New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie visited the Capital Region today as part of his ongoing statewide summer tour. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief reports the Democrat listened to concerns in Saratoga County.
Speaker Heastie joined 113th District Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner today in Mechanicville. There, the Democrats toured the Mechanicville Area Community Services Center. The speaker visited the center’s food pantry, met volunteers, and saw a group of summer camp kids playing dodgeball in the gymnasium.
One of the biggest issues facing the small city in Saratoga County that resonated with Speaker Heastie is a lack of public transportation.
“We don’t want lack of transportation to be a barrier to people improving their lives, improving their education, getting access to healthcare,” said Heastie.
Woerner, whose district includes large portions of Saratoga and Washington Counties, says reliable public transportation is a need across the district. While ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have helped in recent years, several communities do not have a bus service to connect residents to large employers or colleges.
“And it’s really limited, honestly, to Saratoga Springs. We need a broader set of services. And I know CDTA is working on some pilot ideas, some van service, that sort of thing – which is a great start – but it’s an area that we need additional investment. We need state investment so that we can develop the ridership necessary to support public transit in a broader sense,” said Woerner.
Mechanicville Area Community Services Center Executive Director Megan Quillinan says the center serves 6,000 individuals a year throughout the spectrum of services it offers. The center serves as a hub for counseling services, kids programs, preschool, food pantry, food stamp and healthcare enrollment, senior advocacy, and more.
“Mechanicville is our name, we love Mechanicville, we’re never leaving but we see anyone from anywhere and help them find access to services in their own towns,” said Quillinan.
Despite the number of services offered, Quillinan believes there are many families in need that may fall just above the threshold for public assistance who do not utilize available programs.
“When people think of a food pantry or they think of needing a service, there’s a stigma attached to it and there shouldn’t be. Because everyone has needs and no one knows what’s around the corner. And collocating so many services in one place helps battle the stigma of that,” said
Speaker Heastie, whose district is in the Bronx, has made tours of upstate districts over the last several years. He says he sees the same wants in Mechanicville across the state: access to healthcare, good jobs, good schools, and transportation.
“I just think it helps me do my job better and understanding the members needs when I come and see it for myself,” said Heastie.