State Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso shares struggles

D’Urso discusses his life story out of poverty as a public servant


Courtesy of August Zeiden

State Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso speaks to a group of students in the library about his life story as a politician. D’Urso interacted with the students in a question-and-answer session after school on Dec. 12.

August Zeidman , Features Editor

On Dec. 12, Schreiber hosted a Q&A session with State Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso.  As Port Washington resident and a first term representative of this district, D’Urso was invited to come take students’ questions and speak about his experiences, past and present, in public service.

D’Urso was born in Italy on the doorstep of World War Two.  He grew up in poverty under first a fascist government and the chaotic postwar period.  He explained how this experience—especially seeing how the government did precious little to improve the lives of its constituents—inspired him to one day join the public service.

“t was great being able to meet one of the people that make the biggest impact on my local community,”  said Danie DiRuggiero.

After arriving in the United States with few possessions and little education, D’Urso spent many months at night school, eventually getting a GED while climbing the ranks at a construction firm.  He was eventually hired by the Housing Development Administration of New York City, where he spent three decades leading a team that built apartments for low-income individuals.  This experience was D’Urso’s first serving the public and he was instantly engrossed.  He learned about the fulfilling nature of public service, but he was also exposed to the ugly side of government when he had to turn down bribes and other forms of coercion.

Later, he became a town councilman of North Hempstead, his first elected position.  He was committed to infrastructure projects, the development of parks, and solving the fiscal problems of the town, with one solution going so far as to cut his own pay by 25%.  Under his tenure, more miles of road were paved and more trees planted in the Town of North Hempstead than ever before.

After serving on the town council for over a decade, D’Urso left his job to entirely devote himself to aid projects in nations such as Kenya and Nicaragua.  Between 2006 and 2016, he made dozens of trips to these countries.  After 2010, He also went to Haiti to build schools, housing facilities and infrastructure in impoverished communities.  He was able to use his skills as a civil engineer for New York City to benefit some of the most desperate people in the world.  According to D’Urso,   this work made him a more humble person and gave him a better perspective on the struggles of others.

“I have so much respect for Assemblyman D’Urso and his story,” said DiRuggiero.  “He worked his way up from a young immigrant who spoke no English and only had a middle school education to a politician representing thousands of people in the state assembly.”

D’Urso moved to Port Washington in 2016, when he was invited to run for State Assembly for his district. He later won the election for the Democratic Party.  Since then, he has drafted and sponsored several bills in the Assembly, including environmental protections and a proposal to ease tax burden on veterans.  D’Urso said that as a freshman assemblyman, it is good to sit and watch for a little while. That being said, he has some grand ambitions, as he aims to remove money from politics and seriously reform campaign finance.

“His backstory and life out of politics was really quite interesting as he came from a really underprivileged background,” said junior Dalia Bercow. “It was really inspiring.”

According to D’Urso, the biggest issue facing Port Washington at the state level is the misconception that every resident is absurdly wealthy.  While this is an accurate assessment for a tiny fraction of the town, that assumption discounts the significant middle and working class families who call Port Washington home. As a result, the town often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to funding battles and the town is left with fewer resources to help its residents in need.  He aims to resolve this issue and change legislators’ perception of Port so that all residents can get the resources they deserve.

At the Q&A session, Anthony D’Urso revealed that he prefers the term “public servant” to “politician.”  By speaking with several students, he was able to discuss his life story of how he was able to raise himself out of poverty and ultimately become a successful government employee.   The students involved were very thankful for his visit and expressed their belief that Port Washington should be proud to have as the State Assemblyman a man who dedicated years of his life to help improve the community.