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6th District

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is running against Republican Gary Pollakusky to represent the 6th District. Photos by Alex Petroski

A Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency volunteer and small business owner is challenging incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) as she vies for a fourth term to represent the 6th District.

Gary Pollakusky, a Rocky Point resident since 2012 who graduated from Baldwin High School and Cornell University, said he wants to bring more fiscal responsibility to the county while working to keep young people living on Long Island. He moved to Rocky Point from Long Beach following losing his home to Hurricane Sandy.

“You have to force the government to work within its means,” he said during a recent debate at TBR News Media’s office. “We need to treat the public’s purse like we treat our own. You don’t borrow from Peter to pay Paul.”

“I will continue to provide leadership in our county government by prioritizing fiscal responsibility, public safety and protecting our health and environment.”

— Sarah Anker

While Anker, a resident of Mount Sinai for more than 20 years, who previously lived in Middle Island and Coram, said she is fiscally conservative, Pollakusky pointed to Suffolk’s recent practice of borrowing to make payroll. He criticized Anker for calling for a traffic study following the release of a red-light camera program report and for voting for the $700 million contract between the county and the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association. Though he was critical, he ultimately admitted he would have voted in favor of the contract as well, citing public safety as the primary reason.

“Each year our budget is going up $50 million and $48 million is going toward the police contract,” Pollakusky said. “We have to create sustainable contracts, we need people who understand business and have business acumen and financial acumen in government.”

Anker defended her track record on the Legislature. She voted against the controversial fees, which many have referred to as “backdoor taxes.” The legislator voted to reduce Suffolk County’s pipeline debt by closing out unused funds for unrealized capital projects; against the increase in mortgage recording fee, which would have gone up $300; against the alarm bill fee; against increased fees for Suffolk County parks; and against the proposed plastic bag fee that would charge 5 cents per bag at the grocery store.

“I also feel if you don’t have the money don’t spend it, but unfortunately, you have to provide services, it’s mandated by the government,” Anker said, adding that she took a pay freeze and also voted to freeze other legislators’ salaries. “We combined comptroller with treasurer’s office, saved $23 million by privatizing the health care centers, sold the Foley Center, reduced staff by 1,000 people, cut county services costs by 10 percent and I think we still have a lot to do.”

Democrat incumbent Legislator Sarah Anker is running for her fourth term as the 6th District representative in the Suffolk County Legislature. Photo by Alex Petroski

She fell in agreement with her challenger regarding the SCPD contract, as she said it’s important to have boots on the ground amid the opioid crisis and rise in gang violence, but said she’s still hoping the county can make cuts at the negotiation table next year when the existing deal expires.

“We have a new police class which contributes to 15 percent of their health care,” she said. “It takes them longer to reach the highest pension payout; we’re revamping the whole system once these senior officers retire. Overtime should not be included in pensions, and the best thing I can do, and I’ve done this for 20 years, is to advocate strongly — shine a light and let the county executive and police unions know that this needs to be done. I can be one of many voices to direct them to do the right thing; to have a bully pulpit and use it effectively.”

The legislator highlighted her sponsored legislation passed to create a permanent heroin and opiate advisory panel, re-established from a temporary 2010 panel, created to ensure a continuous and interdisciplinary approach to help mitigate the issue. Her challenger cited the panel’s few recommendations the last time around and said he has a more active approach he would take.

“I want to identify programs, like the Given a Second Chance program developed locally four years ago, and keep the heroin crisis more consistent in curriculum and assemblies,” Pollakusky said, also highlighting his panel work with his organization, North Shore Community Association. “We need community coalitions to push law enforcement to close down drug-dealing homes and more drug reform on the supply side.”

While Pollakusky said his organization, which is not a registered nonprofit, was created in 2013, there is no mention on the website or Facebook page prior to June, when he announced his run against Anker.

“We need to look at storefronts that left and see why, see what true development we’re doing and how it’s being led.”

— Gary Pollakusky

“The association began with a small group of community advocates who felt there was a void in their local civics organizations,” he said in response. “No money flows in or our of our group. When we raise money it is through and for 501(c)(3) organizations in need, and much of our work has no events
associated with them.”

The challenger said he is more business friendly than Anker, and his time working with the town IDA has helped him. He said by retaining talent and creating jobs, keeping residents on Long Island is more attainable.

“We need to look at storefronts that left and see why, see what true development we’re doing and how it’s being led,” he said. “I act. I create jobs.”

Anker questioned his businesses, saying he outsources jobs to countries other than the United States for Media Barrel LLC and Travel Barrel LLC. Pollakusky responded that they are support teams not employees, to which Anker responded: “Do they do your work for you? Do you have [products] that are made in the United States? That’s all I’m asking.”

“For you to perpetrate these lies I not only find disappointing, I find that shameful,” Pollakusky said, asking Anker if she owns a car, television or phone made in the United States. “I am a local businessman. I work within our local economy, I have local clients.”

Republican Gary Pollakusky is running to represent Suffolk County’s 6th legislative district. Photo by Alex Petroski

Travel Barrell only lists some of the events that Pollakusky discussed, many of which are unclickable. The website’s About Us, Our Brands, Testimonials and Contact Us tabs also do not work. Anker questioned her challenger about an event called Boobs & Tubes, also listed on the website, which he referred to as a charity event that donates to breast cancer research. Based on online photos and videos of the event, referred to as “the most fun you can have with (some of) your clothes on,” it is marketed as an exclusive weekend summer event of camping, tubing, barbecuing, music and relaxation. The 2017 New York trip was canceled. Pollakusky’s last name is the only last name not in the About Us and the only mention of charity is deep in the About Us: “After Scott lost his friend Marcelo Vandrie to cancer in 2009, Boobs & Tubes began donating a portion of its proceeds to a different charitable event each year.” There is no mention of how much or to which charities the organization contributes anywhere on the website.

