Wednesday, December 24, 2014

TWF 254: Hooper's Armory Bill lands on Cuomo's desk; give it to Freeport, instead!

Editorial Update:  The latest incarnation of the Hooper bill has been vetoed by Governor Cuomo!

Greetings, all,

Many of you are aware of the long-suffering fight between NYS District 18 assemblywoman Earlene Hooper and, well, pretty much every force in the village, including Mayor Kennedy, about the Freeport Armory.  The Armory, for those who don't know, is a state-owned property that was once an important defense structure, but now serves as little more than a political football that might, after nearly five years, finally get kicked by its proverbial Charlie Brown.

Recently, Hooper's latest bill to transfer the armory, A08821A, out of New York State's hands actually made it to Governor Andrew Cuomo's desk to either sign or veto.

Let's cover a little history.

Image courtesy of Legion Post 342's Blogspot.

The History of The War For The Armory

Allow me to take you back to a magical time called "2010."  While Freeport was grappling with the idea that its new mayor, Andrew Hardwick, might contract with a Chinese company to build a 'green' incinerator and burn NYC's garbage to turn it into "gold," the Weekly Freeporter was born to get to the bottom of it.  It turns out that Hooper and Hardwick had starred in a promotional video for a Freeport incinerator.  Don't believe me?  Here's a little proof:

Just a still-shot.  The original clip appears to be have been thrown down the memory hole,

This isn't about Andrew Hardwick, in spite of rumors he might run for another Freeport office.  This is about the Armory and Earlene Hooper's repeated attempts to divest New York State's interest in it.

On the surface, NYS getting rid of it is a great idea.  When Hooper first put bill A11379 into the New York State Assembly in the 2009-2010 legislative session, the goal was to transfer ownership to the Village of Freeport, itself.  There were conditions attached, but the idea was to get the building into Freeport's pack of assets.  At the time, residents were concerned about text that mandated the Armory be used for "educational" purposes.

Writing about it back in 2010, I mused along with many residents that the Armory could be used by the Department of Public Works.  We were concerned about Hooper's "Police Bill" and Hardwick possibly using the Armory to facilitate his incinerator plans.  Make no mistake:  The incinerator scare turned out to be 85% hysteria.  It may have been spawned by 100% bad public-relations, but it never made it beyond the "hey, this is a good idea" stage because, well, it wasn't a good idea.

I'm trying to provide a context for why Freeport has been resistant to accepting Hooper's transfer of the Armory.  Had we known what we know now - that a major storm would devastate our town in October 2012 - we may have felt differently.  Now, knowing that the entire south shore of our town could end up underwater, knowing that DPW itself is based right by the water, it makes sense to have a center-of-operations near our town's northern borders.  In fact, during Sandy's aftermath, The Weekly Freeporter reported that the Federal government was using the Armory as an ad-hoc gas station to alleviate fuel droughts!  What a great idea!  Right?

That is why Earlene Hooper's current bill, A08821A, has bothered Freeport so greatly:  Instead of transferring the armory to the Village, it will transfer it to the Cedermore Corporation.

Governor Cuomo:  Veto.

I'm not here to join into the arguments of whether Hooper's proposed "focused learning facilities" for "at-risk youth" in Freeport and Roosevelt is a good or bad thing.  It probably is a good idea to have services like that, since - y'know - helping kids is supposed to be a good thing.  If this were a project Hooper had organized and deployed in one of the many abandoned buildings Freeport still has, I'd be completely in favor of it!

Unfortunately, I have to urge Freeport as a whole - and Governor Andrew Cuomo as an individual - to reject this plan.

In 2011 and 2012, two major storms (Irene in 2011; I know, she's forgettable compared to Sandy) crushed our town.  In each case, as painful as this is to say, we got lucky.  We haven't had a Category 5 Hurricane hit us.  Sandy wasn't even Category 4.  Imagine if she had been?

Freeport needs this Armory to house its Department of Public Works, our first line of defense against natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.  If you're from Roosevelt, Baldwin, Hempstead, Merrick, Bellmore or wherever, and if you're wondering why Freeport needs this asset, it's because we're on an island in the middle of the ocean.  If there's a major flood, we need a place that's not on the shore but close to it so that we have a staging area.

Remember using the Recreation Center as an ad-hoc shelter, since parts of that flooded?  I bet the Armory would be drier.

Remember how tough it was to get supplies into south Freeport?  I bet the Armory would let us get them there, faster.

