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Chad Lupinacci

State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Truth be told, this was the most difficult endorsement decision we had to come to during this election cycle.

New York State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) is looking for his fourth term in office, and challenger Ed Perez (D) is a formidable opponent. In the end, we stand by Lupinacci. He has supported water quality legislation, heroin legislation and worked to increase financial aid opportunities for SUNY students. He is also still acutely aware of the local problems facing his area, like the rash of violent incidents Huntington Station has seen in the past few years. We believe Lupinacci will continue to have a positive impact on his district and will both draft and support bills that will improve the quality of life for his constituents.

We were almost swayed by Perez. He is exactly what a voter should want of a candidate: a resident who has lived in the area for many years, is deeply involved in local organizations and has a record of working to improve his community. Perez was also up to date on the issues facing the 10th district. We believe he has a very strong chance of winning another race — if he chooses to run again. In fact, we hope he does.

Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, left, and Ed Perez, right, speak on the many issues facing Huntington Station and other areas of the 10th Assembly District. Photos by Donna Newman

Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) was first elected to represent New York’s 10th Assembly District in 2012, and Nov. 8 he’ll try for a third term against Democrat Ed Perez, a Huntington resident and a current member of the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

The two were interviewed at the TBR News Media main office ahead of Election Day to discuss the state of the 10th district, which covers in large part Huntington Town.

In addition to his duties with the board of elections, Perez is also the president of Diversity Resource Network, a marketing consulting organization. He identifies himself as a “social entrepreneur” because of his 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.

Lupinacci served on the school board of the South Huntington School district for eight years prior to his election in 2012. He’s a real estate attorney and an adjunct professor at Farmingdale State College, Hofstra University and St. Joseph’s College.

In his four years in the Assembly, Lupinacci has fought to cut taxes, make college more affordable and address the growing problem of addiction in the district. Perez has lived in the Huntington community for 23 years, and he said that has played a role in his desire to run.

“I care deeply about New York State and I care deeply about the Huntington community,” Perez said. He described some of the efforts he’d like to see to stimulate the district’s economy by upgrading the infrastructure in the community.

“We have a problem from Pulaski Road to Jericho Turnpike,” he said. “We have a strip there that has no sewers so that impedes development from investors to come in.”

Perez serves on the town’s zoning board of appeals.

“If we get the infrastructure of sewers going in, and it can be done in phases, we could get other types of businesses coming in,” he said. “Investors are not going to come in and invest in your community unless you have the sewers there.”

Lupinacci’s approach to stimulating the local economy focuses on higher education.

“A few years back we instituted a program that if you graduate in the top 20 percent of your high school class majoring in a STEM program, you can go to a SUNY or CUNY school for free as long as you’re staying five years in New York state afterwards,” the incumbent said. He said he’d like to see something similar done to funnel students toward community colleges. “We wanted to make sure that we would allow better tax credits for the students who are graduating and staying in New York afterwards because we want to give them an incentive to stay here.”

A central component of Lupinacci’s platform is to root out political corruption in the Assembly and across New York’s government. He helped to pass legislation to stop politicians found guilty of corruption from receiving taxpayer-funded pensions and said he plans to keep fighting in that direction.

“We need to make the Assembly more transparent in the coming years, and also limit outside income in terms of what legislators make,” Lupinacci said. He added he’d like to see Assembly committee meetings televised and term limits for all members.

The common ground in election oversight, and the claims of a “rigged” election made by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump were addressed by both candidates.

“It is not a rigged system,” Perez said. “Nobody wants to go to jail because they’re not doing the appropriate thing at the board of elections.”

Lupinacci wouldn’t support his party’s nominee’s claims of an unfair system.

“I think our board of elections workers are great people and they’re very good on Long Island, but there are problems some times when the elections are very close,” he said. “We do have recounts and such [when elections are close]. Do I think the election is rigged? No.”

Violence has become an issue at the forefront of daily life in the district. The incumbent discussed some of what he’s done to combat the issue and some of his future plans.

“We’ve been working along with [New York State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosett)] and people in the community to increase cameras in the area, so not only in terms of actual police officers but more surveillance in the area to see what’s going on,” Lupinacci said. He added that community outreach programs and a stimulated economy could also help.

