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Commuters, Voting Access, and Supporting First Responders with NY State Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti
In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, welcome guest New York State Assemblywoman Gina Silitti, representing the 16th District on the North Shore of Long Island.
Tune in to this episode as Gina shares insights into:
- the impact of last summer’s train schedule changes on commuters in her district
- ways to revitalize the commuting experience, including train schedules and relieving overcrowding
- expanding access to voting for working people and city commuters
- Fire Department Bills and Crisis Counseling for Police
Born and raised on Long Island, Gina Sillitti has a proven record of public service and will use her government experience to deliver results for the people of the 16th Assembly District. Gina is a first-time elected official, having won her first election in November 2020.
Gina’s nearly two-decade career in public service included working at the Nassau County Legislature, where Gina learned the value of constituent services. For her, it was never about partisan politics. It was about working hard and getting results for the people she served.
During that time, Gina worked to secure millions for local fire departments, helped thousands of constituents with issues from repairing potholes to navigating their personal tragedies, worked to get much-needed infrastructure projects delivered for the district and helped bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in community development block grants to improve local schools.
In 2010, Gina was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Community Services in the Town of North Hempstead. In this role, she worked with a wide variety of constituency groups, including forming the first Asian-American Festival Committee to promote the growing cultural diversity in our town. She was promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff and the Director of Legislative Affairs for the Town where she served as liaison to officials at every level to ensure projects, grant requests and legislation received the proper attention. Gina was the point person on all special projects for the Town Supervisor involving the public, including as Chair of North Hempstead’s 9/11 Memorial Committee, a group consisting of members of the FDNY and NYPD, victims’ families, local volunteer fire departments that responded to Ground Zero, veterans and local architects.
In 2015, Gina was recruited to serve as Director of Human Resources and Compliance at the Nassau County Board of Elections. There, she implemented new policies and procedures to modernize the office and save taxpayer dollars.
Gina utilizes her years of government experience to deliver for her district. As a member of the New York State Assembly, Gina works to make living on Long Island more affordable. She understands the importance of increasing state aid for our schools, our town and our villages so they can rely less on property taxes.
Learn more about Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti
Visit her website: https://www.ginaforassembly.com/
About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast
The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.
Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube
Read the full transcript:
VOICEOVER ( 00:00:01): Welcome to Rising Leaders of New York with your host David S. Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. They present to you conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers. You can find this show at www.hillmoin.com and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast and more. Now, here are the hosts of Rising Leaders of New York.
DAVID ( 00:00:38): Hello everybody. My name is David Zwerin. I’m an attorney at the law firm of Hill and Moin. Our primary focus is representing seriously injured victims of accidents on uh premises such as uh buildings or construction sites and our uh firm uh helps to assist those serious injured victims get fair and adequate compensation. But I’m also the host of the podcast you are listening to which is rising leaders of New York where every episode I have the opportunity to put on a different hat and get to know and discuss some of the important topics uh that are before us. New Yorkers uh brought to us by some of the really exciting um cutting edge and rising leaders of New York and today. I certainly have one of those on tap for you. I’m very pleased to be joined by assembly woman, Gina Sillitti of the 16th district out of Nassau County, uh assembly woman. I’ll just throw it right over to you. Thank you so much for joining us today on rising leaders of New York.
GINA ( 00:01:41): Oh, my gosh. Thank you so much, David. I, you know, before we came on the air, I was telling you, it’s my very first podcast. So I’m very excited to be talking with you and talking about some of the issues that’s, you know, affecting Nassau County and Long Island and get right into it.
DAVID ( 00:01:54): Well, well, I’m very flattered that this is your first podcast. Uh You’re on, we’re pleased to have you and uh hope it’s not your last podcast and hope it’s not the only time you’re here for us.
GINA ( 00:02:04): Me too.
DAVID ( 00:02:06): So, um I know that one thing you’ve really been dealing with a lot this year is the major change that occurred with the Long Island railroad when the Grand Central Station opened up. What exactly did that do for people commuting out of your area to Great Neck in Manhattan on the Port Washington Line.
