Comrie talks taxes, housing and more in 2018 race

State Sen. Leroy Comrie is going full steam ahead for his re-election bid.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Naeisha Rose

State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who is running for re-election, hopes that with a possible Democratic majority in the Senate next year, he will be able to bring about more effective change to his district and New Yorkers as whole.

At present he does not have a challenger in his bid for a third term in the Sept. 13 primary or the Nov. 6 general election.

“I like what I do and I would like to do it at a majority level,” Comrie said Monday in an interview with TimesLedger reporters. “We really have an opportunity to take the majority in the state Senate and direct the agenda, and control the type of legislation that is coming forward.”

Comrie believes that if there were a Democratic majority, common sense legislation that protects consumers, increases voter turnout in New York and brings about tax reform would no longer be “bottled up in the Senate,” controlled by Republicans.

“We have to embrace technology, we have to embrace change and we have to make it easier to make people to want to vote,” said Comrie.

In January, Comrie introduced two voting bills that would authorize ballot by mail by removing the cause for absentee voting and eliminate the requirement that affidavits need to have a voters previous registerd address, instead if there is an issue with an finding a voter’s updated address they can use a Board of Elections form to vote, according to www.nysenate.gov.

“No voter should ever face unnecessary scrutiny at the polls because of errors that are outside of their control,” said Comrie. “The requirement that voters disclose the

address at which they were previously registered is onerous and unnecessary.”

Both bills are currently being reviewed by a committee and have only received co-sponsorship from fellow Democrats, according to www.nysenate.gov.

After Equifax was hacked and the credit agency failed to report the July 2017 data breach to its 143 million customers for six weeks, Comrie introduced three pieces of legislation that following September to require such agencies to disclose data breaches within 15 weeks. He also proposed automatic security freezes on consumer reports and a regulatory mandate over consumer credit reporting agencies by the Department of Financial Services.

All three bills are being reviewed by a committee and only have support from Democrats, according to www.nysenate.gov.

“Our district is over taxed and underfunded,” said Comrie. “When you look at our tax rolls, we get audited more frequently and tax reviewed more frequently then other parts of the city and that imbalance has to be fixed… and I think it’s illegal to a degree.”

The city is currently pushing a $400 tax rebate for middle-class homeowners for fiscal year 2019, but many elected officials want more to be done about the city’s property tax system.

Comrie’s 14th Senate District represents Briarwood, Cambria Heights, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Hillcrest, Jamaica, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens, Laurelton, Queens Village, Rosedale, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.

“We have a lot of condos and co-ops in Queens that are facing some major taxes, because their taxes haven’t been corrected in years and it’s going to be a big financial hit for them, and we are going to have to address that,” Comrie said.

The senator also has ideas about how to safeguard affordable housing, create criminal justice reform and provide access to specialized high schools.

“We need to come up with a Mitchell-Lama housing plan where we create opportunities to make more buildings at an affordable rate for multi-family units,” said Comrie. “We need to be able to make sure that we are creating opportunities to sell our properties at affordable rates as well.”

Comrie also wants to address how petty crimes are handled in his district.

“This borough is the only borough where we only have one opportunity for people to have relief from minor violations … and not go straight to jail,” said Comrie. “We need to have alternative justice programs… there is work release, educational programs, there are guidance and rehab programs, and we need to advertise to people that these things exist.”

Many Democrats have been divided recently on the mayor’s plan to eliminate the Specialized High School Admissions Test to create access to the institutions for low-income, black and Hispanic students, with some elected officials saying the SHSAT needs to remain and that more prep tests and schools are necessary. Supporters of the mayor agree that there should be more forms of acceptance to elite schools instead of a single test.

Comrie falls in the middle. He agrees with having more test prep for students in all districts and not relying solely on a single test, but he believes the best solutions are specialized middle schools and the development of more specialized high schools for the city’s more than one million pupils.

“In my district there are students of color that passed the specialized high school test, but don’t go because their parents don’t want to have to send them to Brooklyn, Bronx, and Manhattan,” Comrie said. “We need another specialized high school in Queens… there is not enough for the borough for the students who want to attend specialized high schools.”

There are eight specialized schools that require only a one-test option and only one of them is in Queens: the Queens High School for the Sciences at York College in Jamaica.

“I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to enhance the community,” said Comrie. “I will constantly work to be an accessible and open elected official… and my continued focus will be to make sure my community is empowered, enlightened and informed.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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