12th Assembly District Preview: Raia vs. Rosen

Assemblyman Andrew Raia is being challenged by Democrat Avrum Rosen in the 12th Assembly District.

 

Andrew Raia (incumbent)

A lifelong resident of Huntington, Andrew Raia has served as representative for the 12th Assembly District for six terms. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from SUNY New Paltz in 1991,

Before his election to the Assembly, Raia served as a leading staff member in the legislative offices of the State Assembly, the State Senate and the Suffolk County Legislature for 12 years. After years of work on the Assembly Health Committee, he was appointed the new ranking minority member. He is also a member of the Aging, Banks, Housing and Rules committees. He co-sponsored the Home Equity Theft Prevention Act and fought to pass legislation to protect homeowners from becoming victims of home equity theft while providing homeowners with legal recourse if violations were committed.

During his time in office, Raia has served as a member on the Education; Social Services; Local Governments; Corporations, Authorities and Commissions; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry committees along with Medicaid Waste, Fraud and Abuse Minority Task Force.

Q: Is protecting air, water and land a fundamental government responsibility and is the current system in use succeeding in protecting them?

A: I have a 100 percent rating with the EPL (Environmental Advocate)  so I’m very proud of my environmental record particularly because we live on an island. We get our water from one place under our feet and we’re paying for the sins of corporations and it was our economy with building airplanes and everything else and all of these things are coming back to haunt us now. So I’ve been very proactive both with our fresh drinking water as well as having a district that is surrounded by many harbors and we’ve been working very hard on cleaning up the Long Island Sound, upgrading sewer systems in Northport, and we’re starting to see the benefits of that. So, on the state level, we’ve appropriated $600 million in the last two years for the environmental protection fund. I joined with Assemblyman [Steve] Englebright in calling for an oil drilling ban since the Federal Government is trying to lift the requirements to drill off our coast. I’ve been funding and passed legislation for land and air quality testing in our schools. So regardless of what the Federal Government is doing, New York State still remains the environmental state as far as I’m concerned.

Q: What are one or two things you’ve done with and for our community’s youth?

A: What we do is supply the funding for local community organizations particularly pass through to the towns. The towns generally fund the YDA [Youth Directions and Alternatives] and various groups like that with some of that money. We also pass certain mandates what the town has to do with respects to servicing our youth. Me in particular, I’ve obtained funding, discretionary money, for libraries. And libraries are still the best place for our youth to go as far as I’m concerned when they have idle time. I’ve worked closely with the local youth organizations like the YDA and trying to make sure the state funding that they receive as it’s passed through the town is protected. There was an instance in which the governor started directing a lot of the funding for local youth organizations and put that funding into mandated services, and that’s not always the best thing. So, we pushed back against that. The youth groups should be able to use the money how they see fit. I host NARCAN training sessions because our youth are dying from heroin overdoses. It’s not an area that typically the  state deals with other than providing the funding. So me, personally, those were the few things I’ve done.

Q: Everyone wants safe neighborhoods for their children, now that the state received a $500,000 grant for the Project Safe Neighborhood Initiative, what are some of your intentions for the community?

A: I’ve been a proponent of trying to eliminate MS-13 in my neighborhoods. The 12th Assembly District covers portions of Brentwood and Bay Shore, it’s not just Huntington. And that is a real issue in our neighborhoods dealing with our youth and trying to provide them with avenues to get off the streets. I was in Bay Shore just last week working with youth groups down there. My job is to make sure there’s money there to provide programs to keep kids off of the street and we have been very successful in that. There has been an increase in funding for that in the last two years.

Q: Regarding the Trump Tax Plan, what is your position on a property tax cap?

