A normally calm Community Board 4 got unusually testy at its Tuesday meeting.
During the legislators’ reports, the topic of the controversial Willets Point development plan prompted one board member to quarrel with an aide for Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst).
CB 4’s Judith D’Andrea vehemently expressed her opposition to the proposed construction of a mall near Citi Field and a hotel and office space across the street, where a number of auto body shops currently operate, as she claimed it’s just another instance of legislators moving forward without community support.
“It’s parkland,” D’Andrea said in reference to the Citi Field parking lot, which is a part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and subject of a new lawsuit. [See separate story]. “I’m tired of legislators and our elected officials ramming these things down our throats and all they keep saying is that it will bring jobs. What kind of jobs? Are they union jobs? Are they low-paying jobs? Those questions are not being answered.”
Ferreras’ representative Ivan Acosta, a new member to her staff, defended the councilwoman.
He repeated that she believes it will bring construction and union jobs, with D’Andrea barking back with questions of whether those jobs will be permanent, to the sound of applause from other board members.
“When she gave her State of the District ... she called Willets Point ‘a valley of ashes,’” Acosta said. “One of the things that will finally be done will be affordable housing. She thinks it will bring jobs and affordable housing to the district.”
“That affordable housing was pushed back to 2025!” D’Andrea fired back. “If you’re going to paint a picture, paint the whole picture.”
After the back-and-forth, Chairman Louis Walker said the board will request Ferreras’ presence at a future meeting so members can question her over the project.
Later, in a complete change of tone, Borough President Melinda Katz addressed the community board to multiple rounds of applause, with individual members personally thanking her for her work after her remarks.
Katz, who was present for the Willets Point debate but did not speak about it, reinforced her support for issues ranging from the preservation of the New York State Pavilion to universal pre-K.
“It’s about time that there’s an acknowledgement in this city that anything less than full day pre-K is unacceptable,” Katz said. “You should have the opportunity, no matter what neighborhood you live in, no matter what your income bracket is, no matter what you can afford, to get pre-K for your child.”
Katz also made reference to the substandard attendance rate of some board members in recent months, which sparked Walker to warn the panel that the borough president wouldn’t accept it.
“It’s good to see so many of you here at the meeting this month,” Katz said tongue-in-cheek.
Members also held elections for the board’s top spots, with Walker, Al Perna and Alton Smith being unanimously elected chairman, first vice chairman and second vice chairman respectively.