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Exasperated, rocked by politics, Long Islanders hope nation unites

Destiny Johnson, 22, of Farmingdale, at Belmont Lake

Destiny Johnson, 22, of Farmingdale, at Belmont Lake State Park in West Babylon on Thursday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Exasperated Long Islanders expressed dismay over the political turmoil that has shaken the country during the first half of January, while also holding out hope President-elect Joe Biden will unite a nation facing compounding challenges.

With the Jan. 6 violent siege of the Capitol still fresh, coupled with the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term ending under the cloud of impeachment, many Long Islanders said optimism in a new year is fading into a grim reality: better days are farther down the road than expected.

"It’s been a rough year," said Steven Velez-Garcia, of Franklin Square. "This is just 2020 part two."

Velez-Garcia, 22, a math major at Stony Brook University, said the surreal images of the riot at the Capitol — temporarily halting Congress from certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory — reminded him of a "dystopian novel."

He was among many Long Islanders who said the tumultuous transfer of power from Trump to Biden, and the challenges of effectively administering COVID-19 vaccinations, are weighing heavily on their minds.

John Carr, 61, of West Babylon, a retired NYPD sergeant and two-time Trump voter, said the president is not at fault for his supporters’ actions at the Capitol, and that the upcoming Senate impeachment trial will only cause more harm.

"The impeachment is a disgrace. The purpose of impeachment is to remove the president. He’s leaving," Carr said. He said, however, he’s keeping an open mind about Biden.

"We have to bring people together, but starting out with impeachment is not a good start. People want to have hope after COVID and the vaccine," Carr said.

COVID-19 has never been far from Jane Werner’s thoughts since the onset of the pandemic. Werner, 64, a college professor from Westbury, added she’s disheartened New York is having supply issues and struggling to administer the vaccine.

"I thought the biggest hurdle was coming up with the vaccine. Now I see the biggest hurdle is the logistics of getting it to us," Werner said.

Mark Foushee, 68, a retired Air Force veteran, said Trump incited the mob that stormed the Capitol. He said his presidency "needs to come to an end."

The Westbury resident said the country will move forward under new presidential leadership.

"There’s a lot of hope with Biden," Foushee said. "He’s choosing a lot of people who have experience. They are going to work for the betterment of all the people."

Tom Jones, 48, of Massapequa, said he voted for Trump, and his legacy will include fulfilling "everything that he promised at the beginning," including a booming economy pre-COVID. Jones, a plumber, however, said he would not vote for Trump again because he didn’t like his Tweets, his lack of compassion and his "big mouth."

He said the past year has been tough, adding how his daughter, a senior in high school, was unable to attend prom or her high school graduation, and that his son’s lacrosse career was "cut short" at Cornell University.

Jones is cautiously optimistic about a Biden presidency.

"He’s been in office 47 years, something like that. He must know a few things," Jones said. "I just hope he does a good job. … My fingers are crossed. It’s going to take longer than a year; we need to get rid of this COVID thing."

Destiny Johnson, 22, of Farmingdale, who's studying business management at Stony Brook, said she is not for or against Biden. But she believes he will be a better leader than Trump.

"If you were able to incite a riot, that’s terrorism. That’s not what a leader should be doing," Johnson said.

Brian Matarrese, 73 of Levittown, also blames Trump for the events that played out at the Capitol. He is in favor of Trump’s impeachment and potential conviction in the Senate.

Matarrese, a retired Army veteran, said the turbulent first few weeks of 2021 remind him of the 1964 movie, "Seven Days in May." The film starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas is about an attempted coup of the U.S. government.

"This is like fourteen days in January — you don’t know what’s going to happen," he said.

Matarrese said that under Biden, his biggest challenge, the pandemic, will fade in time.

"Within a few months, if the vaccine is effective, you’ll see more and more people no longer succumbing to it and things should improve," Matarrese said. "The economy will improve. We’re going to get back to work."

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