than lose their livelihood, officers avoid treatment.

Connecticut Citizens Defense League president Scott Wilson submitted testimony questioning exemptions only for police officers. The Public Safety and Security Committee has until March 20 to forward the legislation to the state Senate.
David Schwartz of Newsday reports:
More adults, children, seniors, and military veterans are seeking food and other supplies from Long Island charities.

Long Island Cares CEO Paul Pachter reported a 20 percent increase in demand from 2016 to 2017 at the Huntington Station, Lindenhurst and Freeport centers. He said: “People on Long Island are dealing with higher expenses in terms of rent and taxes.”

The largest increase was among children. More than 9,700 children sought food aid, a 43 percent increase. Long Island Cares helped roughly 900 military veterans, a 31 percent increase, and more than 7,000 seniors, a 26 percent increase. In total, 30,116 people sought emergency food last year.

Fortunately, the increase in demand is met by an increase in donations. Pachter said food drives collected 710,000 pounds of food, personal care and household items – a 42 percent increase. 
Rich Karlin for Albany Times-Union reports: 
Some New York State lawmakers and conservation groups have proposed legislation that would include hunting and fishing as part of high school physical education.

Sponsored by two upstate Republicans, the measure would instruct the state Board of Regents to work with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to develop a curriculum guide for hunting and fishing. The curriculum would cover the history of hunting and fishing, rules for taking game and how to get a license. The prosed legislature does not specifically state that firearms would be used.

Anti-gun and animal rights groups oppose the idea, pointing to recent school shootings as reasons to keep hunting activities out of the curriculum.

The lack of an official curriculum guide doesn’t mean that schools can’t offer hunting programs. An Alleghany County school district has a fisheries and wildlife class where they operate their own fishpond and practice marksmanship with a laser shooting range.
Thursday March 8th, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Ramzi Babouder-Matta, Thomas Byrne, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut coalition calls for limiting on-call shift scheduling; Connecticut homecare workers seek a living wage; clear-cutting in the Pine Barrens leads to a clash among environmentalists; East Hampton selects Captain Julie Evans to represent fisheries on Wind Farm Project 
Sandra Gomez-Aceves writing for the Hartford Courant reports:
On Tuesday, Senator Marilyn Moore and a coalition of supporters advocated for bill SB 321, an act that would “stabilize working families by limiting on-call shift scheduling.”

The bill calls for employers to notify employees of a work shift at least 24 hours in advance.

Moore, the children’s committee’s co-chair, introduced the legislation. 
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Going from $13.53 an hour to $16.25 an hour and being able to work 40 hours per week means homecare workers like Elaine Brown and Rich Casolla will finally be able to earn a living wage.

Brown and Casolla’s stories are similar to those of the 8,500 homecare workers in Connecticut who organized in 2012 and were able to secure their first contract in 2014.

An initial contract for around $20 million for their services was never approved as part of the two-year state budget Governor Malloy signed in October.

The Appropriations Committee presented a new three-year contract last week.
Mark Harrington of Newsday reports: 
Cutting down trees to make room for a solar farm lot has lead to an angry clash among environmentalists. Last Monday, clear-cutting of up to 60 acres of trees resumed for the construction of a solar farm in the Mastic region of the Pine Barrens in New York.  

Mr. Dick Amper, executive director of the Pine Barrens Society, called the clear-cutting “a deliberate frontal attack on the environment” and accused other environmentalists of allowing this to happen. He called for the resignation of John Pavacic, executive director of the Pine Barrens Commission, for reneging on a promise to deliver alternative sites for the solar farm to New York State Governor Mario Cuomo.  

He also blamed Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and other environmentalists for urging the Governor to veto a bill that would have preserved the region that is now being cleared-cut.  

Ms. Esposito countered that “we need to do both, save land and trees, and site solar farms.”  She acknowledged receiving a donation from NextEra, a clean energy company, but denied it influenced her.   There was no comment from John Pavacic. 
Beth Young writing for East End Beacon reports:
East Hampton Town’s Fisheries Committee has selected Captain Julie Evans, who has worked on commercial and charter boats out of Montauk for decades, to be the Fisheries Representative working for local fishermens’ interests with regard to Deepwater Wind’s proposed South Fork Wind Farm project off the coast of Montauk.

At the East Hampton Town Board meeting on March 6th, Evans said, “My job here is to facilitate good communication between Deepwater Wind and the fishing community, and to protect fishing grounds for fishermen.” 

The town’s Fisheries Committee is also looking for a $30,000 stipend to hire a researcher to compile data on “who’s fishing in what areas, what they’re catching and what’s out there,” said the committee’s vice chairman, Robert Valenti, at the March 6 work session.

Gary Cobb of Springs, who represents local inshore fishermen, urged the board to push for more studies of the effects electromagnetic fields can have on nearshore fisheries, especially in the area near Deepwater Wind’s proposed cable landing site in Wainscott. 
Wednesday March 7th, 2018 (Thanks to volunteer editor Michael Zweig, and WPKN Reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport flips the switch on first-of-its-kind Microgrid Generator; Connecticut residents testify on slew of bills before the General Assembly's Energy and Technology Committee; abamboo ban could be coming to Riverhead; Stony Brook scientists discover vast penguin colony 
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and City officials flipped the switch Tuesday on a first-of-its-kind ‘microgrid’ generator that will supply cleaner energy to power City Hall, Police Headquarters, and the Eisenhower Senior Center.

Ganim tells WPKN News, this project combines a new traditional natural gas reciprocating generator that can run around the clock with a microgrid distribution system, which is both environmentally friendly and reliable.

The Mayor says the goal is for the microgrid to provide foolproof power in the case of a blackout or inclement weather. On the subject of today’s inclement weather Mayor Ganim reiterated during the current snow emergency, residents must move their cars off posted snow emergency streets.
Dozens of residents signed up to testify on a slew of bills before the General Assembly's Energy and Technology Committee on Wednesday, regarding gas, oil and renewables. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there:
One of the bills would give a substantial boost to solar power in Connecticut, through a community solar program that would provide access to solar power for the 75% of households who now can’t utilize rooftop solar because they are renters, their roof is shaded or not in good condition, or for a number of other reasons.

New Havener Frank Panzarella was there. 

People were commenting on the community solar and why it would be an improvement for the state’s renewable energy portfolio, because it would increase the amount – 300 megawatts – of projects for solar power, to bring more of it to the state, to make our energy cleaner and to provide cheaper energy for low-income communities. Representatives of the state’s electric utilities spoke against the bill.

Melinda Tuhus WPKN News
------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------
Denise Civiletti in Riverhead Local reports: 
Rules regulating bamboo could be on the way in Riverhead. The Town is considering banning the invasive plant, with an eye toward preventing it from spreading onto adjoining properties or into a public or private right of way.

A new code would make it unlawful for any person or business entity to plant or replant bamboo and also to cause or allow its spread. 

According to the proposed new code, a property owner or occupant would be liable for “the direct and indirect costs of abating the nuisance and all expenses incidental”. 
The Riverhead town board is expected to schedule an April 3 public hearing on the proposed code. 

Currently, two types of bamboo, golden bamboo and yellow grove bamboo, are listed by the State DEC as prohibited invasive terrestrial plants.
Delthia Ricks reports in Newsday that a vast new “supercolony” of 1.5 million Adélie penguins has been found by a Stony Brook University scientist and her team, in a discovery that surprisingly adds to the known Adélie population, which had been thought to be steeply declining. 

Heather Lynch, an associate professor of ecology and evolution, said the first tip-off to the massive colony of tuxedoed birds was when satellite data relayed evidence of their telltale pink poop stains. The massive amount of guano was a sign to scientists that the Adélie were alive and well. Modern explorers scan permafrost regions from space before making risky explorations on foot. 

The colony of Adélie penguins was discovered inhabiting the Danger Islands, on Antarctica’s northern tip, a region of the Antarctic Peninsula that juts toward South America. The archipelago is an unworldly scene of ice floes and a landscape devoid of vegetation. 

Tuesday March 6, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford and Michael Zweig and WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Tesla tries again to open Connecticut store; Ecuadorean woman ends sanctuary in New Haven church; record number apply for East Hampton’s Section 8 waiting list; former Greenport church owner draws short-term rental controversy——————————————————————————
Christine Stuart for CT NewsJunkie reports: 
For the fourth year, American electric carmaker Tesla has asked the General Assembly for permission to sell its vehicles in Connecticut. However pending litigation could further stall the matter. 

Tesla, which direct sells to consumers, has a non-sale Greenwich Gallery. Customers can get information, but not purchase or test-drive vehicles. Last year, the Department of Motor vehicles deemed this as “not substantially different than business activities conducted by licensed new car dealers.”

After filing for reconsideration, Tesla was granted a stay. However, further litigation is pending. Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association president Jim Fleming said the association filed briefs Monday. Fleming said Tesla would be welcomed if the carmaker agreed to use franchise dealerships.

Currently, Connecticut residents who want to purchase a Tesla have to go through stores in New York or Massachusetts.
An Ecuadorean woman who’s been on a roller-coaster ride with immigration authorities went through another loop on Monday, this time with some good news. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:

Nelly Cumbicos, who is married to a U.S. citizen and has a U.S. citizen child, fled Ecuador 18 years ago after receiving death threats. She secretly took sanctuary almost a week ago at a church in New Haven that’s been hosting another Ecuadorean who’s been facing deportation for the past three months.

In January, she was given a deportation date of February 16th. On February 5th, Cumbicos was granted a stay.  Four days later, the stay was "reinterpreted" and she was given a new deportation day of February 28th. That’s the day she went into sanctuary.

On Monday, Cumbicos’s lawyer learned that her client’s deportation order would not be enforced while her motion to re-open her case was under consideration. She is now home with her family.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
Vera Chinese for Newsday reports:
East Hampton Town received more than 4,000 pre-applications for its Section 8 housing voucher waiting list this year. This is a record number and a tenfold increase since 2012, when the waiting list last opened.

Of the applicants, 460 live or work in town. Some applications came from as far away as Missouri and Georgia. Part of the increase is because the application is available online.

East Hampton Housing and Community Development Director Tom Ruhle says this increase “illustrates a need for affordable housing on the East End and the demand for housing vouchers across the country.”

Those approved for a voucher must then find a landlord who accepts them. With East Hampton’s lucrative summer rental market, participation in the voucher program is a challenge. It’s estimated that fewer than 40 private landlords participate.——————————————————————————
Tim Gannon reports in the Suffolk Times that James Olinkiewicz, owner of the former Greenport United Methodist Church, said that his plans include listing the property as a short-term rental only temporarily. 

Olinkiewicz was met with scrutiny as word spread on social media that he’d listed the property for $1,200 per night on AirBnB.

Olinkiewicz said he’s only hoping to get some short-term rental payments as he waits for a long-term tenant to sign a lease. He said he has an existing offer from someone who wants to rent the church building for the summer season and it may be off the short-term market by the end of the week.

Short-term rentals have been the subject of controversy in recent years with many municipalities, including Southold Town, adopting regulations regarding minimum stays. The Village of Greenport has discussed limits, but so far opted not to impose them on short-term rentals.
Monday March 5, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Gretchen Swanson, Lee Yuen Lew, Neil Tolhurst and WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight:  town activists want movement on New Haven civilian review board; Bridgeport neighbors focused on grocery store not casino; will Percoco verdict hinge on Howe? Schumer urges troubled Northport VA to upgrade with new budget deal
A group of people promoting an effective civilian review board for New Haven met Thursday night in a downtown church to move the process forward. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
“The proposal is called the Malik All Civilian Review Board, in honor of a young African American man shot and killed by an East Haven cop in New Haven in 1997. His mother, Emma Jones, has been calling for a meaningful process for reviewing police conduct for two decades.

An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union explained that, based on successful review boards in other cities, New Haven’s would need to have subpoena power to obtain documents or require the appearance of witnesses, have paid staff, be transparent through regular reporting to the public, be independent of the police department and the city’s legal department. And finally, the board and the police department would agree upon discipline guidelines.

There are still many hurdles to overcome from the Board of Alders and the police department.”

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Jordan Grice reports in The Connecticut Post:
The former site of Car-Tech steel plant on Seaview Avenue in Bridgeport is prime waterfront real estate—and the focus of an effort to attract a world-class resort casino to the long-struggling city. 

However the casino focus has some community leaders on alert. People who live nearby have been waiting for years for a grocery store serving the east end, a promise they were given years ago. The site developer named an intended grocer over a year ago, but has not finalized build-out plans or placed construction bids, and remediation cleanup could take up to 15 more months. 

MGM Resorts’ proposal to build a casino on the site is under ongoing debate in Hartford and requires a change to state law. 

