By Naeisha Rose
Hettie Powell, a lawyer from southeast Queens, is running for the City Council seat vacated by Ruben Wills, who was recently sentenced to prison for grand larceny.
As a longtime district resident and public defender, Powell said she wants to create laws that would improve the lives of constituents in the neighborhoods District 28 represents. For decades, Powell has volunteered her legal services toward helping seniors, immigrants and tenants in Rochdale Village, Richmond Hill, South Jamaica and South Ozone Park.
“Queens needs independent and effective leadership,” Powell said. “I have been in this community for over 35 years and I have been talking to the residents, and working with the people within the community, and I’m the best fit for this job.”
Powell wants to promote high-paying union jobs, youth employment, public school funding, senior services, and healthier community relations between citizens and police officers in the district.
“When I go to the City Council, I want to work with the various members to see how we can develop the economic system here for our young people,” said Powell, a Rochdale Village resident. “We have to start looking at effective ways to create more jobs in our community.”
Powell wants to boost employment in southeast Queens by increasing job fairs and workshops, and by securing employment opportunities from the expanding John F. Kennedy Airport for residents. She also wants schools to have more vocational job training.
“We should get them good union jobs that will give them quality wages they can live on,” Powell said. “We have no vocational training schools in southeast Queens that would prepare our children for work.”
Powell believes that in order for public schools to help with providing vocational training and STEM courses, they need funding for development and other services.
“The schools themselves need better infrastructure, because when you bring the technological equipment, the schools are not built with the wiring to have those things installed,” Powell said.
She believes a holistic approach to education is necessary for an individual’s success from preschool to college, and that more after-school programs and free lunches are needed at public schools.
The Democratic candidate wants quality senior housing and centers that provide travel, immigration representation, social security workshops and help with medical issues. Additionally, she wants these facilities to be safe places for recreation and socialization for the aging population across the district.
“When you go to Richmond Hill, there are no senior centers,” Powell said. “Our seniors need services and they need help to navigate certain issues.”
Powell said she wants to stand up for all people within her district.
“As an attorney, I can bring reform to our criminal justice system, and I can also make sure that whatever legislation I’m putting in will be effective for all people,” Powell said. “Looking at Riker’s Island, how can we close it, and how can we decriminalize petty crimes.”
Powell believes that the Neighborhood Community Officer program is essential to southeast Queens and that there should be more policing of that kind.
“When residents see officers, they talk to them and they need to know that they are not there to harass them and to just arrest them,” Powell said. “There needs to be a partnership between the police and the residents to build a bridge for safe streets, and you can get that through neighborhood policing.”
Ultimately, Powell’s goal is to be a different leader than her predecessor.
“District 28 is craving for honest and independent leadership,” Powell said. “They need someone who will work on behalf of the people, and that is what I have been doing for years.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose