The race for Legislative District 1 is between challenger Elton McCabe, Jr., a Uniondale resident running on the Republican ticket, and incumbent Kevan Abrahams, a Democrat who lives in Freeport.
The Herald asked both candidates questions regarding issues in District 1, which encompasses an eastern portion of the Village of Hempstead, northern parts of South Hempstead, Baldwin, and Freeport, and all of Roosevelt and Uniondale.
Herald: Tell us about the need for diversity, equity and inclusion in the Nassau County Police Department.
Abrahams: Looking at implementing a diversity, equity, inclusion lens -- I wrestle with that every day. … I’ve had sessions with the law enforcement community, particularly the unions, to engage them to do their part because their members are on the front line, their members are impacted, and [the union leaders are] taking what I believe to be not the best or most sound positions, which is hurting their members. It’s crippling them because they hear other voices of their members, and the public hears their voices, but at the same time the folks that have to deal with the relations in the community are the actual street cops, the guys that maybe don’t have the voice to be able to say something as publicly in the microphones up here as the police union presidents and the leadership. It’s a collaboration, it’s getting everyone to the table. After an incident in 2019, I held a meeting at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt where we brought in community leaders, we brought in clergy leaders, we brought in law enforcement, Commissioner Patrick Ryder was there. Some would think it maybe wasn’t a fruitful discussion because there was a lot of yelling and back and forth, but I thought it was a good first step because that’s what’s required to build a collaboration – you have to hear people vent, and then from there you have to figure out how you’re going to address it.
McCabe: You can never go wrong in terms of having a higher level of diversity in the police force because, when community members see officers that look like themselves, it’s a more comfortable meeting than if the officer is somebody they can’t identify with. Higher diversity calms the community. The higher the numbers you have that will express diversity in the police force, the more the communities will have a tendency to be open and understanding. But equally important is the training that the officers receive. If new officers who are afraid of the environment come into a community, they are more likely to be trigger-happy. Coming into the community, the approach should be, “Sir, can I help you?” rather than thinking that the person you’re facing is automatically dangerous. Also, if you come into a community that is already upset about past behavior of police officers, it’s going to take a little bit to calm them down. Community members will lean toward the officer that looks like themselves because the one that doesn’t look like you might harm you faster. If you have one major group that’s representing the police force, that’s going to give a completely different image than a more diverse force.
Herald: How important is infrastructure to local commerce and to the area of LD 1 – roads being maintained, but also upgrades to sewer systems and lighting and so on?
Abrahams: The Bay Park Conveyance Project is going to be tremendous, great for our environment. For years we were dumping our effluent into the [South Shore] bays and now we’re going to be able to use the outflow pipe at Cedar Creek. It may not have a direct connections to everyday business, but it’s going to have a direct connection to everything else in Nassau County and how we’re going to be a responsible environmental partner. … But there are smaller infrastructure projects that I think my residents would appreciate. We finished up Glacken Park in Freeport. That was a $350K project, a brand-new baseball field, brand-new scoreboard, there's going to be new dugouts -- it’s like Yankee Stadium lit up at night on Fridays when I drive by there. We’re going to continue to work on N. Main St. and the armory in the Village of Freeport well. We’re doing a ton of resurfacing projects in Uniondale, all along Jerusalem Avenue, finishing up one on Uniondale Avenue, road resurfacing in the Village of Hempstead as well. We want to partner up with the Town of Hempstead to address Henry Street Park in Roosevelt, to provide resources to get that park up and running. … I’m very excited with our infrastructure agenda going into 2022, and there should be a host of projects that start in Baldwin and East Meadow as well.
McCabe: Infrastructure projects provide great jobs in the community when contracts are approved by the county. They’re extremely important for commerce. However, it’s very important that we keep our communities at a consistent level. None of our neighborhoods should have lighting issues, or roads that you travel down that would damage your car. I think the county has been making some attempts to work toward that goal, doing road upgrades in our area, but wealthier communities do have a tendency to get a lot more attention. These issues need to be balanced out among our communities. If you put a particular population [such as veterans and homes for the disabled] in a particular area, it’s going to grow. Any place where you have a population with a larger amount of problems, you need a larger amount of solutions. It’s very important for our infrastructure to meet the needs of the people. As legislator, I would aim to work my way through those communities and apply services to all the communities on an equal level. When the resources are being balanced out, we should do a double take to make sure we are working fairly through each community so Legislative District 1 gets an equal share of the pot.
Herald: Tell us what you see as the county’s role regarding vaccines.
Abrahams: Even though we’ve made great strides in Nassau County, my legislative district is still lagging. Nassau County as a whole has been the best county in New York State in terms of the highest rate of vaccination. ... Our fully vaccinated percentage is in the low to mid 70s countywide. However, the zip codes of Roosevelt, Uniondale, Hempstead, Freeport, in some pockets Baldwin, Elmont, and New Cassel where Legislator Bynoe represents, are lagging. They’re in the mid to low 50s. What we're finding now is that many people have a fear of being vaccinated, and in my legislative district, we have many residents that are undocumented, and there is fear in that as well. We are trying to cut down those barriers and work with many of our clergy leaders, many of our community leaders, to encourage vaccination. We don’t ask for government-issued ID or anything along those lines. We don’t care about people’s immigration status, and from my standpoint those questions never come up, but the fear of having to answer those questions is a barrier that’s real for a lot of people and we’re working to remove that fear that folks have. Covdi’s going to be here for many many years, so the best way to counteract it is to get vaccinations.
McCabe: Vaccination certainly should be encouraged. I don’t think we should force it down any individual’s throat by threatening them to lose their job, but providing accurate data showing that a percentage of the population got vaccinated and it has had this many positive results, people would more likely opt for taking the vaccine. But if you feel like you're not getting proper information, then you’re going to be skeptical. A handful of people are concerned about the speed with which it was developed, but we have to help them follow the data and the data will ease their minds. But no one wants something forced on them. … There should be other avenues like continuing the PPE, continuing with the social distancing, come up with other incentives to help people feel that they still have time to make a decision, so if you don’t necessarily want to have the vaccine right now, you do have to be subject to continual testing maybe twice a week, maybe once a week. There’s something that should be done to at least minimize the hold this virus has on this society and help people eventually get to that position where they will choose to be vaccinated until we’re at 90% fully vaccinated or better. You can provide stress on the health care system when you fire the health care workers who refuse vaccination because they feel it is forced down their throats.
Herald: Tell us why you should be elected as legislator for Legislative District 1.
Abrahams: I try to do my best to serve the people of Nassau County. I try to keep their interests at heart. I may not always tell them what they want to hear, but I at least tell them the truth and the process as I see it, and from that standpoint you’ll always know where you stand, like it or not, because I try to be straightforward.
McCabe: One, the open-door policy is something I think people need. Two, as far as people are concerned, it makes no sense to be in this position and not be there for people with an ear. Your job is to be there for them. Politics is about ensuring that you’re discerning and representing both sides, the ones that you like and the ones that you don’t like. But you want to make sure you’re discerning and representing everyone equally, ensuring that people feel, “I like this guy because he’s down the line, he’s down the middle.” That is the image I’m looking to project.