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Monday, May 23, 2022

Game of masks | Newsday

Daily Point

Mask mandate rulings sow confusion

Monday night, as hordes of Long Island parents on both sides of the school-mask mandate fight took to the internet to debate what a Nassau County State Supreme Court judge’s rejection of the state’s mandate meant, the lawyers who advise Long Island’s school boards were doing the research.

John Gross, the senior managing partner of Ingerman Smith LLP, has represented school boards for much of his 50-year career. His firm represents a huge chunk of Long Island districts, while attorney Greg Guercio’s firm, Guercio & Guercio, handles most of the rest. Both men say the confusion and anxiety among school officials and parents Monday night and through Tuesday had been extraordinary.

“Soon after the judge ruled, some people began saying that because the state had appealed, a stay of the judge’s order was automatic, and the schools were still under a mandate,” Gross said. “And that was the state’s position.”

But after discussing the issue with colleagues at his firm, diving into the law itself, and conferring with Guercio, the brain trust eventually concluded that the stay was not automatic upon appeal, and the mask mandate was, at least momentarily, not in place.

It was a chaotic time for administrators.

Some districts had already sent out letters saying the stay had been automatic upon appeal and masks were required on Tuesday. Others sent out letters saying kids were free of the masks, at least for now.

Statements posted by Ingerman Smith early Tuesday morning said that “there is a serious question as to whether an automatic stay applies in this case.” Guercio said he posted a similar statement. And by Tuesday afternoon, both men were convinced the stay and mask mandate were not in place. Of course, later in the day, a state appellate judge made the interpretation of the stay requirement moot by reinstating the mandate.

Gross said the confusion Monday night stemmed from the fact that there are appeals that generate automatic stays, if the action being appealed was supposed to precipitate another action. His example was a judge’s ruling that stopped a town from granting a construction permit. An appeal would create a stay, because the ruling was preventing construction.

And so, the lawyers for the vast majority of the Island’s school boards believed, there was no automatic stay of the judge’s decision to overturn the mask mandate because there was nothing else that not forcing kids to wear masks kept from happening.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Fort Salonga residents get rehab redux reprieve

When the Smithtown Town Board of Zoning Appeals meets Tuesday night, the audience will likely be either far smaller than expected, or far less interested than expected: The star item on the meeting agenda, an application to reopen Charlie Murphy’s Residence, the venerable rehab that suffered a fire in 2016, was withdrawn Monday night.

The prospective operators, who have not yet purchased the Fort Salonga property, wanted to host as many as 50 patients in an addiction facility. The area is zoned residential but Charlie Murphy’s predated that zoning, and so was not subject to it.

Neighbors and Fort Salonga Association members were gearing up for a fight, arguing the property lost its zoning exemption because it went more than 12 months without operating under the grandfathered use.

In a form letter residents were urged to sign and send to officials, the Fort Salonga Association also objected to its doubling of Charlie Murphy’s 25-patient capacity, its switch from not-for-profit to for-profit status, and its proximity to an elementary school. They also feared syringes, traffic, violence and “the dregs of society” intruding on their neighborhood.

The letter withdrawing the application simply says, “Due to unforeseen circumstances, the applicants are unable to proceed with the application at this time.”

And the attorney representing the prospective operators, Vincent Trimarco Sr., told The Point that was all he knew, as well.

But it’s at least possible the red-hot real estate market has something to do with it.

Although the purchase price for the property was never revealed, it was listed on a real estate website for $1.2 million late last year.

But several people with knowledge of real estate in that area, zoned for one-acre residential, said building lots there could go for as much as $350,000 or $400,000.

That could make the 5.6-acre site a lot more valuable for the residential use that is allowed by right than the rehab plan that isn’t.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

A different shadow

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Fundraising frenzy

There are fundraisers for Assembly and State Senate incumbents, including one featuring a Rolling Stones tribute band.

There is the high-end “Take Back New York” event for gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, where event sponsorship is available at a pricey $25,000.

And there are victory celebrations for newly elected county officials, including Legis. Nick Caracappa whose Caffe Amici shindig is set to consist of a four-course dinner featuring very Italian American donation levels: “The Big Ragu” for $1,500, “Tony Soprano” for $1,000, or “Vinnie Barbarino” for $500.

All in all, it will be a busy few weeks on the Suffolk County GOP’s fundraising circuit, according to a roundup of event invitations sent to supporters on Monday.

If the calendar looks a little crowded, that may be because the county party’s class of elected officials and hopefuls has grown a little with District Attorney Ray Tierney’s win and the new majority in the county legislature, party chairman Jesse Garcia said.

There’s also a backlog for fundraising. Not much of it gets done once the December holiday season starts. Then early January is taken up by oaths of office and settling in, Garcia said. But after that, the fundraising appeals start circulating again for county-level officials closing out their odd-year debts and state candidates looking to November.

Expect more dialing for dollars and creative or corny or desperate-seeming fundraising appeals to come. Not that such appeals are ever exactly out of season. “We start the next campaign the day after the election,” Garcia said.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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