N. Nick Perry, the East Flatbush Assemblyman and recently elected chairman of the State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus has been serving in the Assembly since 1992.
Originally, from Jamaica, Perry immigrated to the Unites States in 1971, and immediately volunteered for the U.S. Army where he served for two years of active duty and four years on reserve status. He is the recipient of several service medals and was honorably discharged with the rank of Specialist E-5.
Perry then attended college on the G.I. Bill, graduating from Brooklyn College with a B.A. in Political Science, and later studied for an M.A. in Public Policy and Administration.
The following is a phone interview.
KCP: How have you been occupying yourself now that the legislative session has ended?
I’ve been very busy trying to catch up with constituent meeting requests, block association meetings, and meeting with young folks that want to talk to me about careers and jobs.
What are your plans as Chair of the State Black, Puerto Rican, Latino and Asian Legislative Caucus so far as setting an agenda and policy positions?
Since becoming chairman, I’ve been regularly consulting with my colleagues that make up the leadership and trying to put together a conference later in the fall. Once we all get together, we’ll set up a realistic agenda of what we hope to accomplish during the year and in the next legislative session.
What do you think of the current very public feud between Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio?
Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio are two politicians. They each have strong convictions on issues and policies, and wouldn’t be in the position they hold if they were not bold and strong leaders. They have some differences, but I think the press makes to much in any little difference in their relationships. The mayor cannot allow himself to develop an image of weakness. He has to pay attention to that. Politics is about image 90 percent of the time. It is detrimental to the mayor’s future if he allows himself to be pictured as a weakling. I guess he needs to sound off as far as his frustration are concerned. The mayor and governor understand how they operate. They each represent substantial parts of New York.
So who do you back in this current feud?
It would be foolish to take one side or the other. I have to work with both the mayor and the governor.
As a U.S. Army veteran who has served overseas, what do you think of the President’s proposed deal with Iran that the international community will end economic sanctions in return for verifiable means that Iran won’t develop nuclear weapons?
In the past we’ve pursued policies where you block yourself off at the end of the tunnel so there’s no light. We did the same thing with Cuba and China. We didn’t talk to them and ignored them until they came begging, but that’s unrealistic. It doesn’t happen. You can never end problems without some relationship. If I was Israel, I would be extremely worried about it, but America is in a position to make a bold move. If it doesn’t work out we’re strong enough to defend ourselves and our allies.
Finally, what your views on criminal justice reform?
The criminal justice system for hundreds of years has never been fair, and not just to African-Americans, but to Asians, Latinos and every minority group. It wasn’t intended to be that way, but just evolved that way. Johnnie Cochran (the late criminla attorney)said your innocent until proven poor. That said, we have some momentum nationally and on the state level to make it a fairer justice system for all Americans.