Season’s greetings to all! As this challenging year comes to a close, it is important to reflect on the many lessons we have shared and to highlight how we as a community came together and learned to adapt to our “new normal” – a world categorized by masks, tests, protocols, and an “abundance of caution” under which we have lived for nearly a year.
With unprecedented levels of unemployment not seen since the Great Depression, we were confronted with a new reality characterized by food insecurity, concerns over access to health care, risk of homelessness or foreclosure, remote learning, and isolation. Through it all, we have witnessed unparalleled compassion, generosity, and kindness.
As we contemplate what lies ahead in 2021, I would like to share with you my reflection on some of the most meaningful moments – snapshots of fortitude, bravery, and selflessness in times of adversity – that I have been privileged to share with our community this past year.
Almost immediately after the onset of the pandemic, our selfless, brave first responders, healthcare workers, and essential workers became frontline heroes in battling COVID-19, placing the health and safety of others above that of their own each day. Advanced Cardiovascular Diagnostics worked tirelessly in partnership with my office and many local community organizations to provide numerous opportunities for COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody testing. In recognition of the contributions and sacrifices of our hometown heroes at Plainview Hospital, the Plainview Volunteer Fire Department, the 2nd and 8th Precincts of the Nassau County Police Department, and Central Island Rehabilitation and Nursing, I am proud to have partnered with Northwell Health to rename a portion of Old County Road as “Heroes Way.” No words or deeds will ever adequately express the eternal gratitude our community shares for their commitment and dedication. I am hopeful that this lasting monument will serve not only as a tribute to their heroism but as a comforting reminder to all that in times of crisis, our first responders will always be there, and that together, our community can overcome any hurdles we face.
Tragically, some of our frontline health care workers succumbed to COVID-19. In an effort to ease the financial burden on their loved ones, I introduced legislation that would defer the payment of real estate taxes until such time as their estate has been legally established. As numbers of those infected with COVID continue to spike, I am hopeful that this legislation will be enacted.In response to the alarming increase in food insecurity right here in Nassau County, my office partnered with Island Harvest to hold food drives throughout the district to collect thousands of pounds of much-needed food items for donation. None of it would have been possible without the continued generosity of residents who, despite their own personal financial hardships, found ways to keep giving to others in need. Through donations of food and by giving of their time in partnership with Mid Island Y JCC, students and community volunteers also participated in Neighbors Helping Neighbors, responding readily to the growing need to shop for groceries for senior citizens and other immunocompromised individuals.
One of the biggest challenges our community faced was the rapid daily stream of constant, ever-changing information we received. To help keep residents informed, my office partnered with hospitals, local Chambers of Commerce, community centers, and libraries. Offering virtual programs and communicating on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and by email, allowed residents every opportunity to stay in touch and stay informed of critical updates regarding health information for adults and children, financial relief programs, stress management, domestic violence and abuse, all-hazard storm and disaster preparation and tax exemptions. Virtual activities like storytime helped to keep children and families engaged. I encourage anyone who has not already done so to sign up to receive email alerts and follow my office on social media for the latest updates and upcoming virtual events. These methods proved especially helpful during Tropical Storm Isaias, when more than 400 residents requested and received assistance through my office.
During the holiday season, the American Academy of Pediatrics, New York Chapter 2, the Aarti Foundation, Always Orthodontics of Syosset, and MJ Beanz of Plainview helped to support a successful Toys for Toys drive to donate toys to those children whose families, more than ever before, are struggling this year. I am grateful for the generosity and support of the many benevolent residents of our community who made the holidays a bit merrier and brighter at a time when it is needed most. I have been inspired this year by the countless achievements of the resourceful and magnanimous members of my district.
Though it will not be possible to recount all of the extraordinary examples of resilience and generosity exhibited by residents of my District, I have been fortunate to witness the mutual passion shared by members of the Jericho community in advocating for the Jericho Family Support Center. No fight is ever easy, but my decision to show compassion and support Nassau County residents in need of a place to call home was one made with confidence, careful deliberation, and a clear conscience. Access to safe and affordable housing is an inalienable human right.
Throughout Nassau County, many residents live in comfortable, even luxurious, homes while many others residing in neighboring communities cannot afford to do so. This is a clear example of economic disparity in Nassau County. I am proud to have introduced legislation to identify and expose the existence of racial covenants in property deeds, as well as a hotline for reporting housing discrimination, and I will maintain my commitment to socioeconomic and racial equity by continuing to work with the real estate industry to offer education and training on diversity and inclusion.
For the majority of homeowners in Nassau County, challenges persist, and many residents experience difficulty in paying their property taxes. In many cases, residents own homes that are either newly constructed or have undergone significant improvement. Due to a serious flaw in the existing New York State Real Property Tax Law, these properties do not receive exemptions, such as the five-year phase-in, known as the Taxpayer Protection Plan, enacted to blunt the impact of reassessment in Nassau County. However, Nassau County does not possess the requisite legal authority to enact legislation to change existing exemptions or to enact new exemptions, so I’ve taken my battle to Albany, and I’m going to keep fighting until residents affected by this anomaly receive much-needed relief.
As the new year approaches, the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is truly encouraging. However, we must continue to fight this pandemic by wearing face masks whenever we are outside or inside with anyone other than the members of our respective households, maintaining social distancing, washing our hands frequently, and limiting social gatherings.This coming year, residents can expect to see my continued commitment to providing the highest possible level of constituent service. To do so, I will continue to provide residents with timely virtual updates by social media, emails, and through virtual programming. Technology is critical in keeping us connected and informed, and as such, I plan to introduce legislation to make the mandatory trainings required of County employees more efficient and cost-effective by mandating virtual options.
As always, I will bear in mind the concerns expressed to me by the residents whom I represent regarding development in our area. I will carefully evaluate these concerns with respect to any project seeking a PILOT tax break from the Nassau County IDA. While the Nassau County Legislature does not award PILOTs, my commitment to the health and safety of all Nassau County residents will remain my top priority.
Though our celebrations may have looked quite different this year, I hope you all enjoyed a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy Kwanzaa. Most of all, I wish you and your loved ones a safe, healthy, and happy New Year, and I look forward to serving you in 2021.
Arnold W. Drucker, of Plainview, was first elected to the Nassau County Legislature in 2016. He represents the 16th Legislative District in the Nassau County Legislature.