GINA ( 00:02:26): Yeah. So, you know, first things first up, you know, the area that I represent. Port Washington, Manhasset, Great Neck. I also have a little bit of Roslyn, um, North New High Park Harrack. Uh So the Port Washington Line is uh known for probably being the crown jewel of the Long Island railroad. Uh I represent a commuter town. Uh A lot of folks moved here from the city for the fast and easy commute to Manhattan and uh you know, the suburban life with, you know, uh city work life. And um so last summer uh with the anticipated opening of Grand Central Madison, uh the Long Island railroad MG A put out a draft train schedule and let me tell you, David, it went down like a ton of bricks. It was, they eliminated all express service. It was, you know, they wanted to increase ridership in Queens, which I totally appreciate, but it was at the expense of the constituents I represent. And uh we learned very quickly that this was, you know, something that they didn’t want. But I felt that the Long Island Railroad not just anecdotally on social media or, you know, for me, the politician, um they need to hear directly from folks. So one of the things that I did was I created a survey and it sounds kind of simple, but, you know, I had a, you know, a palm card was at the train stations every morning and I was literally listening to people, uh you know, hearing their thoughts, but also not everybody knew this was happening. And so every morning in the month of July, I was out there talking to residents about the changes in the schedule and what it would mean for them. And, you know, unsurprisingly, uh, thousands of people responded to my survey. Um, there was multiple hearings, um, that was organized by the Long Island Railroad to hear, you know, public comment. It actually started as it was just gonna be one. Uh, but the response was so overwhelming, they actually hosted multiple meetings to hear directly from folks and of course, the majority of the people were on the poor Washington line, but Washington has a Great Mac and uh they just had told their personal stories about what the changes and the elimination of Express would mean to them. Um And, you know, obviously, uh you know, our home values are tied, uh you know, in part to the great schools, but of course, the, the commuting line. But additionally, it is, it is the lifeblood of our community is our trains. Uh our, we love our trains so much. We built our downtowns around them and, and people took this very personally and I was happy to say that the railroad heard their concerns and made changes.
DAVID ( 00:05:16): what kind of changes to the IR make in response. They, they,
GINA ( 00:05:19): they, they heard loud and clear that people wanted express trains to Penn Station. Uh and they brought back in some uh wasn’t all but some so fast forward to February. Um the train schedules are going into effect after, you know, multiple delays and, and one of the things that, you know, we had said from the very, very beginning is that if you see problems, fix it quickly, if you see overcrowding, fix it quickly, don’t wait and linger. Just listen to the riders. Pay attention and make changes as quickly as possible. Well, the first week was a nightmare for folks. Um, and, you know, I don’t know if I’m glutton for punishment, but I went, I went to the trains, uh, that first week to listen to people. Um And again, I wanted to do another survey just because of the success from last year. And I didn’t want it to just be social media. I didn’t want it to just be new reports, wanted it to be on the ground. People telling me exactly how they feel and let me tell you, they told me exactly how they felt about, about the new train schedules. It was overcrowding too much space in between, um in between times. It was just a whole host of things or just things didn’t line up the way they used to and missing connections. And so the they have some more work to do. Uh you know, that’s the bottom line, David. Uh We did the survey. We had another overwhelming response and the overwhelming response is get back to the drawing board and we need to fix this. Uh We sent our results over to the Long Island railroad um several weeks ago. Uh Although the uh the survey is ongoing, I have not taken it down because people are still commenting and we still send them over. Um, and they said they’re reviewing it and so we’re staying on top of it. Um, you know, I want the residents to know that, uh, it’s not, you know, it’s not over. We’re paying attention or I’m certainly paying attention and, uh, this is a big deal for folks. It’s, it’s their lives. Um, it’s, and it may seem trivial. Um you know, it’s just a train ride but it’s, it, it’s our connection. It’s our connection to the city. It’s our, it’s our homes. It’s our way of life. It’s really the whole, it’s the whole package here. Um When you represent a commuter town, our lives revolve around the trains.
