By Madina Toure
Although state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) thinks Albany is still dysfunctional, she said the state Democratic Conference has become very united.
In an interview at the TimesLedger office this week, Stavisky said new state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk) is trying to do a good job but that from the point of view of a Senate Democrat, she believes more can be done.
She noted that Flanagan has “pretty much dismissed” a minimum wage increase, pay equity, paid family leave and the 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda.
She also said the loophole that permits limited liability corporations—LLCs—to give unlimited amounts of money should be closed and that legislators should give up their outside jobs. As an example, she cited former state Senate Majority Dean Skelos. a Nassau Republican, who along with his son was found guilty on federal corruption charges in December.
“The testimony I heard about and read about in the Skelos indictment was terrible,” she said. “When a legislator is arrested, it’s a reflection on everybody. We all look bad, and that’s unfair because most of us take our job seriously.”
But she remarked that two former Democratic state senators, Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx, and Malcolm Smith of Queens, are no longer in the Democratic Conference, praising their replacements. Gustavo Rivera is now occupying Espada’s old seat, while Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis) is occupying Smith’s seat.
Stavisky, who is the conference’s assistant leader for conference operations, also credited conference leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and her deputy, state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), for what she described as their non-confrontational and inclusive attitude.
“The interesting part is that the Democratic Conference has totally changed,” she said. “That is something that people have not seen. We are very united and the bad people in our conference are gone and I think that bodes well for the elections in November.”
She also noted that the conference has done its best to work with the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of break-away Democrats in the state Senate.
“We’ve tried to be inclusive and we haven’t said anything that will jeopardize any future relationship,” she said. “I think we agree on many issues. We’ll see what happens in November, it’s up to the voters. But we try to be inclusive.”
The senator also spoke about the future of Flushing, saying that the infrastructure is not keeping up with the neighborhood’s growth and recalling her suggestion that a subway entrance should be placed at Prince Street and Roosevelt Avenue to relieve overcrowding on the 7 train.
She expressed concerns about the Q44 Select Bus Service route.
“I think they’re going to have to take another look at this because it’s forcing all the traffic into one lane,” she said. “There’ve been a lot of fatalities, a lot of people have been hit by buses, casino buses in particular, hit by cars.”
She said School District 25 is not as overcrowded as other districts in the borough and that there is a need for a high school, describing College Point Corporate Park as a good location and referencing a now-scrapped plan to put a high school at the city Department of Education’s building at 30-48 Linden Place.
She also said a hearing should have been held on mayoral control, which she said should have been renewed for more than a year, and expressed concerns about airplane noise as well as cuts in the state higher education budget.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour