No question was too tall or too small for Mayor Bill de Blasio during a Bayside town hall meeting on Monday night that touched on everything from senior services and community policing to affordable housing and helicopter noise.
Senior services took the center stage at the town hall, which took place at the at the Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center. De Blasio touted his recent affordable housing zoning amendments as part of an aggressive senior housing program aimed at housing for the fastest-growing demographic in the city. He said that the bill will preserve a lot of apartments where seniors currently reside and create new senior housing not currently allowed in zoning laws.
“Our seniors need to know they will have a place to live in this city, in the neighborhood they love, near their families, near their friends,” de Blasio said.
Audience members also wanted to know whether de Blasio had plans to provide more services to homebound Asian seniors and to improve transportation to local senior centers. Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado — one of a host of city agency heads who sat in an expert panel alongside the meeting — flagged these issues as important to consider in the department’s future.
De Blasio also took time to discuss the new community policing initiative that will install “beat cops” to resolve quality-of-life concerns and focus on understanding of the local dynamics of their assigned area. According to the mayor, the change was made possible by the recent addition of 2,000 new officers in the NYPD, the biggest increase in patrol strength in 15 years.
The 109th Precinct of Whitestone, Flushing and College Point will be one of the first areas in the city to pilot the program upon its start in April.
“Even stronger policing will be happening in the 109,” de Blasio said, adding that the precinct will be allocated an additional group of officers as part of the plan. “We’re looking forward to that and we thank you for all you do.”
Although northeastern Queens is often critical of the mayor’s efforts to manage the city — including his admitted slow cleanup efforts of the Blizzard of 2016 and a borough-wide denouncement of his affordable housing zoning amendments — local civic leaders were respectful in their pointed questioning of de Blasio’s upcoming initiatives even when they disagreed with his responses.
Alfredo Centola, the president of the We Love Whitestone civic group, spoke on the issue of noise pollution from helicopters over northeast Queens and expressed criticism of the mayor’s management of city employees with regards to his approval of a $36,000 raise for all City Council members.
De Blasio responded in turn to Centola’s concerns, saying that he recognizes helicopter noise as a growing problem, and he feels that he accomplished much for city employees by settling contract agreements for a total of 95 percent of the civil workforce.
The event was coordinated by Councilman Paul Vallone and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein and co-sponsored by the Bay Terrace Community Alliance and Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York.