Hot Topics at F. Hills Meet

Meng Talks Ebola, ISIS & Congress Bills

Various elected officials and law enforcement leaders gathered to discuss national issues, participatory budgeting and crime at the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association (FHCCA) meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 14, at the American Legion Continental Post 1424.

Pictured from left to right at last Tuesday’s Forest Hills Community and Civic Association meeting are State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, Rep. Grace Meng; FHCCA Vice President Dorie Figliola; FHCCA President Barbara Stuchinski; Heidi Harrison Chain, 112th Precinct Community Council president; FHCCA Secretary Michael Mulvaney; and Capt. Judith Harrison, 112th Precinct commanding officer.

Rep. Grace Meng tackled tough questions from constituents regarding pressing national issues, including the Ebola scare and the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Meng expressed confidence in our city’s ability to handle medical emergencies such as Ebola should a case arise.

“There is no imminent scare in New York City right now,” Meng explained, “but local hospitals in the city and Queens are taking extra precautions, even though they are not required to do so.”

Meng also cited the added screening measures currently conducted at area airports as a helpful step in stemming the outbreak.

She was also asked about her vote against funding rebels fighting ISIS in Syria. Meng, along with fellow Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Nydia Velásquez and Hakeem Jeffries, voted against the congressional measure that would allow the government to arm the Syrian Free Army in their battle against ISIS.

“ISIS is a terrible threat,” Meng explained, “but I was uncomfortable voting in favor of legislation that was just too vague.”

Meng expressed concern that weaponry provided to rebels could potentially fall into the wrong hands. When asked about her stance regarding boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria, she added, “I do not support that right now.”

In addition to national matters, Meng also spoke at length about important House legislation aimed at improving local quality of life. The “Anti-Spoofing Act of 2013,” an amendment to the Communications Act of 1934, was introduced by Meng in December 2013. The bill passed the House on Sept. 9 and is now on its way to the Senate.

This legislation aims to stop “spoofing” scams targeting local senior citizens and veterans. Spoofing occurs when scammers and con artists display false names and numbers on caller IDs and text messages, prompting victims to reply.

Another piece of recent legislation affecting local veterans is the “VA Regional Office Accountability Act” sponsored by Meng.

This “bipartisan” bill would require an extensive annual report on local VA offices which exceeded the targeted 125 day waiting period. The report would explain why the 125-day goal was not met, as well as identify specific problems or impediments in meeting the deadline. Based on these reports, solutions as to how to fix these delays could be offered.

Participatory budgeting

District Committee volunteer and resident Michael Reddy spoke about the City Council’s participatory budgeting program in which residents are given the chance to vote on how a portion of the district’s discretionary funds are spent.

According to Reddy, City Council Member Karen Koslowitz has allocated $1 million in discretionary funds to the program.

“This is a very democratic process in which community members can make decisions,” Reddy explained. “We can have a direct say as a community as to how we want this money spent.”

Participatory budgeting was first introduced in the city several years ago. This year, 20 districts will take part in the program. This is an increase from the four districts that participated in 2013.

Reddy explained that neighborhood assemblies would be held as part of the process. The assemblies are forums in which residents come together to brainstorm ideas as to how the money should be spent. Residents could then volunteer as “budget delegates” or representatives.

“The delegates take the ideas and make them feasible,” Reddy explained. Once the delegates synthesize the ideas into a doable project, a proposal is created and put to a vote.

“This is a great way to build communities and get a lot more people involved,” Reddy added.

Nine different neighborhood assemblies are slated for Forest Hills, Rego Park, Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens in the coming weeks. “We plan to include all corners of the community,” Reddy stated.

While anyone can attend a neighborhood assembly, only the local residents of the district are permitted to vote. Reddy encouraged all residents to get involved, including youth. “Residents as young as 14 years old can serve as Budget Delegates,” Reddy added, explaining that it would make for a great experience in local government.

For more information on the dates and locations of upcoming meetings, contact Koslowitz’s office at 1-718-544-8800.

Stumping for votes

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo also addressed the crowd. He urged residents to vote in the upcoming Nov. 4 election. He also voiced his support of the three ballot referendums up for vote on Election Day.

Michael Conigliaro, Addabbo’s Republican opponent in the senatorial race, also spoke at the meeting. Conigliaro, a religious instructor at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Forest Hills, promised to work with local precincts to combat crime by putting more officers on the street.

Police matters

Capt. Judith Harrison, the 112th Precinct’s commanding officer, and Heidi Harrison Chain, the 112th Precinct Community Council president, discussed ways in which residents can protect themselves against becoming victims of crime.

Harrison warned of phone scams such as spoofing and Green Dot scams targeting elderly residents of the community. She urged residents to “stop, relax, take a breath, step back and think about it” before replying or cooperating with a potential scammer.

The captain also warned residents to beware of “crimes of opportunity” such as grand larceny.

“Take you valuables with you when you leave your car,” Harrison advised, “and park in well-lit areas.” She also encouraged homeowners to “lock your garages and get a motion sensor” to protect their vehicles and property.

The next Forest Hills Community and Civic Association meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday night, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m. at American Legion Continental Post 1424, located at 107-15 Metropolitan Ave. For more information, visit www.fhcivic.org.

More from Around New York