By Ivan Pereira
After a failed attempt ï»¿at a shot for a seat at City Hall half a decade ago, Albert Baldeo said he is confident he will take the seat vacated by City Councilman Thomas White next week because he is in tune with the community.
The Ozone Park attorney said the most important thing he has learned from his runs for City Council and the state Senate over the last five years was to keep his ears open to all that his voters wanted and build his campaign around their issues.
“I want to make sure everyone has a seat at the table,” he said.
Baldeo ran for the same Council seat in 2005 but was defeated by White in the Democratic primary. A year later, he came 900 votes shy of defeating state Sen. Serphin Maltese in the general election and in 2008 tried to run for the seat again but dropped out before the primary.
The candidate said he has used those campaigns to get to know southeast Queens better.
Baldeo said the 28th Council District, which includes the neighborhoods of Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park, has suffered greatly during the economic recession with the economy strangling small businesses and the foreclosure crisis leaving trail of abandoned homes in some neighborhoods .
The candidate said one of the most effective ways of restoring the financial stability of the neighborhood could come from the Aqueduct Race Track racino project. He said that if elected, he would push for legislation that would require any jobs associated with the multimillion-dollar project to be awarded to people within the district.
“Large corporations like Aqueduct … will be able to get us back money from the district. They are literally in the backyard and will help us immediately,” he said.
Baldeo said that one of the biggest problems constituents talk to him about is the sour relationship between the police and residents. He said there have been a number of harassment cases brought to his attention by minority constituents and he said he would push for more cultural training among law enforcement.
“We need the police to help us,”ï»¿ he said.
Baldeo added that southeast Queens is one of the most diverse communities in all of New York City, but the police force in Jamaica does not have many minorities who reflect the ethnic makeup of the area patrolling the streets. He said he would use his Council seat to push for better recruitment that would hire minorities who understand the needs of the community.
“We must hire more police officers that reflect the diversity of the neighborhood,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.