Politics

By Aidan Johnson

Three out of the four Democratic congressional candidates for District 1 — Nancy Goroff, Kyle Hill and Craig Herskowitz — attended a meet-the-candidates night at the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee headquarters Tuesday, Feb. 6. During the meeting, the candidates addressed why they are running, their most important issues and policies they would support. The fourth candidate, former District 5 state Sen. James Gaughran [D-Northport], was unable to attend. The current congressional seat is held by Nick LaLota (R).

Introductions

Goroff, who has formerly served as the chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University, and previously ran for the congressional seat in 2020 against former Congressman Lee Zeldin (R), said that she was running “to protect our right to bodily autonomy” and “to build an economy that’s going to work for everybody,” along with environmental issues such as coastal erosion, climate change and water quality.

Herskowitz has interned for Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy (D) and Rep. Steve Israel (D). The candidate believes that his “judicial, legislative and executive experience, as well as criminal prosecution and criminal defense experience,” which includes him working at the Office of the General Counsel in the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI and the Department of Justice, before being appointed as assistant counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), before working as a criminal defense attorney and being appointed as an administrative law judge within the New York City Department of Finance, will allow him to connect with the congressional district. 

Hill went to graduate school at Stony Brook University, after which he worked for Israel on Capitol Hill, where he “became a health care policy expert.” He worked on rallying congressional support to update the organ transplant rules, and since coming back to Long Island, he has become a volunteer EMT and is involved with the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee. He has become frustrated “every single day with [Congress’s] dysfunction,” and believes that by winning the CD1 seat, along with gaining a Democratic majority, Congress can function better. 

Health care

Hill would support passing the Social Security 2100 Act, which, among other things, would change the current law that caps earnings subject to the Social Security tax which, at the time the bill was introduced, was $160,200, but now stands at $168,600, to instead have earnings over $400,000 once again be subjected to the tax. However, all earnings in between would not be subject to the tax. He also said that it is necessary to build upon incentives for doctors and health care agencies to keep folks healthy and out of the hospital

Herskowitz said that he was “the only candidate in this race that’s supporting Medicare for All” and said that “we need to make sure people are paying their fair share of taxes,” and that “people that are damaging our environment are paying more for our health care system because they are the ones who are polluting our water, polluting our air.” He also said that “we need to find ways to ensure that Social Security is available to everyone.”

Goroff called Social Security and Medicare “two of our most successful government programs ever.” She said that it is necessary to “lift the cap on salary at which we take Social Security taxes,” adding, “That one change would make Social Security and Medicare both financially secure going into the future.” She also said that the age to receive Medicare should be reduced. 

Voter engagement

Herskowitz said that it is important to fight against misinformation, activate the voters and get people excited to vote, adding that a strong grassroots campaign was necessary to make sure “every single voter is touched, several times throughout the campaign, to make sure that people come out to vote.” He also said that it was necessary to appeal to the moderate center voters.

Hill said that “we’ve seen cycle over cycle that the Democrats who are coming out to vote have become fewer and fewer and more folks are registering as unaffiliated,” adding that it was necessary to figure out why they are not coming out to vote, and that it was necessary to have a message that brings out both Democrats and those in the middle. He said that Democrats need to lean into their strengths, citing issues such as infrastructure, drug pricing reform and the cost-of-living crisis.

Goroff said that in order to get people to vote who don’t automatically do so, or who vote for either a Democrat or a Republican, “it’s not about the issues, it’s about them believing that this person is going to represent them.” She said that she is committed to making sure voters know who she is as a person, educator and community leader, adding that it matters that they know they would have someone working hard for them “versus somebody who is just spewing talking points.”

Climate change

Hill said that he supports changing every car that the federal government owns to an electric vehicle, including from government agencies such as the post office. “We can use the purchasing power of the federal government to shape the market and make EVs more available, bringing down the price, make it more accessible, have more charging stations everywhere, and that’s something the federal government directly controls and already has its hands on,” he added.

Herskowitz said that it was necessary to move away from fossil fuels and invest in technologies that could remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere and nitrate from the soil and ground that leaks into the water. He also said that it was important to combat misinformation surrounding renewable energy.

Goroff said that the United States should be carbon neutral in energy production by 2035, and in transportation and buildings, along with the rest of the economy, by 2050. She supports the Inflation Reduction Act, which would invest in clean energy: “We need to be investing in clean energy and technologies now, making sure that we’re having proper oversight, and investing in new technologies for the future.”

Immigration

Goroff said that DACA recipients need a pathway to citizenship, and that it’s important to recognize the challenges for communities in getting resources for large numbers of migrants and nonnative English speakers. “The only way we can deal with that fairly is for the federal government to make sure that for school districts, like in Riverhead where they have very large numbers of nonnative speakers of English, that they’re getting adequate funding for those programs,” she said.

Herskowitz said that the vast majority of people who are in this country illegally do so by coming here legally and overstaying their visas, and clarified that coming to the border and requesting asylum is 100% legal, adding that more judges are needed to adjudicate asylum claims. “The migrants that are here want to work, and they should be able to work, and we should be able to expedite [that] so they can work, they can pay taxes, they can contribute to the economy,” he said, adding that comprehensive immigration reform was needed because “obviously the immigration system is broken.”

Hill said that it is necessary to address what’s causing the issues, “which is the rampant gang violence in Central America. Part of all of these comprehensive solutions has been greater investment in our southern neighbors to make sure there’s economic development [and] a reason to stay in their home.” He added, “Every time these comprehensive packages don’t end up happening, those things get left off the table.” He also said the budget, which Congress has yet to pass, would be an opportunity to address the concerns by “more appropriately [targeting] our foreign aid,” and better funding for the Department of Justice “so that judges can adjudicate asylum claims so that folks can enter society and be part of the society.”

The Democratic primary is on June 25. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers the New York State Executive Budget proposal at the State Capitol in Albany on Jan. 16. Photo courtesy Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

By G.T. Scarlatos

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) delivered the Fiscal Year 2025 New York State Executive Budget proposal at the State Capitol in Albany on Tuesday, Jan. 16, where she announced her record-breaking $233 billion spending plan that looks to allocate funds toward public safety, education and the influx of migrants coming to New York. It also closes a $4.3 billion deficit the state faced. Although the budget proposes a roughly 2% increase from the previous year, this burden won’t be falling on the taxpayer as Hochul made it clear there would be no new increases in state income tax.

In the address, Hochul focused on the needs of everyday New Yorkers with an emphasis on investing in initiatives concerning public safety and affordability. 

“I stand by my commitment to fight the right fights for New Yorkers and pursue the common good,” Hochul said. “We must crack down on persistent crime, invest in children and families, and build the economy of the future. We’re taking action with common sense solutions that are simple, easy to implement. But the truth is, we can’t spend like there’s no tomorrow because tomorrow always comes.”

The governor outlined how the state will strengthen its public safety efforts by continuing to invest in initiatives that work with local communities, law enforcement and nonprofit groups to stem crime and gun violence statewide by devoting additional resources to youth mentorship programs, the police and district attorneys. 

The budget includes $40 million toward tackling property crime and retail theft that looks to bring relief to small businesses by creating a new state police enforcement unit dedicated to driving down the recent spike in retail theft.

“Keeping New Yorkers safe is my number one priority,” Hochul said in the address. “Over the last few years we’ve made historic investments in gun violence prevention programs and it’s paid off. Shootings and murders are way down. Gun seizures are up.”

The spending plan also proposes to increase school aid by $825 million, just a 2.4% increase from last year, considerably less than the 7.7% average increase in aid that districts have received in recent years. 

In an attempt to get ahead of the criticism she would potentially face, Hochul explained, “As much as we may want to, we are not going to be able to replicate the massive increases of the last two years. No one could have expected the extraordinary jumps in aid to recur annually.” 