A: I proudly voted for the 2 percent property tax cap, and it’s been very effective in compelling local governments to stay within the tax cap that we follow as a state. Last six years, we’ve kept our spending on the state level below a 2 percent increase. And what you had before the tax cap is, you had local governments, whether they be school districts, in many instances they were increasing taxes 10 percent every year. You can’t sustain a property tax base by doing that. So I think it’s been very effective. There’s certain aspects of the tax cap that I think need to be revisited. One in particular is the town of Huntington came to me [and] they would like to do an environmental bond act, which is good right? The voters get to vote on whether or not they’re going to designate some of their tax dollars to preserving open space or cleaning up the environment, but the problem is, if they do that, they will automatically pierce the 2 percent cap. So one of the things I’ve been looking at, working within a bipartisan matter with Assemblyman Steve Englebright, is possibly carving out environmental bond proposals from the tax cap. School districts have a lot of costs that they can’t control like health costs. There already is a carve out in local governments with respects to the TRS retirement contribution. There have been calls to maybe carve out some of the healthcare aspects of it. It’s always dangerous when you start making carve outs to a program because then you start to dilute its effectiveness. But as of now, we stunted the tax cap. I would like to see it eventually made permanent instead of every two years or four years going back and extending it.

Q: When did you know you wanted to represent this community?

A: [Laughs] There’s an old joke out there I say I had a choice: second generation public servant, like my mother, or fourth generation hair dresser, like my father. My father’s still cutting hair down in the Florida Keys. So he didn’t have a bad choice in life. I actually credit my eighth grade social studies teacher Mr. Taylor, who gave us extra credit for working on a political campaign back in eighth grade, believe it or not. I just so happened to be able to work on my mother’s campaign. She’s been the Town Clerk for 37 years, and so I grew up seeing public service up close and personal. So I’ve always had a burning desire to serve the public. I went to SUNY New Paltz and I was mentored by a gentleman named Jerry Benjamin, who’s one of the premier political scientists in the state, also a moderate republican. So he helped shape my moderate views on a lot of issues. And then my senior year in New Paltz, I had the opportunity to do a full-time internship in Albany working for a member of the State Assembly when I was 21, 22. It was then that I knew someday I wanted to be a member of the State Assembly and 13 years later, after working in various levels of government, I got my opportunity to run for the Assembly and here we are 16 years after that. I’m very proud of my record of accomplishments over the last two years. Preserving the quality of life for the residents of the 12th Assembly District and I look forward, with their support, to going back and utilizing my seniority in the state legislature to continue to fight for the betterment of my district and all of Long Island.

 

Avrum Rosen, challenger

Lifelong Long Island resident Avrum Rosen started his career in youth services in Levittown, Wantagh and Half Hollow Hills as a outreach drug counselor. He later ran the Huntington Youth Bureau Project to serve the community. After completing law school at Hofstra in two and a half years and a federal court clerkship, Rosen joined a private practice and later opened his own firm in 1988 practicing primarily bankruptcy law. This provided Rosen with experience with economic social workers and personal and business problem-solving. Rosen was appointed to the Huntington Planning Board where he served for nine years. Rosen has also served as a volunteer on the Sanctuary Advisory Board, The Eagle Dock Beach Foundation and assisted in forming the LI Dog organization, which advocates for dog parks throughout Long Island.

Q: Is protecting air, water and land a fundamental government responsibility and is the current system in use succeeding in protecting them?

A: Yes, of course, I do. No, the present system has not done it. I live in a house that I had to raise after Hurricane Irene so I’m pretty aware of rising sea levels. I was building a house in upstate Massachusetts that got destroyed by a tornado in 1995, and they didn’t used to have tornadoes in Massachusetts. So, yeah, I’d say I have some personal experience with the fact that things are not the way they should be. A zillion things [should be done]. I think that we have to start realizing that we live on a pile of sand that most of which is barely above sea level. If [Hurricane] Sandy did not teach us that, I don’t know what will. We get our water from an aquifer so what we dump into the ground comes back to bite us. We can’t really use sewers for everything because it doesn’t recharge the water enough. I spent nine years on a Planning Board trying to do controlled development and trying to improve things in terms of water retention on properties and trying to protect fragile areas. We need to come up with an economical way of reducing runoff. I think there are new technologies out there that can help in terms of permeable road services and trying to put in swales to try and catch the water in various different places. Throughout all of Long Island that can be done.

Q: What are one or two things you’ve done with and for our community’s youth?

