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Residents Turn Out To Ask Election Year Questions At Queens Town Meeting

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Residents of Queens gathered at the New York Hall of Science Thursday to discuss mayoral election issues, in the second of five town meeting events with a panel of local reporters.

CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell, and New York Daily News City Hall Reporter Erin Durkin were on the podium as residents took turns raising questions they wanted to put to the candidates for mayor, comptroller and public advocate.

Homelessness, crime in the subway system, disability access and bike lanes were among the numerous issues residents raised.

The first speaker was Carol Blatt of Forest Hills, who said the Mayor’s office and service organizations are not helping those with disabilities.

Blatt said Mayor Bill de Blasio had given awards and proclamations to groups that are not actually not helping people with disabilities. She said the services in New York City are “unacceptable,” said she wanted those running for election to explain what they would do to change it.

Blatt also said polling places often are not sufficiently accessible.

“I think this is important for politicians to know that there are many people that are being forced to vote in places that are not accessible; not reachable, especially if you have a disability,” she said.

Jerome Hurt of Corona, Queens, a member of the board of directors of the New York Urban League, said candidates for office should focus on the increase in homelessness in the city and how to stop it.

“We are pricing individuals out of this city at a rate that is so alarming,” he said.

Hurt said more programs for job training are needed, as well as better educational opportunities – suggesting free education at CUNY schools.

He said programs such as internships are also needed, as many students now graduate from college and do not have sufficient skills to enter the workforce.

Haskell asked Hurt whether he thought the situation had grown better or worse since Mayor de Blasio announced plans for action on homelessness. Hurt said he left the city in 2001 when his company moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and found the city in worse shape when he returned in 2014 – “not better, not more affordable.”

“In my opinion, we’re pricing individuals out of New York City,” Hurt said.

He said while gentrification has had some benefits, including reducing crime in neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Harlem, it has now reached the point where people cannot afford to live in the city and end up homeless.

Hurt added that he does not believe putting the homeless up in hotels is a solution.

“Give a person a job, and you’ll see hope come out of that person,” he said.

A man named James from Flushing said community board and other civic organization meetings are not effective. He said organizations should send out fliers so people’s voices can be heard, but as it is, a very small group attends such meetings.

“What we have is little coffee latches at civic associations – people come for the coffee and cake; really don’t care what’s going on,” he said.

Meanwhile, questions that actually affect the neighborhoods and residents such as zoning do not get addressed, he said.

James also raised an assortment of other issues, including concerns about plans for more speed cameras, and fruit stands that are allowed to operate on sidewalks in Flushing and thus limiting space for pedestrians.

Lucy Schilero of the Elmhurst-Corona said her neighborhood has suffered from deferred maintenance and delayed upgrades. She said scaffolding has been up for four years in front of the 110th Precinct police station, while the renovation work for which the scaffolding was mounted has not started.

Schilero also said the cast iron fire alarm boxes in Corona and Elmhurst have had their tops removed and have not been upgraded with the latest technology – while fire alarm boxes Jackson Heights and Forest Hills have been upgraded.

Julie from Jackson Heights said she wants to know when more police officers will be brought in to patrol the struggling subway system, particularly at night.

Julie said she takes the E Train to and from Manhattan every day at 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, and she said there have been “lots of homeless people, muggings, (and) slashing.”

“Subway service is going down while the fares are going up,” Julie said. “Stations are too desolate at night. There needs to be more expansive police.”

While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is controlled by the State of New York, Mayor de Blasio said Thursday that he would be devoting more attention to the subway system and even said there is an argument in favor of the city taking over the MTA.

Lifelong Queens resident Dara Haines pointed out that both Manhattan and Queens communities are plagued with missing street signs – and expressed doubts about the efficiency of the 311 system.

Complaints were also raised about quality of life issues such as illegal driveways, and poor driving by green borough cab drivers, and the placement of bike lanes on Queens Boulevard – which one man said was dangerous to drivers.

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.

The Queens town meeting was the second of five. A town meeting was also held on Monday at Lehman College in the Bronx.

Future meetings are scheduled for:

• 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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