by Joe Rand
You’ve probably heard something about about the recent dispute between the Rockland County Executive Ed Day and the Rockland County Legislature about the funding of the so-called “224 non-profits” in the Rockland budget. You may have also heard something about another dispute between the executive and the legislature about the sale of the “Sain Building” in New City. Both disputes have generated dueling accusations, recriminations and proposals.
But you might have a lot of questions. What are the “224’s”? Why don’t people want to fund them? And what do they have to do with the sale of a building?
Here’s an Explainer:
So what are the 224’s? They’re a collection of Rockland non-profits, including many important ones in Nyack: Elmwood Community Playhouse, Friends of the Nyacks, Hopper House, NAACP Nyack, Rivertown Films, and Rockland YMCA. Plus another 20 or so based outside of Nyack that mostly do really great work for the community, including Keep Rockland Beautiful, the Rockland Historical Society, the Legal Aid Society, and others.
Why are they called 224’s? That’s just the section of the county code that governs their funding. The key point is that unlike many other non-profits (like People to People, United Hospice, Nyack Center, and others) that do contract work for the County, their funding comes down to separate yearly appropriations in the budget. That makes them more vulnerable to cuts, which is what happened this year.
Why don’t people want to fund them? They do! Everyone wants to fund them! County Executive Ed Day wants to fund them! The Republican legislators want to fund them! The Democratic legislators want to fund them! Everyone! It’s almost a non-denominational holiday miracle of bipartisan unity!
So why aren’t they getting funded? Well, it’s complicated. We have two dueling plans to fund them. The Rockland County Legislature, mostly through Democratic votes, passed a resolution allocating about six months’ worth of 224 funding out of surplus funds from 2016 revenues. So they’re not getting the money from new taxes, and not increasing the deficit. Yay!
So that’s how they are getting funded? Probably not. Day doesn’t like that plan, because he believes the 2016 surplus should go to pay down the debt. So instead, he’s got a different plan, which mostly involves using the money from the sale of the “Sain” government building in New City to fund the 224’s.
What’s the “Sain Building?” It’s an old county government building on New Hempstead Road in New City. It’s a wreck. It should be torn down. So the government needs to sell it, and they’ve gotten a $4.5 milion offer, well above the appraised value, from a developer who wants to knock it down and put senior housing right in downtown New City. Which would be great!
Why don’t people want to sell the building? They do! Everyone wants to sell it! Ed Day wants to sell it! The Republicans want to sell it! The Democrats want to sell it! It’s yet another miracle of bipartisan unity!
So why isn’t it sold? Well, it’s complicated. We have two dueling proposals to sell it, one from Day and the other from the legislature. Day says that the legislature has been dragging its feet and blocking the sale, and the legislature has complained that Day did not follow the correct “process” in trying to sell the building.
So why doesn’t he just fix the process and get it sold? No one knows. Maybe he’s just stubborn and won’t back down. Maybe he’s concerned about institutional prerogatives of the county executive, and doesn’t want the legislature to push his office around. Or maybe he’s realized how ridiculous the legislature looks making its procedural objections, and he’s just going to keep hammering them on it until it wins him reelection.
Why is he winning the public relations battle on this? Because “I want to get things done! ” always wins over “but, but, but these forms weren’t filled out correctly!” No one cares about procedure. No. One. Cares. So Day looks like he’s trying to sell a building that no one wants for a lot of money that everyone needs, and the legislature is blocking him because he filled out the wrong form.
Is it really that simple? No. It’s actually very complicated. But we’re talking about the messaging of this, and complicated explanations make for bad messaging. If you’re explaining, you’re losing, and the Democrats are doing a lot of explaining about why they won’t agree to sell the building.
So why are the Sain building and the 224 funding connected? They’re not at all connected. The only one making the connection is Day (and the Republicans supporting him), who has consistently tried to condition the funding of the 224’s on the sale of the building, to force the legislature’s hand.