She also attributed the disappointing figure to a decade-long trend of declining school enrollment for students K-12, by saying, “It’s common sense to ensure that the schools are getting the appropriate money based on their enrollments today compared to what they were a decade and a half ago.”

The governor then recalled how she worked with legislators to bring the state’s reserves from 4% of the budget to a now historically high level of just over 15%. The reserves can be used to stabilize public spending or for one-time emergencies that may leave the state vulnerable. 

In order to provide aid for what she referred to as a “humanitarian crisis,” Hochul plans to dip into the state’s reserves, allocating an extra $500 million of aid to support the approximately 13,600 asylum seekers arriving in New York each month, bringing state spending for the cost of shelter, social services and resettlement up to $2.4 billion. 

Hochul addressed the politically-charged issue and called out for additional support from Washington, saying, “New York continues to carry the burden of sheltering more than 69,000 migrants. Since day one, I have said that it is ultimately the responsibility of the federal government to address this crisis. Congress — the House of Representatives in particular — and the White House must remain at the negotiating table until they restore the rule of law on our border, fix our asylum system and provide relief to states like New York who’ve been shouldering this burden for far too long,” Hochul said. 

She continued addressing her efforts to combat the crisis saying, “I’ll be traveling once again to Washington to advocate for effective immigration reform, a stronger border and increased support from the federal government for New York. But until we see a change in federal policy that slows the flow of new arrivals, we’re going to be swimming against the tide.”

To see the whole budget presentation go to: budget.ny.gov.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during a press event. Photo from Bellone’s Flickr page

As the new year progresses, the Suffolk County government is facing a plethora of changes, with the biggest arguably being the transition of county executive from Steve Bellone (D) to Ed Romaine (R).

Romaine, who served as the Town of Brookhaven supervisor for over 10 years after winning a special election in 2012, won the race for county executive over Dave Calone (D) with 57% of the vote. The former town supervisor was sworn into office on New Year’s Day, marking the first time a Republican will serve as Suffolk County executive in 20 years.

Steve Bellone served as county Executive from 2012 to 2023. Due to being term limited, Bellone could not seek reelection this year. [See “Bellone signs bill to strengthen term limits in Suffolk County,” TBR News Media website, July 14, 2022.]

During his farewell speech Dec. 21, Bellone thanked members of his staff and administration and recounted various achievements, including the handling of superstorms, confronting corruption in the county’s law enforcement and more.

“When we came into office, we faced the greatest financial crisis in history, more than $500 million accumulated deficit,” Bellone said during his speech. “And after years of making the difficult but necessary choices, we will leave office with this county in the best financial condition in its history, with more than $1 billion in reserves,” he said, thanking the budget office.

Bellone discussed his administration’s handling of Suffolk County’s water quality crisis, saying, “With an amazing water quality team, we created innovative programs, brought stakeholders together and developed an advanced blueprint for solving the water quality crisis over the next generation,” while giving special thanks to Deputy Suffolk County Executive Peter Scully and Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning Commissioner Sarah Lansdale. 

Bellone was not immune from criticism on both sides of the aisle. Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairman and Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer was critical of Bellone throughout his tenure as executive.

“As the curtain falls on Bellone’s 12-year term, Suffolk County is left grappling with the consequences of a legacy marked by broken promises, ineffective leadership and a failure to address critical issues facing Suffolk County,” Schaffer said in a statement.

“The time for accountability and a reevaluation of priorities in Suffolk County’s leadership is long overdue,” he added. Additionally, Schaffer is hopeful that Romaine will meet the county’s priorities and needs “based on his past experience and accomplishments.”

Not everyone shared Schaffer’s sentiments. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who on Dec. 31 completed her final term as the county’s legislator for District 6, reflected on Bellone’s time as executive, saying that working with Bellone had “been incredibly productive for the residents here in Suffolk County.”

