No. 511: On pensions, papas and Juneteenth – and the economics of racial equality

You were warned: Note to Russian archeologists -- he's been dead for 600 years, but when the Emperor Timur speaks, you should listen.


The solstice with the mostest: Welcome to Friday, dear readers, and not just any Friday but the eve of the Summer of 2020, in which things can only get better.

It’s June 19 out there and a busy day on Planet Earth, including Labour Day in Trinidad and Tobago, Never Again Day in Uruguay (marking the 1764 birth of native freedom fighter José Artigas) and the Day of the Independent Hungary.

“Very famous,” finally: It’s Juneteenth, which some influencers, apparently, have never heard of.

Now MAGA-free: Here in the States, June 19 is, of course, Juneteenth, commemorating the June 19, 1865, abolition of slavery in Texas and the emancipation of African Americans throughout the former Confederate States.

Father figure: Not quite as momentous, but certainly as heartfelt, is Father’s Day, first celebrated in the United States on this date in 1910.

This year’s Father’s Day observances are Sunday. Most stores have reopened.

Stakes, well done: The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame official portrait of first Belmont Stakes winner Ruthless.

Out in front: This Saturday’s 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes is all about innovation. Considerably shorter than the typical Belmont and without 100,000 screaming fans in attendance, the Stakes kick off horseracing’s annual Triple Crown series – instead of wrapping it up – for the first time ever.

Oh, right – the very first Belmont Stakes ran 153 years ago today at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx.

Tune up: Replacing the outdated Federal Radio Commission, the Federal Communications Commission was established by the U.S. Congress on this date in 1934.

The Curse of Tamerlane: Soviet anthropologists in Uzbekistan opened the tomb of Timur, founder of the Timurid Empire, on June 19, 1941, ignoring an inscription that warned opening the tomb would “unleash an invader more terrible than I.”

Three days later, the Nazis invaded Russia.

Ladies in spaaace: And, in happier Soviet news, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova returned to Earth on June 19, 1963, after a three-day mission that officially made her the first woman in space.

Hyper link: American electrical engineer Raymond Noorda (1924-2006) – who ushered PCs from stand-alone units to vital cogs in larger corporate structures, and therefore reigns as the “father of computer networking” – would be 96 today.

Holloywood power couple: John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands were magic, onscreen and off.

Also born on June 19 were French mathematician, philosopher and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), who invented the digital calculator and more; American shipbuilder and pioneering naval architect William Webb (1816-1899); famed Austrian composer Carl Johann Zeller (1842-1898, no relation); German-American inventor/industrialist Gebhard Jaeger (1874-1959), who spun up the first cement mixer; no-further-intro icon Lou Gehrig (1903-1941); and amateur Swiss mountaineer George de Mastral (1907-1990), who invented Velcro.

Yes, Virginia: And take a bow, Virginia Cathryn “Gena” Rowlands – the multiple Emmy- and Golden Globe-winner (and honorary Academy Award-winner), known for stirring performances under the direction of her husband (the late John Cassavetes) and son (Nick Cassavetes), turns 90 today.

Give “Gloria,” The Iron Horse and all the other June 19 innovators your best at We’ll take the presents – story tips, calendar items, please and thank you.


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Pension plan: Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a new law introduced by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Centre) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Bridgehampton), and New York has taken a side in a raging national debate about public pensions.

On one side: Cash-strapped states that already can’t make deferred public pension plan payments, their shortfalls now multiplied by a factor of COVID-19. On the other, tens of thousands of pension-eligible public employees and those who support them – including key players in Albany, where a new law protects the state’s Length of Service Award Program, a milestone-based benefits program (and key recruitment tool) for volunteer firefighters and EMTs.

First responders accumulate LOSAP benefits by participating in live drills and actively responding to calls. But the pandemic has canceled most drills and many statewide agencies have limited the number of volunteer responders per call, in an effort to reduce the virus’ spread. “Now our volunteer firefighters and EMTs across the state who have been forced to stay home will have their benefits protected,” Kaminsky said Thursday.

Coincidental Cuomo: The weight of history, not the gross tonnage of White House ineptitude, is behind New York’s new state holiday, according to the governor.

Sinking his teenth in: Speaking of Cuomo and new laws, in a move that is by any reasonable measure not even a smidge political, the governor on Wednesday signed an executive order recognizing the aforementioned Juneteenth – a.k.a. June 19 – as a paid holiday for state employees, with plans for an official state holiday starting in 2021.

Juneteenth, of course, has been in the headlines lately, not only for its Black Lives Matter relevance but for a rare retreat by the Administration That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, which planned a reelection campaign event for that date in Tulsa, Okla., site of an infamous 1921 race massacre. (The Trump reelection rally has been thoughtfully moved to June 20).

But all of that has nothing to do with New York’s new state holiday, according to Cuomo, who said his executive order – which comes on the eve of his 10th Juneteenth in office – was meant to “show some leadership” at this critical time for the state and nation. “[Juneteenth] is a day that we should all reflect upon,” the governor said. “It’s a day that’s especially relevant in this moment in history.”



Race, against time: Racial equality is key to Long Island’s post-pandemic economic recovery, according to a comprehensive new study, and time is running out.

Relish the challenge: Year-over-year earnings don’t look great, but don’t be fooled, says Nathan’s Famous, which is handling the pandemic well.

Innovation in the Age of Coronavirus: Babylon bands together, the USTA serves an ace and schedule those mani-pedis, Long Island – it’s COVID-19, Island-style, in our exclusive Pandemic Primer.



A familiar face spices things up for a tasty Hamptons startup; it rains less but it pours, warns SBU’s SoMAS.



Innovate LI’s inbox overrunneth with inspirational innovations from all North American corners. This week’s brightest out-of-towners:

From New York City: Life-sciences trailblazer Elysium Health boosts the brain with Matter, a B vitamin-rich anti-atrophy supplement.

From Colorado: Denver-based solar-power startup BLUETTI goes Indiegogo with the AC200, a clean-gen, wattage-rich household generator.

From Florida: Wellington-based PR boutique Media Maven uploads a podcast database connecting expert contributors and hundreds of top shows. 



Antonio Diaz

+ Antonio Diaz has been hired as a staff engineer at Melville-based H2M architects + engineers. He previously served as a project-management intern at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

+ David Basile, founder and principal of RD Global Research in Manhattan, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Greenport-based Eastern Long Island Hospital Foundation.

+ Stephan Ungar and Joseph Neubauer have been hired as staff engineers at Melville-based H2M architects + engineers. Both previously served as interns at the firm.

+ Robert Tobin has been hired as an independent sales agent at The Clausen Agency in Rocky Point. He previously served as senior business-development manager for Jericho-based American International Group.

+ Brendan Hyde has been hired as director of retirement services at Melville-based Compass Advisors. He previously served as regional vice president at Manhattan-based TransAmerica Retirement Solutions.



You’ve got to want it, Mr. President: Four more years?

Waste not: How paper scraps become edible pads (and coffee-flavored pens).

 Want not: Aides are questioning whether the president is up for another election fight.

 Tastes, refined: From interior decorating to faux leather, new life for old veggies.

Sustainability, redefined: Please continue supporting the amazing firms that support Innovate LI, including Bridgeworks, where cutting-edge co-working spaces reduce everything from corporate overhead to carbon footprints. Check them out.