Bridgeport Council member Earnest Newton said: “The grocery store is very important to the community; more important than a casino. We need the grocery store.”
Leif Skodnick reports in the Times Union:
Television slang and nicknames highlighted the federal trial of former New York State gubernatorial aide Joseph Percoco, accused of swapping bribes for official favors.

"Herb, where the hell is the ziti?" That quote is from Percoco's emails entered into evidence during the five-week trial. "Herb" was Percoco's nickname for his benefactor, Todd Howe, and "ziti" was Percoco's term for payments from companies with business before the state. The "ziti" term, according to testimony, came from the crime drama "The Sopranos" and referred to over $300,000 in cash bribes Percoco had allegedly demanded from executives at two NY state companies.

Howe admitted to serving as conduit for the bribes to Percoco and his wife Lisa. The prosecution’s success depends on Howe’s credibility. 

Prosecutors have established that the Percocos were facing fiscal distress after moving from Staten Island to a lavish home in Westchester County in 2012 and accumulating $1 million in debt by 2014. 
Christine Chung of Newsday reports:
The nearly century-old Northport VA medical center recently suspended surgeries for days because of a failing air conditioner. Chuck Schumer, Senate minority leader (D-N.Y.) said that the two-year bipartisan federal budget deal will provide a new influx of cash that could help address problems at veteran facilities. 

Deadline for the budget deal’s passage is March 23. Schumer says he would be “urging the VA to do the upgrade” at the Northport VA center before summer.  He also said: “No VA facility should have to halt surgeries for days on end because of known HVAC issues.”

The deal would increase military and nondefense spending by about $300 million over the next two years. It provides a substantial increase in funding of about $4 billion over two years for VA maintenance, nearly double what is currently allocated annually, Schumer’s office said. 
Friday March 2, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford and Thomas Byrne)

In the news tonight: panel recommends tax overhaul to revitalize Connecticut; Connecticut Democrats unveil free college plan; Zeldin bill targets gang members’ citizenship; Southold Town considers solar power at landfill again
Keith M. Phaneuf for The CT Mirror reports:
A panel created by the Connecticut legislature recommends a dramatic shift in the state’s tax burdens to stabilize government finances and jumpstart the economy. The Commission on Fiscal Sustainability and Economic Growth approved a report that would lower all income tax rates and repeal the gift and estate taxes while raising sales and corporate levies.

Other recommendations include: a major hike in the minimum wage to $15 per hour; an end to collective bargaining for state employee benefits after the current contract expires in 2027; and electronic tolling and a gasoline tax hike to fund a major transportation rebuild.

The committee urges slashing $1 billion from the annual budget and building a new major college campus focused on science and engineering.

The commission concludes that Connecticut’s problems “are even deeper and more urgent” than first thought. It attributes these problems to massive debt—resulting from public-sector retirement benefits—"flat economic growth” and a declining population. 
Linda Conner Lambeck of the Connecticut Post reports:
A free college tuition plan for students in Connecticut was announced last Thursday by Democratic legislators. The plan, called Free 2 Start / Free 2 Finish, would allow students to attend the first two years at a community college and the last two years at a state college both free. An eligible student would have to be a state resident, in good academic standing, and meet family income guidelines. For example, a student from a household of four making $72,900 would qualify.

State Senator Beth Bye said: “It is about expanding opportunities in higher education” and “attracting young people to Connecticut.”

Republicans complain that the state cannot afford the estimated 30 million dollars a year program while it has a deficit of more than 200 million dollars. Others worry that the program could cause a drop in enrollment at several of Connecticut’s smaller private colleges.
Kelly Zegers at The Suffolk Times reports:
Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin introduced a bill that aims to revoke the citizenship of immigrants involved in gang activity before being they were naturalized or within 10 years after they became citizens.  The bill, known as the Protecting Our Communities from Gang Violence Act, was referred to the House judiciary committee in February.

Zeldin stated: “Every level of government has a role to play in combating the rise of MS-13 and other gangs.” He added, “United States naturalization is a privilege, not a right, and those who have had this privilege bestowed upon them must respect and uphold the laws of our land.” 