One major issue on which Anker praised Bellone’s leadership was the opioid crisis. Suffolk was the first county in New York to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors, which resulted in settlements that will have the county receiving around $200 million over two decades to help address the ongoing crisis.

“That was Steve’s leadership in providing direction and in a positive way trying to get through this incredibly challenging time of this addiction epidemic,” Anker said.

Bellone has yet to announce any future plans in his political career.

Suffolk County executive Ed Romaine and family at his inauguration ceremony at Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School on Jan. 1. Photos courtesy Ed Romaine’s Office

After 12 years, Suffolk County will see a new face in the executive seat, Ed Romaine, a Republican, the first for his party in two decades. He replaces term-limited Steve Bellone (D).

Romaine was sworn in Jan. 1 at Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School, joined by family and fellow county officials. As well as state officials, also in attendance was U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who proclaimed the day as “great” for Suffolk County.

Before the podium stood the new county executive as he delivered a speech detailing his thoughts on the upcoming term. 

“As I take this job, I know there will be more problems than solutions, more to be done than what has been done, more quest than conquest,” Romaine said. “Each [new] generation stands on the shoulders of those who have come before us, as I do. So our path must be based on the experiences of past administrations, while being willing to find our own path and reinvent county government.” 

Prior to assuming his new post, Romaine stood as the Town of Brookhaven supervisor since 2012, where he advocated for environmental and quality of life issues while maintaining a focus on strengthening Brookhaven’s finances, a focal point to be continued in his new role. Romaine served as a Suffolk County legislator from 1986-89, before becoming county clerk from 1990 through 2005. 

“One of my top priorities will be strengthening county finances and making our budget structurally balanced,” Romaine said. 

In his inaugural speech, Romaine spoke to key issues at the forefront of his campaign. Placing special emphasis on cybersecurity, improving child protective services, cleaning off surface and groundwaters, securing funding for sewage and alternative denitrification systems, and preserving open space and farmland to prevent overdevelopment.

“This administration will be rooted in the values and traditions of hard work, personal initiative and accountability so we can build a future that is safe and more affordable, and provides hope and opportunity to our citizens,” Romaine said. “As we cast new eyes on old problems, I will seek to reorganize our county government to consolidate services wherever we can to improve efficiency, and to make this government far more cost effective than it has been.”

Family and supporters surround Sklyer Johnson during his announcement for New York's 4th Assembly District. Photo by Raymond Janis

Less than two weeks after Election Day, the candidate pool for New York’s 4th Assembly District is already crowded.

Skyler Johnson (D-Port Jefferson Station), chair of the Suffolk County Young Democrats, declared his candidacy for District 4 in downtown Port Jefferson on Saturday, Nov. 18. The announcement comes just days after Village of Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay, also a Democrat, announced her bid for the seat. [See story, “Port Jeff’s deputy mayor announces run for New York State Assembly,” Nov. 15, TBR News Media.]

Freshman state Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) currently represents the 4th Assembly District. Last November, Flood unseated former state Assemblyman — and current Suffolk County Legislator-elect — Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who had held the seat for three decades.

Skyler Johnson, chair of the Suffolk County Young Democrats, launches his campaign for New York’s 4th Assembly District on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Mary Bayles Park in Port Jefferson. Photo by Raymond Janis

During an announcement event at Mary Bayles Park, surrounded by family and supporters, Johnson indicated he decided to run to address the high cost of living within the area. “I am from this district, and I am struggling to afford the cost of living on Long Island,” he said. “People of my generation, and of every other age group, are facing the exact same struggle.”

He added, “I am running because I think I can make a difference on those key issues, especially on the environment, on housing and, like I said, on cost of living.”

Johnson first threw his hat in the ring in 2020 and again in 2022, both unsuccessful bids for state senate. Before pursuing elective office, he worked under former Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren. Johnson is currently a nonprofit consultant and previously served as director of development, communications and advocacy for Brentwood-based New Hour for Women & Children LI.

Johnson pledged to address a range of issues, such as expanding abortion access, promoting criminal justice reform and protecting the environment.

