Cablevision Back to Hopefully Renew Its Agreement
Although Peter Andrews was not present at the meeting, Williston Park Mayor Ludwig Odierna gave high praise to Peter Andrews and his unique store, on Hillside Avenue, with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Village of Williston Park. He said, “For many years Peter Andrews’ delightful store has added life to the village. Further, he has been a sponsor for many events to benefit the area.”
Mayor Odierna also issued a Certificate of Appreciation to Whistle Stop, a store that recently opened in Williston Park and owner Mary Ann Fearon who was on hand to accept the certificate.
The meeting then turned to a hearing for the renewal of Cablevision in the village.
Jeffery Clark, director of franchise management at Cablevision, presented his program for the village. He explained that the village had been under contract with Cablevision for the last 10 years. He said, “I was here 10 years ago when we renewed the agreement and I can’t believe we’re here again. Time really flies by. Over the last 10 years we have had a very good relationship with the village and we have worked on community projects and I am happy to report there have been no problems with the franchise and I look forward to renewing the agreement and look forward to another 10 years.
“This agreement, as I explained, is for 10 years and is non-exclusive so the village is able to have other cable providers in the community and Verizon is in the community providing services as well. When Verizon entered the village a few years ago they spoke about having a level playing field. To help achieve that, we took the Verizon agreement and made technical changes since we are a cable company and they are a phone company so we are moving forward so that we will have that level playing field.
“Some of the changes that we have seen in the agreement are local programming. Cablevision is a cable company and we produce local programs. In section No. 5 of the agreement we provide for the village to have a certain number of hours that we assist you in producing programs and we will feature Williston Park. That is something different from Verizon. They don’t do that, but we do, so it’s a little different. The filming is at the mayor’s request. So, for instance, if there is a street fair and you want us to send a crew down we will tape the street fair and put it on Channel No. 18. Further, we allow for training, so that people on staff that will train your residents. So if you have a resident that wants to learn about TV they can come to our studio and under state rules, known as PEG (Public Education Grant) rules we will provide access and training in all phases of TV production and we provide the equipment. We call it ‘video in a box.’ They came in and at no charge after they are trained and are certified. They walk out with a suitcase type box and it has lighting, microphones, cameras and they can tape whatever they want. Come back to our facilities and edit it and put it on. That is in the agreement. To help with this, we have given the village a grant of $45,000. Ten years ago it was $55,000 grant. Verizon came in with $90,000 and we are slightly ahead giving $100,000, plus the additions of the extra programming and training.
“Basically, the rest of the agreement is the use of the ‘right of way’ to put our equipment and wires out there so that we can provide services and we pay the village for that and that is the franchise fee. The maximum that any village can receive is 5 percent and the village is receiving that now. We are required to follow the village code, so if we do any work we are required to come in and get permits in order to do any work. We also have to have insurance to indemnify the village. Further, we have to provide the village with a performance bond, but we have already done that.”
Village attorney Richard Reers said, “I would also like to add that you are also providing free cable service to certain buildings in the village.”
Clark said, “Yes, as we go forward we will continue to provide free family cable to the village buildings, schools both private and parochial, the fire department, police and library.”
A member of the fire department wanted to know if the “video in the box” could be used by anyone and especially by anyone in the fire department and would they be trained. Clark said, “Anything you would like.”
Another resident wanted to know how much money does the 5 percent franchise fee provide to the village.
Clark said he was so sorry, but didn’t have the figure with him, but would provide it to the board. He said it was a semi-annual fee and was paid in August and in February.
Pamela Goldstein, an outside attorney for Verizon, then came before the village board. She said she didn’t have any questions for Mr. Clark and she said she wanted to make a few statements.
Goldstein said, “Thank you for the opportunity to make a few comments regarding Cablevision’s proposed agreement. Verizon understands that the proposed renewal agreement was only available at village hall for Verizon’s review and inspection for less than three full business days because Cablevision failed to provide a document to the village. In light of this I urge the village to adjourn this hearing to a later date for two important reasons. First, to afford all interested parties the opportunity to review the proposal and properly communicate their concerns. Second, to allow more time for the village to carefully consider whether this proposal offers adequate financial support and protection for village residents.
“This is critical, because if this proposal is approved tonight in its current form the village will receive less money and have less of a regulatory position to enforce its renewal agreement than what Cablevision is currently subject to under its existing 10 year agreement. As Mr. Clark indicated, the proposal provides for only half of the amount of tech support that Verizon is required to provide and significantly less than the support Cablevision provides under its existing agreement. The level of protection offered by Cablevision’s agreement would be reduced by eliminating the requirement for a $50,000 bond and the $7500 deposit as security performance for all of Cablevision’s franchise obligations including the obligation to provide cable services to all village residents.
“In addition, Cablevision does not provide any provisions against Cablevisions failure to provide cable service. The reduced obligation of Cablevision’s proposal places Verizon at a competitive disadvantage. As you know Verizon entered the cable television market in the village less than two years ago. Cablevision’s proposal falls short of Verizon’s franchise obligation by failing to at least match $90,000 in aggregate PEG grants, a security of performance of all franchise obligations and the assessment of liquidated damages in the amount of $50 per day.
“Finally, in its present form Cablevision’s proposal does not level Verizon’s playing field.”
Attorney Reers said, “In your comment regarding the notice of three business days, I had a conversation with your representative at Verizon and we offered to adjourn the hearing and he did not want to do that. So, I am kind of taken aback by that.”
Goldstein said, “That wasn’t my understanding about that conversation. My understanding was that you suggested to him that we might raise that possibility.”
Reers said, “We have been working on a final agreement since December. There was some verbiage that had to be resolved and when it was we moved ahead and I asked if our contact from Verizon wanted more time and he said no.”
Goldstein answered, “Well he’s not council to the company, only a representative.”
Outside councel for Cablevision, Peter Bee said, “The Verizon council said there was less money paid by Cablevision than was in the last agreement. I guess, in one sense, that is true; in the last agreement Cablevision paid $55,000 and in this agreement they are paying $45,000 but the concept of the level playing field is that the two agreements, the Verizon and the Cablevision agreement, are supposed to be approximately the same when you net everything out. Not exactly the same clause by clause, but in their totality they are supposed to be comparable so that one company does not have some kind of material advantage in the market. Therefore, Verizon has made a payment of $90,000 and Cablevision has now paid $55,000 and $45,000 or $100,000. They are close, not exact, but they are comparable.
“The Verizon councel mentioned there was no $50,000 bond. But that bond was to secure the build-out of the infrastructure, which has now been accomplished by Cablevision, but not accomplished by Verizon. Not sure what the percentage is now with Verizon. It was mentioned that there was a dissimilar liquidated damage clause. However, we did not provide a per diem penalty for Cablevision for failure to build out its system, because we have already built out its system. But, in number, where Verizon has provided $50 a day per diem, Cablevision provided a penalty of $100 a day per diem. So the liquidated damage section is not identical word for word but in their totality they are comparable.
“Verizon councel made the comment, with which I would agree, that we cannot have a binding final determination that the village and Cablevision conclusively decide that the two agreements are completively neutral. The Public Service Commission (PSC) says that they get to make that final decision and we agree. But, I think that the PSC is interested in what the village and Cablevision think about. They give weight to our agreement that the two documents are competitively neutral. The law requires us to produce a document that is competitively neutral. It would be a little odd if we wrote in that the law requires us to have a competitively neutral agreement and we think we have produced a final document that isn’t competitively neutral. It wouldn’t make sense. So, we think we have produced a document that is competitively neutral, but the PSC gets to make the final decision. I’m a little surprised that Verizon feels that our agreement is so much more superior to its agreement that Verizon can’t compete adequately in the market place. We think they can, we see their commercials on TV every day and they seem to be competing pretty well. So, we are appreciative of the work that has gone into this on behalf of the village representatives, including your council, who is recommending this document to you.”
The Verizon councel, Pamela Goldstein, spoke again, but not before Mayor Odierna asked her what law firm she was associated with and she said it was McGuire Woods, a law firm in Richmond, Virginia that has an office in midtown Manhattan.
Prior to her disputing the statement made by the Cablevision attorney, a resident in the audience asked why these questions weren’t taken up by the village attorney prior to this hearing. The resident then addressed the village attorney and asked him why the village hadn’t been dealing with the attorney right along and why are we now and the village attorney said, “Verizon chose who we were to deal with. It is not my choice.”
Goldsmith then went down the list of agreements, that had already been discussed, point-by-point. After her speech, the village board decided to put the hearing on hold and decide on it at a later date.
The conversation continued in this back and forth vein until Mayor Ludwig Odierna proposed the village vote on the decision whether or not to appoint Cablevision’s proposal be put on hold and the village board agreed. The hearing will be continued at the Feb. 22 meeting at Williston Park Village Hall.
Further, the board also voted on a prior hearing, that had been put on hold, to allow the Cross Fit 516 gym to open on 201 Hillside Avenue in Williston Park.
Trustee Reports Mayor Odierna
Mayor Odierna announced that he received a resignation from village justice Alan Reardon.
He also announced, in an answer to an inquiry at the last meeting, that the village is waiting on other bids for the cell tower and nothing is to be put on the apartment house at this time.
Village Deputy Mayor Ann Marie Smith
Deputy Mayor Smith announced that she is not seeking re-election in the upcoming March election. She said, “I wish all the best for all the candidates. Further, I would like to thank the mayor and my colleagues for their constant help and support.”
Deputy Mayor Smith thanked everyone for working so hard to make Operation Santa on Christmas Eve such a success. She said they made deliveries to 111 homes in Williston Park and she then thanked everyone involved.
