Tag Archive | "Tim Bishop"

Congressman Tim Bishop

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By Emily J Weitz

Now that you have a renewed mandate from your electorate, what are the issues at the top of your agenda?

Nationally, far and away the number one issue is job creation. Everything we do has to be related to this. One of the frustrations a great many of us have had is there hasn’t been enough focus on this and hopefully we will now.

How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

A couple of things: some of the pieces of the tax cut compromise that has been worked out can be very stimulative. Certainly the payroll tax reduction. Moving the Social Security tax from 6.2 to 4.2 percent will pump $120 billion into the economy over the next two years. That can be tremendously stimulative. The other is the allowing of small businesses to expense 100% of their investments, which can be very stimulative as well. I have a real optimism about those two things. We also have to focus on full and robust reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Bill, or the Highway Bill. That is a proven job creator in my opinion.

What does that look like in New York?

We’re going to see federal dollars coming to New York for road and bridge jobs that will put more people to work. The bill deals with all forms of transportation, including mass transit, rail, roads and bridges. We have a crumbling infrastructure. We are trying to run a 21st century economy on 20th century infrastructure. We must take on this effort. What challenges do you foresee with the new makeup of the House? The Surface Transportation Bill, for example, will be a heavy lift. The bill doesn’t have much support among Republicans. It will require real leadership from the White House to get that done.I’m very concerned about that.

Are there any other issues that are particularly important to you?

There are a lot. But it’s important to get the federal government to pay attention to New York. I serve on an education committee and there’s an important piece of financial aid policy: the Perkins Student Loan Program. Higher education is a huge industry on Long Island. I am going to work very hard on that. Also, the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, which deals with shoreline protection and storm damage. This study has been going on far too long and we want to end it. It will recommend a whole series of actions to help protect our shorelines. My job is to see that they get funded.

What do you want the public to know about your philosophy as an elected official? Well, I believe I have been elected and my principal job is to represent my constituents and to help solve problems. The piece of our work I am most proud of is the work we’ve done assisting individual constituents. We have helped thousands over the time I’ve been in office. I’m proud of how I’ve partnered with every other elected official in this local government to bring the federal government to the local level. These are two things I believe in strongly: constituent service and bringing the power of the federal government to help resolve local problems.

Altschuler Concedes Congressional Race to Bishop

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By Bryan Boyhan

Ending the last contested race this year for a seat in the U.S. Congress, Republican candidate Randy Altschuler conceded the election Wednesday morning, offering his congratulations to Democratic incumbent Tim Bishop in the First Congressional District.

“I entered this race because I was worried about the future of our nation,” Altschuler said in a release from his campaign. “The problems America faces are many and will not be easily solved. I plan to stay active in politics and continue to speak out on the issues that affect the residents of Suffolk County, our state and our nation.”

Four-term Congressman Bishop said Altschuler called him at about 8:45 a.m. “to give me a heads up that he was going to make the announcement.”

“We had a very gracious and cordial conversation,” said Bishop in an interview Wednesday. “I said even though we had gone head to head pretty hard during the campaign, I had great respect for him and wished him well.”

Depending upon which camp you spoke with, Bishop led Wednesday by either 263 or 270 votes. Both campaigns were in the middle of counting through more than 2,000 challenged ballots — after approximately 11,500 absentee and affidavit votes had been cast —  and were expecting to be in front of State Supreme Court Judge Peter Mayer today to move further through the count. As of Tuesday, about 1,100 of the contested absentee ballots remained to be judged. There were more than 194,000 votes cast in the race.

“After consulting with my family and campaign staff, I am ending my campaign and offering congratulations to Congressman Tim Bishop on his victory,” Atschuler said in his statement.

“Although Newsday, The New York Times and the Bishop campaign have all called for a hand recount of all the ballots cast on Election Day, I will not support such an action as I feel its cost will place an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers of Suffolk County,” the candidate said.

The Altschuler campaign also dropped its legal challenges to the remaining uncounted absentee ballots, allowing the county’s board of elections to count the remaining ballots, said the release.

“While the Altschuler campaign has uncovered numerous instances of absentee ballots that may have been unlawfully cast, the campaign is confident that the proper authorities will take the appropriate action concerning them and that their number is too small to alter the outcome of the election,” the release said.

