A confident de Blasio comes to Queens

By Gabriel Rom

The mayor came to Queens–and he seemed to enjoy it.

At a mostly cordial town hall in Bayside Monday evening, Mayor Bill de Blasio fielded pointed questions on quality-of-life issues in northern Queens and worked to connect them to his administration’s housing affordability push, especially for seniors.

On issues like out-of-character residential buildings, rising property taxes and increased helicopter and airplane noise, de Blasio had few hard policy prescriptions to offer.

“One of the reasons why it’s good to talk directly to people is to tell you sometimes good news and sometimes not-so-good news,” de Blasio said in response to a question about funding for summer camps, but the point applied to much of the three-hour meeting.

Michael Feiner, president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association, asked the mayor to change the city’s zoning laws to disallow “out-of-character” buildings to be built next to semi-attached dwellings.

“I want to be real about the fact that there are a lot of things we are working on right now and the primary focus is on creating affordable senior housing,” de Blasio said. “I don’t want to promise you a rose-garden, but you’re right that we should look at it.”

Feiner had rallied two weeks ago alongside state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in front of a new towering development joined to another house in Bayside.

“It’s about time that the city pays attention to these quiet middle-class communities that pay their taxes and want something in return,” Avella said at the protest.

Avella, one of the mayor’s loudest critics, was conspicuously absent from the town hall and accused the de Blasio of playing dirty by sending him an invitation late and to an out-of-date email address

“I have been one of the most vocal critics of Mayor de Blasio’s administration and so I’m not expecting to curry a lot of favor with his office, but there is a line you cannot cross when exacting political retribution, a certain line where politicking turns autocratic,” Avella said in a statement.

The mayor’s office contended Avella’s statement was much ado about nothing

“He’s been invited, and certainly we welcome all elected officials,” the mayor said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “It’s as simple as that.”

The mayor sounded confident as he made the case for widespread affordable housing throughout the city–a signature proposal of his administration.

“We have to think about everything we do in the city to make it a more senior friendly city,” de Blasio said to applause from the senior-heavy audience.

The mayor pledged to create housing and transportation options that would allow seniors to age in the places of their choice.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.