She also announced that the Parking Committee is working hard to make and then announce all the changes.
Pool applications are being accepted until March 1 at village hall. Applicants must be 16 years old.
Trustee Kevin Dunn
Trustee Dunn also announced he is not running for re-election to the village board.
He then reported on the December court report. Honorable Alan J. Reardon heard 219 cases with a fine of $14,370 together with the New York State surcharge of $540. Honorable Kevin Kiley heard three cases with a fine of $235 with the New York State surcharge of $35.
Trustee Beth Swensen-Dowd
She said that she and trustee Dunn met again with the representatives of the Department of Public Works regarding their contract and they have not as yet reached a resolution.
She also announced that the seniors will be holding a Valentine’s/President’s Day Social on Feb. 21 from noon to 5 p.m.
The East Williston Water Contract has not been signed, but she said she is hopeful.
Trustee William Darmstadt
Trustee Darmstadt announced that the library will be “spruced” up with new curtains and the Friends of The Library are having new curtains installed in the Assembly Room at village hall.
Building Inspector Collins
Inspector Collins pointed out that many of the empty stores in Williston Park are now being occupied with new business coming into the village, which he said, “Is a very promising note.” He said he will announce the fees collected at the next meeting.
Department of Public Works Superintendent Brunnel
He announced that after an investigation it has been discovered that the drainage pipe at Liberty and Prospect does not continue, so in order to correct a flooding problem, they are looking into perhaps changing the repitch of the road.
He also announced that 1,000 new water meters have been installed with about 800 to go.
Further, he announced that tree men are trimming the trees so that roadwork can begin in the spring.
Village Attorney Richard Reers
He announced that the village has received an approval by the Nassau County Planning Commission, that has been given to all the villages that will make the process of referring certain zoning applications to them and not requiring them to act on everyone. From now on not everyone who makes an application for a special permit will have to be sent to the Nassau Planning Commission.
Fire Chief Smithing reminded everyone to clear fire hydrants at their house of snow accumulation. He said there was an incident in a village where the firefighters could not find the fire hydrant because it was buried in the snow.
Former village justice Alan Reardon asked the function of John Morris. It was established that he is a CPA and a part-time worker with no benefits.
Further, he wanted to know why Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy was not asked for any monetary assistance from her office in the form of a bond as Congressman Ackerman has given to the village.
Reardon said he contacted McCarthy’s office and they told him that no contact for a request has been made by the village.
However, Mayor Odierna said that on several occasions the village has written to Congresswoman McCarthy and received no response. He said that just last week they received a response that said to apply next year.
Reardon said, “Give me the letters and I’ll write to her office, because if they are giving me a lot of baloney I want to be able to prove it. Further, I will request from her office a list of all the grants she has given and to whom.”
Mayor Odierna said, “Sure, we’ll give you a copy of the letters and furthermore you should know that Williston Park has received no help from Congresswoman McCarthy in the last four years. Also, I checked with Mineola Mayor Jack Martins and he received no help from her either.”
Reardon continued, “Mayor, on Oct. 23 at about 6 p.m. my house was shaking and I thought it was either an earthquake or a wide load on Hillside Avenue. I went out at 6:30 p.m., in the dark, and a guy was driving piles at the gas station, in the dark. So, I went over there and watched him. He shut down at 10 minutes to 7 p.m. I called the village, your house and 911. Then on Saturday morning I went to the contractor and asked him what they were doing at that hour and he said ‘the village let me do it.’ I said to him ‘don’t do that. The village is not going to let you drive piles on a Friday night at 6:30 p.m. in the dark. It’s so dangerous you could kill somebody.’
“Monday morning I went to village hall and asked about the complaint I made and was told that Richie took care of it. I got Mr. Reers’ bill and it stated he drove by there, but didn’t see anything, that’s what his bill states. Then Monday morning we had a conversation about it, but I never received a response.”
Odierna said, “I called your house and no one picked up the phone. That night as soon as you called, I went there and saw no one. I went back to the house and redialed your house and received no answer.”
Reardon said, “I was sitting watching that guy drive piles until 10 minutes to 7 p.m. How could I be sitting there until that time and see him and you didn’t?”
Odierna said, “I called Mr. Reers as he was leaving his office and I was concerned about it and I said for him to pass by and look at what was going on. He then told me nobody was working.”
Reardon said, “And, he billed us for it.”
Reers said, “The mayor asked me to ride by and take a look, and I did.”
Reardon responded, “And, you billed us for it.”
Reers, “Yes, I did, I was on village time.”Reardon ended the conversation.
Odierna added, “But, we acted on your complaint immediately.”
Reardon added, “But with all due respect that is not what the village attorney should be billing the village for.”
The meeting finally ended and the next meeting will be held on Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. at the Williston Park Village Hall.