Tags Posts tagged with "State Sen. Ken LaValle"

State Sen. Ken LaValle

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. Photo by Phil Corso

Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) has been a Brookhaven Town councilwoman for the past six years, but now she is looking a little higher, the New York State Senate District 1 seat. That position is now an open battleground since 44-year Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced earlier this month he would not be seeking reelection.

Cartright said she had been asked numerous times by people in and out of the Democratic Party to run for higher office but had not considered it until LaValle made his announcement.

“He had a significant impact on the region,” she said. “For the past 44 years he has worked hard to take care of District 1.”

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, right. File photo by Elana Glowatz

With the change two years ago of the Democrats taking control of both the Assembly and Senate, she said the person who comes into the seat should have the ability to deliver for the district. As someone who sees herself as having worked hard on community issues at a town level, taking that mentality up to Albany will allow her a greater access to resources to help people at home.

Cartright said there are several issues that she sees as very important which she’s worked on  with the Brookhaven board to attack at the Town level, including water quality and protecting a sole-source aquifer and improving the quality of state roads. 

Another is moving away from fossil fuels, for which she said electrification of the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jefferson line is a must.

Having been a civil rights attorney before joining the Town board in 2013, she congratulated the legislature for working on a number of items to address equity, including health care, voting rights, education and criminal justice, though there is “more work to be done.” 

She cited the need for New York to crack down on prescription drug pricing, with some drugs costing a few hundred dollars in Canada but several thousand in the U.S. She said New York needs to hold drug companies to task and to set limits.

She added she is an advocate for allowing paid gestational surrogates in New York, which is one of the few states that still bans the practice. As a survivor of breast cancer, she said she was once forced to consider a surrogate as an option, before she overcame the disease and had her first child.

In terms of housing and affordability, Long Island has suffered under sky-high housing prices and rents. Cartright said there is a need for “smart growth,” along with an increased acquisition of open space at multiple levels of government, to mitigate the impact to Long Island’s sole-source aquifer. She said there is a need for a complete restructure of property taxes and called for a study on the property tax structure.

Though the state is currently controlled by Democrats in both the Assembly and the Senate, things could always swing in the opposite direction, and like LaValle and his fellow Republicans found themselves in 2018, suddenly Democrats could become the minority. Cartright said that should the situation change, she has already proven she can work alongside Republicans being the only Democrat on the Town board.

She is not the only Democrat seeking the nomination. Other contenders for the seat include Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident Laura Ahearn, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident Skyler Johnson and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town board member. The Suffolk County Republican Party has named state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) as its front-runner.

Though she said she has respect for all the other Democratic contenders, she feels she is in the best position to take her message to Albany, with the most legislative experience over her contemporaries.

“I know it’s a crowded race, with some formidable candidates,” she said. “But I’m putting my best foot forward … I look forward to serving my [area] and the whole of District 1 on the state level,” she said.

Incumbent New York State Assembly 2nd District Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo speaks at TBR News Media during the 2014 election cycle. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By David Luces and Kyle Barr

State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) announced he would be looking for a step up in Albany, as he’s now seeking the hotly contested State Senate District 1 seat. 

The seat has opened up since 44-year incumbent Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced he was not seeking reelection
in November.

“It is apparent that the one party rule up in Albany is not working for those here on Long Island,” Palumbo said as to the reason he decided to run. “They have been instituting a progressive left agenda that is contrary to the way of the life here in SD1.”

Palumbo, 49, whose Assembly 2nd District runs along the North Shore from Fishers Island all the way to Mount Sinai, was first elected in 2013 with 57 percent of the vote and has easily retained that seat in the next three elections by large margins.

Suffolk County Republican Committee chairman, Jesse Garcia, was enthused to see Palumbo moving in as the Republican front-runner. 

“For the people of Senate District 1, this is great news,” Garcia said. “Anthony’s record is second to none.”

Though the seven-year legislator is moving from what has been considered a safe seat into what could be a fiercely contested race, Garcia said he wasn’t concerned.

“He is giving up a safe seat and is answering to a higher calling,” the Republican chairman said. “He will listen to the people and has the experience to lead SD1.”