Highlighting on the event’s location, the Democratic candidate noted that Port Jeff — originally called Drowned Meadow — is particularly vulnerable to flooding and related environmental calamities.

“A single flood could wipe out millions of dollars worth of property in Port Jefferson at any moment,” he said. “Across the district, we need to make sure that we are fighting the drastic effects of climate change and that we are properly working with our state to make sure that we are finding ways to prevent this flooding.”

Johnson referred to housing costs as “at an all-time high, and wages have stagnated.” He underscored the phenomenon of vacant storefronts throughout commercial districts within AD4.

“We need to make sure that we are reforming our tax laws coming down from Albany,” he said, supporting “working with municipalities to do so, so that small businesses benefit from tax breaks, not just Amazon or Walmart or these giant corporations that eat up our real estate and do not create the same level of community engagement that our small businesses do.”

The Suffolk Young Democrats chair pointed to public transit as another area for improvement from the state, saying district residents “are struggling to get to work,” the lack of transit options hampering those who do not have access to or cannot afford an automobile.

“We’re going, if I’m elected, to bring money back to Suffolk County — back to Assembly District 4 — to invest in public transportation,” he said. “And at the same time, we’re going to make sure that the third rail of Port Jeff’s [branch of the Long Island Rail Road] is electrified finally.”

In his announcement address, Johnson said he would “fight for those in our community who have been underserved for years,” adding, “We have about one year to go, and every day I’m going to work for you now and in Albany.”

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine condemns the Clean Slate Act, which Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law last week. Photo by Raymond Janis

A new state law has public officials from Suffolk County up in arms.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed the Clean Slate Act on Thursday, Nov. 16, which allows certain criminal records to be sealed years after an individual is sentenced or released from incarceration. The law automatically seals certain criminal records after a required waiting period — three years after conviction or release from jail for a misdemeanor and eight years after conviction or release from prison for a felony — if the criminal has maintained a clean record, is no longer on probation or parole and has no other pending charges.

The legislation still provides access to sealed records “for certain necessary and relevant purposes,” such as law enforcement, licensing or employment for industries requiring a background check, employment in jobs interacting with children, the elderly or other vulnerable groups and application for a gun, commercial driver’s license and public housing.

The state Assembly passed the bill in June 83-64, with the Senate also upvoting the measure 38-25. In a signing ceremony, Hochul referred to the bill as a means for creating jobs and deterring recidivism among convicted felons.

“My number one job as the New York State governor is to keep people safe,” she said. “And I believe that the best anti-crime tool we have is a job.”

She added, “When people have steady work, they’re less likely to commit crimes and less likely to be homeless.”

New York becomes the 12th state to enact Clean State legislation, according to the governor’s website.

Homegrown opposition

State and local officials joined first responders and crime advocates outside the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association headquarters in Brentwood on Friday morning, Nov. 17, blasting the measure as out of touch with the needs of residents.

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine (R) acknowledged that there are cases in which records should be sealed but suggested these matters should be considered on a case-by-case basis and determined through the court system instead of the legislative process.

“I think it should be up to the judges,” he said. “I don’t think [sealing criminal records] should be automatic. I think this bill is not the right thing to do, and I think it does weaken the criminal justice system.”

New York State Sen. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) reiterated Romaine’s sentiments: “A clean slate, carte blanche for everyone — that’s just plain dangerous.”

State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) said that while he believes in second chances for convicted criminals, the bill exempts only a “small list” of criminal offenders.

“It doesn’t take into account nearly all the types of egregious crimes that impact so many victims, their families and our entire community,” he said. “Manslaughter, armed robbery, terrorism offenses, hate crimes … these are cases where there’s been due process, where there’s been convictions and sentencing.”

The state assemblyman added, “In these kinds of very troubling times, employers, employees, victims, families, neighbors and community members … all have the right to know.”

