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Queens Chronicle

De Blasio talks the issues in Jamaica

Mayor touches upon schools, jails, parks, NYCHA and more

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Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2017 10:30 am

She’s 8 years old and, at least for a few moments, she stole the spotlight from Mayor de Blasio at his town hall meeting with residents of City Council District 28 at August Martin High School in Jamaica Monday evening.

Coming up just about to the mayor’s waist, Alayna Khan stood in front of hundreds of concerned citizens from the area, many of whom came armed with questions regarding everything from affordable housing to transportation for seniors, and let the mayor know in no uncertain terms that she wants Baisley Pond Park cleaned up.

In response, de Blasio made one of several major announcements: He promised upgrades to the park’s fitness equipment to the tune of $850,000; renovations to the running track for $3 million; and renovations to the soccer/football field in the amount of $6 million.

Those figures paled in comparison, however, to the $2 billion he promised that would go toward “addressing and ending” the flooding problem in the community.

The event, held as the mayor runs for re-election against state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) and other third-party candidates, was co-sponsored by state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park), who moderated, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica), and Borough President Melinda Katz who, in her welcome address, said she looked forward to a “rambunctious but meaningful” meeting.

A lot of territory was covered but for nearly three solid hours the crowd remained relatively low-key, as several topics kept resurfacing, with a distinct emphasis on housing.

Acknowledging that the homelessness problem is at crisis level, the mayor said, “We are going to reorient the whole system; if people become homeless, they’ll be sheltered in their own borough and as close to their home neighborhood as possible.”

One goal, he added, is to shelter people in the same community district they come from.

“We need to make sure that we get out of the hotels,” de Blasio said, adding, though, that “this is going to take several years. We need shelters that are actual shelters.”

The mayor was temporarily stumped by one question posed by a retired nurse who asked about living conditions in Northeastern Towers, where she lives, and other residences in the area. She fears that seniors were especially vulnerable to uncontrolled “vermin, grime and garbage.”

When no one on his team stood up to address the issue, the mayor quipped, “We found a problem here, haven’t we?” and called upon a representative from the Department of Health to field the question.

“We have to have a holistic policy because we’re going to be doing more and more senior housing all over the city and we need to have clear health standards,” de Blasio said.

In response to one attendee’s comment, the mayor stated, “We’re not privatizing” the New York City Housing Authority. “NYCHA is public land, public property, controlled by the city.” He said the city does not lose control of the land under his housing plans and “we never lose control of the decision making. I do not believe in privatization.”

There were also several calls for more community centers in the district, prompting de Blasio to announce that the Baisley House Community Center, closed since 2008, “will be a community center again.” He cautioned that how it will be run and what programs it will offer remain up for discussion.

The much-in-the-news plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex reared its head, eliciting from the mayor the opinion that “it has to be closed. We have to do something very different going forward. It’s going to take 10 years to do it, but I’m committed to doing it.”

Part of the plan, he said, means that people sentenced to serve time at Rikers for up to one year will leave with a guarantee of a transitional job “to help them on the right track.”

The mayor said there is a need for new jail facilities in four of the five boroughs. The old Queens House of Detention, he said, is being considered as one location, with a larger jail facility. The process, he said, will include public hearings and “full community input. That is the only site in Queens we’re looking at.”

One attendee questioned the discrepancy between the percentage of students graduating from the city’s high schools and the percentage of those who are actually prepared for college. The mayor admitted, “Our graduation requirements and college readiness are not aligned. It will take a long time to align them.”

Part of his plan is “an initiative to get all our kids reading on grade level by third grade,” he said. Middle school students, he added, need to have more afterschool enrichment available to them, and he suggested there should be Advanced Placement classes for all high school students.

“All of these pieces we have to fire on all cylinders to get that college readiness level up,” he said. “We won’t get a perfect correlation between graduation and college readiness, but we can get a lot closer.”

Audience questions on a number of other topics received responses from the mayor, among them:

• On quality of life: The mayor announced plans for $2.6 million in upgrades at Police Officer Edward Byrne Park and $4.6 million in upgrades at Jamaica Playground. In addition, de Blasio promised security cameras at the Baisley Park Houses.

• On hate crimes: “If there is hate speech and an act of violence that happen at the same time, that’s a bias crime. We are very, very aggressive in the city at addressing hate crimes.”

• On the police: In the next two years, every patrol officer will be wearing a body camera, providing the “ultimate act of transparency and accountability.”

• On feared cuts to Medicaid: “I am now hearing some better news from Albany about the [Medicaid] money coming to us. We will continue to verify that.”

• On the need for more cultural institutions: “We believe our cultural funding should be distributed more equitably across the five boroughs to reflect all the cultures that make up New York City. We’re trying to get more equity in the cultural funding ... that should be felt more in Southeast Queens.”

• On transportation: “I’m not at all happy with the way Access-A-Ride is being run.” Noting that it is operated by the state, the mayor expressed an interest in more vehicles as well as “more flexible” vehicles.

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1 comment:

  • CleanUpJamaicaQueens posted at 7:06 am on Fri, Oct 20, 2017.

    CleanUpJamaicaQueens Posts: 249

    The below article shows exactly why deBlasio is a horrible mayor, out of touch and such a damn liar as well as how gullible residents of Jamaica are, who actually broke into applause when he said, “We need to do a better job and put more personnel on it. We will double the number of sanitation officers here in Southeast Queens.”

    NO, deBlasio and administration, you need to do YOUR DAMN JOBS PERIOD, especially in communities like Jamaica where dumping dirty diapers on sidewalks is considered normal.

    You mean you did not see this the conditions when you came out to Jamaica a few months ago for some idiotic photo op BS.

    AND BS is right.

    Funny, that as Public Advocate I sent him photos of all the garbage in the area in 2012 and his office called me and invited me speak with them and then he actually sent someone from his office to come out and have me show him around, while he took photos. SO NOW, he was not aware of the garbage problem as Mayor.


    AND why did this audience applaud this bozo, they should have reamed him for doing nothing the last several years on this issue and ignoring issues in the area, just like the Jamaica elected officials and Queens BP Katz do.

    REMEMBER: You get the community and government you deserve.

    AND garbage is just the tip of the iceberg of all the nonsense in this community and area.