Palumbo, a former prosecutor, will have to take on whoever comes out on top of a Democratic primary that sees well-known names like Laura Ahearn, Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident, and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). Also running for the Democratic ticket is Skyler Johnson, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident, and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town Board member.

In a prior interview with TBR News Media, Palumbo said he originally had reservations about seeking the higher office. One was the age of his children, one 12 and the other 15. The other was his current leadership position in the Assembly.

“It was a big decision for my family and I, but it is important that we hold onto Senate District 1,” the assemblyman said.

Garcia said this race is one of the big ones of the Republican Party trying to wrest back control of the State Senate from the Democrats.

Two items, he said, are at the highest importance in his run. One is bail reform, which Republicans across the island have called for the law’s removal.

“There was need for tweaking of criminal reform, but this goes beyond safe or smart,” he said. “The new discovery reform also went too far. It will cost millions of dollars in unfunded mandates.” 

Palumbo added he wants to focus on taxes and bringing in more jobs to the district. 

“The county is losing people in droves — I want to do what’s right for the district — I want my kids to be able to live here.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Valerie Catright have considered running for the state senate district 1 seat.

State Sen. Ken LaValle’s (R-Port Jefferson) announcement he would not be seeking reelection has suddenly bolstered both party’s efforts to get a candidate into the 1st District seat.

Several Democrats have already stepped up to run, including Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident Laura Ahearn, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident Skyler Johnson and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town Board member.

Johnson said he thought it was good LaValle was retiring after so long in office. The young Democrat took a shine to a primary that “allows people to hear what candidates have to say, to help us flesh out our ideas.”

Ahearn thanked LaValle for his years of service, adding that now the venerable senator is no longer running, she “looks forward to continuing meeting and listening to voters of the 1st Senate District.”

Suffolk Democratic Committee Chairman Rich Schaffer did not return multiple requests for comment, but has made previous statements to other newspapers that have perked the ears on both sides of the aisle. 

Quickly upon the news of LaValle not seeking another term coming out Jan. 8, rumors quickly circulated who else was on the shortlist. While some rumors pointed to Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant wishing to seek the seat, she strongly put the idea aside, saying she did not want to step into that arena. 

The other person most rumored to be running was Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who has yet to make an official announcement but responded to inquiries by saying, “The county chair indicated that I would be running — his statement is correct.”

On the Republican side, rumors circulated that Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) would look to take up his cousin’s seat, but the town councilman said he currently resides outside the district boundaries and cannot run for the position. 

Suffolk Republican chairman, Jesse Garcia, said he already had a shortlist for Ken LaValle’s seat that included Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, and even Brookhaven council members Dan Panico (R-Manorville) and Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point).

Palumbo said while it would be a step-up, his current leadership position in the Assembly, and the young age of his two children, one 12 and the other 15, might make it a tough call. 

“It wouldn’t foreclose a future run,” he said.

When asked about the prospect of running, Bonner said, “There are a lot of people exploring their options. … I’ve been approached by numerous people to consider it and I am. It’s a conversation I’ll have to have with my family and husband. It is a decision that’s not to be made lightly.”

 

U.S. State Sen. Ken LaValle announced he would not be running for re-election Jan. 10. File photo by Kevin Redding

Why have you decided this term would be your last?

I don’t know, it just feels right. If I can put in place something at [Stony Brook University], then I can retire knowing we’re in a good place. 

I look forward to spending more time with my wife and family, and less time driving on the Thruway.

I would like to do something academic — it’s a way of looking at things through a different lens.

Would you look to work at Stony Brook University?

That would be my choice. I would like to do something that’s always been on my radar — some kind of think tank, look at it in an academic way. My thoughts on generations, what is the difference between one generation to another. We know the events of WWII shaped what was called the greatest generation. But then there are millennials — who are millennials? You’re a millennial [he said, talking to me, a 25-year-old.] How are your thoughts shaped by your generation?

Some have said the climate of partisanship up in Albany has factored into your decision.

My personality has been to not get involved in that kind of stuff, I try to be kind and productive — there’s no doubt things have changed in the Legislature. I think you’ll see more people say it’s not a positive place — that’s how you start to lose good people. People will say, “Who the hell needs this?”

What are your plans for your last year in office?

I want to make sure all the preservation stuff is in place. That’s the kind of thing most near and dear to me. I want to leave things with the university and Brookhaven National Lab in a good place … I’m very focused, it’s always been 1st District first.

Does the preservation you’re talking about include the hundreds of acres over by the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant?

Yes, absolutely.

What other things are you working with on preservation, what about the university are you currently engaged with?

I want to make sure that work we have started over at the Gyrodyne site keeps moving forward, it’s linked to the economic vitality of the area. I’m meeting with union representatives, talking about the sewage treatment plant, talking about the 8-acre parcel that would go on there. We got to have further discussions about that project.

Do you have any misgivings about the Gyrodyne plans?

I’ve got to have further discussions. I want to make sure I have the opportunity to talk to people at the university, I want to make sure where the sewage treatment plant is going is going to be accepted in the community.

Do you have any advice for whoever ends up taking over the district? What qualities do you feel like the new senator will require?

I will work with that person, whoever it is in November, whatever party. I will try to help them, work with them. No. 1, they’ve got to have an understanding of who they’re representing. There is a large group that thinks the environment is very important. Whoever is going to replace me will have to have that mindset or have a background in it. 

It’s a big district, and there have been very few things I have missed. Whoever comes in will have to be very much involved in local events. Just look at Fishers Island, it’s closer to Connecticut, but it’s in the Town of Southold. There are 300 people living there, but you know, those people are just as important as any other part of the 1st District. They need to have an interaction with the people of the district.

I think right now the Senate majority, the Democrats, tend to represent New York City and New York City issues. We need someone who is going to fight for suburban and rural interests.

Though you still have a year left in office, how do you feel the shape of the district is in?

My personality has always been one to get things done. The district will be left in as good of a shape as can be.

 

County Sheriff, Corrections Officers Say Judges Need Discretion

Inside the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. File photo by Kevin Redding

Depending on who you ask, New York State’s new bail reform is either halting an institution that punished the poor, or it is allowing alleged criminals to return to and terrorize local neighborhoods. 

Back in 2018, after Democrats gained control of both state legislative houses, bail reform became a priority issue for multiple Dems in the State Legislature, with the bail reform coming in as an addendum to the state budget bill. The reform forces judges to release alleged perps without bail for multiple misdemeanors and what are considered nonviolent felony charges.

Over the last few months, on judges’ orders, jails across the state have been releasing inmates who fall under the list of bail-less crimes. In an interview Monday, Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D), whose office oversees the jails in Suffolk County, said approximately 301 inmates have already been released from Suffolk custody over the past month leading up to the law’s enactment. This comes after court orders from judges across the state. He added there is another expected 10 to 15 inmates that will be released this month.

“The biggest thing with this legislation is to give judges back discretion — they can look at criminal history, if they are mentally ill or have a serious substance abuse issue.”

Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. 

Proponents of bail reform have long argued the previous system effectively taxed poor defendants for accused crimes. They argued that people and their families who could not afford bail would languish in jail until their court date, such as the case of Bronx teenager Kalief Browder, who was stuck in Rikers Island prison for three years, unable to pay the $3,000 bail price until 2013 when he was released due to lack of evidence. He later committed suicide.

Bail costs can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars and are determined by individual judges. People can also make use of a bail bondsman, but fees for those can still be several thousand, plus the money upfront to ensure a person meets their requisite court dates.

A report by John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the originally proposed bail reforms said that if enacted reforms were around in 2018, there would have been 20,349 more individuals in New York City released without bail, a cumulative amount worth nearly $200 million to the state. In 2018, 105,161 cases resulted in pretrial release without bail.

Leading state Democrats have said the reforms are long overdue, and specifically target nonviolent offenses. Advocates pointed out that poor people unable to make bail can easily lose jobs if they’re not available or stuck in jail, and that those who have to pay for bail on a limited income, even for minor offenses, might be forced to use funds they would have used for rent or even food.

Criminal justice reform advocates say the critics are unnecessarily stoking fears. 

In a statement, Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York American Civil Liberties Union, said the new reforms are just a step on the path toward overall prison reforms.

