MINEOLA, NY – Madeline Singas, the Chief Assistant District Attorney (ADA) to Nassau County District Attorney (DA) Kathleen Rice, is part of an exceptional team of energetic and innovative public servants whose work fighting crime has benefited the people of Long Island.
After Rice was elected to represent New York’s 4th Congressional District, Singas, with her boss’ support, made the decision to run for DA.
If Governor Andrew Cuomo takes no action, Singas will be the Acting DA going into the November 3 election, although Cuomo can formally appoint Singas, or someone else. It is not yet clear if she would need a primary election.
Her candidacy is an homage to the American Dream, as she made clear during her December 30 visit to The National Herald.
In the 1960s there was a Greek-American DA in Rensselaer Country, but Singas would be the first Greek woman and the first Greek to be DA in in a heavily-populated district in New York; more than 1 million people live in Nassau.
A strong fundraising push through January 11 would demonstrate her viability as a candidate and Singas is confident the community will come through given her qualifications and the fact that “we have so much ethnic pride in our community.”
“It can only happen here, that my father did not speak English and I am running for DA and my sister is a doctor,” she said.
Once she told father “‘every Greek wants that for his sons – you got it for your daughters.’ I thank God that he was so progressive and encouraged us.”
Her father, Vassilios, first came to the United States in the 1950s and went back to Greece around 1959, when he met and married her mother, Evgenia Liolis.
Singas is proud of her Epirote roots. “Epirotes are a special breed: salt of the earth, hardworking people. They are humble – they don’t show off – and they stick together,” she said.
Her parents first settled in Worcester, MA where there are many Epirotes. First, her older sister, Effie, was born and right after Singas was born the family moved to Astoria. Her parents opened Singas Famous Pizza in nearby Elmhurst.
“My dad was a very proud Greek, but he considered America his home. This is where he made it and had his success. He would always say God bless America,” she told TNH.
“They worked hard at that store for many years but their primary focus was their daughters.” Both attended the St. Demetrios Day school, the Bronx High School of Science, and then Barnard College. “Our paths separated when she went to medical school and I went to law school at Fordham.”
Asked about the divergence, Singas said “I always loved reading, writing and politics. I enjoyed the law. It was a natural fit. My father would say I like arguing. I always like to make my points.”
But her father was a good coach. “He was good debater and he would say ‘don’t just say why – tell me why, explain it to me.’”
He taught Singas not to let anything stop her, telling her “‘we can’t give you much, but whatever we can do, we will back you 100 percent.”
“We had the best of everything,” Singas said, but most valuable thing was “that enthusiasm, support, and ethnic pride.”
Her mother, who passed away at 47, reinforced the message, telling Singas, “I never want you rely on anyone. Do your work, study hard, get a degree and whatever comes in life comes, but no one can take away your education.”
After law school, Singas was not sure of what to do. Friends at the Queens DA’s Office urged her to work there. She loved it. “Once I got in front of a jury, the first time I helped a victim,” she knew she was exactly where she needed and wanted to be.
One day, after successes accumulated, a new young assistant blurted out “are you Madeline Singas?” She thought he was going to mention her trials and other achievements, but he said “You are Singas Famous Pizza!”
She rose through the ranks up to handling very serious cases and she helped start a bureau to fight domestic violence, which was becoming an epidemic. “Judge Richard Brown, to his credit, built a nationally-renowned bureau…he went to every homicide scene in Queens and said ‘I’m tired of seeing these young women being murdered. We have to figure out a way to stop it.”
After Rice became DA in 2006, she heard about Singas’ reputation and recruited her to create and head the Special Victims Squad that handled domestic violence, including elder and child abuse, in Nassau County.
The important work includes both prosecuting and reaching out and educating people. “We do a lot of work with schools,” she said, and one of the most important things they address is heroin addiction, which is rampant on all socio-economic levels. “It’s a great equalizer,” she said sadly, “same thing as domestic violence.”
Asked about how the Greek-American community compares with similar groups in those matters, she said, “based on my experience, it exists, and it’s probably the same as in other groups…they don’t like to talk about it, but people are becoming more educated and we are making a dent in it.” Although very few Greek churches and community organizations have reached out to her office, she thinks it would be a good idea.
DA’S VITAL ROLE
Few citizens know how big an operation the DA’s office is. Nassau’s DA has a $34 million budget and 400 employees. Much of its resources are now devoted to prevention, “educating young people and giving them choices and programs and helping families work through problems,” she said.
When it came to adolescents, it was realized that that officials had a responsibility beyond just prosecuting crimes. In the case of shoplifters, they now say “Let’s look at this kid. Why is he stealing? Does he have a drug habit or did he steal because he was with a group of friends who dared him to do it?,” Singas said. “Those are two very different kids and we have to treat them differently and we never did before…now we get at the root cause of their crimes.”
Asked if the shift in paradigms is an example of changes in government as women rise in authority, Singas said “I think that is part of it…but part of it is having a smarter approach to crime. We can’t arrest our way out of everything…we need a holistic approach.”
They work closely with police and community groups and churches. Singas also acknowledged that prosecutors now rely more on academic and scientific studies “and there are more and more available, which helps us. We can study something and see what is happening, what is working and not working.” She noted that DAs across the country share data and experience.
“We are always evolving and trying to become smarter prosecutors in order to drive crime down. And I will continue to do that if elected,” she told TNH.