By Mark Hallum
As state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) looks toward a fifth term in Albany, he plans to stick to his track record of tackling education issues, gun possession and airplane noise for his northeast Queens constituents.
Braunstein faces Republican candidate David Bressler, a Bay Terrace businessman, in the November general election and has no opponents in the Democratic primary for the 26th Assembly District, which covers Bayside, Whitestone, Little Neck, Douglaston and part of northeastern Flushing.
During a recent visit to the TimesLedger offices in Bayside, he told the editorial staff he wants to preserve the SHSAT test, which determines which students are admitted to the city’s specialized high schools, as well as other pieces of progressive legislation.
Gun laws in New York are strict, but Braunstein said he would like to see more action in light of the shootings that devastated Parkland, Fla., and Las Vegas, Nev. In recent months, Mayor Bill de Blasio has attempted to get legislation passed at the state level which would abolish the SHSAT to admit more minority students, which has been criticized by some members of the state Senate and Assembly who promote increasing access to the test to counteract any issues with diversity as an alternative.
Earlier this year, Braunstein voted against legislation to drop the SHSAT as the sole criteria for admission to the city’s coveted specialized high schools.
“Out of the 1.1 million schoolchildren in the city, there should be a few schools that cater to students who have specific skills in science, technology, engineering and math,” Braunstein said. “The test is a great way for us to determine which student is likely to be successful in those fields of study. Especially in specialized high schools, which cater to specific skills, students continue to compete and push each other academically — and I believe that this test is beneficial to the city as a whole.”
He represents a large chunk of School District 26, the highest performing district academically in the city.
Braunstein is working hard to address the epidemic of mass shootings in United States by protecting New Yorkers through legislation he helped pass that bans bump stocks, an accessory that fits onto the butt of semi-automatic assault weapons to harness the recoil of the rifle and simulate full-automatic, continuous firing.
Bump stocks became the centerpiece of public attention after a gunman in a Las Vegas hotel killed 59 people and left another 800 wounded.
“New York has some of the strongest gun control laws in the country, but yet we can still go further,” Braunstein said.
Braunstein’s Red Flag Gun Bill, which has passed the Assembly but not the Senate, would allow law enforcement, family members or school officials to petition a court to take people’s firearms away for a temporary period of time, if they show clear and convincing evidence that they are likely to cause serious harm to themselves or others, until they are no longer considered to be a threat.
He hopes to influence the Federal Aviation Administration to change arrival and departure routes from LaGuardia Airport to resolve the problem of excessive airplane noise over northeast Queens.
“This is a consistent issue that personally bothers me,” he said. “When I wake up and hear the noise from the aircraft, I usually know which flight pattern it is and how long the noise will last. I even have a sound meter in my house to track the noise levels.”
Braunstein has plans for changing how Albany runs by helping to create a matching funds initiative similar to the city program that contributes to campaigns in order to keep big money out of politics and provide equal opportunity to anyone financially if they plan to run for office.
“In the past 7 1/2 years, we’ve passed the Pay Family Leave Act, the Campus Safety Bill, increased minimum wage and sent in eight on-time budgets, compared to this district’s historically late budgets in the past,” Braunstein said. “Those are all great statistics — and that’s the record I am going to run on.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall