By Mark Hallum
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) is facing long-term issues in his district, such as homeless shelters, Select Bus Service and delayed Hurricane Sandy relief in the midst of an election campaign. On top of this, the incumbent is fighting an uphill battle with an unresponsive city administration.
His district covers the Rockaways, Howard Beach, Woodhaven, Middle Village and Maspeth.
Addabbo has been critical of the de Blasio administration for shutting out residents and elected officials when it announced it would be implementing a homeless plan which would utilize hotels converted into shelters, causing a level of anger he had never seen from his constituents.
“We have a mayor who can’t call the governor for help, to look at state-owned properties or for financial assistance because they can’t get along,” Addabbo said.
Much of that anger erupted after the city proposed putting a homeless men’s shelter into a Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth without notifying the community. Faced with nightly protests at the hotel, City Hall then pivoted and began renting out rooms to the homeless rather than proceeding with the full shelter plan.
There are better alternatives to converting hotels into shelters, according to Addabbo. The mayor, however, is not only unwilling to respond to pleas from local officials but is unable to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo for help because of an ongoing feud between the two as the number of New Yorkers in shelters hits the 60,000 mark.
“They had to see this crisis coming. You can blame the prior administration, but you knew the numbers were rising,” Addabbo said. “I think they were just inept in handling this crisis, and so they panicked and shoved them into these hotels.”
Trailers could be used on city-owned properties for temporary shelters as shown to be effective for the people of Breezy Point after Hurricane Sandy forced them to take shelter elsewhere, Addabbo said.
The Select Bus Service plan for southeast Queens is also a contentious issue for the people of Woodhaven, and another case in which city administration has deaf ears for residents and elected officials, he said.
The controversial plan will reduce already clogged arteries to one lane at certain points and eliminate left turns at major intersections while installing a bus stop in the median of an accident-prone thoroughfare, which residents claim the Sanitation Dept. neglects during snowstorms.
In August, the senator was involved in a protest at the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue and is continuing trying to convince the DOT to back down from its plan.
“We are all in favor of improving public transportation. What we are differing on right now is with the city and DOT is the plan they chose,” Addabbo said, adding that the plan is unsafe.
Addabbo said his district is just part of the population in the pipeline for Build it Back relief from Sandy, but many have still not seen the relief needed from the program, which is running behind schedule. The senator works with his constituents to give them every advantage to see money flow from the program to the rebuilding they need. By employing the services of small insurance companies to help his constituents, Addabbo hopes to see greater progress than would usually come from Build It Back and major insurance companies.
Addabbo is currently facing his opponent from 2014, Republican Michael Conigliaro, whom he previously beat by 10 percent, in the Nov. 8 election.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall