By Juan Soto
Standing only a few feet away from the Korean War Veterans Memorial at Kissena Park in Flushing, Democratic state Senate candidate John Liu unveiled his four-point plan to improve and expand services for Queens war veterans and their families.
“They did so much for our great nation,” said the former city comptroller, flanked by World War II, Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. “My plan intends to help the people who, without them, we probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Before his veterans plan, Liu introduced in recent weeks his vision for education, transportation and women’s equality.
The Senate hopeful said that one of the top priorities for his plan would be to establish a veterans center in Queens in collaboration with the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
His idea is to have the state develop the capital construction project. The community center would serve as a “one-stop shop” for services, including a place to find healthcare and employment assistance.
“I look forward to being a champion for our veterans in the state Senate,” he said. “That’s the least I could do.”
Liu, in addition, wants to establish a veterans MetroCard, calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide discounts, similar to those for seniors and students, for people with military service.
The candidate, who faces incumbent Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in one of the Sept. 9 Democratic primary’s most competitive races, also wants Albany to allocate funding for employment assistance programs and to create a database that would connect employers with veterans based on their skills and experience.
According to Liu, New York state is home to 900,000 veterans and has the fourth largest number of veteran-owned small businesses in the country, only behind California, Texas and Florida.
That is why the Senate hopeful said Albany should promote tax-free zones to start a business. In his plan, veterans retired from active duty would not have to pay property or business taxes for a three-year period.
Liu also wants New York state to increase its budget allocation for housing and health services. The former Flushing city councilman said the increase in funding should be at least proportional to the state’s growing population of veterans.
“We must do better for the people who put themselves in the front line for us,” said Liu.
It is unclear how much the plan would cost because it has to be worked out between the state and city agencies needed to implement it.
“Unfortunately, too often, even after coming home from the battlefield, many veterans are forced to fight thickets of red tape just to gain access to scarce resources and limited services,” said Liu.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.