In a press conference Wednesday, Bishop called the allegations of broad voter fraud “a red herring,” and said his campaign was not pushing for a full recount.

“We would have a very high bar to reach,” to begin a recount, said Bishop adding he was satisfied with the bi-partisan and Suffolk County Board of Elections-ratified count.

Of the 1,100 challenged votes remaining to be counted, “about 800 were presumed Bishop votes and about 300 were presumed Altschuler votes,” said Bishop Wednesday morning. “I just think they figured the numbers didn’t add up.”

“Mathematically, it just did not seem possible to win,” Altschuler agreed in an interview Wednesday. “It was really unnecessary to prolong the effort.”

He said he intended to remain active, but said it was too early to consider another run for congress, and added he had not decided what role he may play politically.

On offering advice to Bishop, Altschuler stated: “One thing I had said when I was leading the race is that this is a divided district; so whoever wins must make an effort to represent all of our district.”

Acknowledging the closeness of the race, Bishop said the First District is a difficult place for a Democrat to get elected.

“There are 30,000 to 35,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the district,” Bishop said, adding there are more registered Conservatives in the district than anywhere else in the state.

He also acknowledged that, nationwide, Democrats were fighting off a tremendous Republican wave, with more than 30 of his Democratic colleagues losing their seats in the House.

“I’m delighted, frankly, to have withstood what amounted to be a Category 5 hurricane,” Bishop said.

The congressman credited the work he and his staff have done as one of the reasons for his victory.

“I see it as a validation,” he said and added during the press conference Wednesday morning that “you elect a representative to solve problems, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Bishop acknowledged that, since the election changed so many seats in the House, “I now have a very different job. I’m going to try to use the relationships I’ve developed to influence my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. And I’m going to have to resist that which I think is detrimental to my constituents.”

The concession marks the end of a race that has fluctuated wildly over the past month. Unofficial Election Day results had given Bishop a 3,500 vote lead, only to have Altschuler claim a 383-vote advantage after the county’s new electronic voting machines were re-read. It wasn’t until after the absentee votes had been tabulated that Bishop regained a narrow lead that built until Wednesday morning’s concession.

On the narrow margin of victory, Bishop concluded “If ever anyone needed a civics lesson on the platitude that every vote counts, this is that civics lesson.”

Opportunity Missed

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For some time, we thought the rest of the world had gotten past the idea that the East End was the poor stepchild to the rest of Long Island. Apparently congressional candidate Randy Altschuler didn’t get the memo.

As it has done for years, the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons has invited the candidates for public office to meet and debate on the South Fork for the benefit of local voters. These are consistently well attended events, regularly televised and in many cases the only time some candidates get to meet face to face in front of East End residents to discuss local issues.

Such is the case with the race for U.S. Congress here this year, between Mr. Altschuler and incumbent Tim Bishop. It is arguably one of the most competitive, controversial and closely watched races on Long Island, if not the country.

Late last week Mr. Altschuler declined to appear, citing scheduling conflicts, long after League volunteers had requested him to save the date. His decision means that, for the first time in many years, Hamptons residents will not be able to see their congressional candidates face off.  It is, we think, a wasted opportunity on Mr. Altschuler’s part, and a disservice to the voters of East Hampton and Southampton towns.

As we have done for about ten years, the editors of the East Hampton Star, the Southampton Press and the Sag Harbor Express were invited by the League to prepare and ask questions during the debate (we will do so for the candidates for state assembly and senate on October 25). Instead we will draft a letter to Mr. Altschuler expressing our disapointment. For some, apparently, we will always just be the poor stepchild.

Bishop Promises Defense for Noyacans Versus Helicopters

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By Bryan Boyhan

After another summer season enduring helicopter traffic over their homes, Noyac residents wanted to know how the government was doing to make their lives more bearable. So when Congressman Tim Bishop visited the Noyac Civic Council Monday night, they were ready.

“You want to hear about helicopters,” Bishop surmised as he started speaking on the lawn in front of the Bridgehampton National Bank’s community room, while the audience of about 30 NCC members waited for the door to be unlocked.

For years residents of Noyac, Sag Harbor and North Sea have complained that helicopter traffic to and from the East Hampton airport has disrupted their lives, rattling windows and interrupting outdoor conversations. Prodded by complaints, elected officials have lobbied authorities and the Federal Aviation Administration to take action to control the traffic.

“We actually had to show that the FAA has the authority to regulate helicopter traffic,” said Bishop. “They didn’t want to.”

“We tried to get pilots to comply with voluntary routing, but we couldn’t get enough pilots to agree,” said Bishop. “But I feel the routes were flawed; they only went over certain areas.”

A proposed route that takes copters out over Long Island Sound, but allows them to cross over the Pine Barrens, still has the traffic move over residential areas on both the north and south forks.

“We’ll be issuing proposals for routes, but I don’t believe what has been proposed works. It works for Nassau County and the western part of Suffolk, but it doesn’t work for Eastern Long Island,” said Bishop.

The proposal Bishop and other local officials are suggesting is two-pronged, with a northern route and a southern route. The northern route keeps eastbound helicopters out over Long Island Sound until they reach Orient Point, where they would then turn back to approach the airport over Northwest and Barcelona Neck.

A southern route is designed to take some pressure off the northern route by having helicopters travel out over the ocean until they reach Georgica, at which point they would turn north to the airport. At all times they would be required to maintain a minimum altitude while traveling over residential areas. As proposed, that altitude is 2,500 feet, but Bishop said they were pushing for 3,000 feet.

Bishop conceded, however, that the southern route has its complications, particularly concerns that flights out of Teterboro Airport and Manhattan would interfere with Kennedy Airport airspace.

To date, the FAA has received over 1,000 comments about the proposed route.

“Hopefully their decision will reflect the comments from myself and other East End officials, like [Southampton Town Councilwoman] Bridget Fleming and [State Assemblyman] Fred Thiele,” said Bishop. “I want to make sure the regulations are going to solve the problems here.”

Some residents were concerned that, even if the new routes and height regulations were adopted, enforcement would be an issue. East Hampton Airport is presently an unregulated airport, with no controller communicating with aircraft.

“There is talk about a manned tower, which would then be regulated,” said the congressman. “Anytime an air traffic controller gives an instruction to a pilot, they must adhere to it.”

Indeed, on September 2, East Hampton Town adopted an update to their Airport Master Plan which, among other things, recommends the installation of a seasonal air traffic control tower, located in a portable building on the airport grounds. The revisions call for a “no growth policy,” meaning expansion of the airport facilities will be limited. They also call for re-opening runway 4-22 and converting runway 16-32 to a taxi way. The primary runway, 10-28, will not be changed.

The master plan and a layout for the airport will now be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval. If approved, the town will then be able to apply for controlled airspace around the airport enabling the town to hire a seasonal air traffic controller to direct landings and takeoffs.

And if the FAA chooses to ignore the comments from East Enders?

“Then it’s going to be me, Schumer and Gillibrand going after them,” said Bishop.

East End Towns Weigh in on Copter Regulations

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Sag Harbor resident Susan Baran believes the Federal Aviation Administration’s draft plan aimed at regulating helicopter flight paths and curbing the chopper noise that has plagued East End residents for years does not go far enough.

In comments made to the FAA on the proposed “Schumer Rule,” Baran was among hundreds of Sag Harbor and Noyac residents who asked for the regulations to be expanded to include more than one mandatory route for helicopters, as well as higher altitude requirements for pilots.

“We have borne the brunt of the departing traffic for years,” said Baran of the Sag Harbor community. “Our house shakes, windows rattle and conversation is impossible.”

Residents were joined this week by the supervisors of four East End towns, state government leaders, and Congressman Tim Bishop in asking the “Schumer Rule” be expanded in order to aid residents on the East End as well as those further west on Long Island.

Under the proposed regulation, helicopter pilots would be required to follow a northern route one mile offshore over the Long Island Sound to Shoreham where they would split off either to Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, the Southampton Helipad, the Montauk Airport or the East Hampton Airport following voluntary routes established in 2007, some of which bring flights from East Hampton directly over Sag Harbor and Noyac.

