By Craig Giammona
It is the same office once inhabited by Ada Smith, but Huntley hopes the atmosphere will be much different – open and inviting, whereas Smith was thought to be sometimes confrontational and abrasive. It was one of Huntley's campaign themes and Friday she reminded a small crowd at Brooks Senior Center on 109th Avenue that there is a new legislator in town.”I'm not just a politician, I'm a person you can depend on,” Huntley said as she spent part of her afternoon on a mini-listening tour. “Utilize my office, bring us your problems and issues.”The seniors were not shy. One woman told Huntley that she wanted real estate developers to stop knocking on her door and asking to buy her home. Another said something had to be done about fliers from grocery stores that are left on homes throughout the borough. These issues come up often in southeast Queens and throughout the borough. Whether Huntley can solve them remains to be seen. Prior to addressing the seniors, Huntley met with Cheryl Glenn, the facility's director. Huntley had visited the senior center during her campaign and recalled that there was a buckle in the floor.”This is an older building. The No. 1 issue here is safety,” Glenn said. “We make our dollars stretch, but we do have some maintenance issues.”Huntley then told her to put a request in writing and get it over to her office. Glenn, who was clearly aware that a reporter was in the room, was careful not to explicitly criticize Smith and made only passing reference to Huntley's predecessor.”There were a lot restrictions,” Glenn told Huntley, speaking presumably of allocations the center had received in the past. “A lot of times we were told to take the money and use it on trips, but we need capitol improvements.”It is illegal for legislators to directly sponsor trips for senior citizens, who famously turn out in droves on Election Day. But the law is sometimes circumvented when legislators allocate money to a social service organization that in turn sponsors that trip. It was clear that Glenn was happy to be dealing with Huntley and following their chat, the new senator recalled one of her first days in Albany when she encountered an employee of the capitol who has been there for years and presumably knows the faces of most, if not all, 212 state legislators. “He knew I was new and asked where I was from,” Huntley said. “I told him 'the 10th District' and he said 'I don't know numbers, who did you replace.'””When I told him, he gave me a big hug,” Huntley said.Following Huntley's trip to Brooks, she then visited an apartment complex on Sutphin Boulevard built last year by a nonprofit to house homeless families and local residents with mental disabilities who are able to live on their own. After that, it was back to the office.Reach reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.