County Executive Laura Curran addresses local issues
Photo courtesy of Nassau County
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran spoke to students, faculty and administrators about progress and reoccurring problems, some which have been linked to the opioid epidemic, plaguing the surrounding area over breakfast on Thursday, Sept. 13. The event, “Envisioning a Future for Nassau County,” took place at the Hofstra University Club and was co-sponsored by Northwell Health, the Hofstra ideaHUb, Transdev, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Scott Skodnek Business Development Center (BDC).
Curran’s keynote speech was part of the BDC’s Distinguished Lecture Series, which, according to Programs Administrator April Jones, “brings together leaders of Long Island’s business community and offers them the opportunity to interact with some of the world’s most powerful and influential thinkers in fields such as finance, politics, media and technology.”
“It was a great opportunity for Hofstra students to be able to learn about the agenda of the first female Nassau County Executive, [since] she represents the area where Hofstra is located,” said Stacey Sikes, senior assistant dean for administration at the Hofstra University Center for Entrepreneurship, who introduced Curran at the breakfast. “Many political science students were in attendance and got to talk to Curran before the event.”
One initiative that Curran was particularly “hopeful” about was the Nassau Hub, a revitalization of the area surrounding the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum just a stone’s throw away from Hofstra’s campus.
“It’s been surrounded by acres of parking lot for decades … [and] we’ve got a plan going forward to finally develop it,” Curran said. One of the first-term Democrat’s initiatives was to assemble the Hub Advisory Task Force, which included Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz, among others. After weighing several options, the group settled on a plan that included affordable housing, as well as a potential research and medical facility for Mount Sinai Hospital.
Curran also worked with the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) to create a campaign centered on “microtargeting the opioid crisis.” Their plan harnesses technology and real-time reporting to “[take] clusters of opioid overdoses, whether fatal or non-fatal, and then [overlay] those with clusters of crimes associated with drug use,” like “breaking into cars [and] stealing iPhones.”
The goal is to map out those clusters and target the communities with the highest overall concentration of recorded connections to drug use. After such areas have been identified, Curran said, “Police go and do scores of arrests. The dealers go to jail. The users get an opportunity to get a diversion to go before a judge and go to treatment.” Town hall meetings where experts educate community members supplement this intervention, as do follow-ups 60 days later.
“We don’t know [why so many young people seek the comfort and numbness of opioids], but we do know that we have to do everything we can to prevent it,” Curran said. “We cannot enforce ourselves out of this crisis.”
Since the start of Curran’s initiative, Nassau County has seen a reduction in fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses.
Professor of political science Rosanna Perotti thought that, as the first female county executive, Curran “was the harbinger of a trend [of women running for office], so I think that’s why there’s so much excitement: This has been a big change in the county.” Other topics that Curran discussed involved overhauling the property assessment system, encouraging transit-oriented development and re-establishing trust in the Nassau County government.
“I found Laura Curran’s speech very informative on what Nassau County has to offer. I was very pleased in her interest of bringing more transit-oriented development to the area,” said David O’Brien, a freshman political science major.
Curran will return to Hofstra’s campus on Tuesday, Sept. 25, with the NCPD for a school safety forum in the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex. Accompanying her will be NCPD Commissioner Patrick J. Ryder and NCPD Foundation Chairman Eric Blumencranz.