Getting to business in the county
Greg Fischer is running for Suffolk County executive on the Libertarian Party line in the upcoming elections.
Fischer, 62, from Calverton, sees himself as an alternative to the well-known county executive, Steve Bellone, and his challenger, Suffolk County comptroller John Kennedy. “Elections are not popularity contests,” he said, adding his opinion that “lawyers can’t fix [the county’s] problems.”
Professionally, Fischer is a consultant to businesses, nonprofits and government. His clients, according to a Suffolk County Democratic Committee bio, have ranged from the City of New York and U.S. Department of Justice to Boar’s Head and Dannon Yogurt.
Fischer believes his experience would be an asset to the county. “I know how to make people win,” he added. “When you’re doing business, you don’t say, ‘Let’s talk to a lawyer.’ You say, ‘Let’s talk to a [businessperson].’”
The majority of our conversation with Fischer last week focused on the economy, which he says is “wrecked,” and contributes to the number of residents who have already left Long Island or are planning to leave.
The U.S. Census Bureau found, earlier this year, that Suffolk’s population had dropped over 2,400 between this April and last July alone (1,483,571 to 1,481,093). Nevertheless, Suffolk remains the fourth-most populated county in New York State, behind Brooklyn, Queens and New York City. Nassau comes in at No. 6.
About 71 percent of young adults currently living in Long Island plan on leaving the region within the next five years, according to a survey that was conducted by the Long Island Index last year. The same survey also found that 59 percent of all adults are likely to relocate in the years ahead.
“My ancestors left Europe due to the lack of economic opportunities,” Fischer said. “It’s a big deal to have to leave where you grew up and where you live.”
His comments mirrored the above study’s findings that expensive housing and low average income are largely contributing to the apparent population withdrawals.
“We created an entire generation of kids that can’t move out,” he added. “That’s basically homelessness.”
Fischer argues that residents’ paychecks didn’t keep up with the cost of living. “Civil service [workers’ pay] went up, but other people’s medium income went down,” he said.
When asked about the controversial Island Hills development, Fischer said Sayville is going to eventually “rise up” like Patchogue. He added that local politicians, on the town level, would ultimately decide the fate of projects like these on a case-by-case basis.
Fischer prefers to focus on “overdevelopment in general,” which he describes as the “next bubble.” He says these developments benefit the developers, not renters or the community. The inevitable high cost of rent, he added, makes these developments a “scam” because they’re initially marketed as affordable housing.
In regards to the region’s opioid problem, Fischer says it’s largely caused by economic hardships. He added that the focus on gangs, like MS-13, contributing to the drug problem is misguided. “It’s not the big issue,” he said. “[The opioid problem] is symptomatic of a failing economy.”
Fischer also voiced his support for Scared Straight programs, where young people are brought to prisons and sober homes to see, firsthand, the slippery slope to what addiction can cause.
“People want to feel good,” he said. “But it’s an awful way to be and it’s best to avoid that first taste.”
Fischer expressed criticism of fusion voting, an arrangement where more than one political party nominates the same candidate. He applauded the 14 candidates who are running within Suffolk County solely under the Libertarian line. There are 38 other Libertarian candidates, he pointed out, who have cross-endorsements. “This is a real campaign,” he said, regarding his bid for county executive.
He also stated that if elected, it’s a goal of his not to take a salary until he improves the county’s bond rating.
Fischer recently made two unsuccessful runs on Democratic Party lines for New York State senate (District 1) in 2018 and 2016, respectively. He is a single father of four children: Adam, 33, Andrew, 31, Clark, 15, and Anna, 12