State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) said the bill would exacerbate the conditions of the opioid epidemic, expunging the criminal records of drug dealers who continue trafficking opioids throughout the county. He said financial criminals, such as Ponzi schemers and elder scammers, receive similar protections under the new law.

“People are entitled to a second chance, but it shouldn’t be us legislators doing this,” he said. “It should be through the judicial system.”

To learn more about the Clean Slate Act, please visit assembly.state.ny.us/cleanslate.

We start with an adrenaline-packed adventure at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. Discover the excitement of a fearless group braving the frigid waters for a valuable cause.

Then, catch the heat as tensions rise between the Brookhaven Town Board and the municipality’s cable service provider. We’ve got the latest on the town’s television showdown.

Later, take a trip through history with our sportswriter, Bill Landon, as he reflects on the JFK assassination’s foggy memories, marking its 60th anniversary this week.

And as Thanksgiving approaches, join us in a call to action. We’re rallying our readers and listeners to support local mom and pops on National Small Business Saturday.

Tune in to The Pressroom Afterhour: Keeping it Local with TBR for a special Thanksgiving edition.

Visit tbrnewsmedia.com to read these stories and more. Follow us on:

Voting booths at Rocky Point High School. File photo by Kyle Barr

By Carolyn Sackstein

I am a consumer of news.

In addition to writing for TBR News Media, I read, watch and listen to various news formats. The troubling reports of harassment and intimidation of poll workers across this country have both saddened and angered me.

I have long believed that citizens must actively engage in the democratic process. I get a thrill each time I vote. And so, it became incumbent upon me to do more than just vote and donate to organizations that promote the election process.

My journey to do more started in September when I participated in a League of Women Voters of Suffolk County event in Patchogue. After learning that there was a shortage of election workers, I was determined to do my part.

After the event, during which I handed out voter registration forms and voter information literature, I drove to the Suffolk County Board of Elections at 700 Yaphank Ave. in Yaphank. I was greeted by a friendly and professional staff, who assisted me in signing up for a position as an election inspector.

They verified that I met the requirements. The staff asked which of the yearly training dates I would prefer to attend. I was then informed that I would receive a letter confirming the date, place and time of my training.

Training occurred at Brookhaven Town Hall and was conducted by a SCBOE employee. Each trainee received a detailed booklet. The three-hour class covered matters of election law. The procedures for opening and closing the election site were quite detailed.

Yes, there was a test at the end of the class. Each prospective election inspector was required to pass the test before being certified and sworn in with an oath of office. Election inspectors are compensated for required training sessions and when they work on early-voting days and on Election Day at an assigned polling site. Before leaving, we were told to expect a letter in October that would inform us to report to our assigned site at 5 a.m. on Election Day.

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, I walked into my assigned polling site at 4:57 a.m. It was only five minutes from my house. An experienced co-worker greeted me. As the three other workers arrived, we began the setup process. We were fortunate in that our location served only one election district. Other sites may have multiple election districts. 

Our first voter arrived seconds after 6 a.m. The remainder of the day passed as a continuous stream of voters moved through the signature verification process and received their ballots. Our experienced coordinator helped those who needed assistance with a variety of issues.

Four people did not show up to work. As a result of being short-handed, we did not have any “breaks.” We watched for a lull in the line so we could go to the restroom. Rarely was the line backed up, and never by more than about seven people.

Next year, the demand for poll workers will be greater due to an expected larger turnout.

The main complaint was from people who did not recall getting instructions on their polling location and arrived at the wrong place. We verified their polling site and, if needed, provided directions. 

The voting public was courteous, and many thanked us for our efforts. One voter overheard our coordinator mention to a co-worker that he had not eaten all day. The voter returned with a dozen donuts to be shared. His appreciation and kindness made the long day worthwhile.

Polls closed at 9 p.m. We packed up and secured all equipment and ballots. Our day ended at 11 p.m.

As a first-timer, I had been a bit anxious. I was blessed with patient, helpful and supportive co-workers. My primary takeaway? Becoming an election inspector was worthwhile, fulfilling and deeply satisfying. I felt safe.

I encourage everyone who qualifies to become an election inspector. It is a singularly edifying and enriching experience. To lend a helping hand for the betterment of our democracy, please visit www.elections.ny.gov/becomepollworker.html.

The writer is a reporter for TBR News Media.

Village of Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay is a declared candidate for New York State’s 4th Assembly District. Photo by Jen Romonoyske, courtesy Rebecca Kassay

Just over a week after Election Day, the 2024 election season is already underway.

Village of Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay has exclusively announced her campaign for New York State’s 4th Assembly District. She is running as a Democrat.

The 4th District seat is currently held by New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson), who unseated former Assemblyman — and Suffolk County Legislator-elect — Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) in 2022, who had occupied the seat since 1992.

Kassay entered the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees in 2020 and was appointed deputy mayor earlier this year. During her tenure in village government, she has served as trustee liaison to the Building Department and Planning Board; the Conservation Advisory, Six-Acre Park and Tree committees; and was appointed the village’s inaugural sustainability commissioner.

Before entering public life, she worked as a youth environmental volunteer program director at Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook. She is also a small business owner, operating The Fox and Owl Inn bed-and-breakfast on Main Street in Port Jefferson with her husband Andrew Thomas since 2014.

Kassay outlined the motivations guiding her campaign.

“I’m running for the New York State Assembly because we need leaders who understand that governance which truly reflects the voices, needs and concerns of their constituents starts with listening,” Kassay said in a statement. “In the village government, there are no national political party affiliations. I am practiced in working with anybody who is interested in pursuing commonsense, balanced solutions to ongoing challenges.”

Kassay described several quality-of-life concerns as “screaming for representation” in Albany, such as housing scarcity and the unaffordable standard of living in District 4. She said the state government must help create housing opportunities while conforming to the existing suburban character of local communities.

“I know that one-size-fits-all plans and mandates have tried to come down from the state, and while they try to address problems, they’re not suitable for the variety of unique communities within our area,” she said in an interview. “We need to find ways that we can support the creation of more housing opportunities for the middle class while preserving that suburban lifestyle.”

The Port Jeff deputy mayor identified various environmental challenges facing the 4th District, offering to leverage her environmental advocacy background toward climate-resilient policies.

“I really look at climate resilience as something that’s part of almost every dynamic conversation that government is having at this point,” she indicated.

Kassay referred to health care as another policy concern, citing soaring health care expenses as a barrier to entrepreneurship and economic development. “A lot of folks here who might set out as entrepreneurs or small business owners might be held back by health insurance as a barrier, so I really want to work to address that and make that more affordable for small business owners and entrepreneurs, specifically, but also for everyone else who is interacting with the state health insurance market,” she said.

Among other ideas, Kassay said she would use the office to pursue greater public investment in mental health services, target the opioid crisis, apply pressure on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for improved services along the Port Jefferson Branch of the Long Island Rail Road and expand coordination between the state and local levels of government.

Kassay’s current term as village trustee expires in July 2024. She stated she will not seek reelection for village office.

“I really look forward to serving not only Port Jefferson village residents but the residents throughout the district of AD4 from Stony Brook and all the way down to Gordon Heights, using the skills and relationships I’ve built at the village level and leveraging those skills all throughout the district,” she said.

To read Kassay’s entire statement, click here.

Village of Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay is a declared candidate for New York State’s 4th Assembly District. Photo by Marvin Tejada, courtesy Rebecca Kassay

The following is a press release from the campaign of Rebecca Kassay.

Rebecca Kassay, a dedicated community organizer, elected official and entrepreneur has declared her candidacy for the New York State Assembly in the November 2024 electoral cycle. With a proven track record of impactful community engagement, Kassay steps up to represent the communities of Assembly District 4 at the state level.

Kassay dove into local community service as an intern-turned-program director at Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook. Beginning in 2011, she created and directed a youth environmental volunteer program, connecting hundreds of Suffolk County teens with dozens of nonprofits, municipal branches and stewardship projects throughout Long Island.