Anker cited several initiatives she’s proud of contributing to locally, including land acquisition with the Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai and Cordwood Landing property in Miller Place to preserve more open space, a single-stream recycling program and work with veterans and seniors.

“I will fight for lower utility costs and continue to educate residents about common scams,” said Anker, who used to serve on the Mount Sinai Civic Association and worked on major projects like the construction of Heritage Park and ongoing Rails to Trails recreational path. “I will continue to provide leadership in our county government by prioritizing fiscal responsibility, public safety and protecting our health and environment. I will stand strong to support our veterans who have defended our nation. I will do everything in my power to protect our children. I will use my extensive experience in public policy to create safer communities for families and to improve the overall quality of life for Suffolk County residents.”

This version was updated to correctly identify what year Gary Pollakusky moved to Rocky Point and the names of his companies. The version also adds what university he graduated from.

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Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Desirée Keegan

With her second full term under her belt, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she hopes a third term would allow her to expand on the toughest issues facing the 6th District. But her Republican challenger, Steve Tricarico, says it’s time for a fresh perspective.

Steve Tricarico talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Steve Tricarico talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Tricarico, who works as Brookhaven Town’s deputy highway superintendent, said the county’s finances were a main focus of his campaign to unseat the incumbent. Anker, however, said she is also focused on being fiscally responsible, but keeps tending to the needs of her constituents at the core of her decision-making.

“I’m looking forward to taking on more issues, more problems, and then addressing them, but also taking on projects that are benefiting the community,” said Anker, a 30-year Long Island resident. “I’m ready to jump in the fire and be the action to get things done. I’ve put in so much time and energy and effort — I’ve networked, I’ve created these very strong relationships and I have the knowledge to move those projects forward.”

But community projects, her opponent argued, still cost money, one way or another. Tricarico, born and raised in Shoreham, said he planned to address the county’s financial stress by proposing that legislators avoid budgeting for sales tax increases year to year.

“It would force us to make the difficult decisions in our departments to stay within our means, and any extra revenue could go toward paying off what we’ve already borrowed,” he said. “I think that we’re drowning, and we need someone that understands public finance, and I do it every day of my life, professionally, to make those cuts and find those efficiencies. I think all the services in the world are great, but if people cannot afford to live here, they mean nothing. And I’m fighting to make it more affordable here, in Suffolk County.”

Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Tricarico said he managed a $115 million budget, as an example of his understanding of finance.

Anker argued that while she and her challenger both understand that addressing issues requires dollars, she’s done work to keep the county financially sound. She helped reduce county government costs 10 percent by streamlining services, saving taxpayers more than $100 million annually.

There are other issues Anker said she’s addressing and projects she’s working on to help the people of the 6th District, which she argues Tricarico does not have the experience to address.

“Besides keeping the county fiscally stable, we need to speak for the residents here, and that’s something I’ve been doing for the last 25 years,” she said. “We can’t address the issues in the community unless we talk to the constituents, work with them and meet with them. My doors are always open, my phone is always available, and I don’t know if [Tricarico] has the experience to do that.”

Anker noted particular projects she’s spearheaded that she feels enhance the quality of life of her constituents.

After her grandmother died of breast cancer, Anker founded the Community Health and Environment Coalition, which was vital in advancing the New York State Department of Health’s research on cancer cluster causes, the legislator said. She also implemented the Green Homes Go Solar program, to bring renewable energy opportunities to residents.

Anker also advocated to create Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, initiated the North Shore Coastal Erosion Task Force, created the Jobs Opportunity Board to connect graduating seniors with local jobs, started a sports safety forum as a result of a recent death and some serious student-athlete injuries, and provided more health services to people struggling with addiction.

While Tricarico, who is also concerned about keeping young adults on Long Island, said he wouldn’t throw away any projects Anker has already put into motion that he in turn supports, he said he disagreed with how Anker handles addressing problems, pointing out Anker’s tendency to create task forces when addressing issues.

“I’m a man of action,” he said. “I think that there’s a lot that we can do to make the government more efficient. What the residents want to see is less task forces, less commissions, less talk and more action, and that’s what I’m offering the 6th District.”

An issue Tricarico brought up was the progression of the 10-mile Rails to Trails recreational path that would run from Mount Sinai to Wading River.

“What have we been doing for 15 years?” Tricarico said of the project, which was originally introduced in 2001. “I grew up in this community and I’ve been hearing about Rails to Trails since I was in high school. I think that the project has taken way too long, if it’s ever going to happen.”

Anker, who took office in 2011, said the federal government takes time on any project, and said that after a year of required public input, a plan will be in place, and the money is there to complete the project.

Tricarico said if elected into the Republican minority caucus, he will work with the Democratic majority to get things done, but said he would not be a “rubber stamp” for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

“We’re basically seeing one government here,” he said. “To get thing done, of course you have to work across aisles, but we need a check and balance. We need a Republican legislature, which is a check on absolute power.”

Tricarico admitted he does see good work in what Anker has done, but said he wants to work in a different direction.

“I think Legislator Anker is a good advocate to the community,” he said. “I see her at a lot of different events, she’s a good people person, she’s able to relate with folks. I just think the county needs a different leadership at this time, especially when it’s related to fiscal issues.”

This version corrects information about how long Legislator Sarah Anker has been in office.