Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick faces an inactive opponent
While there will be two names on the ballot for New York’s 8th Assembly District, incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) and Democrat Jeanine Aponte of Hauppauge, the latter is not actively campaigning.
The district covers the Town of Smithtown and northern parts of Islip.
Fitzpatrick stopped by the TBR News Media offices recently to discuss the race with the editorial staff. He has been an assemblyman for 20 years and is running for his 11th term. Prior to being an assemblyman, he was a Town of Smithtown councilman from 1988 to 2002; he was also a financial services representative.
Cracking down on crime
“We have a problem, and something has to be done about it,” Fitzpatrick said when talking about bail-free crimes.
The assemblyman said when bail reform was first debated in the Assembly, Republicans and Democrats all agreed that something needed to be done. However, he said, the progressives were dominant, and in the end, he said he felt the police, district attorneys and judiciary members were excluded from creating the law, representatives he said were important to have at the table.
“No dangerousness was taken into consideration, and all the judges were saying this is not going to work and the DAs as well,” he said. “They did not like this.”
Fitzpatrick added there is a feeling of disappointment in Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) that she’s not pushing back, and he feels she fears that she will lose the progressive base and thinking they will “stay home and not vote.” Especially, he said, since her gubernatorial opponent, current Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), has been making inroads including with the Asian, Black and Latino communities.
Fitzpatrick said the Republicans’ goal in the Assembly, despite currently being in the minority, is to get to 50%.
“So that we can take away that veto-proof majority,” he said. “That forces compromise, at least forces discussion at the table, and the same in the Senate.”
Fitzpatrick said if Hochul is elected the hope is that she will move more to the center politically.
“What I fear, if the crime issue is not dealt with, and dealt with soon, you’re going to see, I think, a continued exodus of people and jobs out of the city,” he said. “We’ve had a significant loss already. I believe it will accelerate if nothing is done about it, and the concern is you’re going to have a hollowed-out New York City.”
Fitzpatrick explained it would mean the city would be left with the wealthy and the poor with the middle class leaving as well as jobs.
“You already have the challenge of getting people to come back into the office,” he said. “They like working from home. They got used to it for the past two years, but the crime issue in the subways is not helping matters.”
He said he doesn’t see New York City returning to normality until there is a handle on crime.
Fitzpatrick said he supports the Second Amendment. He added the Republican side in the Assembly includes members who are former military and law enforcement personnel as well as farmers.
“We have more people on our side of the aisle who can speak with authority on gun ownership, gun safety, gun training,” he said. “There’s virtually nobody on the other side of the aisle who has that kind of experience and depth of knowledge. So, we know what their agenda is. We get it. This is the world of politics. But, you know, I think whenever those debates come up, we just, we wipe the floor, hands down, but it doesn’t matter, because they have the numbers”
Regarding recent stabbing incidents in New York City, he said he believes the majority involve those with mental illnesses.
“With bail reform, you’re letting people out,” he said. “You’re not remanding people to jail. Not to serve time, but until they have their day in court. But some of these people are not well, we’ve heard this from the correction officers, we’ve heard this from the attorneys. They’re not well, but because of the new bail reform, they can’t be held and they’re let out.”
He said he is unhappy with the federal administration for leaving the border open with an increase in drugs coming over, also people on the terrorist lists and gang members. He said the borders should be more secure.
“The border towns have been totally overwhelmed,” he said. “They can’t provide the services.”
He said it wasn’t a surprise that cities in the South sent migrants to sanctuary cities such as New York. The assemblyman said sending migrants back is not possible, and he believes there should be some way to give them a pathway to citizenship.
Along with state Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James), Fitzpatrick said he is most focused on sewer installation in Smithtown’s downtown areas. To revitalize downtowns, he said, it’s important to look to towns that have done it successfully, such as Patchogue and Farmingdale. Fitzpatrick added it’s important to pick areas near transit hubs for density building.
He didn’t support Hochul’s accessory dwelling unit proposal earlier this year. The bill would have given everyone the right to have an ADU in their home, something that wouldn’t work with cesspools on Long Island and burden school districts, he said.
“Your transit-oriented development is really the way you address the affordability issue because the price of land is so high, you lower that price with density,” he said.
Fitzpatrick gave the example of the overlay district in the Hauppauge Industrial Park and the proposed development plans for it as an example of a walkable community where people can walk to stores, restaurants and even work, something he said many people look for when searching for a home.
He said such housing will help the area to remain relevant, especially with some choosing not to move here due to the high cost of living.
Stony Brook University
For the past few years, Fitzpatrick said he’s been talking to colleagues, elected officials and students about the possibility of the State University of New York, also known as SUNY, becoming a national brand and having Stony Brook University be its flagship.
He said he would like to see the acronym SUNY be dropped and the educational institution be known as the University of New York or UNY.
He believes it needs to be rebranded to draw more students nationally.
“We are a great state university, but we’re not a national brand,” Fitzpatrick said.
He gave examples of University of Michigan, University of North Carolina and University of Alabama, and said SBU is “as good or better than any of them.”
He added he would love to see SBU among the top 10.
If SUNY can be rebranded and SBU made the flagship he said it would help the athletic department and could lead to being part of a major conference. This could mean the expansion of Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium or building a newer one closer to the Long Island Expressway or another major roadway.
He said it makes sense as SBU is near the city.
“Why don’t we take a shot and get into a major conference with the University of New York,” Fitzpatrick said. “This makes sense. I think it would be good for the entire system, and it creates a fair level of economic activity by being in a major conference.”