“Thousands of New Yorkers who are presumed innocent of the misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges they face will no longer be forced to sit in jail awaiting trial,” her statement read.

However, the law enforces no cash bail for several offenses that critics have called overtly aggressive. James Quinn, Queens assistant district attorney, released a list of laws judges cannot set bail to, including aggravated vehicular manslaughter, several types of drug sale crimes and even lesser counts of arson. 

Toulon said he has disagreed with the new bail reforms, especially over the list of crimes people are made to be released. He mentioned one inmate who was just recently released on a partially secured bond of $40,000 out of a $400,000 bail order, without a bail bondsman. The individual, he said, had been accused of rape in the first degree of a child, and had a past history of sex crimes.

He said any sort of new bail legislation should give judges more jurisdiction over determining bail.

“The biggest thing with this legislation is to give judges back discretion — they can look at criminal history, if they are mentally ill or have a serious substance abuse issue,” he said.

State legislators are divided on party lines over the new bail reform. A delegation of Republican state reps from Long Island gathered Dec. 31 to voice their opposition.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), the senate minority leader, called the new law “unconscionable,” adding the opposing party has “abandoned crime victims, law enforcement and the public in favor of criminals.”

The delegation noted two criminal cases including one where a woman allegedly assaulted three Jewish women, just one of several during a citywide spree of anti-Semitic attacks during the eight days of Hanukkah. She was arrested again the following day for another assault charge. The law allows for no cash bail on offenders who commit assault without serious injury, and the new bail laws have been enforced since late 2019.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said the new law goes against common sense.

“Judges should have discretion in weighing the potential danger of releasing someone who could have violent tendencies or constitutes a real threat to our community,” LaValle said.

Law enforcement groups have also vocalized their frustrations with the bill. 

Louis Viscusi, union president of the Suffolk County Correction Officers Association, said the law doesn’t just force cashless bail for nonviolent offenders, but for drug dealers, sex offenders and gang members.

“A lot of people commit crimes to help fuel that habit,” he said. “At [a corrections facility] they could detox and could make better decisions. This new bail reform removes those options.”

Louis Viscusi

He added he saw Suffolk County actually using the system in the way it was meant to, with the county corrections facility including 24-hour medical care and a space for drug and alcohol addiction. Within the facilities in both Yaphank and Riverhead, he said, inmates could come down from their high and make more informed decisions once or if they are released on bail. Without it, those same people might be out on the street making the same decisions that got them arrested in the first place. 

“A lot of people commit crimes to help fuel that habit,” he said. “At [a corrections facility] they could detox and could make better decisions. This new bail reform removes those options.”

For decades, New York judges were supposed to consider only risk of flight when determining bail, not public safety or safety of the individual. The new law encourages a supervised release program, where municipalities are meant to keep in touch with those accused. 

Toulon echoed Viscusi’s comments, adding his term has focused on giving inmates transferable skills such as plumbing or work with HVAC for when they return to society. He added the new law presents issues for people who may need added protection, such as women who were arrested for crimes, but were subdued in human and sex trafficking schemes. Women who are trafficked are often forcefully addicted to drugs to keep them under control. 

Proponents of the new law point to New Jersey, which has had a similar bail reform bill since 2017, and which a court report showed that while jail populations waned, people still were showing up for their assigned court dates. Unlike Jersey, New York did not have a three-year window between when the law was passed and enacted.

Though Republican officials have looked to paint the issue as a party split, some Democrats have proposed changes to the existing bail reform law. State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport), along with Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) introduced legislation back in June 2019 that would expand the list of qualifying offenses that judges can determine pretrial requirements, to include assault, manslaughter, sex crimes including against children, terrorism-related charges, all class-A felony drug-related crimes and bribery offenses involving public officials. The bill was introduced but could not be taken up until the State Legislature reconvened on Jan. 8.

“When an individual poses a clear danger to public safety, an unbiased judicial expert must have the discretion to choose whether or not to release them without bail,” Gaughran said in a statement back in June. 

 

Skyler Johnson, 19, is looking to run against Laura Ahearn and then Ken LaValle for state Senate. Photo from Skyler for Senate website

Just two days after the end of the 2019 elections Nov. 5, Skyler Johnson, a 19-year-old Mount Sinai resident and college student, announced he wanted to take on one of the longest-running incumbents in the New York State Senate.

Skyler Johnson, 19, is looking to run against Laura Ahearn and then Ken LaValle for state Senate. Photo from Skyler for Senate website

“Someone should not hold a seat for 43 years,” he said during a phone interview after he announced he was running. “We need
term limits.”

Johnson is a political science student at Suffolk County Community College and said he had already filed his name to run for the state Senate’s 1st District seat. As a local activist, he said he sees young people not getting a fair shake, with college students working 60-hour weeks to pay for higher education and senior citizens unable to afford much of the costs of living.

Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has held the position since 1976 and has been cited by people like Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) for bipartisan support on issues of the environment. He has shown unwavering support for Stony Brook University and is often behind many state grants the college receives.

But Johnson said there are two issues that made him especially want to run that has expecially vexed the incumbent in recent years. One is the number of young people leaving Long Island and the lack of real affordable housing, the other is what he called a history of denying rights to the LGBT community. He cited the senator’s opposition to New York’s same-sex marriage bill in 2009 and his voting against a bill banning gay conversion therapy earlier this year. 

“It’s time to take our future into our own hands,” he said. “I believe I can bring much needed change.”

Johnson was the campaign manager for Sarah Deonarine, a Democrat who ran against another longtime incumbent, Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) for the Brookhaven District 2 council seat. He said that campaign gave him the experience of what it was like to be on the campaign trail. He said he plans to spend next year canvassing the district.

It won’t be an easy road for the first-time contender. He will have to first primary for the Democratic nod against Laura Ahearn, a well-known voice in advocating for crime victims and founder of organizations such as Parents for Megan’s Law and Crime Victims Center. 

Bruce Blower, a spokesperson for LaValle, confirmed that the state senator planned to run again in the 2020 election.

The young man agreed he was part of a larger wave of young liberally minded people looking to get involved since the 2016 election of Donald Trump (R). Johnson is going to be running in a presidential election year, which are notoriously the most hotly contested races to campaign.

“I expect people are ready for change,” he said.

State legislators recently voted on legislation to reform voting in New York.

Assembly members had voting on their minds.

Both houses passed a package of bills Jan. 14 which are currently awaiting the signatures of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Legislators said the goal of the bills is to reform the state’s current electoral process to make voting easier and to reduce the influence of special interest in elections, according to a press release from the office of state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

“Our vote to eliminate barriers will make voting more accessible to all state residents.”

— Steve Englebright

“It’s a good day for democracy in New York,” Englebright said in the release. “Our vote to eliminate barriers will make voting more accessible to all state residents.”

One piece of legislation will establish a nine-day early voting period starting in the 2019 general election. The period will include two weekends to allow voters to cast their votes in person, also before any primary or special election. This is what 35 other states and Washington, D.C., already do.

“New York is no longer behind the rest of the country,” said state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport).

Gaughran said many residents have told him that there have been times they have been unable to vote due to being stuck in the city with work or with inclement weather delaying trains. He added early voting would benefit all parties and races.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said in a statement if the bills become law there will not only be more time to cast votes but more clarity on primary day as well as more transparency.

“In today’s society, with so many people working long hours, combined with active lifestyles, the system needs to change to make it easier for individuals to participate in elections,” LaValle said in a release.

Another bill will change absentee voting no earlier than November 2021. Currently, a voter can cast an absentee ballot if they know they will be unable to do so Election Day due to physical illness or disability. An amendment to the New York State Constitution would allow for “no excuse” absentee voting.

“In today’s society, with so many people working long hours, combined with active lifestyles, the system needs to change to make it easier for individuals to participate in elections.”

— Ken LaValle

State legislators also passed bills to combine the state primary with the federal non-presidential primary. If Cuomo signs it into law, these primaries will take place in June. Gaughran said the move would save taxpayer dollars, and it ensures the NYS election laws comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which helps in the efficiency of military members serving overseas and citizens who live abroad voting in U.S. elections. Gaughran said he thinks combining primaries will help those who are currently overseas vote as easily for local offices as well as federal.

