By Mark Hallum
State Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) has two major issues facing the constituents in his district: Select Bus Service and Mayor de Blasio’s controversial shelter plan to warehouse homeless in converted hotels across the city. Miller, like many other elected officials in Queens, is frustrated as he grapples with these problems and finds City Hall unresponsive to his complaints.
His district covers Glendale, Woodhaven and parts of Ozone Park and he is being challenged by Republican Joseph Maldonado, a retired snow superintendent with the city Sanitation Dept. in Manhattan.
Maldonado has recently been endorsed by from two different Sikh organizations
Select Bus Service planned for the area has been the source of outrage for residents of Woodhaven who find the Dept. of Transportation indifferent to their criticism of what they call a dangerous and inconvenient solution to the public transportation issue. The controversial plan would eliminate lanes on Woodhaven Boulevard and do away with left turns at major intersections while installing a bus stop in the median of an accident-prone thoroughfare, which residents contend the Sanitation Dept. neglects during snowstorms.
According to Miller, the intersection at Jamaica Avenue would have a bus stop installed on a median where accidents happen at least once a month. Miller is urging the DOT to utilize current bus stops, with the option for commuters to pay at the curb. He also wants bus routes diverted to service roads instead of displacing traffic on residential streets.
“They’re making people wait on the median for a bus. I just don’t think that’s smart,” Miller said. “I’m on Woodhaven Boulevard–my office–and every month there’s an accident on the median between both lanes. Cars go over the median. What happens when people are waiting for a bus?”
Miller was involved in an August rally in Woodhaven to protest SBS with many residents and transit activists making appearances. He pointed out that Community Board 9 rejected the DOT’s plan and the city agency responded by saying it would put off the SBS plan only to begin building a bus stop two days later.
Maldonado said his first order of business for getting into office would be to address the issue of homeless shelters in Queens by circulating people out of shelters and helping those with Section 8 vouchers find housing. He said the reason why people stay in shelters is because there are no programs to get people out, while shelter owners are benefitting financially from city taxpayer money.
“When you start warehousing people, and you don’t have anything for them to do to get out of that building, then you’re doing nothing,” he said.
Miller is currently pushing back at the city, which is trying to put a shelter in Ozone Park, but
“There are so many foreclosed homes, and you’re spending $3,000 a month per family and you have 58,000 people,” Miller said. “Just think of the price tag each month to house the homeless, just buy up the foreclosures from the banks. They can’t be that bad, fix them up if you have to. It’ll cost you nothing after that… I’d rather pay $1,000 to help someone get back on their feet than pay $3,000 to warehouse them.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall