Bronx Residents Turn Out To Talk Election Year Issues At Town Meeting

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Bronx residents gathered at Lehman College Monday night to discuss mayoral election year issues with a panel of local reporters.

CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell, and New York Daily News City Hall Bureau Chief Jillian Jorgensen were all on hand as residents took turns raising questions they wanted to put to the candidates for mayor, comptroller and public advocate.

Issues were raised ranging from affordable housing to traffic safety and even fraud involving U.S. mail – as well as a call for mayoral candidates to articulate an overarching vision for the city.

One woman, who said she owns a home in the Rockaways and rents and works in the Bronx, said she would ask the mayoral candidates “whether or not there is a reason why they cannot control the problem of double parking – it’s rampant.”

The woman said her issue may sound like a “personal gripe,” but she said double parking around the city affects safety outside schools and elsewhere, and further said double parking by delivery trucks and other drivers is “treated like some kind of a sacrament in New York City.”

She also said for-hire vehicles violate traffic laws “with impunity.”

Jorgensen noted that Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a crackdown on double parking and other traffic violations. The woman said ticketing blitzes are helpful, but “you see it like once a year.”

Another woman from Pelham Parkway in the Bronx criticized Mayor de Blasio for not keeping a campaign promise of doing away with horse carriages. She asked that the mayor at least restrict the horses to the park, and spoke against plans to spend millions of dollars for a Central Park stable.

“I volunteer all summer for him solely based on that promise and I donated money to him, and I don’t even have money,” she said.

Activist Kay Cardona of Pelham Parkway said the mayoral candidates need to focus on the homelessness crisis, which she characterized as worse than popularly perceived. Cardona said her ZIP code in Pelham Parkway and another one nearby have their own courtrooms for evictions.

One of the ZIP codes with its own courtroom is located in Concourse Village, which Cardona characterized as “extremely popular to developers and hipsters and yuppies,” and thus subject to numerous evictions of lower-income residents.

“I think people would be more frightened if they knew how many people are actually” homeless, said Cardona, who added that she has been homeless herself in the past.

Another resident, Nancy Dawson, said Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program for traffic safety has not been working sufficiently, and said the mayoral candidates should place more emphasis on targeting impaired or distracted drivers.

“When you talk to people, they say, ‘Oh well, we’ve given out a lot of tickets. We’ve arrested a lot of people with impaired driving or drunk driving, you know, and I feel that a lot more can be done,” she said.

Dawson also said the driving age should be raised to 17 or 18.

“When you’re 16, you should not be driving a car, because teenagers are more distracted. They’re talking in the car. They’re having a fun time, and they’re really not paying attention with their friends,” she said.

Resident Darlene Johnson said the city is not sufficiently publicizing local community boards, and the opportunity for residents of all five boroughs to discuss land use and zoning. She also asked why there was no voter registration drive or call for greater participation with a mayoral election this year in New York City.

Resident Mario Ortiz said his community has been plagued for more than three years by fraud involving U.S. mail. He said many people have sent in payment for their bills, only to find that the bills never went where they were supposed to and their checks were cashed in other states.

He said the solution is new, more secure outgoing mailboxes with slots rather than lids.

Peter Stand of Kingsbridge Heights said he wanted to see a mayoral candidate articulate a vision for the city. He said in the 2013 mayoral race, no candidate did so – focusing rather on personal politics.

Stand also said a New York City mayor needs to focus on the individual needs of the city’s five boroughs.

“The Bronx isn’t Queens. Queens isn’t the Bronx. I think a mayoral candidate that understands that our boroughs are different” he said.

He added that the Bronx needs to maintain affordable housing, preserve its culture and expand open space rather than being subjected to gentrification as other boroughs have.

“It’s kind of an inclusive vision of who we are and our neighborhoods that can reflect change and that at the same time work towards preservation and not throwing people out,” Stand said.

Stand criticized Mayor de Blasio and said the mayor does not seem to be interested in what New York City residents are talking about.

“I think he’s looking for a broader political platform to increase his resume and move on,” Stand said.

Another man, Aaron, called for morality and ethics to be taught in New York City public schools, saying it could make for a decrease in crime with early intervention.

And Monica Raybon of the Bronx called on the next mayor to lobby the Trump administration for federal funding for the city. She said President Donald Trump is cutting the budget, but the city remains vulnerable to terrorism and other threats.

CBS2 News, WCBS Radio 880, 1010 WINS, the New York Daily News, the New York Immigration Coalition, and Common Cause NY together are holding one meeting in each borough.

Future meetings are scheduled for:

• Thursday, June 15, at the New York Hall of Science, at 47-01 111th St. in Queens.

• Thursday, June 22, at the Brooklyn Public Library central library, at 10 Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn;

• Wednesday, June 28, at the Langston Hughes Auditorium at the Schomburg Center, at 515 Malcolm X Blvd. in Manhattan;

• Thursday, June 29, at the recital hall at the College of Staten Island, at 2800 Victory Blvd. in Staten Island.

All meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. To RSVP, see cbsnewyork.com/2017nycdebates.
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