Candidates answer question about the most pressing issue facing 20th Assembly District.
Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) and Republican challenger
Dr. David Sussman of Lawrence on Thursday took their campaigns to the Long Beach Library, where they faced off in a candidate forum, the third in a series held throughout the
20th Assembly District before Election Day.
The Long Beach League of Women Voters hosted the forum, which attracted about 50 attendees who submitted
more than a dozen questions to moderator Marion Flemming of Hempstead. The issues included the city’s
deficit financing bill that died in the senate last June, water quality in west
end bays, eliminating the Atlantic Beach Bridge toll, flood maps, MTA reform, hydro
fracturing, alleged gas station "gouging," and campaign finance reform. Other
questions touched on more personal issues, such as the candidates’ motivations for running for assembly, as well as their involvement in charities.
Both candidates running for the 20th Assembly District — which covers
the entire Long Beach barrier island, Five Towns, Oceanside, Island Park and
parts of East Rockaway and Valley Stream — are educators. Weisenberg is a
former teacher and school administrator in East Meadow, while Sussman has sat
on the Lawrence Board of Education for the past 18 years. Weisenberg is a
lifelong Long Beach resident and was first elected to the assembly in 1989.
Sussman, a physician who grew up in Cedarhurst and lives in Lawrence, is making
his first run at an assembly seat.
Over the coming days, Patch will highlight some individual questions that the candidates answered at the Oct. 18 forum.
What is the most pressing problem in our district?
Weisenberg, who was the first in order to answer this particular
question, said that while the district is “taxed,” the most important issue
right now is the ability of government officials and activists to protect Long Island's water supply. Touching on a subject that was raised earlier in the
debate, Weisenberg cited the Lloyd Aquifer
considered one of the three most important aquifers on the island, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
“If this Lloyd is damaged, because we have salt-water intrusion, we’re
going to end up losing our ability to have our drinking water,” Weisenberg
said. “Again, this is a really very important issue, because it is only a
question of time after we find what that contamination is that exists in our
Weisenberg also pointed to a problem with hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas
that emits an odor of rotten eggs, in Point Lookout last summer, in which
he said people who dined at restaurants on the bay were unable to breath,
coughing and choking from the pungent smell.
“We ended up having the DEC come
down there,” Weisenberg explained. “They said they couldn’t get a permit. I had a
hearing down there; the next day they had a permit, and they started to clean
up the problem that existed there.”
The incumbent assemblyman predicted that the problem would reoccur. “I’m
telling you, the public and the conservationists have to really rally in
support to make sure that we have the oversight of local governments, the Town
of Hempstead and Nassau County and people from the environmental community,
advocating to make sure that we get what’s necessary to protect our water
But Sussman said he couldn’t disagree more. He emphasized that the most
important problems facing the district are “taxes, taxes, and taxes, and jobs,
Sussman said that all the district’s residents have neighbors on their streets who are in
danger of moving because they can’t pay their taxes, and that college graduates
who return home can’t find work.
“We want our children to come back here, and we want to be able to keep
our promises to unions and to pensions, and the only way we can do that is to
decrease taxes and decrease the structure from Albany and bring business here,”
When Weisenberg was first elected
assemblyman more than twenty years ago, Sussman said, there were 34 Congressman from New
York, but today there are 27, suggesting that constituencies have declined due to people who have fled the state.
“If we are doing everything right, why are we losing relative
population and losing influence,” Sussman asked. “If we’re the model, then why
isn’t everyone coming? It’s because of taxes, regulations and being business
un-friendly. And this is job number one for every legislator.”
The next Candidate Forum with Wesienberg and Sussman will be held at the Island Park Library, 176
Long Beach Road, at 7 p.m. Oct. 30.