Another piece of legislation will allow voter registration to be allowed up to Election Day instead of 10 days or before. New York State voters will need to vote on the act as a constitutional amendment. Another bill would automatically transfer a voter’s registration when they move within New York state instead of residents needing to update when they move from one county to another.

The state legislators approved a bill that will require voter registration forms to include a space for preregistering for those 16 and 17 years of age. LaValle said, as a former teacher and principal, the bill was a meaningful one for him for young people to stay involved in the political process.

“It is my hope that when the measures become law, more people will take advantage of the opportunity to vote, allow more of voices to be heard, and thereby strengthen our government in the process,” LaValle said.

Both houses passed legislation to restrict the LLC loophole, which allows LLCs to make campaign contributions as individuals, and enables one person or corporation that owns multiple LLCs to funnel donations to a single candidate or committee. If Cuomo signs the bill, LLC campaign contributions will be limited to a $5,000 aggregate — the same limit that exists for corporations — and would require the disclosure of all owners of the LLC, whether direct or indirect.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R). By Kyle Barr

While Democrat Greg Fischer has a lot of interesting ideas and enthusiasm, state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) made a point during their debate that his challenger’s goals are philosophical. While Fischer looks to create a brand-new transportation system for New York state to create jobs, LaValle is looking right in Long Island’s backyard and has already started the procedure to study the possibility of electrification of the Long Island Rail Road from Huntington to Port Jefferson.

LaValle said he believes “1st District first” when it comes to making decisions. His recent efforts led to securing $25 million in funds along with state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) for the initial phases for developing a new engineering building on the Stony Brook University campus. The move is to attract more engineering students to Long Island with the hopes they will remain and work in the area after graduating.

We believe that since being elected as state senator in 1976, LaValle has proven time and time again he has Long Island’s best interests in mind, works across party lines and gets the job done.

For New York State 1st Senate District, our endorsement goes to state Sen. Ken LaValle.

Businessman Greg Fischer (D) is challenging Sen. Ken LaValle (R) for his seat in New York State’s 1st District. Photos by Kyle Barr

It’s déjà vu in New York State’s 1st Senate District.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) finds himself once again being challenged by Democrat Greg Fischer to retain his seat representing the district. The two squared off in 2016 when LaValle won with more than 67 percent of the vote.

“We’ve created literally a generation of homeless people.”

— Greg Fischer

Fischer, a Calverton resident and businessman who specializes in strategizing and consulting, said during a debate featuring the candidates at the TBR News Media office in Setauket he is concerned that no one on either side of the political aisle is doing anything to increase personal incomes in the state. He said this lack of progress is leading to a brain drain on Long Island where residents pay the overhead to educate the youth but get none of the benefits when they move on for better opportunities.

“We’ve created literally a generation of homeless people,” Fischer said. “Those are people that can’t leave their houses and have their own homes. But they’re not necessarily on the streets — they’re on the couches or they’re still in their childhood bedrooms.”

When it comes to strengthening the economy, LaValle said he sees potential in places like the Research and Development Park at Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as economic centers on Long Island. He said he supports more high-tech parks being constructed along the expressway to connect to these centers.

“We cannot afford one system for all.”

— Ken LaValle

The two had differing opinions on how to improve transportation for Long Islanders. While LaValle is looking locally, Fisher is thinking more statewide.

Fischer is proposing a bond-funded transportation system which would produce jobs statewide to connect New York City and Long Island to places like Quebec in Canada and Buffalo, and everywhere in between. He said the system would use subterranean vehicles able to go 150 mph on tracks that curve and 600 mph on straight tracks.

“It creates tens of thousands of jobs,” Fischer said, adding the use of bonds to fund such a project would see immediate payback.

The incumbent said he has led the charge in getting a state investment of $150,000 to conduct a feasibility study of electrifying the northern Long Island Rail Road line between Huntington and Port Jefferson, something he said people have talked about since before he took office 42 years ago.

“I believe, especially considering the economics of our day, that health care becomes a right.”

— Greg Fischer

“It’s something that I think that we’re finally, with money that I put in, that we’re going to get some attention,” the incumbent said.

Fischer criticized the idea of committing funds to invest in what he called “outdated technology.”

“No matter how much money we spend on horses and buggies it’s not going to help us,” Fischer said.

Both candidates said they believe better health care should be accessible to all.

“I believe, especially considering the economics of our day, that health care becomes a right,” Fischer said.

LaValle said the goal of the senate is to ensure access to health care for all. However, there are obstacles.

“We cannot afford one system for all,” LaValle said. “We tried. We looked at Obamacare and other types of things. I think we need to tweak what we have and make sure that no person goes without health care.”

“Waste, fraud and abuse cannot be tolerated at any time.”

— Ken LaValle

When it comes to education, Fischer said he believes there should be an inspector general assigned to NYS Education Department to investigate departmental waste, as its expenses are more than 50 percent of the state budget. He said currently any waste and mismanagement falls to the attorney general while other departments have inspector generals. Fischer, who has done audits of school districts, said he has found a lot of waste including not using best-value contracting.

LaValle said he has no problem looking into an inspector general for education.

“Waste, fraud and abuse cannot be tolerated at any time,” LaValle said.

Both candidates agreed more could be done for those suffering from drug addiction, especially in schools and colleges, including organizing public forums.

“Young people growing up today have lots of pressures, and it’s starting to show in so many ways, opioids being one of them,” LaValle said.

Fischer said he believes addiction comes from helplessness many young people feel from not being able to make a decent living and afford their own homes.

“As you become less and less of a stakeholder in the future, you destroy yourself,” Fischer said.

 

Dean Fotis Sotiropoulos, SBU president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., state Sen. Ken LaValle and state Sen. John Flanagan in front of the current engineering building at the university. Photo from Stony Brook University

Two state senators are doing their part to engineer a better future for Stony Brook University and Long Island.

New York state Sens. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) joined SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. Aug. 16 to announce the award of $25 million in state funding to the university for the initial phase of developing a new engineering building on campus — one that is estimated to cost $100 million in total. The 100,000 square-foot facility will include industrial-quality labs, active-learning classrooms and prototyping/manufacturing space.

“We have the opportunity to provide funding, sometimes discretionary, and this is a very strong investment.”

— John Flanagan

The official announcement was made at the university’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences building with representatives of local engineering companies in attendance, including VJ Technologies, Inc., Cameron Engineering & Associates, LLP, and H2M Architects & Engineers.

“We have the opportunity to provide funding, sometimes discretionary, and this is a very strong investment,” Flanagan said.

He thanked the owners and board members of the local engineering companies who traveled to Albany a few months ago to discuss the needs of engineering companies as well as the importance of recruiting talent and retaining students on Long Island.

LaValle, chairman of the Senate’s higher education committee, said he believed the new building will attract preeminent students to SBU, and thanked Flanagan for helping to secure the funds during a time when spare money isn’t plentiful

“I think it will go a long way in ensuring that we enhance where we are today in terms of providing students and faculty with an optimum state-of-the-art facility,” LaValle said.

Stanley recognized the senators as visionaries for acknowledging how critical the university is when it comes to building the technology that Long Island needs.

“I think it will go a long way in ensuring that we enhance where we are today in terms of providing students and faculty with an optimum state-of-the-art facility.”

— Ken LaValle

“The demand is tremendous,” Stanley said. “So, we really need to grow this school. We’re turning away qualified applicants from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences because we don’t have enough space and because we need more faculty to teach.”

Fotis Sotiropoulos, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said the number of students applying to SBU has grown 60 percent since 2012, and the university has become more selective due to the lack of space. Currently, engineering students need to score at least 1400 on the SATs and to be in the 95th percentile in their class.

The dean said the research conducted at the school, in addition to impacting the economic development on Long Island, also affects the state and nation. The university focuses on engineering-driven medicine, artificial intelligence discoveries and energy systems for sustainability.

“This is where we are going to develop the medicine of the future,” Sotiropoulos said, adding SBU wants to be the hub for the state in artificial intelligence research.

Sotiropoulos said as the university develops the new facility the curriculum will be reconstructed to build learning around projects that start early in a student’s college years and continue all the way to incubating start-up companies. He said one of the goals is to keep students local after graduation.

“We want to grow the size of the engineering workforce for Long Island and the state, but we also want to educate the new kind of engineers,” Sotiropoulos said.