Isn’t that the worst kind of “hostage taking?” You could say that. The legislature certainly would, as would many of the non-profits affected by this. But that’s how politics sometimes works: “I won’t give you something you want unless you give me something I want.” And those two things are often unrelated: you vote for my project, and I’ll vote for your project in return.
So why isn’t that happening here? No idea. It’s infuriating. Almost everyone agrees the building should be sold, and almost everyone ALSO agrees that the 224s should be funded. Meanwhile, neither happens, because both sides have dug in their heels when they should be crafting a deal.
What kind of deal? Tit-for-tat. The legislature should give Day what he obviously REALLY wants (Sain sale) for something they REALLY want (224 funding), and maybe get even get some locked-in funding for the 224’s for future years. That’s how functional politics works. Make a deal!
Is that what’s going to happen? Maybe. The Democrats in the legislature need to do something, because they’re getting the worst of every part of this: the 224’s they support don’t get funded, all the great work the 224’s do doesn’t get done, and meanwhile they get destroyed on the messaging. And what’s their reward for all that pain? They get to block the sale of a building they actually WANT TO SELL. Even worse, the building will eventually get sold like Day wants, and they’ll have gotten nothing in return.
What about Day? This is all good for Day. He gets a ready-made re-election issue: He’s trying to get things done, and the legislature keeps blocking him. The people who pay close attention to this, and who blame him for the lack of funding of the 224s, mostly weren’t voting for him anyway, so that doesn’t really cost him.
But it costs the Democrats? Absolutely, because a dispiriting loss like this saps morale and depresses the vote. Coming back to the base Democratic voter and saying, “well, we tried to fund the 224’s and failed and oh-by-the-way the stupid building got sold anyway six months later when we got the ‘Form-407B’ or whatever filled out correctly in triplicate like we asked” is not a particularly inspiring bumper sticker message. You’re in office to get stuff done, and if the 224’s don’t get funded, you didn’t get stuff done. No one cares about how it gets done.
Is there any other way out of this? Maybe. The legislature did pass its 224 funding mechanism using surplus funds from 2016, and Day hasn’t specifically said he would veto it. So maybe he’ll “declare victory and leave,” in that he forced the Democrats to find the money to fund the 224’s without raising taxes or the deficit. And since the Democrats are only able to fund the non-profits for about half a year, he would get another six months to flay them on the Sain building nonsense. Then we’d be back in the same place, but a little closer to election day. Not bad for him.
But what if he does veto it? Well, then, the legislature can take a shot at overriding the veto. They came up one vote shy of an override when Day vetoed their initial 224 funding in the 2017 budget, and maybe they can pull one more Republican over to their side this time. It’s possible.
|District 15 (Pearl River)
Patrick J. Moroney
|District 16 (Pearl River)
Vincent D. Tyer
|District 12 (Suffern)
Charles J. Falciglia
|District 11 (Congers)
|District 5 (New City)
Lon M. Hofstein
|District 9 (Bardonia)
Christopher J. Carey
What if I live in Nyack and don’t even know those people? Well, then your legislator is Harriett Cornell, and she’s already a “yes” vote. But maybe you reach out to her and urge her to push her Democratic colleagues to make a deal on the Sain building that would get Day’s agreement to fund the 224’s. Here’s her contact info:
District 10 (Nyack)
Harriet D. Cornell
What do you think is going to happen? Honestly, I think that the 224’s get funded. Somehow. Maybe I’m a pie-eyed optimist, but I just don’t see how a political system could be so dysfunctional that procedural in-fighting and sniping could prevent two things from happening that everyone wants to happen.
And what does all of this have to do with the “bloc vote”? Absolutely nothing.
So why did I even ask about it? Because everyone assumes that if people are fighting about politics, then the “bloc” has to be involved somehow. But this is just a good old-fashioned political sideshow. So at least there’s that.
Joe Rand is a resident of Nyack, a principal at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate| Rand Realty, and the administrator of the “We Love Nyack” Facebook group.