When local control isn’t local
As the State Senate was trying to wrap up its work in Albany Friday night, one of the many bills the body addressed drew the immediate ire of Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, a Republican.
The bill would enact the “planned offshore wind transmission act,” to coordinate and help to push forward efforts to develop an interconnected network of offshore wind transmission systems. But buried within the bill was a section that allowed for parts of the waterfront in Long Beach, and nearby park space, to no longer be designated as parkland and paved the way for “constructing, maintaining and operating a subterranean conduit and electrical distribution cable system.”
That section looked familiar to Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, who represents Long Beach, because, she said, it was directly copied from a bill she had initially written — a bill she put on the shelf due to concerns from her constituents.
“It is unprecedented that this has happened according to what I’ve been told. I have spoken to public officials and they were unaware that my bill was hijacked,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said.
Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, who said the parkland in question is the beach itself, noted that residents have concerns about the size and scope of the project. She told The Point she only learned a few days before the Friday debate that her bill text was included in the new bill, which was sponsored by State Sen. Kevin Parker, of Brooklyn.
On Friday, Parker, a Democrat, emphasized that the bill had the broader intent of fulfilling the state’s green energy goals. Parker said the bill included a “home rule” message from Long Beach supporting the effort but in response to questioning, indicated that he didn’t personally speak to anyone from Long Beach about it.
Sen. Jack Martins took to the Senate floor to back up Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, noting that he supports renewable energy efforts “but it should not come ever at the expense of the integrity of this institution and the respect we need to show for each other as members of this body.”
But Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens, took a different tack.
“There is no requirement that someone whose district is affected by a particular project has the ultimate say in this body as to what happens to it,” Gianaris said. “There are a lot of things that have bigger implications than just a particular local effort.”
Gianaris raised his own example: the 2019 battle over siting Amazon’s second headquarters in Long Island City, which was in his district. He noted that Republican lawmakers at the time “berated me” for trying to stop the Amazon deal, that they said “I wasn’t considering the effect on jobs on Long Island.”
“Back then, the Long Islanders among us didn’t care about the local person or the effect that would have had,” Gianaris said. “I was the bad guy back then. Now the shoe is on the other foot and it’s funny how the hypocrisy rains down.”
GOP Sen. Steven Rhoads, however, took a shot back at Gianaris.
“The difference here, though, is that in the case of Amazon, you had the opportunity to be heard. And in this case, Senator Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick has not had the opportunity to be heard, was not even consulted.”
The Senate ultimately passed the bill Friday night. But the political battles on the issue are likely far from over.