New York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was in the mid-Hudson Valley Thursday as part of his fourth annual statewide tour. He visited a center in Poughkeepsie that provides community services and programs before heading for lunch at a restaurant in the city.
Speaker Heastie joined fellow Democratic Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson for a tour of the Family Partnership Center in Poughkeepsie.
“One of the reasons why I like to do the tour around the state, it gives me a better understanding of individual member’s districts, and to see this type of facility that… one-stop shop that does a wide variety of needed services for this community. So it was very eye-opening and a learning experience,” says Heastie. “One of the things I’m amazed at, it seems like the coordination and cooperation amongst all of these nonprofits here that are just trying to make the community a better place.”
Brian Doyle is CEO of Family Services at the Family Partnership Center.
“Certainly, this center is at the center of this community, which is also an epicenter of poverty and need in this community. So to the extent that we can continue providing services and helping the agencies here provide those services, that’s critical,” Doyle says. “And I know that the state Assembly has been very important in implementing that.as well as the speaker, Heastie.”
During the tour, Heastie spoke with Rachel Saunders, attorney in charge of the Dutchess County Office for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, about helping victims of domestic violence.
“I was the one who wrote the law that allows the victims of domestic violence to get out of their lease if someone dangerous. I was the original… we amended it this year, I made some changes, better changes, but I was the original author of that bill ,” Heastie says.
“And that absolutely, so our, we have this office here, which is…,” said Saunders.
He also heard from Family Services Vice President for Community Programs Leah Feldman on the topic.
“I can tell you firsthand, I’m thinking of a number of cases where we’ve used that legislation and informed landlords about it so that we can assist victims,” says Feldman.
Heastie also met Theo “Tree” Arrington, who is founder and CEO of R.E.A.L. Skills Network. REAL stands for Relationship Empowerment Affirmation Leadership.
“So why don’t you do this. Why don’t you write you assemblyman a letter for some more funding, particularly on the educational side, and we’ll see what we can do,” Heastie says.
“Yeah,” Arrington says.
“We’ll meet with you,” Jacobson says.
So you want, you need a bill then?” asks Arrington.
“We’ll meet with you,” Jacobson says.
“Okay,” says Arrington.
“Alright?” Heastie asks.
“Yeah, man,” Arrington says.
“I want to be helpful to you,” Heastie says.
The non-profit helps at-risk youth become college and/or career ready by following non-traditional paths. Arrington says Heastie’s visit meant a lot.
“Speaking up for those that can’t speak up for themselves. That’s the important in this,” Arrington says. “As a matter of fact, I’m going to get up and shake his hand again because he’s doing good work, man. It’s hard to do good work. It’s hard. It’s not hard to work; it’s hard to do good work.”
Heastie stopped by the office of SNUG, which is guns spelled backwards — an outreach program that treats gun violence like a disease by identifying its causes and interrupting its transmission. Heastie had a question for SNUG coordinator Danny Hairston.
“Do you find you deal more with people who are maybe a victim of gun violence or somebody who could be a…” Heastie asks.
“Both,” Hairston says.
“Okay,” says Heastie.
“So technically, really what we’re looking at is individuals between the age of 13 and we go up to 25, either they’ve been shot or a family member or a friends has been shot within the past six months,” Hairston says. “We know they’re either affiliated with a gang or they’re affiliated with drug activity.”
Assemblyman Jacobson says the tour showed Heastie that state money is being properly spent.
“Somebody gets their GED and then they say, now you have to go over there, another trip to try to apply for a job or to try to go to community college. And it just puts obstacles in the way,” Jacobson says. “So the fact that it’s one location that people can go to, people can walk here, and it’s so important for the neighborhood.”
Heastie kicked off his statewide tour in June with a visit to the North Country. You can hear a report on Heastie’s stop in Plattsburgh at wamc.org.