Amid the second wave of the pandemic, with Suffolk County witnessing double-digit positivity rates, Legis. Rudy Sunderman said with no doubt that the health and safety of the county constituency is his pinnacle objective entering the New Year.
“I am very passionate about my residents, and I serve and protect them. I can't see it any other way,” Sunderman said, continuing on to say that he experienced the virus firsthand. “Experiencing COVID-19 and having it myself at one point makes me understand this is a very serious public health issue that we have to ensure our residents feel safe. We have to take this one day at a time.”
Sunderman made reference to the calls his office receives and expressed that residents with questions regarding food, shelter, public health, law enforcement, and other relevant matters reach out often.
“They want to be able to know that there is someone there to listen when they call,” Sunderman said, speaking of the residents in his district. “They want to know that we can help them and guide them to finding the assistance they need.”
Transitioning into economic revitalization, Sunderman acknowledged its direct connection to the pandemic.
“It is going to be important because people have to have jobs so that they can afford to live here,” he said. “If [businesses] close, you know what happens: They will lose jobs — waiters, waitresses, cooks, dishwashers. The more jobs you take away, the more people don't have that opportunity on Long Island.”
Two countywide task forces spearheaded by Sunderman — Zombie Home Task Force and a public health task force — are currently in their infancy stages and slated to go into effect in March and July, respectively. Sunderman described the Zombie Home Task Force as a multifaceted approach.
“Are there going to be a lot of foreclosed homes because of COVID-19, and if the home has been foreclosed — sitting here vacant — can we make them affordable homes for people to buy them so that they don't sit here and become dilapidated?” he explained. “There is an upcoming task force that we put in place because of this COVID-19 crisis and find out what our future problems will be. We know there is a potential large number of foreclosed homes coming due to COVID-19.”
Regarding the public health task force, Sunderman expressed that he suggested the need for it, though the commencement of the task force’s duties has been delayed due to the second wave of the pandemic.
“Although we are back in the pandemic again, working hard in this crisis, we ask for a report from each county legislative office, each department in the county system, to ask what they did well or what were there opportunities so that as we challenge ourselves through the pandemic and future concerns that we can learn from and what we can we fix in opportunities, in their strengths [and] in their weaknesses,” he said.
Additionally, Sunderman mentioned that other projects not relevant to public health and public safety will not be halted, referencing the bid put out regarding the fish ladder at Lower Lake in Yaphank as well as the anticipated bidding later this month regarding the Forge River Watershed Sewer District.
“We are not going to stop working on quality-of-life issues, but there are certain things we have to make priority, and that is always going to be public health and public safety for the community,” Sunderman said.