District 7 residents raise concerns on affordability, education, other issues

District 7 residents raise concerns on affordability, education, other issues
Eliot Friedman, 29, speaks up about issues like healthcare and affordability at the town hall-style forum. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

State Sen.-elect Anna Kaplan and her transition team hosted a town hall-style meeting at the Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury on Monday night, with attendees raising concerns about health care, education and affordability.

In addition, residents of District 7— which includes North Hempstead, Elmont and Hicksville — asked questions about climate change and the rights of immigrants.

Democrats have made issues like passing the Reproductive Health Act to codify Roe v. Wade on abortion, the Child Victims Act to extend the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims, stricter gun laws and election reform keystone issues during their campaigns.

Several Westbury residents spoke about the importance of public education, particularly in leveling the playing field and ensuring that the the district gets its fair share of foundation aid from the state.

Among them was Irene Hylton, the outgoing president of the Westbury NAACP. More than $37 million in foundation aid is owed to the Westbury schools, she said, which is a “major concern.”

“Promises made should be promises kept,” Hylton said.

Ren Zelaya, the president of the Westbury PTA council, said racial equality in education is a priority. Despite New York being heavily Democratic, he said Long Island has some of the most segregated school districts in the country.

Also of personal concern to him was housing. While he is a single parent, he said he makes enough that he doesn’t qualify for affordable housing — a situation many in Nassau County face.

“Nassau is going to lose a lot of working professionals if this isn’t addressed,” Zelaya said. “It’s something where the middle class just needs a hand.”

Eliot Friedman, a 29-year-old resident of Mineola, said the issues of health care and housing are personal for him. He said he and his family have been taking care of his grandmother, which has taken a financial toll. It has also been difficult for people his age to find somewhere affordable to live.

Raymond Muntz, a Westbury resident, also said living on Long Island has become difficult – and pointed to high taxes.

“We can’t live here,” Muntz said. “We just can’t afford it.”

Some people touched on climate change issues, asking Kaplan if she would support bills like the Climate and Community Protection Act and consider taking a no fossil fuels pledge.

“We can certainly look into it,” Kaplan said.

Some attendees also asked Kaplan to support the New York State DREAM Act, which supporters say would ease the cost of higher education for undocumented immigrants by allowing them to get state financial aid.

Paired with that would be “Green Light” legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license, making them both safer drivers and safer from potential deportation since driving without a license is illegal.

“It’s a safety issue,” said Osman Canales, the founder of the nonprofit Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates.

There will be future meetings in the Elmont and Port Washington/Manhasset areas, but dates and locations have not yet been announced. Residents can also send their concerns to [email protected].

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