Remember how, in spite of Freeport's heroic EMS workers' efforts, the information networks people need to even access that system were crippled?  The Armory could serve as a new, standing, permanent solution to where to get information.

Do the right thing:  Veto this bill.

Earlene Hooper:  Next time you write this perennial bill, give it to the Village of Freeport for the purposes of the DPW, and I'll happily let you kick this football.  Why, yes.  I suppose that makes me and the rest of Freeport's residents your Lucy.  Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Friday, August 29, 2014

TWF 250: A Fond Farewell to Gerson Sobel

Hello, Freeport,

As many of you know, I've been a lifeguard at the Freeport Recreation Center since the age of 16.  I'm about to turn 30, so you do the math!  During my many years, I've come across a lot of interesting patrons.  One of them, however, stood out beyond the others:  Gerson Sobel, a man who reached the astounding age of 104 before, earlier this year, passing away.

Gerson wasn't always the easiest patron for us lifeguards; he had a habit of swimming however he wanted to, sometimes against traffic!  However, he was always a kind-hearted individual.  I never got to know him too well, but I knew he was incredibly generous.  More to the point, I knew he was an exceedingly strong soul.  He swam competitively in the US Masters Swimming program well past the age of 100.  In 2005, at the age of 95, he swam a 50 yard freestyle in 1:01.  He was inducted into his team's hall-of-fame in 2012.  He was a competitor, and he competed mostly against himself - my favorite kind of competition, in fact!

I don't want to sit here and say I knew the man so well, and that I could sing all of his praises.  I certainly didn't, and I certainly can't.  However, as much as I knew he could not live forever, he was a staple of the rec center for a long time.  It felt like he'd always be there.  When I heard of his passing, it made me pause to reflect.  It made me consider just how much of an impact someone like him had on the world.

And it made me consider just how benevolent impact it was!

Farewell, Gerse.

Jesse Pohlman is the editor of The Weekly Freeporter, now celebrating it's 250th article!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TWF 249: The Ice Bucket Challenge Hits Freeport!

Hello, Freeport,

So, you've probably heard of this Ice Bucket Challenge thing, by now.  In case you haven't, click the link!  It's the latest internet fad to sweep both Freeport and the rest of the nation, and it's kind of a good thing!  I was challenged ("Nominated") by two people; my college friend, Dave Fuller, and FHS Graduate and former swim team member Darin Frank.  Thanks, guys!  To see who I nominate, either watch my video or read the rest of this article!

Basically, the challenge is to fill a bucket with ice and water, then somehow dump it on your head.  You can have help; you can have others dump it on you; you can lay down in a bath tub; you can even lay underneath a flat-bed truck!  The how-and-where is your call!  The purpose of this self-flagellation is to raise awareness and/or money for charity; the "challenge" is to either douse yourself, or donate to your preferred cause to get out of it - a 21st century weregild, if you will.  I'm poor for reasons I'll get into briefly, however, so here's my after-lifeguarding bath!

The most popular "brand" of Ice Bucket Challenge benefits the ALS Association, and they claim to have raised over $20,000,000 from donors like you!  Twenty million bucks, friends.  That's a lot!  And it's true that ALS has taken a toll on Freeport.  As I mentioned in my video, and I hope I have everyone's names and/or facts right, Freeporters Jack Lundergan, Michael Byrne, and Lou DiGiacomo all suffer from ALS!  It is, indeed, a worthy cause for our community to contribute to.

However, the Ice Bucket Challenge existed before the world-at-large settled on making donations out to ALS.  According to multiple sources, it's been used to raise money for cancer research and "general charity," which I presume includes charities focused on liver disease.  My father, who you can see in the video, is awaiting a liver transplant.  I miss a lot of work as a result, so I haven't got any money around to donate - hence the bath!  But for those of you who can spare some change, I'd like to encourage you to come out.

As to my nominees:  First of all, I nominated Andrew Hardwick, the former Mayor of Freeport.  Second of all, I nominated Robert Kennedy, the current Mayor of Freeport.  During the chaos of filming, I forgot who my third nominee was.  I deftly nominated Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, who is infamous for forgetting "the third thing," however I remember who my nominee would have been, now.  Thus, my unofficial fourth nominee is my former partner-in-crime here at The Weekly Freeporter, Jay C.  Bass!

Enjoy, gentlemen!

Notice the label:  It used to be a bucket of ice-melt!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TWF 235: Another Winter Storm, Janus! And FHS Swim records, and parking meters, and more!

Hey there, Freeport,

So, with another big winter storm on the way, I'd like to take a minute to post some news updates, large and small!

The Headline:  Winter Storm Janus

What Hercules wasn't, Janus might be; still, let's remember the snow-storm advice TWF put out when Hercules came through...

 - Try to stock up on anything you need before the snow gets heavy.
 - Help your neighbors do the sidewalks if you can.  If possible, clear out a 3-feet circle around your nearby fire hydrants.  (via TJ Johnson.)
 - Avoid driving!  If you absolutely have to, drive carefully!  Go slowly, allow yourself lots of time to stop, do not make sharp turns, and have your lights on!
 - If the power goes out, be careful with candles!
 - Keep a cell phone handy; a battery-powered radio is a good idea, too.  If you need to report a non-life-threatening emergency, call the Nassau County line at 1-888-684-4274.  For medical emergencies ONLY, use 911.
 - Get your car off the road!  Park your cars in your driveway, if you can. (Via FFD member Robert Volpe).  Additionally, the Village has suspended all parking meters until Thursday - there's no excuse, Freeport.  Park your car off the road so the plows can get through!
 - Bring your pets inside!  If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for them!

 We're expecting about a foot of snow, this time around.  Be safe!

Image courtesy of The Weather Channel

I've received word that Freeport Public Schools will be closed tomorrow as a result of this storm.  All after-school activities have been cancelled, today.

Freeport High School swimmer Jon Ruiz-Soto breaks an FHS record!

Sadly, I wasn't even aware this swim meet was going on until I got there, and I missed getting accurate times!  However, Jon Ruiz-Soto, who I've written about previously, broke a long-standing record on January 10th.  The event was the 200-Yard Individual Medely relay (50 yards of Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle, each, one after another).

The record was previous held by Kendall Smith, who holds many others for FHS Swimming.  The IM is arguably the second-most difficult race, just a touch less painful than my old stand-by, the 500-Yard Freestyle.

Freeport Parking Meters Suspended Until Summer

As you may recall, The Weekly Freeporter seized on reports about municipal parking meters being installed at the Nautical Mile and other places in Freeport.  Incensed business owners reacted as one might imagine; these new regulations had, in fact, damaged winter-time business.

In what is perhaps the most telling sign of the Kennedy administration's willingness to listen to business-owners and residents alike, at the Monday, January 13th Village Hall meeting, the recently-installed munimeters have been suspended until warmer weather reaches us.

This is still a far cry from the "Resident-Employee" system this publication has proposed, and some of the damage has already been done, but it's good to know that a willingness to re-examine bad policies has returned to Freeport.

The Weekly Freeporter is produced by Jesse Pohlman.  Jesse is a writer from Freeport, NY.  Click this link to check out his new webpage!

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

TWF 232: Happy New Year! Happy New Blizzard, "Hercules!"

Hello, Freeport!

I hope you guys had a great New Year's Eve; I stopped by Jeremy's Ale House, where they had an excellent (and free!) buffet cooked up (I believe) by the infamous and award-winning Reggie, complimentary champagne (I don't drink), and great DJing by Mike "Crash" Suchan!  I hope you all have a great year, too!

We're even gonna start it off with a lovely blizzard!

Thursday or so (But apparently starting tonight?), we're gonna get a major snowstorm called "Hercules" by the media.  The usual rules apply - but what are they?

 - Try to stock up on anything you need before the snow gets heavy.
 - Help your neighbors do the sidewalks if you can.  If possible, clear out a 3-feet circle around your nearby fire hydrants.  (via TJ Johnson.)
 - Avoid driving!  If you absolutely have to, drive carefully!  Go slowly, allow yourself lots of time to stop,, do not make sharp turns, and have your lights on!
 - If the power goes out, be careful with candles!
 - Keep a cell phone handy; a battery-powered radio is a good idea, too.
 - Park your cars in your driveway, if you can. (Via FFD member Robert Volpe)
 - Bring your pets inside!

According to reports, this storm may create a higher potential for floods.  Between the cycle of the moon and wind conditions, Long Island might experience higher water levels than usual.

All the usual rules, really.

Otherwise, be safe!

The Weekly Freeporter is produced by Jesse Pohlman.  Jesse is a writer from Freeport, NY.  If you have some time, check out his five-star rated novel, Physics Incarnate, available in both Kindle and Paperback formats!

Thank you for reading!

Editorial Note:  Some updates have been made for the sake of organization.