By Mark Hallum
The second day of City Hall in Your Borough kicked off Tuesday with constituent office hours where residents could get a few minutes of one-on-one time with Mayor Bill de Blasio. Some shared problems they experienced with court programs in the city while other topics were lost in the murmur of the crowds of people waiting in a line stretching to the back of the Helen Marshall Cultural Center.
Up to 100 people stood in line to meet with de Blasio and people walking down Queens Boulevard were encouraged step inside Borough Hall. NYCHA and ID NYC had trailers on the curb to handle individual matters.
While one woman in line complained about reimbursements from Build it Back never making it to her door, others raised different issues not so easily handled.
Elizabeth Renner held de Blasio to his 2013 campaign promise to make improvements to Family Court after her divorce led to an even more bitter struggle between her family and court-appointed lawyers assigned as referees to determine which parent to grant custody to.
“You had said when you were public advocate, ‘I’m going to be all over the Family Court as soon as I get in,’” Renner said, explaining how she had written letters to City Hall about judges she viewed as unfit and lawyers who provoke family drama before coming to a decision on custody. “I’m a victim of abuses of the court system. For 15 years, my case was dragged through hell and my ex-husband and I lost $2 million. My kids don’t have any money for college now because they made up nonsense about us. He’s a lawyer, I’m a teacher and they made us go through a million judges and made up false allegations against us.”
Renner complained about the amount of time it takes for issues to cycle through court and asked the city to investigate judges and staff of the courts to resolve these matters.
“ACS issues are obviously very controversial and very human, very complex, but I feel like family work is improving,” de Blasio said, adding that Children’s Services is in no way perfect, but with the appointment of more judges and the high quality of staff overall progress is being made.
“The mayor often goes into communities, he does town hall meetings and he answers questions directly all the time,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “But this is a way to get one-on-one with him and with the commissioners who can answer the questions.”
According to Katz, the mayor’s office has not held anything similar to City Hall in Your Borough since Mayor David Dinkins was in office. City Hall in Your Borough has so far visited Staten Island and the Bronx.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall