Assessing the candidates


The November election will feature a highly contested race for State Senate in New York’s 6th District, which encompasses Freeport, Hempstead, Lakeview, New Cassel, Roosevelt and Westbury. The three candidates, all women of color, are running on similar platforms.

Carmen Pineyro, the first and youngest-ever Afro-Latina elected to the Freeport Board of Education and the village board of trustees, has served the community for the past 20 years in positions including deputy mayor and school board president, and has a reputation for fighting for educational equity.

Taylor Darling, a three-term assemblywoman whose district includes Freeport and Roosevelt, has helped pass legislation focusing on police reform, housing, health care and education.

Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe, now in her fifth term, has fought for and passed legislation on police reform, housing, health care, education and mental health, and is a longtime community advocate.

On April 11, residents of 6th District communities submitted questions to the candidates at “A Conversation with the Candidates” at Nassau Community College, presented by The Corridor Counts, a coalition of advocates who fight for policy change. The topics ranged from the shortage of affordable housing on Long Island to policing, reproductive rights, fully funding Medicaid, inflation, child care, education, and community division.

The event was hosted by former Gov. David Paterson and the Rev. Donnie McClurkin, of Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, and moderated by Rahsmia Zatar, executive director of Strong Youth, a Uniondale based gang-intervention program. Questions were presented by Paterson; Mufti Mohammad Farhan, executive director of the Islamic Center of Long Island; and Sandra Castro, an education advocate.

Paterson pointed out that in Nassau County, only 25 percent of Black residents went to the polls last November, compared with 70 percent of the county’s white population.

But Jeannine Maynard, a co-facilitator of the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition who attended the event, said she believes in the work that the coalition and other civic associations in minority neighborhoods are doing to increase the voting numbers.

“We’re working hard to make sure that people get out and vote,” said Maynard, adding that she believed that events like this one would help close the gap. “When people fail to vote, it’s because they don’t know the candidates, or they don’t believe their vote will make a difference,” said Maynard, noting that she was “happily surprised” that the room was so “full and energetic.”

The candidates offered similar answers to many of the questions residents submitted, mostly agreeing on the issues and the needed solutions. Maynard said she believed that all three truly care about their communities and the well-being of their residents, and that choosing one of them would be difficult for their potential constituents.

“It’s a real obstacle — there’s no real specific issue that separates one from the rest,” said Darinel Velasques, of Westbury. The only way he might be able to differentiate among Bynoe, Darling and Pineyro, Velasques said, is by studying their voting records and “following the money” — where their donations, and other campaign funding, are coming from.

“I was absolutely thrilled with this event,” Maynard said. “Even though there were many similarities between them, it was incredibly helpful to meet and greet the candidates and see young people involved in the process and ask great questions.”