U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Nassau, Suffolk, Queens) held a gubernatorial campaign tele-town hall for potential voters in Queens and Brooklyn on Jan. 6, but more than 6,250 people throughout the downstate New York area chimed in.
Throughout the town hall he touched on vaccine mandates, housing rights, diversity and the insurrection, which happened to have its inaugural anniversary the night of his campaign call to potential constituents.
Pat from Valley Stream called into the town hall to air her concerns about the lack of vaccine mandates under Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.
Since taking office last week Monday, Blakeman has dismissed the statewide mask mandate for indoor venues, said he would excuse fines for businesses and stated that school boards could craft their own mandates surrounding face coverings.
“We have no vaccine mandates for restaurants,” said Pat. “Our new county executive ... has made it clear he is not going to follow any mandates for vaccinations. He is going to let them do what they want to do. Now people are flooding restaurants and bars in Nassau County from Queens —unvaccinated people ... Numbers have tripled in a few days.”
The New York Times Covid-19 interactive tracker depicted that there were 6,983 cases for the week ending on Jan. 6 in Nassau County. On Dec. 25, 2021, there were no new cases and overall cases averaged around 2,632 for the week leading up to the Christmas holiday.
Suozzi blamed Republicans for politicizing the issue and Gov. Hochul, his incumbent opponent for the Democratic ticket, for not coming up with a comprehensive plan.
“The governor proposed a mandate for masks on a Friday and said it was going to take place on a Monday,” said Suozzi. “Thirty counties said they weren’t going to follow the mandate because she didn’t make it a comprehensive plan. She didn’t sell it to the elected officials or sell it to the public.”
Suozzi, who is campaigning as the “Common Sense Democrat,” said that Hochul should have worked with other officials to find a common ground that they could all agree upon.
Lucia from Brooklyn was on the tele-town hall because she felt small landlords, like herself, have lost their rights.
“I have a tenant who refuses to pay rent — not because he can’t, he is working —and he is living somewhere else,” said the 38-year landlord. “He’s called the police on me. He’s done so many things that I had to put cameras in my house. I have to call family members when he is here. If you call the police, the police don’t help landlords, they help the tenants ... How come the landlords and the tenants don’t have equal rights?”
Suozzi said there needs to be fairness for both landlords and tenants.
“Everybody thinks it is one way or the other,” said the congressman. “There are people who are abusing the system ... It’s common sense that if somebody is working and they got the money and they are living in your house and they are not paying rent then you should be able to kick them out. If I’m the governor, I’ll give you that kind of protection.”
Albert from Rochdale Village wanted to know if Suozzi became governor if he would include people of color and immigrants in his office.
“Will they have a seat at the table?” said Albert.
Government has to look like the people it represents, said Suozzi, who is a first generation Italian American.
“That means you need to have men and women, you need to have Black and brown and yellow and white,” he said. “It needs to be the same type of percentages of representation as it is in your community that you are representing.”
Joseph from Cambria Heights didn’t understand how the Capitol riot took place.
“The sedition that took place a year ago today was a disgrace,” said Joseph.
Suozzi recalled his time being one of the last congressmembers being evacuated during the violence.
“I was there when the cops where saying, ‘shots fired, shots fired everybody down,’” said Suozzi. “We got to save our democracy. Part of our democracy is that we got to work with each other and try to find common ground. It was some Republicans, but not all.”
Suozzi praised U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kizinger (R-Ill.)for speaking out against the insurrection.