By Ivan Pereira
Ruben Wills said most campaigns are talking about bringing change, but his run to fill the late Thomas White’s City Council seat is about making a difference now.
Wills, one of seven candidates vying for the 28th Council District seat, said southeast Queens has been plagued with several problems related to crime, foreclosures and health, so he is focusing on specific solutions for each issue instead of a cure-all tactic.
“The only thing about the issues is that there is no one who can say there is a priority issue,” he said.
Wills, a lifelong southeast Queens resident, said his time working for Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) encouraged him to do more for his neighborhood. After he left his chief of staff position at the senator’s office in 2008, Wills started a nonprofit called New York 4 Life, where he dealt directly with community issues such as crime and student MetroCards. He said that work has helped him to become a stronger advocate for the neighborhood.
“We went to a lot of meetings and knocked on a lot of doors to let people know about the issues,” he said.
The candidate said he has been actively listening to residents, community leaders and law enforcement in the district, which covers Jamaica and Rochdale Village, to Richmond Hill. One of the biggest problems has been the rise in crime, and Wills said the best solution is to have the police and community come together to work out the issues.
Following a string of shootings in south Jamaica last month, Wills held a meeting with the heads of the neighborhood’s precincts and residents where they discussed the surge in violence. The candidate said he would continue to use this type of approach if elected because it strengthens public safety.
“We wanted to make sure people join the civics. Once the civic has enough members, people start listening,” he said.
Wills said a lot of crime has stemmed from southeast Queens’ other big problem: foreclosures. He cited an abandoned house that he visited at 107th Avenue and 154th Street where he and community leaders found 60 squatters.
After getting the attention of the police and the city Department of Buildings, Will said the house was vacated and boarded up. If elected, he said he would work on a bill that would fine banks that do not properly maintain their foreclosed homes.
“I think if we do it the right way, the banks would rather work out a modification than deal with heavy fines levied on them,” he said.
Reach reporters Howard Koplowitz & Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com.