The day could not have been more beautiful for North Shore Action’s inaugural event, Join Together, at Grace Avenue Park when Tom Suozzi came to speak for unity in the community. The park’s large white gazebo was decorated with American flags, balloons and North Shore Action’s brand-new banner.
Knowledgeable experts displayed tables filled with information and ways to take action on important community issues, including voter registration, civil rights, the environment, immigration and women’s health issues. Each expert offered guidance and resources from various organizations, including the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), Reach Out America, League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood, National Organization of Women (NOW) and Legal Aid. Many of the tables had sign-up sheets and petitions so participants could contact elected officials regarding upcoming legislation. Josh Forst, chief of Vigilant Fire Company, and police officers from Nassau County’s Third Precinct, including Officer Steve Krukowski from the POP unit, were also in attendance.
One of the most popular tables was for children’s activities. Throughout the day, little ones ages 1 to 12 decorated and wrote thank-you postcards to men and women in the military. Meanwhile, parents mingled with the large crowd, asked questions at the information tables and listened to the live music on stage.
Dressed in the colors of the rainbow, Mountain Maidens vocalists Lorraine, Marie and Candace performed throughout the afternoon, entertaining the crowd with folk, country, gospel and social-justice songs, accompanied by guitars, dulcimer and other instruments.
Danny Rose, who was born and raised in Great Neck, also performed a medley of songs, including the hit “When I Came to This Land” by the late great music legend Oscar Brand, whose widow, attorney Karen Brand, was in the audience enjoying the performance.
After a harmonious rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the formal program began. Veronica Bisek, North Shore Action cofounder and the event’s emcee, addressed the large crowd. She described the recent creation of North Shore Action, the efforts of the group’s members and expressed appreciation to the Great Neck Park District and Vigilant for their assistance with the program. She also described North Shore Action’s launch of a new initiative, Be a Neighbor program.
Bisek introduced Congressman Tom Suozzi, who represents the Third Congressional District and is the bipartisan cochair of the Quiet Skies Caucus. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, he recently returned from a trip to the Middle East, including
to Afghanistan, Jordan and Kuwait.
During his one-hour presentation, which included questions and answers, Suozzi described himself as a “problem solver” who wants to work “across the aisle to find common ground.” He described the Town Hall meetings he’s held on Long Island.
“We had 400 people at our Town Hall at the JCC in Plainview. Two-hundred people had to be turned away because there was no room, but thousands watched the event on Facebook Live,” he said.
Suozzi praised the energy and activity of increased numbers of Americans who are newly involved in the political process following the last presidential election, including the formation of groups like North Shore Action and Indivisible. As a result of the engagement and activism, President Trump has not been able to implement some of his proposed legislation.
According to Suozzi, “The country is working as it should be, people are engaged and must get involved.” He stressed the importance of registering to vote. “There is a lot of work to do and there are many elections coming up in local areas. Channel your energy and organize yourselves to write letters to the editor. Get involved.”
He acknowledged the anti-Trump sentiment in some areas, and he gave this advice: “Get past the issue of how people voted in the national election. Instead show them the merit of your ideas. Engage with the other side. Democracy works by conversations with each other. We solve problems by working together. Not by staying in our own silos and echo chambers.”
Suozzi has been very busy as a freshman congressman. He has already received 35,000 contacts from people and has 1,200 outstanding meeting requests, so he must decide how to best use his time. He stressed that he is willing to work across party lines which is why he is involved in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. He has met resistance from President Trump and the Republican party. Nevertheless, he will not compromise on the environment, the ACA, the Muslim ban and the plight of immigrants.
The fear of deportation in the immigrant community is an issue that Suozzi believes is critical. “It is a recipe for disaster for immigrants to fear authority figures. In Nassau County the crime rate is way down, but in Suffolk County the crime rate has gone up because immigrants are afraid to go to the police, and community policing cannot work.”
Suozzi lamented about the ongoing issue that government agencies do not work well together. “They don’t talk to each other, and everyone is in their separate silos. Government agencies must communicate with each other regarding drugs, alcohol and mental-health issues.” As a father of three children, Suozzi described the changes that occur in children. “In third grade, children are mostly happy and they like going to school. By eighth grade, there are many challenges that manifest themselves. Children are going through puberty. Some of them struggle in school. There are not enough resources and, in many communities, there is a lack of family support. So many children fall through the cracks.” He stressed that government agencies “must work together with hospitals, nonprofits and school districts so that the resources can reach the students in need.”
Suozzi’s main local priorities are the Northport VA’s suicide prevention program, the Bethpage Plume, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and reducing airport noise, especially in northeast Queens. He also mentioned his strong support of Israel, where he will be traveling in August.
After Suozzi answered questions from the crowd regarding foreign policy and the environment, Councilwoman Anna Kaplan spoke.
“I am honored to be part of the team that went into creating North Shore Action,” said Kaplan. “I am proud that in the Town of North Hempstead, we stand united in a diverse community.”
Formed in January, North Shore Action is a community group whose mission is to empower through action at the national and local levels on issues relating to human, women’s and civil rights, environmental stewardship and other issues affecting the community, especially those most at risk. The group is planning future events to provide the community with opportunities to engage directly with local politicians and to obtain information about current issues. Visit North Shore Action on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.