Bucking the Trump era political divisiveness of the country, a Republican Assembly member and the Democratic opponent she defeated in November got together to break bipartisan bread over lunch in a Bay Ridge diner Friday afternoon and found, to their delight, that they agreed on many issues.
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, whose district includes parts of Bay Ridge and Staten Island, picked up the tab for Democrat Adam Baumel at the Royal Restaurant at 7609 Fifth Ave.
The two, who had faced in other in numerous debates during the campaign, got in touch shortly after Malliotakis defeated Baumel in the Nov. 6 election and agreed to meet in a convivial setting to discuss issues.
“The election is over. It’s important for Republicans and Democrats to work together,” Malliotakis said. Baumel agreed, saying that he also believes it is important “to learn about different ideologies and perspectives.” Baumel also said he has had arguments with fellow Democrats who seem to hate Republican President Donald Trump more than they want the country to do well.
Baumel, a U.S. Navy veteran and a first-time political candidate, jumped at the chance to have lunch with Malliotakis, an experienced lawmaker now entering her fifth term in the state Assembly representing the 64th Assembly District.
Over lunch (grilled cheese for Malliotakis, French toast for Baumel) at a back table in the busy diner, the two former opponents talked about transportation, education and other issues.
One big topic was transportation. They agreed that the city’s transit system is a mess.
“It shouldn’t take you two hours a day to get to your job,” Baumel said.
Malliotakis said she has invited Metropolitan Transportation Authority President Andrew Byford to take a ride on the R train with her “so he can see what my constituents go through every day.”
Malliotakis and Baumel both want the tolls reduced on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The toll is currently $17. A proposal by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would increase it to $19.
Baumel, who works as a driver for a ride-share service, said that of the 80,000 service vehicles on New York City streets, only 400 are wheelchair accessible.
The two former opponents agreed that changes are needed in the education system and that providing resources for vocational education in high school is part of the solution. Not every student is meant to go to college, they agreed. “Not everyone has the same path to success,” Baumel said.
“You have to give students more options. If they can learn a trade, they can get into a union and get a good paying job,” Malliotakis said.
“Plumbers make six figures,” Baumel pointed out.
But Malliotakis and Baumel are on opposite sides politically and there are still several areas of disagreement.
Malliotakis opposes the New York Dream Act, which would provide free college tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants. Baumel supports it.
Baumel favors legalizing marijuana for recreational use, while Malliotakis said the state law legalizing pot for medical purposes goes far enough.
Malliotakis and Baumel enjoyed comparing notes on what it’s like for a candidate on the campaign trail. They both had fun visiting senior citizen centers and chatting with the seniors.
And both lost weight because of the breakneck pace of a campaign. Crisscrossing the district, knocking on doors and shaking hands at community meetings doesn’t leave much time to eat.