By Mark Hallum
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was in Bay Terrace last week for a candidates forum where she blamed “cowardly” elected officials over the past 50 years for the MTA crisis and for failing to invest in the city’s subways to bring the 100-year-old infrastructure into the modern age.
While taking jabs at the city government for not taking responsibility for the upkeep of the subways under the purview of the MTA — a state agency — Hochul said her initiatives as lieutenant governor include resolving the opioid crisis and bringing paid family leave to families across the state.
She spoke Aug. 29 at the Bay Terrace Meets the Candidates Forum at the Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center.
“We have 40-year-old trains, 100-year-old signals, that’s a disgrace and I am so glad that Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped up and said this has got to end and put the money on the table. What did he do? He declared an emergency, we got new leadership with [NYC Transit President] Andy Byford who knows what he’s doing,” Hochul said. “While the city of New York owns the properties and controls the system, the state of New York will step up… I think we have more to do, but at least we’ve identified the problem, we have the Subway Action Plan and we’re executing it.”
The Subway Action Plan is an $836 million short-term initiative to stabilize the city transit infrastructure while a more long-term solution can be settled upon launched by MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.
Other state official and their opponents spoke about more localized issues, such as housing in the districts where they are vying for seats.
State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) said downzoning the area around Bay Terrace would put a stop to a proposed four-story, nearly 30,000-square-foot building which would have 18 apartment units and a day care center that ignited a rally of at least 100 people in July.
“I’m in conversations with [Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside)] and the Mayor’s Office to get them to do a study on downzoning,” Braunstein said. “One thing that we’re up against is Mayor Bill de Blasio and his agenda. [De Blasio] wants to take credit for any affordable housing no matter what it looks like in the city and just add it to a number so he can have a statistic of how much affordable housing he’s created. So they’re very reluctant to downzone because he wants to have that record for whatever he wants to run for next. But we need to let the mayor know that people are attracted to these communities because of the low density and it is very important to us to keep it that way.
David Bressler, a Republican candidate challenging Braunstein in the November general election, took a question about his support for President Donald Trump on the chin, but in good spirits.
“There are certain policies I support – I think the economic situation’s a lot better – and there are things that I don’t support,” Bressler said. “It’s just like if I’m going to be a state assemblyman, there are going to be things with the Republican party, with associates and colleagues I’ll support, and there will be things I’m not going to support. That’s what fairness is all about, supporting the things you believe in.”
Also speaking at the candidates forum were U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Huntington) and his Republican opponent Dan DeBono.
Suozzi, a freshman congressman elected in 2016, has taken a strong stance in favor of gun control and thrown support behind student groups who have demonstrated urging action from the federal government after the Parkland shooting left 17 teenagers and faculty dead at Florida high School.
DeBono is a U.S. Navy veteran from Syosset who comes from a background in the private sector and hopes to “restore” the free market by “smartly deregulating” and reducing taxes for people and small businesses. He is also an advocate for fixing the issues with the MTA and Long Island Rail Road.
Also at the debate were state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and his primary challenger John Liu; Republican candidates for Avella’s district Simon Minching and Vickie Paladino; city Public Advocate Letitia James. who is running for attorney general; and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, among others.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall