In regard to last week’s 2022 General Election guide for Jewish communities in Queens and Long Island, we have received plenty of feedback from readers. Our inbox included praise for reporting on statewide and local offices, and criticism for omitting some of the races. In a year where every state legislator and House member is up for a vote, we felt it was necessary to expand on last week’s coverage with a few more important races where our community can make an impact.
For State Comptroller, Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli is running for his fourth term as the state’s budget watchdog. Taking a cue from his party, DiNapoli applied an activist approach to the state’s agencies, encouraging them to divest from fossil fuel companies and invest $20 billion from the state’s pension fund towards sustainability goals. During Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, DiNapoli sought to limit his power by supporting bills that would give the Comptroller power to review state contracts before they are in effect.
Concerning the Jewish community, he was supportive of the campaign to divest the state from entities that do business with Iran and those engaged in boycotting Israel. In defiance of the liberal wing of his party, DiNapoli spoke up against Ben & Jerry’s for its discriminatory approach towards Israel.
His Republican opponent, Paul Rodriguez, is running on a campaign against wasteful spending. His long resume in financial matters includes more than 25 years as an investor in some of the leading Wall Street firms, and as a board member at the Manhattan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Brooklyn-Kings County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. An active Roman Catholic, he works for the Archdiocese of New York in its fundraising and development. In his previous runs for public office, he ran for City Comptroller and against longtime Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez.
In the State Senate, the 15th District covers most of Rego Park and parts of Forest Hills, extending south to Ozone Park. In this year’s redistricting, Democratic incumbent Joe Addabbo Jr. lost the Kew Gardens Hills portion of the district, but the past decade of experience in this neighborhood demonstrated his attention to Jewish concerns, such the security of synagogues and yeshivos, and confronting anti-Semitism and the boycott of Israel. As a member of the Senate’s Education Committee, he has a key role in how the state relates to private schools, in light of the critical New York Times reporting on yeshivos and lawsuits challenging the state to exercise more oversight of secular studies.
His opponent Danniel Maio is the president of the Central Queens Republican Club, with experience campaigning in past races for State Assembly, Congress, and Borough President. In his run against Addabbo, Maio speaks of repealing bail reform, preventing congestion pricing, and taking California’s example of recall elections for unpopular politicians. The district includes Middle Village, a historically Republican stronghold that kept the seat in that party for decades prior to Addabbo’s election in 2008.
Our Far Rockaway readers should look closely at the map and their election mailers, as their neighborhood was divided between Assembly Districts 23 and 31. Most of the neighborhood’s Jewish voters are in the former district. Democratic incumbent Stacey Pheffer Amato is running for her fourth term. Her responsiveness to Jewish concerns includes support for Israel, combating anti-Semitism, and on a hyperlocal angle, standing with the administrators of Yeshiva Darchei Torah in opposition to the removal of a traffic lane and parking spots. Traffic safety should not result in congestion and inconvenience to the school buses of this sizable yeshivah.
Her Republican opponent, Thomas P. Sullivan, is running to repeal bail reforms, reining in state spending, and opposition to pandemic-related mandates. He previously ran two years ago for State Senate.
In District 31, Democratic incumbent Khaleel Anderson is running unopposed, as is his neighborhood Senate counterpart, James Sanders Jr.
City voters will see four ballot questions in this year’s general election: one relating to the environment and three relating to the city’s social policies. The proposal for an Environmental Bond Act seeks to raise $4.2 billion to protect wetlands, increase the number of trees planted in cities, and reduce emissions from public transit, among other initiatives. On the surface it appears as an investment in environmental sustainability as society confronts climate change. But the act also requires that 35 percent of the revenue raised be spent in “disadvantaged communities,” which have suffered historically from pollution and lack of investment in infrastructure and parks. But as climate change affects everyone, why does this bill focus on a specific sector of the population? This ballot measure appears on ballots across the state.
The second proposal seeks to amend the City’s Charter by declaring the city as a “multiracial democracy, and that our diversity is our strength. We honor and respect the cultures, languages, and histories of all who call and have called this land home, and we celebrate their revolutionary imagination, courage, and resiliency.”
The diversity of the city’s population is self-evident, so why does it need to be codified into the city’s “constitution?” Although its proponents argue that it does not have the force of law, language that promotes “multiracial democracy” could be used to enact policies that hire workers, approve contracts, and enact legislation, that is based on balancing racial and ethnic numbers rather than the qualifications of individuals and making financial sense out of budget priorities.
The third proposal seeks to create a permanent Commission on Racial Equity that would offer input on city planning and policy. Like the previous measure, this item also seeks to address racial inequality in city government by having a watchdog propose racial goals for city agencies.
The fourth measure would require the city to develop a new metric to inform policy: tabulating the “true cost of living” for New York City. The city’s Racial Justice Commission, which proposed the last three ballot measures, argues that this item “could be utilized in advocacy, labor negotiations, and, where appropriate, setting new eligibility standards for programs and benefits.”
While the statewide environmental ballot measure has its merits, the last three city measures deserve our opposition. Any measure that is rooted in race imposes quotas on agencies that put an individual’s background as a preference. With Orthodox Jews generally regarded as part of the larger “white” population, our community does not stand to benefit from these measures, nor do we seek to be listed as a “disadvantaged minority” whose qualifications are diminished in favor of superficial criteria.
TO THE VOTERS
This past Sunday, our publisher Yaakov Serle and his wife Atara went to their early voting site at Queens College, and I voted early at the West Hempstead Public Library. At both of our respective poll sites, we were impressed by the turnout in this non-presidential election. We are proud to see our neighbors paying attention to this election and exercising their right to vote. We urge our readers to do their part to make our voice heard on the federal, state, and local levels of government.