Over 150 residents of the Elmont, Floral Park, Franklin Square, North Valley Stream and South Floral Park Communities jammed the Elmont VFW to air concerns and anger over the loss of the STAR Rebate Check program. Community residents organized the meeting and had State Senator Dean Skelos and Senate Candidate Jack Martins address residents and take questions for audience members.
The meeting, scheduled at 5pm actually started at 5:30 as organizers had to set up extra chairs as residents lined up to get in the meeting. In fact, people started coming into the VFW at 4:30 to get a seat at the forum.
People lined the walls and anxiously awaited to hear from organizers. Legislator John Ciotti was also in attendance along with civic, athletic, school and community leaders. The program was developed by who feel that their neighborhood concerns are not being addressed and listened to by State leaders.
"When we had to take out the extra chairs and take down tables to accommodate residents, I knew this was going to not only be educational, but word of what we talked about was going to get out into the community," said Franklin Thomas adding, "people were energized and are getting involved. That’s what this is all about".
The program opened with residents getting an update on community issues and the challenges that lie ahead. Specifically, school aid cuts, lack of progress at Belmont, economic development and job creation were discussed. The big focus of the STAR Rebate Check program was on the minds of most residents.
The issue of the cancellation of the STAR Rebate Check program was a big focus for residents. It was revealed that the program was eliminated by a single vote in the New York State Senate. Locally, Senators Dean Skelos and Kemp Hannon voted to keep the STAR Rebate check program. However, Senator Craig Johnson voted against it and was the deciding vote to eliminate the program.
The rebate check program provided local residents with $1,158 dollars in tax relief in the form of a check from New York State to combat rising property taxes.
Another flashpoint of the discussion was the loss of school aid to the Sewankaka, Elmont, Franklin Square and Floral Park School districts. Sandra Smith directly addressed the impact of the loss of State Aid to our schools. When we lose community assets in the State Senate by 1 vote we need to take notice and become more educated voters. Right now we just vote party labels, but in this election we need to look deeper and stand up for our communities."
Marvin Lee engaged audience members with a discussion of how residents have to hold politicians accountable for their votes and that as community members we have to vote our interests and not be beholden to party labels. "I am an independent voter and we all have to take a look at these candidates and ask the hard questions. Everybody here has to get into the game and take a stand. When a politician says one thing and does another we have to take a stand. We are doing that now."
Senator Dean Skelos addressed the packed crowd and bluntly explained to residents that the STAR Rebate Check program elimination has been a disaster for taxpayers. "Tonight I’ve had some of you come up to me and say how the loss of the STAR Rebate Check has impacted you personally. I know that. I voted to keep it and the reason why I did it is because it is your money, not the government’s to play with. The fact that we lost this program by 1 vote is heartbreaking."
Elmont resident Barbara Reynolds was very vocal at the meeting and blasted State Leaders who voted against the STAR Rebate Check program. "It’s a disgrace. People are hurting in our communities and this program helped a lot of people. As a Democrat I am embarrassed that Senator Craig Johnson did this. I will be making my voice heard on Election Day, I can tell you that."
New York State Senate candidate Jack Martins addressed audience members and told them that he would have voted to keep the STAR Rebate Check program. "I would have kept the STAR Rebate check program because it’s a no brainer. I don’t know why our current Senator did this. But we have the chance to make our 1 vote count in November. If I’m given the chance to represent you, I will tell you this right here and now. I will be back here all the time. I will listen and respect your community."
Martins and Skelos mingled with residents and answered questions until 7:30pm that night.
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