DAVID ( 00:07:46): So you definitely don’t have to convince me. I’m a, I’m a former Long Island resident. I used to live uh in a small town called Malvern. And I said one of the main reasons I, I lived there for a period of time was because of its accessibility to train. And I knew going in that it didn’t have the greatest line. But if somebody had told me that uh the line would be gutted or they would just run one or two lines or one or two trains out of it the entire weekday. So I wouldn’t have moved there at all because for those of us who have or have, have in the past, lived out on Long Island and have a job in the city, as you said, that’s the life blood. It’s not just a train ride. It’s your life of being overcrowded or having to have a 2030 40 minutes each way that really adds up and decreases your quality of life.
GINA ( 00:08:41): It does. And you know what else too, David. It’s the lifeblood of New York City too. Um, you know, their economy is, we’re all connected, we’re all tied together, right? And so the economy is directly related. I mean, we’ve seen this, um, billions of dollars have been lost by, by people working from home. And so you want my constituents to be coming back into the city, right? You want them to get on the trains, you want them to spend money on lunch and dinner and, you know, all these different things and be back in office buildings. But when you make, you know, the commuting experience so difficult, you know, people think twice be like, well, just continue to work from home. I need to go into the city and deal with this nonsense. So, you know, there’s this balance, right? And so when I know the governor wants everyone to come back in the city, I know, um, you know, the MT A and the Long Island railroad, they want their ridership back. So, you know, we have to make it, um, you know, so that people want to and that they’re able to and that it’s you know, is commuting a pleasant experience. Does it have to be all sunshine and rainbows? No, but it can’t be the way it is now and, um, and it has to be better and they deserve it. Um, uh, you know, for the amount of money that they pay for, you know, the tickets and everything else, it’s just, this is our job, right. This is the job is to bring, uh, you know, you’re the Long Island railroad. Uh, you know, get people from point A to B but not just about bringing people from point H point B to bring it um with, you know, a pleasant commuting experience and not for nothing. Grand Central is lovely. Oh, my gosh. I, I don’t know if you’ve been there. Um I took the train last month. I, you know, was something nearby. Um It’s beautiful, it was beautiful train ride, it’s beautiful station. Um, but ridership is still, you know, uh going to Penn and we’re seeing that it’s, you know, they’ve, you know, it’s hard to change habits, right? And you’re going to Penn and that’s where you’ve always gone and that’s where you’re going to continue to go. And a lot of the office buildings are there, you know, in that area of Midtown. Uh So, uh so we have some work to do, you know, Long Island Railroad has some work to do. Um, and we’re paying attention and we’re staying on top of them.
DAVID ( 00:10:49): what kind of balance do you think can be struck? Because as someone who’s lived in both Nassau County and Queens, I think it’s very important that the long road is servicing both areas. And it’s really critical that the people in Nassau County aren’t feeling dismissed and that it’s all just about Queens. But as someone in Queens who likes the idea of maybe more, uh, more train stopping at forest hills or Kew Gardens or Woodside to give an extra option to people like myself who want to have an easier commute out of central Queens into the city. How do you service both of them?
GINA ( 00:11:25): Yeah. No, I mean, excellent question. It’s it and it’s not us versus them, right? Uh So few that, I mean, obviously more trains, you know, bottom line is there is more, we need more trains. The issue that we’re having on our end east of Great Neck is um there’s a few things we have single track. So, you know, that sort of limits the amount of trains that we push out. And then also um part of the Grand Central project decade a decade ago was expansion of the Port Washington railroad line and uh that, you know, for a host of reasons years ago, didn’t get done. Um That project is sort of back on the table. Discussions are ongoing about how to expand the track so we can park more trains and push more out, right? So we’re limited of the amount of trains that we can push out. But at the same time, David, we don’t need to stop at every single and that was the problem when the original last year, uh, uh, schedules came out, they stopped at every single stop in Queens. Um, we don’t have to do that. Right. You know, you can stop maybe at Bayside or, you know, you know, something or other where, you know, people can get on, but we don’t have to stop at every single one. Now. Is there locals? There’s always locals, there is locals in the previous schedule where folks from Queens can hop on and, and get into the city. Um This is our in Nassau County. It’s our only way. Right? We don’t, uh, you know, Long Island railroad. It, it’s either that or driving cars and we don’t want more cars on the road. Right. So, you know, our options are, are, are somewhat limited, but I think that we can do and I keep saying we, but I, I use we in a general term. Long Island railroad. Um, some simple scheduling changes I think would make for, um, a better commute. Um, right now in some of the prime time spots between, you know, the 7 to 8 and the 8 to 9, there’s not enough. Right? And so you, what you’re seeing is people crowded on these one or two trains to get them into the city before nine o’clock. So now there’s like a, you know, a train, um, one that leaves, uh, later in the eight o’clock hour. It’s, I think like 8 30 if that train and that gets in after nine. So a lot of people don’t take it, they’re all cramming on the 7 54. I think it is out of Fort Washington. Perhaps, if that later train was maybe 15 minutes earlier and it got in before nine o’clock, then you can separate, you know, that, you know, those 7 54 people, which by the way, that should even be earlier, there’s these huge gaps, these huge unnecessary gaps in my opinion, unnecessary. And my constituents also agree. It’s like a 7, 14, 7, 15 time, then this big gap till the end of the seven o’clock hour. And then that’s the last one that gets you in before nine game and, and it’s packed, it’s packed like you wouldn’t believe they got parents dropping their kids off at school. Everybody running to the train, you got a train coming in, train going out. It’s, it’s, it’s madness. Um, you know, little tweaks here and there. Um, and then there’s also the early folks, the people that have to get in by eight o’clock, you got the finance uh folks that work on Wall Street and then you got a lot of uh people who work in schools, they need to be in by eight o’clock and there isn’t a train Um, right now, uh, that will get them in to get them at their desk by eight o’clock. They have to do something in the six o’clock hour. This was unheard of before. Um, so again, it goes back to quality of life, it goes back to timing of schedules. Um, the amount of trains we’re obviously working on, but I think there could be some scheduling tweaks, some low hanging fruit that we hope that the Long Island railroad, the MT A will look at to, to get at the heart of what’s going on here. They did add more train cars which was very helpful uh to kind of relieve some of the stress um of the overcrowding, but it’s still crowded. Uh We’re still seeing pictures, they still send me tagging me, you know, on Twitter and social media. Um you know, take a look at this train, same as before nothing changed. Um So that’s what I hope they’ll, you know, are considering and uh we’ll listen to the folks again like they did last year and um and make, make these necessary changes.
DAVID ( 00:15:55): Um Another topic I wanted to talk to you about assembly woman is um voter accessibility or a registration. I know that you’ve either been a very vocal in cosponsoring or working with uh some of your colleagues on a lot of bills that I think are under consideration in the current session to uh maybe to make voting more accessible or more fair. Uh, one of the ones I believe you worked on or maybe were supporting with the electronic Registration Information Center. Uh, can you tell us a little bit about that bill?