Perez commended Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) for increasing patrols by park rangers in town parks as a means to improve security in the community. He added that economic development and improvement of infrastructure could also help to reduce crime in the area.

“It’s about economic development and socioeconomic issues which makes kids sell drugs and get involved with gangs,” he said. “I think that looking at infrastructure is very important.”

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U.S. Rep. Steve Israel is stepping aside at the end of the year, declining to run for another term in the House this November, after what will be 16 years as the Democratic representative for the Huntington and Smithtown areas. But his departure will affect more than just western Suffolk County.

Long Island residents in general should be paying attention to the 3rd Congressional District seat in the coming year. Our officials at the federal and state levels work with their neighboring colleagues to get things done that benefit Long Island — sometimes in a quid pro quo sort of way. That means that no matter the elected body or who our representative is, the priorities and the character of the person who is elected in the next district over from us are important. And with Israel gone, no matter who is elected to replace him, Suffolk County will have two longtime congressman exiting in two years, after Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) unseated Democrat Tim Bishop in 2014.

That’s not to say that new blood is a bad thing.

Zeldin kept himself busy during his first year in the House, authoring several bills. Most recently, he introduced the Earnings Contingent Education Loans (ExCEL) Act of 2015, which aims to help young people manage their federal student loan debt by making the repayment system more flexible, with payment amounts based on the borrower’s salary. And in interviews with this newspaper, Zeldin has called being a newcomer a positive — party leadership supports their freshmen, he said, because they want to help them retain their seats.

We appreciate Israel’s long service to our community. That being said, electing a new point of view to Congress has the potential to be a good thing for Long Island, which is in a state of flux as we try to plan our economic and environmental future.

3rd District candidates, all eyes are on you.

File photo

Local politicians and Huntington Town residents have successfully lobbied the state Department of Transportation to halt construction of a rest stop on exit 51 of the Long Island Expressway.

Individuals were up in arms over the proposal, and lawmakers expressed their dissatisfaction about the plans. Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) said it’s an unacceptable location for a rest stop and said the rest stop itself is unnecessary.

“It backs a residential area,” Stern said in a phone interview. “Unlike other rest stops or centers, where they carry on commercial activity, on the LIE, here all the exits are about a mile apart. There is an ample supply of restaurants, shopping centers and restrooms at every exit, so there is no need for a separate rest stop at this location.”

Stern said the plan calls for featuring the state’s Taste NY program, designed to promote New York’s agriculture vendors. This particular Taste NY would serve as a gateway for Long Island wine country out east, according to Stern.

“This exit is a long way from being a gateway to the East End,” Stern said about why this exit choice doesn’t make sense to promote Taste NY.

According to Stern, Suffolk County has made an offer to work with New York State to create a Taste NY location off exit 67 in Yaphank, which Stern said is a more appropriate location.

Gary Holmes, director of communications for the state’s Department of Transportation, said no work is currently being done at exit 51.

“The commissioner has held several productive meetings with local and state officials on Long Island, and while no decisions have been made about the rest stop at exit 51, we look forward to continued conversations about the health and safety of all users of the LIE,” Holmes said in an email. “LIE motorists deserve a safe place to rest and we’ll keep working on the best way to do that.”

Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) said the rest stop should not be added, and that she started fighting plans for it 15 years ago.

“I led the charge against this rest stop when I was vice president of the House Beautiful Dix Hills Civic Association,” Berland said in a phone interview. “I have always been opposed to this.”

She also said the Taste NY aspect is inappropriate, and that the state should not be selling alcohol on an expressway: “The last thing you want to do is give people the opportunity to get alcohol there.”

Berland said the rest stop is too close to a residential community, and the construction the state’s done so far was done without permission. She said residents are already being impacted by the sound of the LIE because brush berms have been removed.

Assemblyman Chad A. Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) agreed that the rest stop is disruptive to residential life near exit 51.

“The location is poor because of the noise and the secondary effects it will have to the area and the residents,” Lupinacci said in a phone interview. “I am totally against it.”

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) agreed with his colleagues that the rest stop should not go up, and that the voices of Huntington are not being heard.

“It doesn’t sound like the Town of Huntington was involved in this decision,” Spencer said in a phone interview. “I always think coordination and communication with the community is key.”