Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Feeling The Need To Feed


During the holiday season, gets many emails from people asking where they can volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. Many people are aware of the hunger problem on Long Island, but what they do not realize is that it is an ongoing need.

Long Island New York represents a diverse background of people. Close to three million people call Long Island home. Adjacent to NYC, this region has the highest per capita income for New York state. Median family income is also considerably higher than state median income in both Nassau and Suffolk County NY. While this newly termed "techno suburb" enjoys the latest and greatest in gadgets, luxury items and technology, over 250,000 Long Island residents go hungry each year.

The needy represent close to ten percent of the people that live on Long Island. The majority of them are women, children and seniors. This is a sizable portion of a relatively affluent community. The hungry rely on food Emergency Food Programs (EFP) including food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters as well as government assistance.

Realizing the hunger problem on Long Island, EFPs have been established for quite some time. Most of them are non-profit groups, funded by donations and staffed by volunteers. Finding the resources to meet the growing need is a constant challenge for many of these organizations.

Some government funded food assistance programs are available including Food Stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Child Food Nutrition and Public Assistance Programs including Welfare. Budget cuts and discontinuation of certain programs has led to an increased number of people looking to local food assistance programs for help.

Island Harvest is a food rescue organization that collects from those who have surplus food and delivers it to those who need it. Food is delivered to hundreds of soup kitchens, food pantries, and food assistance programs across Long Island.

Long Island Cares is a food bank, providing emergency food where needed. They also deliver to hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, day care centers and senior centers.

Island Harvest and Long Island Cares worked together on a hunger study for Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Hunger 2006: The Local Report details the growing problem and statistics on Long Island, NY.

"The face of hunger is the same as your face and mine, and not some homeless person", says Randi Shubin Dresner, President and CEO of Island Harvest.

Long Island Cares and Island Harvest are just two of many organizations that assist needy families. Donations from individuals, businesses and community groups help to support their efforts.

There are thousands of people on Long Island that need to eat -- everyday.

Are feeling the need to feed yet?
If so, please drop off a can of food at the local food drive, volunteer your free time or make a simple donation.

Island Harvest
199 Second Street
Mineola, NY 11501
(516) 294-8528

Long Island Cares Inc.
10 Davids Drive
Hauppauge, NY 11788
(631) 582-FOOD

Thank you for reading my rantings.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Trying to Sort Out the Homeowners Insurance Mess

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

I hope everybody had a happy Thanksgiving.

Today I was reading one of a number of insurance industry email newsletters that come daily. It's the modern way to keep up with what's going on. One particular article caught my attention and relates back in an interesting way to our ongoing discussion of the Long Island homeowners insurance situation.

The article says that a new company is rolling out a big car insurance program across the country in something like 35 states including New York. But the auto insurance market in NY is, if anything, super competitive and super saturated. The big direct writers and one-company-agent companies have long held most of that market and so they are battling it out for the most part amongst themselves. '35% Savings' and 'New Low Rates' are all over the place.

But there is so much money to be made on car insurance overall that new companies continue to want to enter the fray. It's very good for consumers because the competition keeps prices low and service levels high.

So what does this have to do with homeowners insurance on Long Island, you may well ask. Well, I did too. So I went to the new company's web site and looked around. There was the car insurance product, branded under their name. Then when I looked at the homeowners insurance page, a different link showed up in the sidebar. It said 'view a list of the 40+ insurance companies we represent'. A very impressive statement, but it doesn't show up on the auto insurance page at all.

Why? Because like GEICO and Progressive and AIG and any number of 'auto only' programs, this new company doesn't want to get involved with property insurance except as a selling agent or broker! Yes, auto insurance is profitable right now. But more importantly, car insurance is homogeneous across the country. There are variations in state law, but for the most part, it's something the insurance carriers can work with.

But since 9-11 and Katrina, insurers have begun to realize that HUGE amounts of property in the form of homes and businesses can be wiped out in one event, and that those events can actually occur. The industry was able to pay for Katrina but what about here, with our row upon row of million dollar homes?

So part of the key to solving the Long Island homeowners insurance issue in the short run is diversification, spreading it out to more companies. In the longer run, there are other possibilities including government backstops, all-peril insurance policies, catastrophe bonding, and some exotic financial instruments that are beyond the scope of this blog (meaning I don't understand some of them either)

More to certainly come. Next: What's happening in Flood Insurance.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Take a walk in the park....

Photos by Alida Thorpe
Take a walk through
The Connetquot River State Park and Preserve.
...a beautiful experience for all.
It will be a pleasant surprise for those who have never been there.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Veterans' Day

Photos by Alida Thorpe
Veterans' Day, November 11th.
On the 11th day, of the 11th month at the 11th hour, the treaty to end the fighting was signed to end the first World War.
Armistice Day was renamed Veterans' Day in 1954 to honor all veterans of all wars.
The photo above is the memorial at Bald remember our Viet Nam veterans.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mild Hurricane Season Brings Record Insurance Profits

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

The past few weeks have brought third quarter earnings reports from some of the major insurance carriers, and it's been interesting. As has been discussed here during our articles about the homeowners insurance situation here on Long Island and elsewhere along the coast, insurance carriers spent the last year and a half going into a very conservative mode, cutting back on their coastal property risk (by cancelling policies in the case of Allstate, Encompass, Vesta Shelby and others) and raising prices.

