Queens is sending six new Councilmembers to City Hall – four Democrats and two Republicans – who want to make their mark on government. Here’s what they said are their goals:
Dan Halloran, District 19 (Auburndale, Bayside, Bay Terrace, Beechhurst, College Point, Whitestone, Robinwood; parts of Flushing, Douglaston, Little Neck)
Halloran’s sights are set on local issues. “The first thing is tackling overdevelopment – the Auburndale-Station Road area downzoning must be completed,” he said without a moment’s hesitation.
“Once that’s done we want to aggressively work with the Department of Buildings to ensure full compliance on new construction; that violations are quickly investigated and Stop Work Orders are obeyed, for public safety and so the character of our neighborhoods is preserved.”
Barely pausing for breath, Halloran observed that the district had one of the highest tax bases in the city – but has gotten a “disproportionately low” share of money for community funding. “I want a fair share of funding for the district’s community groups that deliver many valuable services to our residents.”
Recognizing that, as a Republican, he’s part of a tiny minority (five out of 51 on the Council) Halloran said he would reach out to the other side to better represent his constituents. “I will make sure this district’s issues get brought before the various committees – especially the budget committee – to make sure our concerns are addressed.”
“My office intends to review the entire budget process,” he promised. “It can be more efficient and transparent. We can deliver essential services without penalizing the middle class.”
Peter Koo, District 20 (Flushing, Harding Heights, Kissena Park, Mitchell Gardens and Queensboro Hill; part of Auburndale and Whitestone)
Republican Peter Koo has been known as the “Mayor of Flushing” for years. He has his own charitable foundation, making donations to nursing homes, hospitals and LaGuardia Community College – he’s promised to use his entire Council salary to fund community organizations.
“I recognize that more must be done to protect our seniors and our youth,” Koo said. “During economic downturns there should never be any discussions about closing senior centers, reducing Meals on Wheels or cutting the number of workers who serve our senior population. In addition, we need to ensure that education continues to be the focal point for our youth,” he added.
“I look forward to following through on the commitments that I made during my recent campaign including finding ways to reduce taxes, to give working families and small business a chance to succeed again,” Koo declared.
“We need to reduce the cost of doing business here in New York City,” he said, noting that business closings mean lost tax revenue and jobs. “Everything should be done to create a friendly and cost effective environment for innovative entrepreneurs,” he said.
“My goal is to improve the overall quality of life of residents and provide them the opportunity of achieving the American dream,” he added.
Mark Weprin, District 23 (parts of Bayside, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Hollis Park Gardens, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park and Queens Village)
A seasoned legislator with a 15-year career in the State Assembly, Weprin has a clear agenda. “First and foremost I will continue my commitment to improving education in the city. As a parent of children in public school, I want to convince Chancellor Klein that we’re not making products – we’re educating children – and his devotion to testing is not the best we can do.”
Weprin also called recently announced cutbacks in weekend library service in Queens “unacceptable,” saying “it goes against everything we’re trying to do to improve education.”
For the large number of seniors in his district, Weprin promised to “explore innovative and cost effective ways to deliver social services, such as NORCs [Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities] so that we can do right by seniors even in trying economic times.” He also promised to “keep the character of neighborhoods, with open spaces people can enjoy.”
“Job creation and business development are vital to all of this. The last bill I sponsored in Albany created a Biotech Tax Credit to keep jobs in New York City. Our college graduates are moving away to find work in growth sectors. That has to stop.”
Daniel Dromm, District 25 (parts of Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside)
On the top of City Councilmember Daniel Dromm’s to-do list are the issues of education, healthcare and quality of life.
Dromm, a former teacher at P.S. 199, the Maurice A. Fitzgerald School in Sunnyside, said making New York City schools better is of utmost priority.
“Next year there are going to be 750 to 1,000 new seats in schools, but that won’t sustain the growth,” Dromm said. “In the long term I’d like to see additional seats beyond and more schools.”
Dromm also wants to see primary care and healthcare centers brought into his district to make healthcare more accessible to those in need.
On the quality of life front, Dromm has a few changes in mind for his district and for the city as a whole. “We need better and more frequent sanitation services, I’d like to see the trash get picked up more frequently,” Dromm said.
He would also push for a cleanup of the 74th Street subway station. “There’s retail space [available] – if we clean it up we can get more businesses in there.”
Dromm also wants to give more access to day laborers, a significant number of whom live and work in his district. “I’d like to see immigrant/day laborer resource centers for social services to be offered to our immigrant population,” he said.
Jimmy Van Bramer, District 26 (parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Maspeth, Sunnyside and Woodside)
James Van Bramer wants his new City Council 26th District office to be the “go-to” place for constituents when it comes to quality of life issues.
“First and foremost our top goal is to have a first rate constituent service operation,” Van Bramer said. “We’ve put together a staff that is going to be 100 percent dedicated to hearing the concerns of the people of the district and addressing those concerns.”
Quality of life issues – sanitation, education, green space, and small businesses – concern residents most, and he’d most like to address them.
“When it comes to having safe, clean streets and making sure that people are feeling good about the neighborhood they live in, quality of life absolutely is number one,” Van Bramer said.
He said small steps – like making sure city agencies respond to complaints quickly or increasing parkland and community gardens – can go a long way to bettering a neighborhood. “When people want to go out and enjoy their neighborhood, there should be some green space where they can gather.”
Tennant issues also rank high for Van Bramer. “We want to make sure that the tenants of the district are getting the services that they need,” Van Bramer said. “If there are landlords in the district that aren’t treating their tenants well, and with respect and dignity, that’s something that we’ll be looking at very seriously.”
Karen Koslowitz, District 29 (parts of Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Rego Park and Richmond Hill)
Koslowitz is clearly the most experienced of the new class – she represented the district in the City Council from 1991 to 2001, as well as serving as Deputy Queens Borough President from 2002 until 2009 in charge Constituent Services and overseeing the 14 Community Boards. “But I’m still just a new member,” she said modestly.
“My top priorities are transportation and education related issues,” she said. “I want to help seniors by restoring service to Access-a-Ride. You need a doctor’s note to get the service – dropping a disabled senior off at a bus stop isn’t right, especially when they made the stops further apart on Queens Boulevard last year.”
Koslowitz also wants to restore free rides to students. “This is hurting both the children and the parents. Between Access-a-Ride and the ending of student Metro cards, the MTA is penalizing the city’s most vulnerable populations.”
She also wants to create a Parent Advisory Council “so parents can tell me directly what they want me to carry back to City Hall.”
“Quality of life issues relating to transportation are also a high priority in my district,” Koslowitz pointed out. “Truck traffic through residential areas is a great concern, as well as pedestrian safety along Queens Boulevard, Woodhaven Boulevard, Grand Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard. People don’t feel safe.”