Mayor de Blasio Tells Town Hall Meeting
By Mohamed Alim Hassim
QUEENS, NEW YORK — The Richmond Hill-Ozone Park community can expect more facilities for seniors in the near future, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced.
“We want to make sure that we are reaching more and more seniors in a way that makes sense to them, in terms of their cultures, their languages and their needs,” Mayor de Blasio said at a town hall meeting hosted by his office and the office of State Senator James Sanders, at the August Martin High School in Jamaica, Queens, on Monday, October 16th.
In response to a question from community advocate Vishnu Mahadeo, the Mayor stated, “In terms of Richmond Hill, you’re gonna see some announcements coming up soon about adding capacity to our senior centers so we can serve a bigger and broader community.”
The town hall meeting attracted a large number of residents in District 28. The mayor took the opportunity to highlight some of the work the city has done for the district and disclosed plans for further improvements to the quality of life in the neighborhoods.
The mayor highlighted the notable reduction in crime in every precinct in the district and referred specifically to the 113th Precinct where he said there has been an overall reduction in crime by 10 percent and a 53 percent reduction in shootings over the past year.
While lauding the work of the NYPD which has added some 2000 more officers on patrol across the city, the mayor also stressed the importance of neighborhood policing.
“Neighborhood policing as a strategy and a philosophy is crucial. In our neighborhoods also there leaders who are making huge difference in reducing violence and they work in their ways to reduce violence, while the NYPD works in its ways to reduce violence, and there is a respectful relationship between those efforts,” Mayor de Blasio said.
He singled out for praise “the extraordinary effort of the Cure Violence Program” and recognized Erica Ford, who heads LIFE Camp, Inc in South Jamaica, Queens. These programs work to prevent youth violence in the community, by treating it like an epidemic – by tackling it at its source. “I wanna commend you and thank you for your amazing achievements and how much you have contributed to a safer New York City,” the mayor said.
He announced the “statistic of the day”, noting, “In Life Camp’s catchment area, for the past three and a half years that they have been working there, there has not been a single murder. Erica, the City of New York is proud to support you and we hope to continue doing so for a long long time.”
The mayor touched on the topic of illegal dumping, which he described as “a real issue in this community.”
“We will double the number of sanitation enforcement officers in South East Queens. We need to do a better job,” de Blasio said, adding that he will be pushing for legislation to raise the fine for illegal dumping from $1200 to $5000 “and higher if they are repeat offenders.”
He stressed, “We want to say to the illegal dumpers that we mean business and there will be consequences.”
Mayor de Blasio announced that the city is making big changes in education. Referring to one his signature programs, he noted, “In this City Council district the number of full-day preschool seats in just four years have quadrupled.” He added that this program will be introduced gradually in all the districts across New York City.
The mayor also announced that the city now offers free after school programs for every middle school student. “Please let everyone know that any child in 6th, 7th and 8th grade now gets after school for free in New York City,” the mayor told the gathering.
“It’s a difference maker. It means that our young people are safe and sound. They get tutoring, they get cultural activities and recreation. Sometimes it’s in their very own school building, sometimes its some place else nearby in the community, but it is a available. And in this community we have tripled the number of after school programs in the last four years,” he added.
Vision Zero Initiative
The mayor spoke about of the city’s Vision Zero initiative which is aimed at protecting the public by making the streets safer and reducing traffic deaths and injuries. “Over the last three years we have seen the number of accidents and deaths go down and there is a lot more we have to do,” de Blasio said, adding “There are too many streets that are two way and are really really narrow and people cannot get by, and its a crash waiting to happen… So I am proud to say in downtown Jamaica in just the most recent time, we have turned 12 two-way streets into one-way streets to make them safer.”
He also said on the city’s transportation department is installing more speed bumps as it sees fit. On the same day of the town hall meeting, the mayor said, one was installed near the Sikh Cultural Society building on 118 Street in Richmond Hill, “which is an important site in our community.”
The mayor said, “They were asking for a long time to do something to slow down the traffic and protect the community and literally, today, the department of transportation installed a speed bump infront of the building to help the community be safe.”
Mayor de Blasio acknowledged that there is a flooding problem in the district “unlike any place in the city.” In this vein, he announced, “I am proud to tell you we are putting two billion dollars into addressing and ending the flooding problem in this community. Soon you will see about 50 projects to improve sewers in the community including new sewers in certain area.”
The mayor was asked by Mohamed Amin, executive director of the Caribbean Equality Project (CEP), about changes he intend to implement regarding how the law deals with persons that use hate speech that results in violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. In response the mayor said, “If there is hate speech and there is an act of violence at the same time, that is a bias crime and that language is absolutely what we act on. We are very aggressive in the city in addressing hate crime and hate speech is part of how we define a hate crime.”