The Northern Westchester Examiner

Shimsky, Abinanti Face Off in Round Two in 92nd Assembly District Primary

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Democratic voters in Mount Pleasant, much of Greenburgh and the northwest corner of Yonkers are being treated to a rematch of the 2022 showdown between MaryJane Shimsky and Tom Abinanti in the 92nd Assembly District.

The main difference this time around is Shimsky, who served 11 years on the Board of Legislators before winning the seat two years ago, is the incumbent, after having ousted her rival in the primary. Abinanti had represented the district for 12 years before his loss.

Shimsky compared her first term, where she said 18 bills that she sponsored have been passed by the legislature, to Abinanti’s first two years where 10 pieces of legislation were approved. A key quality for the job is to be able to build relationships and to negotiate so it will pay dividends later, she said.

“One of the big skills of this job is having the emotional intelligence to be able to identify those moments, and then once you identify the moment, come up with an effective way of dealing with the moment,” said Shimsky who was not surprised by Abinanti’s entry into the race because she believed he was unprepared for his defeat.

Abinanti said he jumped into the fray because there is no one in the Assembly that has picked up the baton in his advocacy for the disability community and that he was urged by Greenburgh officials, including Supervisor Paul Feiner, to compete for his old seat because Shimsky failed to adequately protect the town against Edgemont incorporation.

There have now been at least three attempts by the wealthy enclave to secede from the town to form its own village. If that were to happen, Greenburgh would lose significant tax dollars, jeopardizing town services, he said.

“Number one, the incumbent is not doing the job, and number two, my leaving left a void in the Assembly,” Abinanti said. “A lot of good people in the Assembly are looking for leadership and what they can do for the disability community, but there’s nobody there that can give them that leadership. I was providing that leadership.”

He said one of Shimsky’s bills, A.7761, allows for signatures collected on a petition before Jan. 1, 2024, to be used in another attempt at incorporation.

Shimsky dismissed Abinanti’s claims that she supported legislation that would have made it easier for Edgemont to incorporate.

“I voted for legislation that the Greenburgh town supervisor begged me to vote for,” Shimsky said.

She said her legislation forced a fiscal analysis to be conducted over whether incorporation into a village would hurt the town financially, and if projections pointed toward that, it would not go through. Her legislation also increased the number of residents for incorporation.

Shimsky also said she opposed the special carve-out until 2040 that would enable Edgemont to try again, but those came from chapter amendments made to other bills.

School districts around the state, including many in Westchester, were able to avoid debilitating cuts in state aid this past budget season. Abinanti said the state must maintain its hold harmless provision that ensures districts don’t have Foundation Aid reduced because they may lose enrollment or other factors.

The state should also make certain through adequate funding that special education students throughout the state have access to the programs they need.

“There are kids with many different needs and we need to make sure there are schools in each region that can handle their needs,” Abinanti said.

“But there is no one in Albany working on this,” he added. “I was kind of a unique voice.”

Shimsky is hopeful that the ongoing study into the Foundation Aid formula will yield a more realistic and equitable disbursement of funds where districts that have needs, whether they be programmatic or infrastructure, get the money that is needed.

Problems in recent years at the JCCA campus in Pleasantville has had many in the community and Mount Pleasant officials calling for action. Shimsky said much of the problem has stemmed from the state closing facilities elsewhere throughout the state.

Shimsky pledged to advocate that the state provide other facilities for young people whose needs cannot be met at a facility such as the Cottage School.

“The need is so vast and the range of needs is so great, and the state has gotten rid of a number of options,” Shimsky said.

Abinanti agreed that the state must provide the proper facilities for kids cannot be properly served at the JCCA campus.

“There was no serious problem at the Cottage School before the state started sending kids who had nowhere else to go, but did not fit the Cottage School’s mission,” he said.

Abinanti, an advocate for criminal justice reform and for the revisions before he left Albany at the end of 2022, said more work needs to be done to protect the public. He is advocating the state to allow each county to create a Bail Part populated by criminal justice professionals, such as former judges, to be able to make more judgment calls on whether a suspect is a candidate for bail.

Serial offenders, such as those perpetrating car thefts, should not be back out on the street hours after their arrest, Abinanti said. However, an indigent single mom who has stolen diapers repeatedly, for example, would be eligible to receive leniency and hopefully the proper social services, he said.

His opposition to a measure that would make anyone serving a long sentence eligible for parole after serving at least 15 years and is at least 55 years old cost him the Working Families Party line, according to Abinanti.

“I think that’s extreme,” Abinanti said of the proposal. “I don’t think that’s what our community wants.”

Shimsky said more work is needed on suspects who’ve perpetrated certain misdemeanor offenses.

“I think bail reform addressed some really serious problems in the system, but we still have to find the right balance, and like I said, it may take a couple more reviews to do,” Shimsky said.

Issues related to climate change and flooding is critical for everyone to address, the assemblywoman said. Increasing car charging opportunities for apartment dwellers is critical to increase the number of EV owners, Shimsky said.

She also is hoping that more can be done in to generate more wind-generated power off the coast of Long Island.

Shimsky said the state is not putting in enough money to maintain its roads, particularly in Region 8, which includes Westchester. New York State is ranked 46th in the nation in road quality, she said.

The legislature was able to secure an extra $100 million this year in state funding for local roads, but that figure should be increased to $250 million, plus an additional $400 million is needed over the current $500 million annual sum to play catch up on state roads, she said.

“Everybody wants the roads fixed – period,” Shimsky said.

Abinanti is a proponent for state money and incentives for developers to build more affordable housing. While housing is needed, the governor’s proposals wouldn’t have been beneficial.

The bulk of new housing should have infrastructure and access to transportation, he said.

“One of the things we need to understand is you need places to have the infrastructure; not every community is going to be part of the plan,” Abinanti said. “The cities are the perfect place for this.”



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