GINA ( 00:16:33): Oh, yeah, sure. So, you know, just a step back quickly is I have a background, um, in elections. I worked at the board of elections. So I kind of know, um, you know how the cookies are made, so to speak and sort of how the process works. And uh you know, we’re, by the way, you know, for folks listening, we’re very lucky here in Nassau County, we have an excellent board of elections. Everything is bipartisan and that’s, I think an important thing for folks to know is that anything that comes in, whether it’s a voter registration form, whether it’s an absentee ballot application, no matter what it is, there’s two sets of eyes on everything. Uh Democrat checks it, a Republican checks it and nothing goes out or in without those two things happening. And both sides are um take this job very seriously. And um you know, working towards that goal of a fair uh and accessible election. And my thing from always is that we should make voting easier, not harder. Um It is our right as American citizens, it is our duty um to pay attention to what our elected officials are doing and support them when they’re doing good and kick them out when they’re not right. And and, you know, we’ve seen that over the years that increase in voter participation is a good thing. Um We’ve had early voting that started in 2019. Uh There was a little bit of resistance at first but you know what, not everybody can vote on election day. You never know what’s gonna happen. I remember one year there was a train that was late in and there was an accident and all these people were on their way home and never got a chance to vote because they got in after nine o’clock, they didn’t think about getting an absentee ballot application. They’re like, I’m gonna be home later, but you have early voting now, people can go 10 days before election day and pick a time that’s convenient for them and there’s guaranteed a location that is close to them. Um, but going back to this electronic, um, sort of national database, you know, one of the things that we’ve heard over and over is, um, you know, the roles, how are the voter rolls are the voter rolls? Right? How can we make the voter roles more accurate? And, and by the way, there’s so many steps and processes along the way that do make sure that these, the voter rolls are correct. But one of the things that is, it’s this, um, electronic, um, registration, uh national where basically you can see, um, so say you moved to, you know, another state and reregistered and you would now be in this, you know, let’s say Delaware, Delaware database. Um, you know, we can check, you can check monthly, you can check, you know, the board of elections can check and, you know, kind of compare rules and make sure that, you know, the data doesn’t overlap and that there is accuracies and all these different things. You know, what we try to do in New York, uh in Nassau County and you may have gotten it in the mail. I’m not sure how they do it in the city, but you’ll get like a card and it’s kind of a nondescript card. Uh, it’s white and red letters, white, red and black and it’s from the Nassau County Board of Elections and it says, um, or city board of elections or whatever. And it says this is who you are, this is where you live. This is where you, uh, where your polling location is, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Um, and this is, we call it like a, a voter check, right? A voter check card. Um, if you get something in the mail that is not you or you get something at your house that is not you. That means that there is something that’s incorrect, you know, on the other end, maybe somebody moved and you’re like, oh yeah, that was a person who used to live in my house. So you can just send that back to the board of elections and be like this person moved. But with this other system, we can have a better, we can follow, right, the voter better and see that, you know, that they did register someplace else or they passed away in another state or whatever the case may be. Um, there are these checks and balances that happen um throughout New York, um with, you know, uh department of Health records when somebody passes away and all these different things, this is just another layer, right, another layer to make sure that the voter rolls are accurate. So, unfortunately, over the last few years that we’ve seen people are, you know, some, some are losing faith, um or have lost faith in the election process. Um Whether, you know, it’s somebody telling them that they, that they should lose faith or they just don’t understand how it works. These are just additional tools that saying, listen, we, we want to make sure everything’s perfect and this is just another way to do that. Uh So that’s one of the things that we’re pushing along. Um One thing that I actually have personally, of mine is, um, it actually came from a constituent. Uh It came from a Republican poll worker. I’m a Democrat Republican poll worker. She brought it to me as her idea. Um When you go to the uh voting booth, sometimes you’re seeing that gigantic ballot for the first time. Um I was number 21 on the end of the ballot, which is insane. So you had, you know, the governor was number one and Gina Sollittidi, she was number number 21 on your ballot and you had all these people in between. And so people go and they see it for the first time and I’m like, what the heck is this thing? And it’s this giant ballot with all these names that they don’t know. So one of the things that I would like to see is an opportunity for people to view their ballot ahead of the election. Um When you go and you go into the voter database and you type in your name for New York State Board of elections, you check your name, your birth date and your voter record will come up. It’ll have your name, it’ll have where you’re voting and all these different things. I want to create this next level and this next level will be uh a digital view. You know, obviously you can’t print it um digital view of your ballot. So you have an informed voter that can look and say, oh all these different candidates. Oh, I didn’t know that. Oh, look at this judge or, you know, whatever the case may be or I didn’t know this election was happening. I know that person and they, you know, maybe they can research that person and uh you know, find out a little bit more about them and uh and then when they go in on election day, they’re, you know, their choice is clear. They, they’ve seen the ballot before and uh and there’s no confusion and they can go in and out and have a pleasant voting experience. All these little things that we can do to uh you know, make voting easier, making it less stressful we should be doing. And so that’s, you know, those are the kinds of things that I’m focused on.
