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Queens Residents Raise The Big Issues At Town Hall Meeting

Affordable Rent, Stop-And-Frisk Program Among The Major Concerns
A resident asks a question of our panel at our town meeting in Queens on June 25, 2013. (credit: CBS 2)

A resident asks a question of our panel at our town meeting in Queens on June 25, 2013. (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Queens residents talked about the issues they want to ask mayoral candidates Tuesday evening, in the fourth in a series of town hall meetings.

CBS 2 political reporter Marcia Kramer, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon, and El Diario/La Prensa’s Marlene Peralta were on hand at the Hall Of Science in Queens, as residents talked about the concerns on their minds.

Click Here To Watch The Meeting

CBS 2 News, WCBS Radio 880, 1010 WINS, El Diario/La Prensa, CUNY and Common Cause NY have teamed up to hold one meeting in each borough (click here to attend the final upcoming meeting on Staten Island).

The cost of living in New York City was a major theme at the Queens town hall meeting. Peggy Perry, president of the Cunningham Heights’ Tenants Association, said the rent-stabilized tenants at Cunningham Heights Apartments in Queens Village are being hit with rent hikes and being pushed out of the city.

The tenants include disabled people on fixed income, as well as police officers, sanitation workers and other city employees, and they cannot afford the rent increases, Perry said.

Perry said one police officer tenant told her, “You know the economy is so bad, you would think they would keep the rent fixed, and a lot of people can’t afford it.”

Perry continued, “We’re born here, our children are born here, but we can’t afford to live here anymore.”

Leslie Grubler of United New York Early Intervention Providers complained that cuts to the program, which provides services to disabled children from birth to age 3, have hit employees hard.

She said services have been reduced more in New York City than anywhere else in the state, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has argued in favor of the cuts because the city “authorizes services differently.” She said the service providers, 90 percent of them women, are making less money than 20 years ago.

Phil Koningsberg of the Queens Tobacco Control Coalition called on the mayoral candidates to take a position on the proposal to raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21 in New York City, and also called for more smoke-free housing developments.

Koningsberg also asked the candidates to take a position on a proposal to eliminate part of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for a mall, two stadiums and new roads and parking space. Major League Soccer has pulled away from saying Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is the only option for a stadium in New York, but Koningsberg said none of the candidates have taken a stand on the issue.

“I’m not saying a soccer stadium is not good for Queens,” he said. “It should be purchased land that’s available,” he said.

Barbara Granickas of Howard Beach, Queens, drew applause when she accused the city of failing to repair her neighborhood after Superstorm Sandy.

“After the storm, we didn’t see the Red Cross or the Mayor’s Office for two weeks after the storm,” Granickas said. “For two weeks, my neighborhood; my neighbors were helping each other – no one else.”

She also claimed the city has failed with upkeep at Frank M. Charles Memorial Park, on the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Granickas said it was “in disrepair before Sandy, and now it’s not even a place you want to go.”

“What are they going to do to help my community – not just, ‘Let’s talk about it, let’s study it,’” she said, “because we’re done studying. We’re tired of talking about it.”

A retired nurse said the stop-and-frisk program and police misconduct warrants far greater public discussion.

She discussed several incidents in which people have alleged police misconduct, including one where someone was allegedly beaten by an officer, and another who had a camera smashed for videotaping an officer – which is legal in New York State.

“A forum where individuals will come and tell exactly what happens to them” during stop-and-frisk stops is needed, the woman said.

And Bill Kregler, a member of the Community Education Council District 24, had some less-than-flattering words for Mayor Bloomberg as he took issue with mayoral control of schools. In particular, he took issue with the fact that Bloomberg changed the law to run for a third term.

“He didn’t buy the election. He bought the law, and in the process made all our votes worthless,” Kregler said.

Questions about whether city school buses are being used efficiently, and complaints about a proposal by U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to kill geese at John F. Kennedy International Airport, were among the many other issues addressed at the town hall meeting.

Click here to attend an upcoming meeting as we continue our collective listening tour around the five boroughs of New York City. The last will be on Staten Island on June 27 at Wagner College.

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