Regulations also propose that pilots keep a minimum altitude of 2,500 feet.

Following the FAA’s announcement about the regulations in May, government and community leaders commended the agency for taking action to deal with helicopter noise on Long Island, but almost unanimously were outspoken that a single northern route would unfairly burden a few communities, demanding a southern route to the East Hampton Airport over the ocean and Georgica Pond.

This week, those recommendations became official with East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty, all of who submitted a joint response to the FAA asking the agency to support nine recommendations created by the East End Helicopter Noise Stakeholders Group.

Recommendations made by the stakeholders group have received the support of Congressman Tim Bishop, with New York State Senator Ken P. LaValle, New York State Assemblyman Marc Alessi and Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine making similar recommendations to the FAA.

According to Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, Senator Charles Schumer’s office was instrumental in setting up the stakeholders group, which included Kathy Cunningham, the chair of the East Hampton Airport Noise Abatement Advisory Committee, East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, Graboski, airport noise abatement advisory committee members Peter Wadsworth and Charles Ehren, and Shelter Island resident Don Kornrumpf, among others.

The stakeholders group asks the FAA to create two mandatory designated routes, one along the North Shore and one along the South Shore, with pilots required to fly one mile from shore on both routes.

“This is essential in order to accommodate the important southerly transition routes from [the East Hampton Airport] and other East End Airports and to equitably distribute the volume of helicopter traffic using the North and South Shore routes,” reads their statement.

Stakeholders recommend that helicopters flying the North Shore route to East Hampton be required to transition east from Plum Gut, and proceed south to Barcelona Neck and over Route 114 to the East Hampton Airport.

Both the East Hampton Airport and Gabreski Airport should also be empowered directly or through the FAA to manage the number of flights coming into their airports at one time, according to the recommendations, and should be allowed to establish curfews for when flights can take-off and land.

They also ask the FAA to establish procedures in coordination with area airports to monitor and enforce compliance with the proposed routes and that any helicopters maintain an altitude of 3,000 feet when flying over land while departing or arriving at any of the local airports. Pilots should also be mandated to follow noise abatement policies established by each airport, states the group.

“Since the FAA has found that the Long Island helicopter noise problem is unique, the present rulemaking must deal expressly with that problem as it relates to the East End Airports,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst in a letter to the FAA. “Current and recent trends indicate that the burden of helicopter traffic centering on [the East Hampton Airport] will increase substantially in future years, further exacerbating the noise problem for the East End.”

The Noyac Civic Council, as well as a number of Sag Harbor and Noyac residents, would also like to see the northern route require pilots to use Orient Point as a waypoint before flying to East Hampton and Montauk airports.

At a Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Monday, Graboski praised the FAA for making “a significant move” by beginning the process of regulating helicopter routes to the East End, but noted the regulations as proposed aid residents in western Suffolk County and Nassau County, more than they do the Twin Forks.

The proposals supported by the four supervisors, she said, would round out the regulations to protect residents on the East End as well.

“It was probably one of the more challenging things we have been involved in,” she said.

The deadline for comments to the FAA was June 25. To view comments submitted to the FAA, visit www.regulations.gov and use the keyword FAA-2010-0302.

GOP Targets Local Dem-Held Seats

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Suffolk County Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle is bullish about GOP’s prospects in the coming election. After years of setbacks nationally, on a state level and in Suffolk—once Republican-dominated—he sees the GOP as “on our way back.”

The GOP “lost its way,” acknowledges Mr. LaValle who took over as Suffolk leader in September. “We became like Democrats. We left the concept of smaller government and less taxes. We started to buy into a concept of all these programs—and government grew and grew.”

This has been true under a series of recent Republican presidents and the last GOP New York governor, George Pataki, said Mr. LaValle, a 42-year-old attorney who was Brookhaven Town supervisor from 2000 to 2005. But the Democratic Party has “betrayed the trust” of voters and people “have very quickly become angry and upset” and are starting to translate that politically, said Mr. LaValle last week. “It’s a very exciting time for us.”

The Democratic administration of Barack Obama has been a “disgrace.” The president’s “words sound good but there’s not been a whole lot of substance behind the words,” he said.