DAVID ( 00:23:00): What is the reaction in Albany to some of these ideas on both sides of the aisle? Is there a willingness to make voting more accessible? What is the legislature interested in doing? And where do you expect resistance? Oh,
GINA ( 00:23:13): yeah, sure. Well, there’s some, well, you know, good and bad uh Albany intro uh in, in the assembly, we can introduce up to 10,000 bills a year, which is an, an incr an incredible amount of legislation and we only pass as, you know, a few 100 every session. Uh So there are a lot of election bills that unfortunately, you know, don’t always go ever anywhere. Um There is some pushback, you know, from the other side. Um but there has been, you know, uh change, you know, can be difficult, but I remember there was a lot of pushback with early voting and now it’s incredibly popular and it’s all working out and everybody likes it. Um I don’t, I, you know, maybe it was last week or the week before it was the end of session. And we were talking about some, you know, some election bills and one of them was, um, no excuse, absentee voting and it was a constitutional amendment that unfortunately failed in 2021. Part of the reason that it failed was that it was, there was a multimillion dollar dismiss information campaign, um, uh, by a conservative mega donors, um, saying that, you know, there was fraud and, you know, all these different things and uh with a low turnout election, uh it unfortunately failed uh no excuse, absentee voting. Um the constitutional amendment. Um you know, I worked at the board of elections. So, like I said, I’ve seen these forms before and I’m sure you have too and your viewers have as well. It’s a form, there’s different categories that you need to fill out and the top category section one, why are you gonna be away? You’re sick, you’re on vacation, you’re out of town for work, all these different things. And then the second section is your name then third and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then you sign it. Um Basically what the change would have done was eliminated. Just the top section. You still would have to fill out a form. It still would have had to been reviewed by a Democrat and a Republican. It still would have gone through the same exact process. You just wouldn’t have to put an excuse, but you know, it, fear is a motivating factor, right? And so people were scared and, you know, we just had come off the 2020 election where there was a lot of talk of abuse and fraud that obviously is not true. Um So that people were sensitive to it and unfortunately, it failed. But, you know, access to voting and making voting easier for working people for, you know, people who commute into the city, the Wall Street folks, it shouldn’t be a dirty word. We should, you know, we should be making voting easier and accessible and if somebody wants to be able to vote by mail, um they should be able to, and we shouldn’t be giving them a hard time to do it. So those are the kind of things that, uh you know, I’m, you know, we’re working on in Albany and yes, we are getting pushback. Um But at the end of the day, I think, you know, part of it is politics and objects and, you know, when you actually sit down with folks and explain it to them, they see. Oh, well, that’s fine. That’s not a big deal. That seems fairly simple enough. And, and, and, and it is, and it is.
DAVID ( 00:26:25): Do you find people’s perspectives are changing on some of these bills regarding making voting easier or voting accessibilities? We get farther and farther away from the 2020 election or things just hardening, especially as uh we get closer to our next federal election, which may have the same two candidates on the ballot. And,
GINA ( 00:26:45): um, it’s cyclical, David. I think, I think that as you, you know, right now, I don’t think folks are really paying attention much. Um, but I think when we get closer to the election, uh, time will get closer to November. You’ll, you’ll probably hear, you know, about things, but I haven’t heard from my, you know, my constituents and nobody’s called me and said, why are you doing this? Um Also conversely, um, you know, I haven’t had a groundswell of, you know, regular constituents call me. But certainly people have been like, oh, I heard about this sounds like a good idea and, you know, things like that. Um Some advocacy groups obviously, um you know, people who are advocating for, you know, better accessibility and better, you know, ease of voting are, are supportive of a lot of the measures that, that we’re doing. Um But there’s so many bills um that could be, you know, so great for making, you know, voting easier and more accessible. Um You know, and hopefully they can get, um, you know, the attention maybe next year perhaps. Uh and uh folks can learn more about them, but I’m pretty proud of some of them myself.
