Times Ledger

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said elected officials have a unique opportunity to bring positive change to the communities they serve, which is why he is seeking re-election to a second term in the 15th Senate District.

Awaiting an opponent to come out of the Sept. 13 Republican primary, the Democrat addressed issues facing the people of his district, the borough and the state in an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers last week. Addabbo said recent redistricting gave him new constituents who deserve to have their myriad concerns addressed.

“We are always looking at opportunities for job creation and job growth,” said Addabbo. “The borough’s biggest opportunity for that, I believe, is Resorts World, where we’ve only scratched the surface of job opportunities and potential.”

Resorts World Casino opened last year at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park and has since been in discussions as a site for a new convention center in the state. Addabbo said that while the gaming giant has not fully met its promise to hire locally, he believes the operation is, and will continue to be, a major source of jobs.

The company was recently criticized for not achieving the 70 percent rate of local hires it had promised, but while Addabbo was not happy that Resorts missed the mark, he said there was still much room for growth.

“We’re just realizing the beginning of what will be a roughly 30-year relationship with Resorts World. We can’t just look at a snapshot of what they are today. We have to look at the big picture and realize the potential,” he said, referring to a possible convention center at the site. “The potential for job growth there is stronger than anywhere else in the borough, including Willets Point.”

The senator said before anything is built in the industrial area adjacent to Citi Field, many environmental studies have to be done.

“I can only imagine what might be found in that soil,” he said. “With Resorts World, if you wanted to break ground tomorrow, you could.”

Addabbo said a convention center at Aqueduct could be a source of major revenue for the city and state, saying it is too close to John F. Kennedy International Airport to be overlooked.

“We don’t need to have the largest convention center in the nation — even a mid-sized one would be beneficial to the state,” he said. “We would have to talk about traffic improvements, infrastructure improvements and public safety, aside from job creation. But the growth there is something we have to look at.”

Another potential source of jobs for the borough would be a Walmart or another big box chain store, said Addabbo, but the senator cautioned a store of that size cannot be placed in an area where it would overwhelm local small businesses.

Addabbo suggested the Rockaways as an area with the need, the space and a lack of mom-and-pop stores that in other neighborhoods would be devastated by stores like Walmart.

“I’m very much in favor of competition, it’s good for the commercial market,” he said. “But we have to be selective. Rockaway has the space and a high unemployment rate. They have been crying for something like this.”

Besides helping the unemployed get back to work, Addabbo said he wants to make sure those who are employed can afford to support their family, which is why he supports raising the minimum wage. The senator said raising minimum wage by $1.25 to $8.50 an hour would not be a job killer because companies want to do business in the city — and they will not pack their bags if wages went up.

“It’s the right thing to do for people who are struggling during these tough times,” he said. “We should not have left the June session in Albany without passing minimum wage. It is something we need to address immediately when we are back in December.”

-Addabbo addressed another Albany incident in June that his possible Senate opponent, City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), raised in an earlier interview with the TimesLedger. Ulrich said the senator was one of the lawmakers who walked out on a bill that would have expanded a DNA database, allowing for DNA samples to be taken from anyone convicted of a crime in the state.

The bill passed, but Addabbo said he and his Democratic colleagues left the session because the bill also lumped in redistricting with expanding the database. Addabbo recalled the Senate vote occurred after midnight, away from the eyes of the public and media.

“They knew the process of drawing up redistricting lines was so flawed that they lumped it in a bill with teacher evaluations, pensions and the DNA database and voted on it after midnight,” he said. “We didn’t walk out because we were cowardly, we walked out because we did not want to stand for a sham like that. It was a shame what they did. It was a protest to show that night was not a good night for government.

It was a night the people’s voice was silenced.”

Addabbo said it is the people’s voice that he represents in the Senate.

“In my Senate chamber chair, I see 350,000 people crammed in. I listen, then lead. That’s the oath I took,” he said. “Someone who gets elected and just does what they want to do is called a dictator.”