Valley Streamer Farrah Mozawalla has served as acting executive director of the county’s Asian American Advisory Board since last summer, informing the County Executive Laura Curran about issues of importance to the county’s increasing Asian population and helping plan the observances of Asian holidays.
Mozawalla’s efforts led Curran to declare in her State of the County address in March that she hoped to create a formal office for the board, and on April 22 the County Legislature voted to do just that.
The Office of Asian American Affairs would help ensure that Asian-Americans in the county are afforded the same services as other residents, inform the community about opportunities with area businesses and update county officials about issues or policies affecting the Asian-American community. An executive director and advisory council comprising residents from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds would oversee the new office.
“When I took office, I promised to fight for the interests of all of our residents, not just the few and the powerful,” Curran said in a statement. “We have more work to do to open the doors of opportunity for all our residents, and I will continue to work with our Legislature to build on the progress we’ve already made.”
She also said she would appoint Mozawalla, who is of Indian and Pakistani heritage, as executive director of the office. Mozawalla now serves as acting executive director, and is expected to be appointed to the position at the Legislature’s May 20 meeting.
“The Asian-American population is as diverse as this country,” Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, a Republican from New Hyde Park, said at a news conference before the vote on April 22. He added that the Asian-American population in Nassau County has grown 40 percent since 2005, and now makes up 10 percent of the county’s population.
In Valley Stream, more than 5,500 residents identify as Asian — 14.7 percent of the village’s population, according to the U.S. Census.
Legislators Bill Gaylor and Carrié Solages said they supported the bill. They worked with their colleagues to craft the legislation, and Gaylor, a Republican from Lynbrook, met with Tahir Mian and Syed Wasim, of the Pakistani American Community of New York, to discuss the bill. “In a county as diverse as Nassau, I am pleased to spearhead this legislation allowing Asian Americans be further represented in county government,” Gaylor said in a statement.
Solages, a Democrat from Elmont, noted Valley Stream’s large Pakistani population, and said, “The concerns of the South Asian community are very important to me.”
But not everyone favored the legislation. Silea Bynoe, a Democrat from Westbury, voted against the proposal. At the hearing on the measure, she said she initially supported the bill, and even wrote a letter asking for the office to be created, but, she added, “I cannot support the duplicative nature of these two charges.”
Bynoe explained that under the bill, both the Office of Asian American Affairs and the Office of Minority Affairs would be responsible for ensuring that services are equitably distributed and that minority-owned businesses are contracting with the county. “I find that these two departments would be doing the same work, and I find that work is not being done effectively,” Bynoe said.
In response, Nicolello said that the two offices would work collaboratively on their shared missions. Solages added that in order to meet the requirements the bill outlines for the Office of Asian American Affairs, an executive director would need to be appointed to the Office of Minority Affairs.
The office has not had an executive director in several years. When Curran took office last year, Mozawalla was appointed the acting executive director of the Office of Minority Affairs before becoming involved in the Asian American Advisory Board. Now that she is in line to become the executive director of the Office of Asian American Affairs, Office of Minority Affairs Council Chair Regina Williams is serving as that office’s acting executive director.
Solages also told the Herald that the office does not have an attorney, and said that his priority is to rebuild the Office of Minority Affairs, which he said is the only office created by the county’s charter. A search committee received many resumes for the position, and will be reviewing them, he said.
He also said that he does not think there would be redundancy between the two offices.
“All these offices are going to work together to increase our reach to make sure all issues are heard,” he said.