DAVID ( 00:27:48): What are some of the other uh interesting bills that uh you’re working on or co sponsoring that you think might be coming up for a discussion or passage this.
GINA ( 00:27:57): year. Well, so not so much this year, you know, session is, is pretty much wind down. Uh I am going up to Albany today though. Uh We have some, you know, clean up work that we need to do. We literally just ran out of hours in a day. You know, when you hear the term, there’s not enough hours in the day. Well, literally the New York State Assembly didn’t have enough hours in the day. And so we’re going back uh and we’re gonna be in session the next couple of days just, you know, nothing crazy. Just, you know, some clean up uh you know, uh of bills. Uh So I’m gonna be working on some things over the summer. Um You know, I, you know, in addition to representing a commuter district, I also, you know, it’s Long Island, we have a lot of um you know, police and firemen. Uh So I do have a couple of bills uh that I’m working on with them. Uh having to do with um uh uh recruitment and retention. You know, one of the things with, we’re all volunteer on, on Long Island and a lot of suburbs throughout New York State. Uh We don’t have paid fire. We rely on the, you know, the, the, the service of our neighbors uh to take care of us. And um but there, there is a recruitment issue, there is a retention issue. It’s, you know, it’s not the same as it was. Um, also over by me, it’s expensive to live here. Right. And so you have, you know, kids that, you know, will enter the fire department in high school and, uh, you know, maybe they’ll do some stuff over the summer in college. But when it comes, you know, time to move back home, they, they may move back home and continue at the firehouse or they move someplace else. Um, that’s, you know, more affordable for, you know, unfortunately for a young person just starting out. Uh, so one of the bills that, that I was looking at is, um, we have a lot of men and women in the fire service that also happen to work for government agency, whether it’s the town, the state, the county. And so what we thought was what if they got some credit for the credit of the work that they do could go towards, uh, their service, their retirement service. So, one of the bills that I have that’s in the hopper is if you do five years of volunteer service and one of the volunteer fire departments, EMT et cetera. Um, then you get one service credit up to three, so 15 years, three credits, um, that, you know, that somebody retiring early, you know, all these different things. Um, you know, we’re trying to give folks, um, you know, additional incentives to want to join, um, and stay, uh, not just join, but stay. And, uh, so that’s one of the, you know, fire department bills that I’m working on. Um, also to that end, having to do with, um, service, uh, is a military buyback. Uh, currently, uh, uh, we, if you have, I believe it’s three years, um, you get one year of credit, three years of the military, one year of credit. Um, we want, uh, also brought by our, uh, NASA police folks to increase it to four years. Um And uh so four years of service and you get, uh and you get credit. Um So another tool um to for people who have uh been served our country and now they can um you know, use that credit towards uh their retirement in the, in the police force. Uh and then the third bill that I’m that I’m working on with our, with our first responders and, and well, this is specifically to the police, um is um uh it’s having to do with um crisis counseling. Um I don’t know if you’re familiar with um the Joseph P Dwyer, peer to peer counseling. Um It is in our military. Uh There was a young man from Long Island uh from Mount Sinai guy named Joseph, uh Dwyer, Joey Dwyer. I actually lived in Mount Sinai and I knew him. Um and he uh came back from Iraq had severe P PTSD. Um He died and so there was um a program started peer to peer counseling. Where you can talk to another peer, somebody who has gone through the same experiences as you uh and that you can get the help that you need. Um So we’re looking to do something um very similar with our police force and it requires legislation and I’m working with our Nassau County um PB A uh on this bill. This is something that they are um very passionate about and I look forward to working on it with them over the summer and just getting the nitty gritty details of it and hopefully bring some attention to it and come January, we can have a swell of support and we can have these conversations because we want our police officers, our first responders to deal with any kind of issues that they see. I mean, we saw in recent years, you know, more and more police officers committing suicide. Um We need to get them the help that they need not only for themselves. So they, and they could also be better, you know, better public servants, right? Um So, uh this is a piece of legislation obviously that I’m working on and hopefully we can, you know, we can see some uh light next year on, on these. Um but, you know, it’s a lot of these bills um you know, come from the public, um you know, some, you know, come from your brain, but for the most part, it’s, it’s people, it’s people that I meet on the streets that give me ideas. It’s, you know, like I said, that, that woman, that poll worker, um I had a mobile office hour. Uh you know, I take kind of the show, my show on the road, so to speak and she came to sit with me and that was her idea. So you never know where, you know, legislation can come from. But a lot of times it just comes from, you know, the people that I meet every day and it’s like, you know, I have this idea for a bill. What do you think? I’m like, I don’t know, let’s, let’s take a look at it and see if we can figure it out. And that’s a pretty cool part of my job.
