By Connor Adams Sheets
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) held what he called his Council district’s first town hall meeting Monday night, discussing a range of new legislation he has proposed, including one to make English-language signs mandatory at city businesses and several to give the city greater power to address building code violations.ï»¿
The new bills are designed to address concerns many of his constituents have with the city. The hearing also featured a series of those same complaints, which ran the gamut from a plea for the city Parks Department to prune an individual tree to an indictment of perceived systemic failures within the city Department of Education.
Halloran gave every person who attended the 2 1/2 hour meeting ample time to address a board of officials from seven agencies, including the city Departments of Buildings, Finance and Sanitation under the guidance of the councilman and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), both of whom also answered and asked questions.
The Council district covers Bayside, Whitestone, College Point ï»¿ Anthony Illiano, a spokesman for the DOB, took a large percentage of the questions, addressing zoning issues, illegal conversions and more.
He explained that the department receives tens of thousands of complaints every year, so residents who feel they are being ignored should understand that it is more a question of resources since the department strives to address all concerns.
Halloran discussed bills he has introduced involving the department, including one to make it a misdemeanor to make a false 311 complaint, one that would let repeat offenders be fined for each building code violation and the English sign legislation, which received a booming round of applause.
“Everyone will know what’s a kitchen, what’s a bar, what’s a shopping center, what’s a tailor,” he said. “This way our public officials will not have their lives endangered by not knowing where they’re going.”
Northeast Queens Park Administrator Janice Melnick gave an update on the clean-up efforts after last month’s tornadoes devastated much of Halloran’s district.
“We had as of today about 7,000 calls come in,” she said. “For the most part we really are cleaned up at this point.”
As of Monday, the department had removed 2,296 downed trees, and 260 trees that had been damaged, 1,608 pieces of debris and 5,662 downed limbs and pruned 5,386 hanging limbs, she said.
Halloran also sought to make residents aware of a new city law that allows for only two pick-ups of bagged lawn clippings per year.
Halloran started the event with a list of accomplishments he has made since taking over for Tony Avella in January.
“The community has been disproportionately served when it comes to directing resources in attention,” he said, explaining that the district received more funding this year than in any other year in the past decade.
He also extolled the virtues of his staff, particularly his constituent services workers, who have addressed about 1,100 concerns since his office opened.
“Our office is rated by the [Council speaker’s] office as best at constituent services of all Council offices in the entire city,” he said.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.