east hampton indoor tennis, lessons, club, training

Story - News

Jul 10, 2017 5:11 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Health Care Concerns Are Common Theme During Zeldin's Latest Office Hours In Southampton

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin talks with 95-year-old World War II veteran Dominick Losquadro of Rocky Point during Mr. Zeldin's mobile office hours at Stony Brook Southampton’s Duke Lecture Hall on Thursday, July 6.  DANA SHAW
Jul 11, 2017 1:38 PM

The process was well-rehearsed, cheerful and efficient. The estimated 50 constituents attending U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin’s “mobile office hours” at Stony Brook Southampton last Thursday, July 6, were immediately greeted by two aides and ushered into an atrium, where a table covered with an American flag tablecloth sat waiting, bearing stacks of forms and sign-in sheets.

There, each person was directed to fill out a form requiring his/her name, contact information, issue area and question. The participants then handed in the forms and settled into precarious rolling chairs for the wait.

Most people came alone, and conversations easily sprang up at the round tables of mostly similar-minded New Yorkers.

At one table, three Julies and a Karen quickly realized that they had more in common than a name: they all wanted to talk about health care. They shared a fear of the Republican attempt to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, or ACA, and felt unsatisfied with the replacement bills, passed as the American Health Care Act of 2017, or ACHA, in the House of Representatives, and pending a vote as the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, or BCRA, in the U.S. Senate.

“If they repeal, the only ones not hurt will be the 1 percent,” said Julie Penny, a novelist from Sag Harbor who attended last week’s event. A breast cancer survivor and grandmother of an autistic child, Ms. Penny said she has a personal stake in the health care battle that prompted her to seek a meeting with Mr. Zeldin.

Karen Spano of East Quogue, director of human resources at the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton Village, registered her indignation that in seven years of clamoring for the repeal of ACA, Republicans never thought up a viable alternative. “They don’t represent the people,” she said of congressional Republicans, a group that includes Mr. Zeldin.

She also voiced an impression of the fruitlessness of the office hours that became a resounding refrain among nearly all of last week’s participants.

“I don’t think anything we say will change his mind,” Ms. Spano said, referring to Mr. Zeldin, whose district spans the entire East End and all of Southampton and East Hampton towns, and who has steadfastly supported the Republican health care proposals.

Julie Sheehan, another East Quogue resident and a professor of creative writing at Stony Brook Southampton, was one of the few constituents to come back after getting a face-to-face audience with the congressman—most were quickly escorted out after the session. Ms. Sheehan relayed that Mr. Zeldin largely did not answer her health care questions. “He’s very good at taking up time,” she observed.

She added that she crooned Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” to Mr. Zeldin as she left, an unorthodox plea for him to vote with the neediest in mind.

At neighboring tables, Jane Krieger, a Sag Harbor retiree, and another woman who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that they were there on a health care mission as well. “He’s selling his constituency out,” said Ms. Krieger, referring to Mr. Zeldin’s support of the ACHA.

“For me, Planned Parenthood is part of health care,” said the other woman. “It’s the only health care that many poor women have.”

Though Ms. Krieger acknowledged that getting her congressman to change his mind was a remote possibility, she remained determined. “It’s when people do nothing that bad things happen,” she said.

“I’m not going to give up on having my voice heard,” the other woman added.

Dr. Allen Ott, a retired 30-year obstetrician at Southampton Hospital, added his voice to the health care chorus. He said he wanted to convince the congressman of the damage that the repeal of ACA would inflict, citing the Congressional Budget Office’s scoresheet, which states that, under the ACHA, 23 million people stand to lose their health care.

Dr. Ott said he planned to bring up Mr. Zeldin’s twin girls, who were born prematurely and relied upon their health care to receive vital medical services.

Despite his own strong feelings, Dr. Ott, like the others, remained unconvinced that his conversation with Mr. Zeldin would prompt any substantial change. “I’m sure that he’ll be very civil, and that this will be a waste of time,” he said. “But at least I can vent.”

At around 8 p.m., the health care group had swelled so large that aides sent up groups of 10 at once to meet with the congressman.

Mr. Zeldin met privately with constituents and was not available for an interview afterward. But in a prepared statement issued on Monday by Jennifer DiSiena, Mr. Zeldin’s communications director, the congressman thanked the dozens of constituents who turned out to share their thoughts.

In the statement, Mr. Zeldin said the mobile officer hours allow individuals to meet with him “one on one, or in a small group, to discuss a certain topic in-depth,” adding that he participated in three Town Hall events in April.

Regarding the ongoing health care struggle and debate, Mr. Zeldin offered: “Health care is a very complex subject, and many people have varying perspectives on the current law and how to move forward. However, almost everyone agrees that our current system is deeply flawed, and it is so important that we come together to find solutions to improve health care in America.”

Though few and far between, some constituents did raise other issues.

Julie Hopson of Bridgehampton agreed that health care was one of her many concerns, but that it was trumped by the need for affordable housing. She shared a personal story of her grandchildren and their mother’s eviction from their apartment when their landlord decided to move back in. The children’s mother had a Section 8 Voucher, also known as a Housing Choice Voucher, a rental subsidy created to help low- and middle- income families afford to rent homes that their incomes otherwise would not permit them to do.

However, Ms. Hopson said that, due to the unusually high cost of living in the Hamptons, her family was unable to find affordable housing even with the aid of the voucher and ran out of the 120 days allotted to find a new home. Now, the group has been forced to move in with Ms. Hopson, a less-than-ideal situation for all involved.

Last week, Ms. Hopson said she wanted to ask Mr. Zeldin to work on legislation to create more affordable housing amid the mansions and estates that dominate the East End’s landscape. Unfortunately, she never got the chance: After a nearly two-hour wait, Ms. Hopson had to leave without meeting with the congressman.

Joseph Ruggieri of Hampton Bays, a chemist by profession, came well-prepared with a binder of relevant articles and studies to discuss with the congressman the surfeit of H-1B visas in circulation. These are non-immigrant visas under the Immigration and Nationality Act that permit the temporary hiring of foreign workers, especially in specialty fields.

Mr. Ruggieri said he is concerned that workers with these visas are flooding the science, technology, engineering and math fields, driving down wages and taking jobs from American workers.

His table mate, an artist from Sag Harbor who asked to remain anonymous, came to voice environmental fears. He cited the American Lung Association’s report stating that Suffolk County had the highest levels of ozone pollution in the state, and also registered his concern with the acidification of the bays and streams, and the resulting death of wildlife.

He also voiced his distress over President Donald Trump’s saber rattling with North Korea, saying that even the Cold War days had not given him the worry he has now. “Trump is unfit, unstable, and just plain nuts,” the artist said.

You have read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Yes! I'll try a one-month
Premium Membership
for just 99¢!

Already a subscriber? LOG IN HERE

Obama should be put on trial for treason.
By pw herman (895), southampton on Jul 14, 17 10:22 AM
bay burger, sag harbor, sag harbor turnpike