Kassay and the teens tackled volunteer efforts such as native habitat restoration, species surveys, organic gardening, beach cleanups, trail maintenance and educational signage creation.

Over the course of seven years, she built upon her aptitude and passion for empowering young stewards with practicable, tangible ways to make a difference in their communities. The program was awarded the Robert Cushman Murphy Memorial Award by Three Village Historical Society and recognized by the Brookhaven Youth Bureau.

In 2013, Kassay purchased and restored a historic Victorian home on Main Street in Port Jefferson with her husband, Andrew Thomas. A year later, they opened the doors of The Fox and Owl Inn bed-and-breakfast.

As the inn’s proprietor, Kassay has hosted countless tourists drawn in by the area’s rich history and natural beauty, as well as the family, friends and visitors of local residents and institutions for over nine years. On behalf of her small business, she is a proud and active member of the Rotary Club of Port Jefferson and Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

“I am a devoted member of the vast, dynamic community of folks who want to maintain and improve quality of life throughout and beyond the district,” Kassay said. “I am in constant awe at the individuals and groups who consistently advocate for solutions to their concerns and further their worthy goals. By uniting over shared interests and intentions, we as neighbors overcome our differences and rebuild the community’s strength. It will be my greatest honor to represent and support these voices in state-level conversations as well as local actions.”

In 2019, Kassay took her commitment to community action to new heights by creating and filming a documentary series titled “Be The Change with Rebecca.” This immersive series, currently in post-production, adopts a “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe”-style approach to showcase the power of volunteerism and inspire others to roll up their sleeves to get involved. This experience further deepened Kassay’s understanding of community issues and the importance of both grassroots efforts and government response.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Kassay mobilized her community network and organizational skills to establish and lead a pop-up initiative, Long Island Open Source Medical Supplies. In under three months, a core team of volunteer administrators and hundreds of Long Islanders created, donated and delivered over 40,000 pieces of lifesaving, spirit-lifting homemade personal protective equipment and comfort care items to local essential workers and patients at hundreds of medical facilities, institutions and businesses.

In collaboration with Suffolk County Police Asian Jade Society, Amo Long Island, local Scout troops and many others, LIOSMS also organized a food drive, collecting 2,500 items to stock local food pantries. LIOSMS was recognized with Suffolk County’s 2020 Operation HOPE COVID-19 Responder Award.

Kassay is a SUNY New Paltz graduate with a major in environmental studies and a minor in communications and media. Her community work was recognized by her alma mater with a 40 Under 40 Award in 2017, and she has since returned as a panelist at conferences such as the SUNY New Paltz Women’s Leadership Summit.

Kassay has served as an elected Port Jefferson Village trustee since 2020, and now serves as the village’s deputy mayor. Her consistent incorporation of climate resilience strategies, transit-oriented development practices and heightened community involvement into village conversations has demonstrated her dedication to creating a sustainable, harmonious future. 

She has led successful initiatives to establish a community garden on Beach Street; plan for the revitalization of village parkland; install beach cleanup stations along village waterfront; establish a resident election task force to research term lengths and limits; and form intermunicipal relationships to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government.

“I’m running for the New York State Assembly because we need leaders who understand that governance which truly reflects the voices, needs and concerns of their constituents starts with listening,” Kassay said. “In the village government, there are no national political party affiliations. I am practiced in working with anybody who is interested in pursuing commonsense, balanced solutions to ongoing challenges.”

Rebecca Kassay’s candidacy represents a continuation of her lifelong commitment to fostering community connections, proactively confronting concerns and advocating for a sustainable and resilient future. Kassay will officially launch her campaign at an event early in the new year.

“I look forward to continuing conversations with new and familiar community partners and rising to serve at the state level, where I can work further for the well-being of my constituents and all fellow New Yorkers.”

For more information or to contact the campaign, email [email protected].