Encouraging Unity And Civic Engagement

North Shore Action member Karen Ashkenase chaired the voter registration table while Cofounder Beth Friedmann led the immigration discussion at the table behind her.

North Shore Action (NSA), a community group whose mission is to empower through civic action at all levels of government, was formed nearly two years ago. Since its founding in January 2017, the group has been focusing on issues relating to human, women’s and civil rights; environmental stewardship; and other concerns affecting the community, especially those most at risk.

The group’s members are primarily from Great Neck, but are also from the surrounding areas, and include men and women of all ages, ethnicities and religious affiliations. Since its inception, NSA’s corps of volunteer members have organized and planned more than a dozen major events and programs, providing its members with opportunities to engage directly with local politicians and obtain information about current issues.

A calendar of future programs and initiatives was set forth at the group’s Open Meeting during the summer at the Great Neck House, with a larger-than-expected crowd. NSA President and Cofounder Veronica Bisek Lurvey addressed the attendees, urging them to get involved with one or more issues. Cofounder Beth Friedmann then presented remarks concerning immigration and the plight of refugees. I shared details regarding an upcoming mental-health program that will be held this fall. Afterward, attendees participated in focus groups at various tables. This gave each person an opportunity to learn more and do more about specific issues.

Voter Engagement

“Our goal tonight is to get you involved,” said Lurvey in her introduction. “We have had such great passionate responses to our emails and our events. It’s clear that there are many people out there who want to be part of local gun-reform efforts, local environmental efforts, pedestrian-safety efforts, as well as women’s rights, voter registration and mental-health programs. Our goal as an organization—no matter what the issue—is almost always about education and action. We want to pay attention to what problems need fixing. Often that leads to certain legislation and a focus on what our elected officials are doing. Whether it is on the level of the village, county or state, if we see a problem that needs fixing, we can act. We can educate members of our community, and we contact our elected officials. But, one of the most important things we can do is vote. Especially with the November midterms coming up, we will have a lot to do to make sure that people go out and vote.”

Lurvey urged attendees to participate at a focus group at whatever level they were comfortable.

A group of concerned residents discussed gun reform at the North Shore Action open meeting.

“Joining a group does not obligate you to attend rallies,” she said. “Instead, it just means you are interested in a particular topic and tells us that you want to be informed about this issue. Maybe you are willing to monitor the issue and, if possible, make us aware of meetings or votes or legislation in Great Neck, Albany or Washington so we can call or email our elected officials and organize appropriate programs and rallies.”

She also made it clear that NSA is bipartisan in nature.

“North Shore Action doesn’t endorse candidates per se,” she explained. “However, we will point out if an incumbent has a bad voting record on a particular topic, for example. The New York State legislature, in particular, is going to be ripe with issues going forward, if this past year was any indication. I have an article here about the gridlock in the State Senate. They ended their session leaving many issues unresolved, including ‘proposals to end cash bail…change admission to the city’s specialized high schools, expand protections for victims of childhood sexual abuse and tighten gun regulation.’ And with the Senate deadlocked in a 31-31 partisan tie, the outcome of the elections in November will be supremely important.”

Lurvey mentioned the elected officials who will be up for reelection in November, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Tom Suozzi at the federal level and Governor Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Senator Elaine Phillips and Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso at the state level.

The Refugee Crisis and the Plight of Children

Friedmann gave a brief history regarding immigration and separation of families at the border, an issue of huge concern across the country covering the political spectrum.

“In April 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government would adopt a zero-tolerance policy of criminally prosecuting all migrants for unauthorized border crossings, including those legally seeking asylum,” Friedmann explained. “This policy officially instituted practices that separated children from their families. Within the first six weeks of this zero-tolerance policy in place, 2,300 children were separated from their parents. On Wednesday, June 20, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will allow families to stay together, but for an ‘indefinite’ period of time in detention, while the parents are criminally prosecuted. The executive order did not end the zero-tolerance policy put in place by Attorney General Sessions. Under the executive order, these prosecutions will continue to occur, and now families will be detained together—meaning that asylum seekers, including children, will still be treated as criminals and detained indefinitely. There is still no plan for reuniting children already separated with their families.”

NSA encouraged members to protest the treatment of refuges at the country’s borders and stop the separation of families. Rallies, marches and vigils were held across the country on June 30, and NSA focused its attention locally with a Great Neck rally at the U.S. Post Office on Middle Neck Road.

Mental-Health Forum

As chair of NSA’s Mental Health Committee, I presented a brief introduction, sharing statistics that show suicide is dramatically on the rise throughout our country, as highlighted by the deaths of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, designer Kate Spade and so many others. Among all age groups in every state, suicides have increased 30 percent since the year 2000.

One of the most painful and destructive forces in a family is drug addiction, overdose and suicide among young people. Sadly, in the past few months, four young people in Great Neck have lost their lives due to overdose.

Last November, NSA moderated the Not My Child forum to spread awareness regarding the opioid crisis. More than 200 community members attended, and a parent task force was launched through the Great Neck Pubic Schools United Parent-Teacher Council. A series of articles about the forum can be viewed here and a video of the presentation can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzoBV49c4TY&feature=youtu.be.

NSA will present a community-wide event, Suicide Town Hall: Hope and Healing, which will address adult suicide on Nov. 14 at the Great Neck Library. The panel will include crisis-response experts from organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Long Island Crisis Center and will offer critical prevention information, tips and resources to prevent suicide.

North Shore Action’s mission is Equality, Diversity, Justice; the group’s logo was designed by member Eleanor Askari.

Get Involved

NSA’s motto is: “We are one community.” To find out more about upcoming events, contact northshoreaction@gmail.com or visit the group’s Facebook page.

Great Neck resident Jacqueline Harounian is a frequent contributor to the Great Neck Record and chair of North Shore Action’s Mental Health committee.

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