DAVID ( 00:34:10): That’s very interesting. And I guess you never know, uh, which bill is going to break through with the right amount of support at the right time and be one of those few 100 that make the cut. Not if you’re in, I guess if you’re in those nine or 10,000 that, that don’t, there’s always next year.
GINA ( 00:34:24): Yeah. And, and that’s the thing. It’s like, how do you figure out how to make your bill stand out? You know, I’m in my third year, right? So my first year was kind of like the COVID year 2021. It was all remote and then last year kind of getting your feet wet, figuring things out. You’re finally back in person and then of course he had the election. So that’s kind of looms over. Um, so then this year I felt like I was really kind of hitting the ground running. So, uh, so we’re gonna work over the summer and kind of figure out what we can do, um, to make our bill stand out and kind of get, you know, the ground swell of support um, from folks and be like, hey, this is something that Long Island wants, you know, and it’s not just me, right? It’s not just me pushing. It’s uh because at the end of the day, it’s not about me. It’s about, it’s about the residents and it’s about my constituents. So how can we get this over the finish line for them?
DAVID ( 00:35:14): Oh, they all, they all sound amazing, particularly uh uh your support for the Dwyer project is an attorney who deals with a lot of people who have traumatic brain injury, uh post traumatic stress disorder. Um I’ve seen it very real and, and my clients, the amount of stress, particularly when they’ve gone through a life changing catastrophic event that just never leaves them how crippling it can be. And having that kind of support for people who are going through that kind of trauma is really very important and something uh that our first responders that police officers badly need and, and certainly deserve and it’s really important work. Thank
GINA ( 00:35:52): you.
DAVID ( 00:35:53): Um So with that assembly member, Gina. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of rising leaders of New York. If your constituents or anybody throughout the, the great state of New York wants to get a hold of you. How would they do that?
GINA ( 00:36:07): Oh my gosh, of course. Well, yes, time flies when you’re having fun. Oh, my gosh. Um, so yeah, I, you know, I’m, I’m online, I’m on social media but if you just want to shoot me an email or give me a call, um, my telephone number, uh here in NASA is 516482 6966. And uh my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m super successful. Like I said, you can find me online, shoot me an email or just Google my name and I pop up everywhere.
DAVID ( 00:36:43): It is definitely true. I did not have any trouble finding any media about you. That’s a good thing about being an open book. It makes for a nice frank open conversation. As for me, my name is David. Uh I am the senior trial attorney here at Hill and you wanna reach me to say anything about this podcast or any of my podcasts or if you are seriously injured uh at someone’s premises on the construction site or a motor vehicle accident, anything like that, you can reach me and the attorneys here at, at 212668 6000. My email is DZ as in zebra, W er in at hill dot com or you can reach us at the web at hillmoin.com. Uh until next week, everybody, my name is David and I will be joined then by another rising leader of New York. Goodbye. Everybody.
VOICEOVER ( 00:37:42): You’ve been listening to rising leaders of New York hosted by David Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. You can catch prior episodes at www.hillmoin.com and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more. Thank you for your positive reviews, comments and sharing this show with others.