In November 2020, State Senator Anthony H. Palumbo was elected to represent New York’s 1st Senatorial District, the office previously held for 44 years by retiring Senator Kenneth LaValle.
Previous to Mr. Palumbo’s election to the State Senate, he represented the 2nd Assembly District from 2013 until his election to the Senate. Before that, he served as Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney.
He and his wife Tracy, both graduates of St. John’s University Law School, have a law practice in Mattituck, Palumbo & Associates, and a home in New Suffolk in the Town of Southold. Their two children attend Town of Southold Public Schools.
Senator Palumbo was a star baseball player at Patchogue High School and received an athletic scholarship to Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
I recently had the opportunity to interview the Senator by telephone.
His Senatorial District covers the Towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead, Southold, East Hampton, Southampton, and Shelter Island. I started by asking how COVID affected his District.
AP: Given the broad diversity of the district, west through Brookhaven, east to the South and North Forks of Eastern Long Island, some people benefited financially and others were badly hurt. In the Hamptons, for instance, homeowners and real estate brokers have done very well. Demand is very high and inventory is very low. Even some local businesses did very well. But overall, most did worse than usual.
According to the realtors in the Hamptons, the seasonal rentals that had lost ground to the shorter term rentals have now rebounded to the long term rentals. What are you hearing about that?
AP: I hear from a lot of landlords that they are really struggling because of the governor’s Executive Orders prohibiting rent collections and evictions. They can’t afford to meet their expenses and there hasn’t been any relief provided for them. I had a case in Westhampton Village where a woman with five children had rented her house to a tenant who refused to vacate when the lease was up. Finally the media publicity made it so embarrassing for him that he finally moved out.
A great deal has been written about COVID and the schools. Would you comment on that?
AP: Yes. The influx of families with school-age children has impacted the school enrollments. The technology has proved to people that they can work remotely. There’s no need to work in a brick and mortar building in Manhattan. That will have a lasting effect, even after the COVID crisis passes. But the needs placed on the schools to deal with the increasing enrollment, provide laptops and other equipment and materials needed for distance learning has put a huge financial burden on the schools. Fortunately the federal government has provided relief to meet those demands. My wife and I are parents of school children so we see first hand a whole new way of learning that I think poses some difficulties now but benefits in the long run.
How do you reconcile the benefits of land preservation in our East End communities with the recognized increasing need for affordable housing?
AP: I think we have to bring in all the stakeholders, and work the art of compromise. Giving in to one-sided views is not the proper way to govern. The Community Preservation Fund Tax Program, which we extended to 2050, has been a brilliant success in preserving open space and maintaining the rural character of the five Towns of the Peconic Bay Region.
I have co-sponsored a bill with Assemblyman Fred Thiele that would set aside .5% of the CPF taxes for the development of affordable housing, which to me means housing that is reasonably priced.
[Author’s Note: The five Towns of Eastern Long Island comprise the Peconic Bay Region. All transfers of title are subject to a 2% tax on the amount of the purchase over certain limits and absent any exemptions for improved and unimproved land.]
On your website, you suggest a “Homestead Exemption.” Please explain what that is.
AP: Sure. By a “homestead” I mean a primary residence. So let’s say an elderly couple bought that little cottage on the bay many years ago for $20,000 and now it’s worth $4 million. They haven’t made any improvements that have increased the value of the property. The increase is due only to the increase in market values. I’m suggesting that the Tax assessment should be capped. The bill would require home-rule approval to be adopted, just as the CPF Fund did.
What in general do you see as the state government’s biggest challenges?
AP: I would say the ability to provide the services that our people deserve without driving them away by increasing taxes.