By Alicia Venter
After 17 years in the New York State Assembly, Andrew Hevesi is vying to score his ninth victory in District 28.
His district, which he has held since 2005, encompasses parts of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Middle Village, Glendale, Maspeth and Kew Gardens, the latter of which he recently gained due to redistricting.
Hevesi, 48, sits as Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families.
In this role, Hevesi strives to target adolescent trauma through implementing support systems for both children and parents.
“What I’ve been working on primarily, and we had great success last year, was in using as much state funding into any program that’s going to prevent or mitigate psychological trauma from adverse childhood experiences,” Hevesi said. “Everything you are seeing in the papers — from crime to rising homeless, to kids dropping out of high school, to higher rates of suicide, and all kinds of things — I think it’s all a function of unprecedented and unmitigated adverse childhood experiences and childhood trauma.”
Hevesi and his office worked last year to coordinate a coalition of approximately 100 assembly members and 40 senators to attack this issue as effectively as possible.
“The rest was that in the budget this year was the largest single investment in children in New York State history,” Hevesi said.
This agreement was a $7 billion investment over four years that will raise the salary level of the childcare workforce, which Hevesi noted is primarily Black and Brown women, and to increase the number of childcare seats available throughout the city.
From this investment, 400,000 new seats were made available for children up to the age of 13.
“Childcare is one of the best ways to prevent childhood trauma from when kids are home alone,” Hevesi said. “It’s socialization. It’s the protective factors that you need to offset this kind of trauma.”
Furthermore, $10 million was invested into YouthBuild, a program originally founded in the 1980s.
The program’s direction has shifted to directly target children who are 16 or 17 years old who are at risk of “picking up guns or becoming a part of gangs,” and instead encourages them to find a career.
“There are a variety of other wins for kids just by money in the budget,” Hevesi said.
To best serve his community while balancing his responsibilities in Albany, Hevesi delegates funding to organizations within his neighborhoods that serve “the most vulnerable people” — those facing food insecurity and who need services to serve their basic needs.
Hevesi has recently been given approximately $1 million in capital appropriation, which he breaks into smaller pots for distribution.
“I believe a good member of the assembly, or a good senator, should have an issue that they are expert on,” Hevesi said.
That issue was homelessness for years, as Hevesi was part of numerous efforts to reach an agreement in Albany and with then-Governor Andrew Cuomo on a rent supplement plan to prevent those who are struggling to pay for housing from being forced into shelters. After the plan failed for five years (“Try working on something for five years and then have to give it up!”), Hevesi was appointed the Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families.
If re-elected, Hevesi exclusively told the Queens Ledger that he spoke to leadership, and informed them that he would like to chair the Health Committee in the upcoming term.
Hevesi is a Forest Hills native. Born and raised in the neighborhood, he now lives with his wife, daughter and dog, Lola.
“I’m a Forest Hills guy completely,” Hevesi added.
Forest Hills is set to become the home to QueensWay, a linear park along 3.5 miles of abandoned tracks that run through Central and Southern Queens. The plan has been met with controversy, particularly from those who supported QueensLink, a plan to turn the abandoned tracks into a railway.
Hevesi supported the QueensWay when it was first conceived — “It must have been a decade ago,” he exclaimed — but he admittedly didn’t believe the plan would ever come to fruition.
He described arguments he used to have with Phil Goldfeder, the then-assemblyman of District 23, whose seat has since been filled by Stacy Pheffer-Amato.
“He and I used to have arguments about it, and then we’d laugh because either one of the proposals cost billions. You’re going to get a rail, I’m going to get a park? Forget about it,” he said. “And then strangely, the QueensWay kept pushing. Adams bit, and put money behind it.”
The QueensWay will cause trouble for Hevesi, he explained, because it runs behind the Forest Park Little League, so a plan must be made to work around this issue.
Although he supported turning the railroad into a park, Hevesi did sign on in support of a feasibility study for the QueensLink to see if there is a possibility of the park also serving as a transportation hub.
“I’ve been supportive of the QueensWay for a while,” he concluded. “It’s not my top issue, but I think it could be a very good thing for the community.”
To remain accessible to his constituents, Hevesi explained that the best way he can talk to the people in his community is by going door-to-door.
“If people don’t want to talk to you, that’s fine,” he said. “But the fact that you’ve shown up and taken an interest, and they have the opportunity to tell you something about the neighborhood? I think knocking doors is the best way to do it.”
Furthermore, when a constituent writes a letter or email to the assemblyman, he writes a letter back “in substance,” providing a full answer for their concerns.
Hevesi faces Mike Conigliaro this election, a Republican candidate who serves as the president of the Community Education Council – District 24 school board. The election is on Nov. 8.