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From New York City to Riverhead

Congressman Tom Suozzi at a press conference held

Congressman Tom Suozzi at a press conference held in Glen Cove on Monday, November 16. Credit: Reece T. Williams

Daily Point

A slice of limelight for Suozzi

Rep. Tom Suozzi’s high-profile backing of Eric Adams for New York City mayor earned the Nassau County Democrat a modest share of a celebratory post-primary spotlight on Tuesday night.

From a stage in a nightclub in Williamsburg, Adams, who got the most top-preference votes under the city’s new ranked-choice ballot system, thanked a long list of endorsers one by one. Suozzi stood up front on the stage, down from Adams to the candidate’s right. Just after thanking Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat of Washington Heights, Adams hailed "my brother-from-another-mother, TOM SUOZZI!" as cheers and applause followed.

For optical purposes, it does not matter that Adams, who drew more than 30% of voters’ first-place preferences, has not yet captured the all-but-indispensable Democratic nomination.

But the Brooklyn borough president clearly has a leg up. A process now follows by which secondary choices are calculated and blended into the totals, which will bring one of the candidates above 50% for the nomination.

Suozzi could seek statewide office again next year if Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo decides his three terms were enough.

When Suozzi endorsed Adams on April 5, he did it through the lens of the Glen Cove congressman’s own centrist political brand.

"He [Adams] understands and respects and admires the police. We hear this whole thing about Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter. You know what? It’s both. It’s not one of the two," Suozzi said. "You can respect and admire the police department as Eric did as a former police officer, but you also could look for reform to make sure it looks out for people’s interest to make sure that it treats people fairly, you can do both of those things."

And, Suozzi touted a similar message in robocalls to Queens voters – including and beyond his congressional district, the furthering of a suburban-urban coalition.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

A Democratic Socialist in Riverhead

Some socialist-identified or -endorsed candidates had a big night in Democratic primaries Tuesday around New York. They included newcomer India Walton declaring victory over Democratic mainstay Byron Brown for Buffalo mayor, and some Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed candidates faring well so far in NYC Council races featuring the new ranked-choice voting system.

But Riverhead came first this election cycle, with a win by a socialist candidate.

Theater artist Colin Palmer’s victory last month for a seat on the Riverhead Central School District Board of Education amounted to a little-acknowledged milestone: He was the first member of the Suffolk County DSA to win elected office.

Palmer, 30, is a director, actor, and product of Riverhead schools who received 1,309 votes in the May election for one of the two Riverhead seats that had been up for grabs. He finished just about 100 votes ahead of incumbent Susan Koukounas, and his three-year term for the unpaid position starts next week.

During the Riverhead contest, there was not much talk of socialism, however. School board candidates don’t run on a partisan line, and Palmer told The Point on Monday that he hadn’t focused on the socialist label during his campaign. Rather, a big impetus for his bid was his support for the long-standing Latin program in Riverhead, the future of which is up in the air with the recent retirement of a husband-wife pair of Latin teachers.

While Palmer says he joined the national DSA during the 2016 presidential primary in which he supported Bernie Sanders, he had not been particularly active with the Suffolk chapter, and the county DSA wasn’t involved in his run.

But since his election he has gotten more connected with the Suffolk DSA, and the DSA branch itself has been eager to embrace him and future local candidates, noting in a news release that the group will "begin to find potential school board candidates who support curricula oriented toward racial and social justice and aim to provide effective and democratic management of their school districts."

There are plenty of issues for socialists and their allies and opponents to fight about on the school board level these days, often a starting point in the culture war battles. Palmer says he hopes that by fall, masks will no longer be mandatory but he agrees with the policy of needing to wear masks inside for now. He calls the particular focus on Critical Race Theory a "nonissue" drummed up by outside groups, and he’s supportive of diversity, equity and inclusion programs to "help students get a deeper understanding of history."

As for the socialism, Palmer focuses on the democratization part.

"Democratic socialism means that all people have a say in how their community is run and also how their workplaces are run," he says. "The ultimate end goal is that the working class and middle class of Long Island should be able to make the decisions that affect them."

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

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Final Point

New Long Islander on MTA board

Gerard Bringmann - a new Long Island voice on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board - quickly jumped into the fray on Wednesday.

Bringmann is the head of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council and in June was appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to be that group’s non-voting representative on the MTA board. Speaking at the board’s meeting on Wednesday, he noted the absence of an elevator at the Mets-Willets Point LIRR station. Bringmann asked whether the MTA could move that effort forward while waiting for a federal decision regarding the larger LaGuardia AirTrain project, which would use the Willets stop and is being handled by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"It seems like there's one excuse after the other," said Bringmann, who attended the session remotely. "It's just something I think is way, way overdue."

MTA Chief Executive Pat Foye responded that the MTA and the Port Authority are "working closely" on the issue and that accessibility is a key component of the plans for the station.

The commuter council has gone without representation on the MTA board for about a year and a half since the departure of member Ira Greenberg.

The Point caught up with Bringmann earlier this week to ask how he plans to use his new position.

"It’s like anything else in life, you have to pick your battles," said the decades-long LIRR commuting veteran. Though he can’t vote, he can speak up at large board gatherings as he did on Wednesday and make his voice heard in smaller committee meetings.

"A lot of times, it's better to work behind the scenes where you can," he said.

Among his advocacy priorities: "The first and foremost thing is to monitor the ridership numbers so that we can get service restoration to pre-pandemic levels."

He also anticipates looking at quality-of-life issues within the system, including homeless individuals in and around Penn Station. And, with commuting styles likely to change post-pandemic, making sure there’s "appropriate ticket options" and discounts for people going into the city less often.

The Patchogue resident’s day job is in construction management and interior renovations. His current project is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, meaning a round-trip commute of approximately 3 hours on the LIRR and another hour on the subway.

The riding provides important perspective for the unpaid new gig, he says, noting that he laid out over $500 in June between LIRR and subway passes.

"I'm not just going to be on the MTA board," says Bringmann. "I'm an MTA customer."

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano and Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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