To say Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) is excited about the coming City Council session would be a gross understatement.
Re-elected to his first full term this month, he will be working with a new mayor he likes, a new speaker and a new Council membership he believes will be more attuned to the ideas of its Progressive Caucus.
Richards called education his top priority during his campaign, and he is fully behind Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio’s efforts to fund universal preschool and afterschool programs with a surtax on incomes of more than $500,000.
“Students need access to those programs,” Richards said. “This year I funded five schools. But there are 32 in my district. Do the math and you still have a huge gap to be filled.”
De Blasio’s plan needs approval from a governor and state legislators up for re-election in 11 months, and there are doubts that they will accommodate the new mayor. Richards said nevertheless that he will push to find the money somewhere, though he draws the line at a property tax increase.
Consulting fees paid by the Department of Education and other agencies, he said, are ripe for harvesting cost savings.
“There’s so many things that we can do in-house and redirect that money,” he said.
The councilman also wants the NYPD to establish a new police precinct — tentatively the 116th — out of the southern portion of the existing 105th Precinct, which has headquarters in Queens Village.
A new precinct also topped the recent priority list for Community Board 13.
“That is going to be a heavy lift for an incoming mayor, but it needs to be done,” Richards said. “The satellite station in Rosedale isn’t enough.”
Richards said the physical distance between the northern and southern extremes of the precinct can mean delays if an incident causes too many patrol cars to be concentrated in one area on a given shift.
Continuing the themes of education and new facilities, Richards wants to begin the process to modernize and expand branches of the Queens Library in Rosedale and Laurelton, things he said will provide countless benefits. He wants to have all necessary funding and community input in place within two years.
Flooding, both chronic and possible with another hurricane like Sandy, also are in his sights. He sees progress for long-suffering residents coming out of the Department of Environmental Protection, which he said has committed to $200 million in sewer and drainage projects within the district over the next several years.
He also wants to establish a system to track where federal Sandy relief money is going.
“Everyone heard about the Rockaways, but people in places like Rosedale were hurt too, with just as much water in their homes,” he said.
Richards said Sandy did force the city to begin ferry service in the Rockaways, which he wants expanded out to the east and into Kennedy Airport.