By DR. DHANPAUL NARINE
It was Richard David’s first Town Hall event. There was one attendee followed by another; before long the ‘Richi Rich Palace’ was packed with elected officials, and persons representing various organizations. Richmond Hill had not seen such a gathering in a long time and many remarked that the meeting was historic.
Congressman Gregory Meeks has a track record for reaching out to the diverse communities in Queens and to listen to their concerns. He interacted in an easy- going manner but was mindful of the seriousness of the occasion. His picture was emblazoned on the wall. The Congressman was prepared for tough questions from the audience.
District Leader, Richard David must have been pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face that light up the television screens. The gentleman was Senator Chuck Schumer, one of two Senators to represent New York State in the US Senate, in Washington. The other is Kirsten Gillibrand. Senator Schumer entered the Palace like a rock star. He was welcomed with enthusiasm and the excitement was high. Everyone wanted to hear his plans for New York. The latest in Washington, with the impeachment hearings was also uppermost in their minds. Senator Schumer did not disappoint.
He said that he works closely with Congressman Meeks to improve the quality of life in Southeast Queens. According to Senator Schumer, ‘things are very tough in Washington. President Donald Trump has chosen to divide us and he has chosen to hurt New York in a variety of ways. He has been just terrible for the middle class and those that aspire to get to the middle class. If you are wealthy he is on your side.’
Senator Schumer dealt with the impeachment trial in Washington. He said that if the matter reaches the Senate he would want to get all the facts out before a decision is made. He also pointed out that apart from impeachment there are other issues that affect the country and they should be discussed. As far as health care is concerned, many people in Queens and in New York face increasing costs. The deductibles and co-pays are too high. People are generally paying for most of their health care.
Senator Schumer has a plan. He said that, ‘should I become majority leader one of the first things I will do is to reform health care in a dramatic way.’ He then turned his attention to infrastructure. The bridges, roads, and subways are old. He would push for a trillion dollar infrastructure. He said that most of the grants given out by President Trump were to the South. But if the Democrats take over the Senate he and Congressman Meeks would push for a trillion dollar budget for New York.
This would help minorities and would be a blessing for the community. Housing was identified as a priority area. Mr. Schumer said that, ‘our housing is such that it is getting harder for young people to afford a home and our public housing in Southeast Queens is deteriorating due to the lack of funding and good supervision.’
In a diverse community as Queens it was inevitable that immigration should feature in the discussion. Mr. Schumer stated that the strength of America lies in its immigrants and he singled out persons from the Caribbean and Asia, in Southeast Queens, for their hard work. ‘ Immigration is what America is about. Every immigrant is special. Immigrants come to America for a better life and for Donald Trump to disparage immigrants, and peoples of color, is just despicable. We will pass comprehensive immigration reforms once we get back the Senate,’ he added.
Mr. Schumer connected well with his audience and his presentation drew constant applause. He described his working class background; he was the only one in his family that went to college and he knows what it is like to make ends meet. The idea is to provide ladders for people to advance. These should be in education, to make college affordable, to open the doors for employment, and to provide better health care, among others.
The House has passed 218 Bills that touched on a number of areas, including voter registration. Mitch McConnell has not put any of them on the floor. Senator Schumer said that the Senate could be described these days as a ‘legislative graveyard’ in which middle-class and poor people are crying out for help.
Senator Schumer promised to work hard to become the Majority Leader and said that he would put Bills on the floor to effect change. The audience responded with great enthusiasm to the Senator’s speech. He mixed with the people, took pictures and thanked those present for their support. District Leader, Richard David remarked that it was an honor to have Senator Schumer present and he hoped that the relationship with the community would be stronger.
Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman then addressed the meeting. She reminded everyone about the importance of the 2020 Census. She asked all to participate so they could be counted and get the services to which they are entitled. ‘The Census comes on stream next year,’ Ms. Hyndman said. ‘We have a real problem in Southeast Queens about being counted.
Our people complain about the dollars but to keep the dollars we have to participate in the Census. We want to keep our Congressional members in the State of New York so we are asking you to take part in the Census.’
Richard David thanked all for attending and he singled out Jernail Singh, the owner of Richi Rich Palace, for his support and for hosting the event free of cost.
(Next issue: Congressman Meeks answers questions).
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.