What has happened is that this ended up being one of the mildest seasons in years for catastrophes such as hurricanes, and so we are seeing reports in the newspapers and financial publications that the companies are showing record profits. Sort of like what happened to the oil companies when prices rose a few months back.

Unfortunately, and maybe rightly so, these record profits will, if the industry is not very careful, create a public relations nightmare. While they are canceling policies and restricting coverages, crying that they need to protect themselves from catastrophe risk, the idea that their shareholders are making tons of money does not seem to be in the best public interest.

In addition, they are not encouraged by tax laws to put this money away for possible future losses, as would seem to make sense. Unfortunately insurance carriers are not allowed to set aside money on a tax-deferred basis for future losses. And we all know that savings, whether it's your personal IRA or other retirement plan, or planning for catastrophes, is driven by the tax code.

One of the parts of the overall future plans to help insurance carriers and the public to deal with the problems in the homeowers and flood insurance areas will be the ability to put money away on a tax-deferred basis to cover possible future losses. This will apply to both insurance carriers and insurance customers.

For the carriers, they would then be able to take some of these record profits and put them away for the inevitable bad year. Unfortunately Congress could not get agreement on this quickly enough to help with the current profits, which would have made for a great opportunity to get started.

This sort of thing will help consumers as well. Right now in the Long Island homeowners insurance market, most people anywhere near the water (and we're talking 3-5 miles here, which includes most of the island) face a deductible on their home insurance policy of anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 or more. (Most deductibles are in the form of a percentage of the coverage on your house - if you don't understand your coverage, please ask your agent or visit our web site at for contact info and we will explain it to you at no cost or obligation) . One proposal currently being reviewed would allow people to set up tax-deferred savings accounts, similar to an IRA, that would be used to cover that deductible in the event a major storm struck.

As always, for more info please visit our site and/or contact us. Insurance is one of those areas that the public needs to educate itself, because your policy these days can come back to bite you at the time you need it most.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Long Island Pets Need Help

Rex is one of the sweetest, most lovable cats you could ever meet. He greets everyone who visits him in the Bide-A-Wee veterinary clinic with loud purrs, and he happily spends his one-on-one time sitting on the laps of our staff and volunteers. He isn’t even scared by all the activity around him, including when our dogs bark.

Two weeks ago, things did not look so good for Rex, an 18-month-old tabby. He was at a municipal shelter and his time was running out — until Bide-A-Wee stepped in.

Rex was found in the Bronx with two injured legs — his left front and his right hind. His legs had started to heal improperly, and he could barely walk.

Click here to donate now.

When Bide-A-Wee staff visited the local municipal shelter, one of our veterinarians spotted Rex and heard him purring. As the injured cat climbed into her lap, she recommended that we take him and give him a second start. Rex went immediately to the veterinary clinic in Manhattan. After an X-ray confirmed that both of his legs were fractured, Bide-A-Wee staff arranged for an orthopedic surgeon to place casts on Rex’s fractured paws. The casts will help to ensure that his bones heal properly.

Rex is now on six to eight weeks of cage rest, and new X-rays of his paws are taken on a regular basis to check the progress of his healing. When the casts come off, he may also need physical therapy in order to strengthen his legs. It is possible that he will always walk with a limp. However, his charming personality has not been affected, and when he is available for adoption he will make a great companion.

We need your help to offset the cost of Rex’s medical care and to allow us to save other animals like Rex who are waiting at local municipal shelters for their own "Second Start." Please consider making a gift to our Veterinary Medical Assistance Fund (VMAF) or to our Second Start program today.

Click here to donate now.

All of us here at Bide-A-Wee thank you in advance for helping us to help animals in need.

To read more about Bide-A-Wee programs and animals like Rex that need your help, please click here for more information about Bide-A-Wee.

Ann H. Cohen
Vice President

P.S. If you know people who love cats and dogs as much as we do, please forward this post to them! Thank you so much.

Bide-A-Wee Wantagh, New York
3300 Beltagh Avenue
Wantagh, NY 11793
Adoption Center: (516) 785-4079
Cemetery: (516) 785-6153

Bide-A-Wee Westhampton, New York
118 Old Country Road
Westhampton, NY 11977
Adoption Center: (631) 325-0200
Clinic: (631) 325-0280
Cemetery: (631) 325-0219
Retirement Home: (631) 288-0591

Bide-A-Wee Manhattan
410 East 38th Street
New York, NY 10016
Adoption Center: (212) 532-4455
Clinic: (212) 532-5884
Executive Offices: (212) 532-6395
Donations: (212) 532-6395
Volunteer, Outreach and Bereavement Counseling Information:
(212) 532-4986

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fire Island in November

Photos by Alida Thorpe
Fire Island National Seashore
I just had to post another photo. After all, it is November and Halloween is over. I couldn't leave the jack o'lanterns just sitting there!
Yesterday, November 1st, the weather on Long Island was beautiful.
The sun was warm and the breezes, mild.
The photo above was taken on the Fire Island National Seashore.
It was more like spring than autumn!