“Restoring the Long Island dream”: NY union organizer challenges Republican incumbent for District 15 Assembly

by Simon Ahn and Kiki Sideris

The Long Island boy who started working as a glazier just before his 19th birthday is now running for New York State’s District 15 Assembly on a quest to restore the Long Island dream.

That’s Allen Foley, 29, who wants to fight for the working class on Long Island. Today, he juggles working full-time as a union organizer while running as the Democratic candidate for New York State’s District 15 Assembly, against eight-year incumbent Michael Montesano.

“That’s tough,” Foley said about balancing the tasks. “But I’m making it work.”

The main goals of his Assembly run involve easing the tax burden, passing a $15 minimum wage, allocating more funds to education, securing funds for research on gun violence, organizing labor, modernizing infrastructure and protecting women’s rights—a campaign he calls “Restoring the Long Island Dream.”

“I truly believe that Long Island used to symbolize the American Dream,” Foley said. “Just a father could work and raise a family here. Now, you have both spouses working full time and just scraping by. We need to get back to that affordability on Long Island.”

The median household income in Nassau County is $105,870, according to City-data.com. However, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a family of two adults and two children in the Nassau/Suffolk area would need to earn a combined $139,545 per year to live comfortably.

Foley says he has achieved the Long Island dream. He started working as a glazier just before his 19th birthday, making “good money” at a young age. Eventually, he saved up enough to buy a house in Hicksville at the age of 25, a feat he credits to his mother, who taught him to “be smart with money,” and his fiancé, who gave him “that extra push” to move out of his apartment.

Watching his mother get back on her feet after his parents split up and working with blue collar individuals inspired Foley to fight for working class families.

“Allen truly enjoys offering help to his family [and] cares greatly about those that he loves,” Guy, Foley’s older brother said. “He cares equally about the Long Island community and where our Long Island is today.”

The campaign website touts that Long Islanders need “a livable wage, affordable housing, equal access to education, and more importantly—opportunity.”

“Many of the issues Long Islanders face today are because of lack of blue collar jobs that pay a good wage,” Davon Lomax, Foley’s coworker and political director of the District Council 9 (DC9), a labor union organization which unites workers of different trades, including glaziers, painters, and decorators, said.

“As an organizer working day and night, Allen will put in the work to make sure his constituents are able to afford a middle class living.”

Now, Foley is an organizer for DC9, where he helps unorganized workers join the union to get the pay and benefits he says they deserve.

“Thanks to him I got my health insurance going,” Sergio Campos, a welder who has been in the union since March, said about Foley.

Foley is a peoples’ person, said Campos, a quality that will help him succeed in office.

“I’ve worked with countless people who come from all over the world and different backgrounds,” Foley said. “So you have to be willing to adapt to change.”

His campaign manager Tyler Muzio adds, “He’s a great guy to work with, very relaxed yet determined.”

Several labor unions endorsed Foley, including UAW Local 259 and United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Planned Parenthood Empire State, District 16 Legislator Arnold Drucker and NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli also endorsed Foley.

Republicans have occupied the NYS Assembly District 15 seat since 1985, while Assemblyman Montesano has held the position since 2010.

“If [Foley is] elected as the first Democrat in 30 years, everyone benefits,” Michael Digiuseppe, Communications Coordinator of UAW Local 259, said. “He’ll be forced to exercise a level of accountability that’s not seen in [the] gerrymandered district.” Diguiseppe refers to a “one-party rule,” where only one political party exists.

Montesano’s office was not available for comment.

But Foley remains hopeful for the polls on Nov. 6.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Foley said. “But I imagine it [winning] will be an incredible feeling.”