He speaks of Obama having “broken more campaign promises than any president of the United States.”

He regards the Democratic losses of the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia in November and, last month, of Democrat Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, as the reflecting a negative view a majority of voters now have of the Obama administration.

The situation is “even more pathetic” in New York State with Democratic Governor David Paterson. Even if Mr. Paterson decides to drop out and not run in November or is dumped, Mr. LaValle doesn’t see his likely replacement, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, as salvaging the situation for Democrats.“Cuomo is extremely overrated,” commented Mr. LaValle. “He and David Paterson operate from the same playbook.”

Mr. LaValle is supporting former U.S. Representative Rick Lazio of Brightwaters as the GOP nominee for governor in November. “I am certain he will be the Republican candidate. He is a fiscal conservative who knows the reality of our situation.”

As to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, a Democrat who is seeking to run for governor—and, said Mr. LaValle, has “reached out” to him about GOP support—Mr. LaValle said Mr. Levy could “make a great comptroller or attorney general” candidate on the Republican ticket “but we’re behind Rick Lazio.”

On a county level, he cites East Hampton as a “perfect example” of Democrats self-destructing locally. In East Hampton “the Democrats came into power and ran up deficits and tried to cover up the deficits with inappropriate fiscal behavior.” Thus in a town where there are more enrolled Democrats than Republicans, the GOP won big in East Hampton in November, he points out.

A key target of Mr. LaValle is Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton who Mr. LaValle describes as the “poster child of betrayal” for supporting the Democratic plan for health care reform. “Virtually two-thirds of his constituents were opposed,” claims Mr. LaValle. Mr. Bishop should have reflected this, he maintains “This arrogance Tim Bishop possesses is exactly the Washington mentality that got us into trouble.”

He speaks of “extraordinary” potential candidates seeking to run against Mr. Bishop including: Christopher Cox of Westhampton Beach, a grandson, he notes, of former President Richard Nixon; George Demos, originally of Shelter Island now of Holbrook, a former SEC enforcement attorney; and Gary Berntsen, a retired CIA operative and author of Port Jefferson.

Another major LaValle target: Brian Foley of Blue Point who in 2008 ended a near-century GOP hold on all Suffolk seats in the State Senate. Mr. LaValle scores Democrat Foley’s vote on imposing a payroll tax to help finance the MTA.

It is vital, meanwhile, says Mr. LaValle, that the GOP not just criticize Democrats but “espouse the principles and ideals of our party. The party has to stand for something: fighting to make government smaller and that will lead to lower taxes for residents. People are standing up and wanting to see something new. This is the reason for these tea parties.  People are gravitating back to slightly right of center. It’s a process.”

Is Mr. LaValle correct? There are many months between now and the November election. But, for sure, in Mr. LaValle of Mt. Sinai (the cousin of State Senator Kenneth LaValle) the party now has a hard-charging leader.

Congressman Impressed With School’s Efforts With Career Academy

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by Marianna Levine

This past Monday, as kids were arriving back to school after their winter break, Congressman Tim Bishop started his New Year with a visit to the Bridgehampton School.  Bishop, who is a member of Congress’ Education Committee, as well as a former Southampton College administrator, has taken an interest in Bridgehampton’s innovative Environmental Design Program. It is a program that is part of a larger 40-year-old Career Academy sponsored by Long Island Works Coalition (LIWC), a division of Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and New Jersey.

Congressman Bishop was joined by Goodwill Industries President and CEO, Bill Forrester, as well as several other representatives of Goodwill Industries, LIWC, and the school’s public relations firm, Mullen and McCaffrey, on a tour of the program given by Superintendent Dr. Diane Youngblood, Principal Jack Pryor, and Environmental Design teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz.

“I’ve been looking at ways to solidify education and ways to prepare students for work,” said the congressman. “I had been focusing on community colleges not on high schools.” But Bishop was impressed with Bridgehampton’s efforts to give students an earlier start in practical education.

Bridgehampton’s Environmental Design Career Academy is a program where “students learn the art, science, and business of landscape architecture and environmental design through hands on experiential learning,” according to the school’s brochure. It was a program that Youngblood took over from the private Ross School, when that school decided to discontinue it.

The concept of a Career Academy came about originally to address the needs of students who did not connect well with theoretical learning, as well as to assist the community by providing an appropriately prepared worker.  It has since evolved, according to Cheryl Davidson, Executive Director of LIWC.

“We started with high risk students but have now expanded to include AP students in our program,” she said. “We’ve found that kids in the Career Academy have increased (high school) graduation rates and an increased probability of continuing on in higher education.”

Davidson continued to explain, “What distinguishes the Career Academy from traditional academics is what we refer to as the new three Rs: rigorous academics, relevancy in learning, and relationships with the greater community. In effect we’re creating a pipeline for students to enter the workforce.”

After asking a few specifics about the program such as whether courses were embedded in the school’s curriculum (the environmental design and culinary arts courses are popular electives), and if the courses were solely for Bridgehampton residents (they are currently, but Dr. Youngblood has been trying to get the Sag Harbor School District involved), Congressman Bishop added, “It sounds like these courses have a pretty broad applicability; it sounds like you have things well in hand.”

The environmental design course is co-taught by Carmack-Fayyaz, an environmental design teacher and Joanne Palisi, a business teacher. The culinary arts course is also co-taught by Carmack-Fayyaz and science teacher Natalia Nichols. The reason for this non-traditional collaboration is that the courses are interdisciplinary and evolve with student interest.

Carmack-Fayyaz notes that there are certain advantages to having this program in a smaller school such as Bridgehampton.

“It does make it sometimes more challenging, but our model is integral academic programming,” she said. “In a smaller school we can be more creative about what that means.”

The environmental design program, for example, was originally solely about landscape design; but as more students expressed an interest in architecture and designing interior spaces they evolved the program to teach that as well.

The program has had several successes, including recently receiving a so-called Cinderella grant of $9,000 from National Grid to build a green house in addition to the already student-designed and successfully completed edible schoolyard. Currently, the school has plans to create a solar powered irrigation system, but is looking for community support to implement the program. Congressman Bishop stated he might be able to help the school with this or other components of the program.

Also, Carmack-Fayyaz related that several of the program’s students have won specific competitions or grants. Environmental Design student, Tanetha Clark, won the Hampton’s Library garden design competition, and two of their other students won AFS grants with the Career Academy’s assistance to study abroad.

Karen Means, senior vice-president of Youth and Community Services for Goodwill Industries noted that programs such as the Career Academy are vital to the greater community since it introduces students to careers that will need them in the future. She cited a startling statistic; “We had 400 engineering jobs to fill on Long Island last year, and only 40 students in the area graduating in that field.”

WW II Awards Presented Posthumously For Sag Harbor Veteran

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Congressman Tim Bishop recently secured a number of posthumous medals for Raymond R. Beyel.  Beyel served in the U.S. Navy from December 29, 1942 to February 22, 1946.  The medals were presented to his daughter Claudia Burns, a resident of Sag Harbor, at a ceremony in Bishop’s Coram district office last Tuesday, August 25.

At the ceremony, Bishop presented the Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal w/ three bronze service stars, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon w/ two bronze service stars, Presidential Unit Citation w/ one bronze service star, Twin Dolphin Award, New York State Conspicuous Service Cross, and the New York State Medal for Merit.

“Raymond Beyel went halfway around the world to secure our freedom and way of life,” Congressman Bishop said. “We are grateful for his service to our country and I am pleased to honor his legacy with these well-deserved medals.”

Born on September 14, 1925 in New York City, Beyel joined the U.S. Navy upon graduation from Central Islip High School in 1942.  Beyel served on the submarine USS Gurnard as a Torpedoman 3rd class. The submarine was credited with sinking or destroying 21 enemy ships. He served at the Panama Canal, Hawaiian Islands, Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima, the Marinas, the South China Seas of the Philippines and participated in the invasion of the Tinian Islands. After his service, Beyel worked for the Long Island Lighting Company and retired after 37 years. He passed away on September 2, 1993.

Bishop Aids Health Alliance in Fight With Empire

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By Andrew Rudansky

With only 11 days left before Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield’s contract with several area hospitals expires, The East End Health Alliance, a partnership between Southampton Hospital, Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, and Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, is scrambling to return to the negotiating table. Congressman Tim Bishop, a Southampton native, intervening on behalf of the alliance held a press conference at the Southampton Hospital’s Parrish Memorial Hall this Monday, July 20 urging Empire BCBS to return to the negotiating table to renew the contract before the July 31 deadline.
“I don’t want to be melodramatic and suggest that we are on the verge of a health care crisis,” said Congressman Bishop, “but we are certainly on the verge of a tremendously adverse situation that affects public health on eastern Long Island.”
This situation should not be unfamiliar to many local residents, as this isn’t the first time the East End Health Alliance has run up against insurance companies. In May of 2008 with Oxford Health Insurance and then once again in September of 2008 with GHI/HIP, the Alliance both faced stern opposition at the negotiating table. In both of those cases the Alliance was able to successfully negotiate new contracts.

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Empire BCBS is much different than Oxford Health Insurance and GHI/HIP in terms of scope. Empire BCBS is Eastern Long Island’s largest health care provider, covering over 40% of all policy holders in the area. Many of these policy holders receive their Empire BCBS coverage from public schools and municipal jobs. The Alliance claims that they cover over 300,000 residents between the three of them, and if 40% of that number could no longer be covered by their insurance plan when they are admitted to those hospitals it would be, said Bishop, “intolerable and suggests that patient well-being is a secondary concern to [Empire BCBS’s] bottom line.”
Andrew J, Mitchell, President and CEO of Peconic Bay Medical Center said, “There are so many different varieties of health plans within the Empire BCBS product line, that it would be very difficult to estimate the number of people” that would be unable to come to Alliance hospitals due to insurance problems. Mitchell added that without adequate reimbursement from the insurance companies, Alliance hospitals could not provide the same scope of services that they currently do provide.
“[Current negotiations] are really going nowhere,” said Paul Connor III, President of Eastern Long Island Hospital and spokesperson for the East End Health Alliance. Connor was impressed with Congressman Bishop’s interest in the issue. “Tim [Bishop] is a tremendous advocate for our hospitals and health care,” said Connor.
Bishop used the platform to reiterate his support for a government alternative to the current health care system. “This is exhibit A on why we need comprehensive health care reform,” said Bishop.
If the contract expires before a settlement can be made many local area Empire BCBS policy holders could be redirected to hospitals in Patchogue or Port Jefferson, or be required to pay “more expensive out-of-network rates.”
Even if the two sides fail to come to some sort of agreement before the July 21 deadline, New York State law mandates that all emergency patients or pregnant women in their first trimester be admitted to a hospital regardless of their insurance status. Also only Alliance hospitals will be affected and personal doctors will remain unaffected.
“I believe this status results from Empire’s failure to negotiate in good faith,” wrote the congressman in a letter addressed to Mark Wagar, president and CEO of Empire BCBS and Angela F. Braly, president and CEO of WellPoint. The letter, written directly after the press conference, stated that the Alliance hospitals are asking for reimbursement rates similar to ones they have with other insurance providers. Similarly, according to the letter, the rates proposed by Empire BCBS would result in a loss of $500 per day by hospitals.
“No reasonable person can think that this is sustainable, no reasonable person can describe Empire BCBS’s posture here as negotiating in good faith,” said Bishop at the press conference.
George D. Keckeisen, MD, president of the Southampton Hospital Medical Staff, said, “This is a problem that needs to be addressed…and we hope that with the pressure we can bring to bear from the both health care provides, both the physicians community and nurses, in addition and in conjunction with the hospitals administration…that the Blue Cross provider will actually come to the table and make a realistic proposal that we can all live with.”
Bishop’s strongly worded letter concluded with the congressman saying that he might request a federal investigation of unfair practices in the negotiations if Empire BCBS does not capitulate to what Bishop believes are more reasonable rates.

Top: Congressman Tim Bishop with Paul Connor III, spokesman for the East End Health Alliance, at Monday’s press conference.

Inset: Bruce LaValle, R.N., speaking with Jasmine Dozier, R.N. (left) and Diane Groneman, R.N. (right).

Immigration Forum: Impact on the Economy

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