Long Island Officials Discuss Diversity

Diversity Forum, 2-28-18 (74)
Local officials address the Diversity Forum at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 (Photo by Bob Giglione)

Minority communities on Long Island face inequality in everything from taxes to political representation, local lawmakers said while discussing diversity in a region that ranks as one of the nation’s most segregated suburbs.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone discussed their efforts to level the playing field during an American Diversity Forum event at The Milleridge Inn in Jericho on Wednesday.

“Those in wealthy white areas grieve their [property tax] assessments, and those in poor minority areas do not,” Curran told the crowd. “Communities who grieve get their tax relief, and those who don’t end up paying more than their fair share.”

The imbalance of property tax assessment happens for a variety of reasons, such as a lack of trust in government from less wealthy communities. Another problem is that tax firms do not advertise or market their services to less wealthy communities, Curran said.

She noted that the tax roll has not been updated since 2009, and has been frozen since 2011. She said her team plans to use unfinished research carried out by the previous administration, to reassess a new tax roll for January 2019.

“We will essentially unfreeze the tax roll and start getting the assessments correct,” Curran said.

Bellone touted the importance of diversity in all aspects of life, and emphasized his support for women in politics.

“In our society it does not matter gender, race, ethnicity, background or whatever it is,” he said. “But the content of your character, and who you are and your experience when you get to that point. That is all that matters.”

Bellone noted his nominee for Suffolk County Police Commissioner, Geraldine Hart. As the former head of Long Island’s FBI office, Hart would the first woman to lead the Suffolk County police department, if confirmed by the county legislature.

“The past administration has done a tremendous job building bridges, especially with the community,” said Hart. “So what I want to do is build on that and find points where we can strengthen it. I’m all about community, partnerships, and that’s what I’m going to bring to the table.”

Bellone and Curran noted the importance of diversity on Long Island.

“John Skinner, our new commissioner of labor, has a very eagle-eyed focus on making sure that our immigrant workers are protected,” said Curran. “That is something that is very important to me and big part of the reason why I got this job.”

Mohinder Taneja, president of the American Diversity Forum, thanked the event’s honorees, Nassau County Legis. Denise Ford and Arnold Drucker, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Lawrence Levy, dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.

“It really is the truth, that we gather strength by working together,” Bellone said. “We are more effective by working together.”