Assembly speaker midway through upstate tour

Aug 19, 2015

New York state’s Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx native, has spent a portion of the summer touring upstate New York. The speaker replaced Sheldon Silver who was arrested on corruption charges earlier this year.

Heastie has been to Buffalo, Binghamton, Syracuse and Utica, the Thousand Islands and surrounding areas as part of a listening tour to familiarize himself with issues that might not be front and center in New York City.  

“I’m used to cement,” said, Heastie who said says he’s “gained an appreciation” of the beauty of upstate regions.

Heastie, dressed in a charcoal gray suit on a 90 degree day, received a tour of a Hudson River boat launch in Mechanicville, northwest of Albany.  He says he’s found that many of the same issues resonate in all parts of the state,-having  a solid infrastructure support system, economic and educational opportunities.

“If you want to have jobs there’s certain things a community needs,” Heastie said. “You need infrastructure, you need transportation, and you need good schools for families."

Mechanicville Supervisor Tom Richardson, who showed the speaker the new dock facilities -- which include toilets and showers and easy access to restaurants and shops in town --  says it means a lot to have an influential legislative leader visit.

“I think it’s terrific,” said Richardson, who said it’s tremendously important that the speaker sees firsthand  the communities and their needs.

The dock in Mechanicville.
Credit Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Paul Hink, a retired pharmacist from Minnesota, was there touring the river for the first time, along with his wife, in a houseboat , as part of a voyage that will take them north to Lake Champlain, and eventually, the southern United States. He’s pleased with the new dock and its amenities.  

“This is fantastic,” Hink said. “The facilities were clean and new.”

Richardson agrees with Heastie that upstate’s crumbling infrastructure is a huge problem, he says his city is lucky enough to have received grants from the regional transportation authority to replace three bridges, two of them  nearly a century old.

The speaker also weighed in on a big issue for the region and for the entire Hudson River, General Electric’s on going dredging of the river of toxic PCBs. They were dumped by the company back when it was legal to do so. The project is due to end this fall, but environmental groups and some local government leaders want to expand it.

According to a report by Politico New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been talking to GE executives , trying to lure the company’s corporate headquarters back to the state from Connecticut.

Heastie says  any talks about convincing GE executives  to relocate their headquarters back to New York should include discussions on the company’s Superfund clean up program.

“I believe that companies should be good corporate citizens,” Heastie said. “What they need to do here should be part of any discussion.”

The governor’s office had no comment.

The speaker next planned to tour a farm that uses automatic milking machines for its dairy cows.