A: That’s an easy one. I was originally, when I started working in Huntington a very long time ago, I worked for the Huntington Youth Bureau Drug Counseling Agency, which, in those days, was called Star Shine down in Half Hollow Hills, doing drug prevention in Half Hollow Hills and other areas in the town. I then became the program coordinator of the Huntington Youth Project Program, which was in Half Hollow Hills, which has now been merged with the one in Commack, but they’re still operating out of the room in Manasquam Elementary School that I actually got and actually did the construction on. I was at the 50th Anniversary of the Huntington Youth Bureau the other day and found out they were still using it. After that, I was on the Huntington Youth Board for four or five years. Then I was on the Sanctuary Advisory Board, which was the program for kids that were runaways or thrown out of their homes, I think they changed the name of that program, too. And then when my kids were growing up I was assistant coach for the Cold Spring Harbor Soccer Club for about six or seven years.

Q: Everyone wants safe neighborhoods for their children, now that the state received a $500,000 grant for the Project Safe Neighborhood Initiative, what are some of your intentions for the community?

A: I’m a great believer in crime prevention and fighting crime on prevention. If you get to one kid before they get into the system or incarcerated, you just saved hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So I would like to see much of it going to after-school programs or even preschool programs in the long run. My wife’s a director of guidance in the school district, and if a kid’s not properly socialized and not given certain skills, even by the time they’re five, the damage is done. You can spend 15 years trying to fix it and you can make it better, but you can’t make it great. I think there’s also lots of technologies we can use. The gunshot technology is good on the crime fighting aspect. I think there has to be some way if you really want to confront gangs, especially with the crackdown coming from ICE, that’s the biggest recruiter for some gangs in the world because people in their own communities can’t report crimes so they become perpetual victims. So if there’s some way set up where people can really report anonymously and make sure they’re not going to be deported if they do, I think that would go a long way in addressing it.

Q: Regarding the Trump Tax Plan, what is your position on a property tax cap?

A: We have a property tax cap right now for school taxes. The reality of what’s going to happen out there, it’s not just a matter of a property tax cap, we have to rethink taxation. We really do because what Trump’s tax cuts have done, it was an intentional waging of war on blue states to try and drive up even more taxation here and to make them more business-unfriendly, to drive more businesses to the southern and western states. Because that’s what’s happening and it was done to make that even worse. In March and April of next year when people really look through their taxes and find out how badly they’ve been hurt, it’s going to have a backlash. People are going to start voting down school budgets. Right now, you’ve got your 2 percent cap and it’s worked so far pretty well because inflation has been under 2 percent every year, but it’s not going to be next year. Inflation is going to be running between 3 to 5 percent. Remember, even if budgets go down, the cap gets pierced from all kinds of things. So I think we have to start looking at other ways to switch it. We have to start switching more weight from property tax, which is incredibly regressive, over towards the things that we have control over to try and get some of the money back that’s been taken from us.

Q: When did you know you wanted to represent this community?

A: When I was much younger, I had run in 1996 against Jim Conte when I was in Cold Spring Harbor. I come from an original history of being in services and social work and wanting to be in public service. And then I became a bankruptcy attorney, which I consider to be economical social work. I’ve represented the Nurses Union. I’ve represented people. It’s helping people solve their economic problems, which sometimes actually cures their other problems. So I’ve done that for 34 years now. And I had thought about running again for other things. I ran in ‘96 and then I spent nine years on the Planning Board so I got really into liking planning and dealing with environmental stuff. And I thought about running in this race but then Michael Marcantonio stepped up, and you know what, I figured it was his turn, he’s a young kid, he had raised the money. I definitely wasn’t going to get into a fight over it in any way, shape or form. Then when he got knocked off the ballot, I just felt this wasn’t a year when any Republican should run without opposition. I like Andy [Andrew Raia]. We like one another. I don’t agree with a lot of his positions, and I felt he needed to have somebody to step up and make him prove himself if he’s going to get reelected, and I don’t think he is. I think I picked the right year to run. But that’s why I ran. And I’m at that point in my life where I can do it. I have partners that can take over the firm. My kids are grown. And my grandkids, I want to make sure there’s something nice here for them at the end of the day. Trying to leave the world a better place than I found it. Another reason that really motivated me to run against Andy was, like I said, I’ve got grandkids and a wife who works in the school district. I have two nieces and a nephew that were, they weren’t there when it happened, but are graduates of Stoneman Douglas, who had children and friends of theirs murdered, and Andy has had a very good rating from the NRA for all of his years. That’s a big issue with me and I felt that he needed to be challenged on that and he needed to be replaced over that.

Assemblyman Andrew Raia, left, Avrum Rosen, right.

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