By Rich Bockmann
City Councilmen Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Peter Koo (R-Flushing) met with a handful of members of the Asian-American community last week to discuss how the ever-growing segment of the northeast Queens population is served and represented in that area.
The July 27 meeting was the second with the Asian-American Advisory Committee, a group composed in total of about 40 members that was formed at the request of the first-term councilmen shortly after they took office.
In his office at 166-08 24th Road, Halloran pointed out that the Asian populations — which include Koreans, Chinese, native Americans and a growing cadre of Indians and Southeast Asians — in schools such as Bayside High School are approaching or actually are the majority of the student bodies.
“The Asian-American population really snuck up on this community,” he said, pointing out that even though School Districts 25 and 26 are ranked among the best in the state, poor English language learning proficiency scores highlighted an inability to teach children whose parents do not speak the language at home.
Committee member Terence Park said the student body of PS 130 in Bayside is 69 percent Asian, but the school has only one Chinese-American teacher. Halloran suggested language barriers in grade schools could be avoided by sending ELL students to two-year language immersion schools. He admitted, though, that creating such schools would be difficult given budget restraints.
The Council recently passed a budget that saved 4,000 teachers from being laid off, but the loss of 2,600 positions due to attrition will leave many classes overcrowded in the coming year.
“Yes, it saves layoffs, but what we actually need are new hires,” Halloran said.
The members of the committee also said they believed they were under-represented in the Police Department.
“We all know new immigrants are not very familiar with the laws and regulations and it’s imperative that [the police] understand the diverse culture and community,” said Park, who added that Asian Americans represented less that 2 percent and 3 percent of officers in the 110th and 111th precincts.
Halloran said these problems were present back in 1990, when he was an officer in the 109th. He said Asian Americans were the fastest-growing demographic in the department, but most were second- or third-generation who are not native English speakers.
The councilman said he and Koo would request information on the languages of officers being deployed, and that he would like to see at least two or three Asian-language-speaking officers on each tour.
“That’s six officers in a day — that’s not a lot. It alleviates 80 percent of the problem,” he said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.