Editorial: Showing our support for Ukraine in Nassau

Editorial: Showing our support for Ukraine in Nassau

The outpouring of support by Nassau County officials and residents for Ukraine is both welcome and warranted.

The courage of the Ukraine people and Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in the face of an unprovoked attack by Russia has inspired the world and set a new standard for leadership. We can only hope our elected officials will follow.

We also applaud how Western nations, led by the United States, marshaled a stunning show of unity against Russia with unparalleled sanctions and penalties.

Gov. Kathy Hochul rightly signed an executive order forbidding the state from doing business with Russia, including canceling its investments there.

Hochul has also opened her arms to Ukrainian refugees in terms familiar to all Americans.

“Just as the Statue of Liberty stands tall in our harbor, New York stands ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees. We remain engaged with the Biden administration and we will be prepared to accept and support those who seek shelter in our state,” Hochul said.

Adam Haber, a former Roslyn school board member and unsuccessful candidate for county executive, has set a positive example for citizen engagement with his support of All Hands and Hearts, an organization that has deployed a team to Poland to transport orphans, children and families at risk from Ukraine.

The group is also working with local partners, coordinating bodies and relief organizations to assess how best to increase our support within this rapidly changing landscape.

We urge Nassau residents to support All Hands and Hearts and other groups like it.

We wish we could be as supportive of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who announced a gun drive last week for Ukrainian citizens that includes the collection of rifles, shotguns and AR 15 type weapons.

We are fine with the collection of these firearms if for no other reason that getting them off the streets of Nassau County will make county residents safer. And Zelensky and his fellow Ukrainians have repeatedly pleaded for more arms and ammunition.

But in announcing his campaign, Blakeman injected an unwarranted partisan message when he said, “We are doing our job here in Nassau County. I am asking President Biden to do his job and help get these weapons to Ukraine immediately to those who desperately need them.”

Let’s set aside the fact that Blakeman was accompanied at the event by Nassau Police Commissioner Pat Ryder, making it appear as if Ryder shared his partisan message.

If Blakeman is operating a campaign to collect weapons, we would expect he had a plan to deliver them and was not relying on Biden to deliver all weapons gathered by local governments across the country.

Biden has had other concerns such as leading what George Bush’s secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, called a masterful job of pulling together the 20 NATO nations in a unified response.

This includes an operation that The New York Times called “reminiscent of the Berlin airlift of 1948-49, but far more complex” in which the United States and NATO in less than a week have pushed “more than 17,000 anti-tank weapons, including Javelin missiles, over the borders of Poland and Romania, unloading them from giant military cargo planes so they can make the trip by land to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and other major cities.”

What makes this slight especially outrageous is that Blakeman was the Nassau County Republican Party’s liaison to the Trump campaign – after President Donald Trump was impeached on charges of trying to extort Zelensky into providing dirt on Biden’s son in exchange for the delivery of Stinger missiles and anti-tank munitions. At a time, when Ukraine was already fighting the Russians in eastern Ukraine in a low-grade war.

The week before Blakeman called for Biden to close the Killenworth estate, a compound in Glen Cove used by Russian diplomats to the United Nations.

“President Biden, expel these Russians from Nassau County,” Blakeman said. “We don’t need them here and let’s get this property back on the tax rolls so the people of Nassau County and Glen Cove don’t have to finance thugs and dictators and people who invade innocent countries.”

Unsaid was whether Biden should also close the Russian consulate in Manhattan and the embassy in Washington, D.C. You know, to get the property back on the tax rolls.

Also not addressed is what the United States would lose if the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was closed. It is widely agreed that the release of intelligence by the United States and the British before the Russians invaded Ukraine helped bring the NATO allies together.

Blakeman was joined in Glen Cove by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who was endorsed last week by the state Republican Party as the party choice for governor.

“The United States cannot let Putin’s people doing his bidding to live in tax-free compounds on Long Island,” he said. “President Biden must immediately close Russia’s Killenworth estate and send their diplomats packing today!”

Is a time of war really the best time to send the Russian diplomats home? Aren’t they the people we would need to negotiate a peace agreement with if that was possible?

Zeldin was also a strong Trump supporter during the presidential campaign and was one of 121 House Republicans to vote against certifying the presidential election results in both Arizona and Pennsylvania – after a mob incited by Trump assaulted the Capitol to overturn the election.

Zeldin then became the lone dissenting vote in the Long Island congressional delegation on a bill to create a 9/11-type commission to investigate the most serious attack on our election system since the Civil War.

Zeldin and Blakeman were not alone in calling for the expulsion of the Russian diplomats.

Democrat Congressman Tom Suozzi, who is also running for governor, visited the estate to call on the United States to use “every tool in our arsenal” to oppose Russia’s invasion, including embargoes of Russian products, the seizure of oligarchs’ properties and the expulsion of Russian spies.

It is unclear if Suozzi considers the diplomats to be spies, but we assume the Biden administration wouldn’t need a reminder to toss people committing espionage out of the country as occurred this past week.

To Suozzi’s credit, he co-sponsored legislation Monday that would ban the import of Russian oil into the United States, although European countries much more dependent on foreign oil would need to stop their purchases for it to be effective.

We would like to think that there is more our local officials can do to honor the sacrifice of Ukrainians risking their lives in the defense of democracy and support their cause.

The first thing they can do is echo Hochul’s invitation to accept every Ukrainian who wants to come here.

Virtually every European country and Canada have offered unlimited access to the refugees. Poland has already accepted more than 700,000 and the European Union has extended asylum for all refugees for three years accompanied by housing, clothing and food.

So should we.

This is no small thing in Nassau County, which is among the least inviting counties in the metropolitan area to outsiders.

Nassau has the second-highest rate of single-family housing, just behind Suffolk County, and a recent plan by Hochul to allow additional housing units in single-family homes was withdrawn following a storm of criticism.

Would Nassau relent to aid Ukrainian immigrants? We would like to think so.

Or would the county allow the Glen Cove estate used by Russians to be turned into affordable housing for Ukrainian refugees if the federal government takes it over?

The second way local officials can honor Ukrainians is to demonstrate their support of democracy in the United States.

In Congress, that means backing voting rights legislation blocked by Republicans to prevent state laws intended to suppress and subvert the vote.

In New York and Nassau that would include the elimination of gerrymandering in redrawing congressional, state Senate, Assembly, Nassau County and town districts.

Sadly, Democrats in the state Legislature recently violated the spirit of legislation passed in 2014 to make redistricting nonpartisan.

In the Town of North Hempstead, it was also business as usual when Democrats voted to give themselves control of the redistricting process.

And we now await how Nassau County will approach redistricting in a process in the hands of Blakeman and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

At a time when Ukrainians are dying in the streets and on the battlefield for democracy, we hope that town and country officials will forego political advantage to make our local elections as fair as possible.





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