Following the announcement, New York Immigration Coalition executive director Steve Choi issued a statement critical of the bill. He called the bill “shameless political posturing.” He said: “It will actually cripple public safety, while demonizing Long Island’s thousands of hard-working immigrants.” 
Kelly Zegers for The Suffolk Times reports: 
Southold Town Board will explore a new attempt at harnessing solar power at the town landfill. Councilman Bob Ghosio raised the idea again at a recent work session and the board agreed to issue request-for-proposals for new idea pitches. 

A previous plan with SunEdison to add 0.7 acres of solar panel arrays at the landfill failed to materialize almost three years ago as the company headed toward bankruptcy.

Ghosio also suggested the town consider re-establishing a renewable and alternative energy committee. In the past, the group’s responsibilities included recommending policies to the Town Board and educating the public about energy incentive programs. The committee, formed in 2006 and disbanded in 2014, is believed to have fulfilled its goals. 
Thursday March 1, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli and reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s environment committee advances fracking waste ban; New Haven immigrant rights rally calls for ICE to get out of Connecticut’s court-houses; Suffolk environment committee approves buying 26.8 acres of land for agricultural use; Uber drivers protest Suffolk’s proposed ride-sharing ban while Stony Brook University makes a deal with Uber.
Parker Fiske writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Connecticut’s Environment Committee voted 29-1 yesterday to forward a bill banning fracking waste to the Senate.

There is currently a moratorium on fracking waste that was approved in 2014, but environmentalists say they can’t predict what the future holds. The moratorium will stay in place until the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection submits legislation to address hazardous waste from fracking. Fracking waste included wastewater, sludge and other substances generated in the process of hydraulic fracturing of shale to get to natural gas buried underground.

In 2014, the Connecticut legislature passed a three year moratorium that temporarily prohibited fracking waste. The measure was prompted after the New York legislature considered lifting its ban on fracking.

At the time, many environmentalists in Connecticut called the moratorium a “watered down” version of an actual ban on fracking waste.
A hundred people gathered on Wed. afternoon in front of the courthouse on the New Haven Green to decry court personnel’s complicity in letting federal immigration enforcement officials arrest immigrants and send them into deportation proceedings.

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Ana Maria Rivera Forestieri with the Immigrant Bail Fund said immigrants are being snatched by agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, as they try to leave state court on other matters.

"We’re putting ICE on notice that right now we are exploring all potential avenues, including litigation, to disrupt their operations. And we want to let the community know that you should not be attending any of your hearings by yourself. You should be seeking the support of Unidad Latina en Accion, the CT Bail Fund and other organizations that are ready and able to provide court accompaniment."

Speakers said that employees at the CT women's prison, York Correctional, also facilitated ICE taking a woman into custody who was being held pre-trial after she made bail. Mike Lawlor, Governor Malloy's criminal justice policy point person tells WPKN that that incident is being investigated and prison employees are being retrained to comply with state law.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Rick Brand reports for Newsday:
The Suffolk Legislature’s environment committee has approved $2.295 million to buy development rights for 26.5 of the 208 acres owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood to keep the land in agricultural use.

The resolutions, if approved by the full legislature next Tuesday, would make the tract one of a handful in western Suffolk for which the county has bought farmland rights.

The committee also voted to authorize $3.9 million to buy development rights for 63.6 acres in Mattituck that is used for sod farming, and $1.7 million for 8.3 acres near the Hauppauge County Center to protect the headwaters of the Nissequogue River.

All three resolutions are expected to have bipartisan support.
Rick Brand and Tory Parish at Newsday report:
Monday, more than 80 Uber drivers protested a proposed six-month Suffolk ban on ride-sharing operators as legislators debated the issue. Democratic County Legislator Bridget Fleming proposed the ban as a way for the county to leverage a local share of $24 million in revenue from the 4 percent state surcharge on ride-sharing.

Drivers spoke against Fleming’s bill, saying the service is highly popular with the public and the jobs help them feed their families, avoid foreclosure and provide safe transit to those who have been drinking and the elderly.

Fleming said she plans to go to Albany to lobby next week as the state budget is debated. Democrat State Senator John Brooks of Massapeaqua proposed a bill to share the revenues. Uber officials said that under Brooks’ bill, Suffolk’s share might be as little as $1.5 million.Uber currently has more than 7,000 Suffolk drivers and carries 60,000 passengers regularly.

Meanwhile: Uber and Stony Brook University’s athletic department are partners in a new, three-year campus-wide sponsorship deal that will give all students and staff discounts on rides at select times.