NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Residents gathered Thursday evening to discuss mayoral election issues, in fifth and final town meeting event with a panel of local reporters.
Issues from a lack of hospital space, decaying infrastructure, to a need for better special education services were among those addressed.
CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell, and New York Daily News City Hall Bureau Chief Jillian Jorgensen were on the podium at the recital hall at the College of Staten Island, at 2800 Victory Blvd. in Staten Island. Residents took turns raising questions they wanted to put to the candidates for mayor, comptroller and public advocate.
One woman from West Brighton began by calling for more hospitals in Staten Island. She said there are not enough hospital beds in the borough, and she said the only hospital run by NYC Health + Hospitals in the borough is the Sea View Hospital Rehabilitation Center and Home – which is only a rehab facility and does not have an emergency room.
The woman added that with so little hospital space, patients are stuck waiting in waiting rooms for hours.
She called on the city to offer more hospital space and better services on Staten Island.
“Just how is this population being served?” she said.
A man named Martin from the Willowbrook section of the borough said there are numerous problems on Staten Island, including poor public transportation and “terribly overcrowded” highways. He added that the city is “hopelessly failing” regarding homelessness.
Further, he said while Mayor Bill de Blasio was not solely at fault because other mayors had acted the same way, property taxes have kept going up and the city has expected gratitude.
“Our taxes keep going up every year, and we’re told to be thankful that our property values are going up,” Martin said.
In terms of better transportation, Kramer asked the man whether he was looking for buses, water ferries, light rail or other options, Martin said “yes” to all.
“Whatever it takes to get more people more options to get to Brooklyn and the city so that there’s fewer cars, it’s something that’s not talked about because we build highways only,” he said.
As to the issue of homelessness, Martin noted that single adult homelessness is up 60 percent. He also said the right to shelter in the constitution has “been perverted,” and preventing people from becoming homeless should be considered rather than focusing on homeless shelters.
He said his question for the mayoral candidates was, “What policies could you put in place to reduce, not manage homelessness?”
Martin also needed the city needs a greater focus on special education. He said under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there was a recognition that public school students segregated special education students in part because of a lack of resources – but also a perception that special education students have “horrible behavioral problems” and do not belong in good schools.
Currently, he said, education and graduation rates are improving for general education students – but not for special education students.
Melissa from Travis also called for changes in special education. She said she has a 7-year-old autistic son who is grouped in with students with behavioral problems and noncommunicative autistic children. As a result, she said, her son picks up bad habits in the classroom from students that can become vioent.
“I kind of wanted to know if there’s something that we can do — maybe separate them a little bit more for their needs; their specific needs,” she said.
Aaron Ross called on the city to fund research into autism, in particular the explosion in autism cases compared to a couple of generations ago. He said he has a younger brother with full-blown autism who barely speaks at the age of 26.
“I think they need to do some research into figuring out what is causing this autism epidemic,” Ross said.
Ross also called on the mayoral candidates to address exorbitant hospital bills, and a conviction review board to address wrongful imprisonments on Staten Island.
Beryl Thurman of the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy of Staten Island called for a resiliency plan for the North Shore of Staten Island, noting that there has been no plan to prevent flooding and damage in areas that have been hit hard by storms in recent years. She also said North Shore residents have never been presented with an evacuation plan.
Judy Jorgensen of Annadale on the South Shore also said the city must improve infrastructure on Staten Island. She also said roads are overcrowded and flood plans are insufficient, among other problems.
“How is the City of New York going to make the forgotten borough not be so forgotten?” she said.
Patricia Kane of the New York State Nurses Association added that the city is failing to meet a need for inpatient mental health, while Bonnie of Todt Hill called on the mayoral candidates to ensure a medical safety net for New Yorkers – particularly in light of the opioid addiction epidemic.
This is the last of five town meetings.