Residents of the Sixth Congressional District, which encompasses much of the west, central and northeast sections of the borough, had the chance last week to meet one-on-one with Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) at the Bayside Library during the congresswoman’s fourth “Congress on Your Corner” event.
Those who took advantage of the opportunity discussed issues ranging from lack of jobs and affordable healthcare to overcrowded classrooms and uneven sidewalks.
One Bayside resident, who wished to be identified only as Angela, said she had no real problems, adding, “I’m thinking I’m just not aware. Maybe I’m just ignorant.”
She came, she said, because she had heard “so much about the tale of two cities, I wanted to ask, ‘What is the official New York City poverty income for a single person and for a family of four, and what are the benefits from the city?’
“What does it mean to be rich?” she asked. “How much money do I have to have to be rich?”
Explaining that “I worked, I saved my money, I tried not to live beyond my means,” the retired human resources employee said she suspects she might now be considered to be among the privileged few.
Among those with issues of a more troubling nature was Sai Tong of Bayside, whose children, aged 10 and 8, attend what he calls a “very crowded” neighborhood public school. “I hope maybe she can do something to make the class size a little smaller,” Tong said. “It’s wonderful we get to express our concerns and ideas to someone who hopefully will care.”
Another Bayside resident, Elizabeth Renner, who found Meng “very caring and supportive of community members,” said she spoke to the congresswoman about several issues, including the Affordable Care Act and the lack of jobs.
Renner also discussed her ongoing efforts to get a hearing in front of a congressional committee concerning child custody reform. She is pushing for a bill to protect children involved in “contentious divorce cases” and nationwide reform.
“Cases go on for years,” Renner said. “It’s not fair.”
A member of Lost Mothers, she described the organization as “a nationwide advocacy group for children,” and said Meng promised to meet with them.
Maria Ramirez, also of Bayside, came to discuss the “state of sidewalks in her neighborhood. I love to walk. I had a tremendous accident in March.”
As a result of a fall, Ramirez had to have plastic surgery on her face and lost a month of work, she said.
“I didn’t see the sidewalk was uneven. To this day, nothing has been done,” Ramirez said. “I can’t walk on the sidewalk. The trees have uprooted the sidewalks and no one is making sure the sidewalks are fixed. In winter time it will be even worse.”
“Air noise,” from planes and helicopters flying overhead, particularly in the northeast part of the borough, was another topic brought up during the two-hour meeting time, as were transportation issues.
Meng mentioned that one constituent complained more efficient bus service is needed, particularly near senior centers and schools.
The event, which was co-sponsored by Community Board 11, is part of an ongoing series of one-on-one discussions Meng has held with constituents. The first took place in January in Middle Village, followed by similar events in Fresh Meadows and Pomonok/Electchester.
All four have been held in area libraries, the better to promote their importance, Meng said.
The turnout last Thursday was smaller than it had been at the previous meetings, owing in part to the inclement weather or, possibly, as Jerry Iannece, CB 11’s chairman, observed, “When people are complacent, they don’t come out.”
But that did not deter the congresswoman. “Being accessible to my constituents and discussing the issues and concerns that are important to them remains a top priority of mine,” Meng said.