By Mark Hallum
Mayor Bill de Blasio side-stepped a major Police Benevolent Association rally outside a town hall in Arverne but later praised the NYPD’s work in Wednesday’s bomb attacks.
With roaring chants from more than 500 PBA members saying “Billy, come out, we’ve got you surrounded,” de Blasio entered the building through an entrance on the different side of the school.
PBA President Pat Lynch, a Bayside resident, said the union was there to bring the mayor to the table for contract negotiations — which have not taken place in a year and a half — to bring NYPD wages to levels more in line with the statewide average for law enforcement officers.
“We’re here to welcome the mayor to the Rockaways,” Lynch said, claiming de Blasio has never been to the Rockaways when he held a town hall in Belle Harbor in December 2017. “But where we really want him to go is to the negotiating table. He refuses to negotiate with New York City police officers. Today is the day when police officers were needed more than most and everyone dialed 911 and called us. Except the mayor refuses to recognize that, to recognize that we are the ones who make this city safe, that we’re the ones who put ourselves at risk. And he’s offering us zero raises, to get back our pension, take our health benefits, that’s an absolute disgrace.”
Although a spokesman for the administration declined to comment on the demonstration, de Blasio spoke highly of NYPD’s work securing the site at Columbus Circle where a bomb, among several others targeting Democrats, was found Wednesday morning.
“We’ve seen this time and time again. This is not the first time we’ve been attacked to say the least, what’s amazing is the resiliency of our people,” de Blasio said. “We also are blessed because we know that when something like this happens we have the finest police force in this entire country to depend upon… I’ve watched NYPD time and time and again and they always find the people who do these things.”
But the PBA demonstration was not the only focal point of the town hall.
City Councilman Donovan Richards listed off series of improvements to his district in the gymnasium of PS 42, which included sewer and infrastructure upgrades.
Progress in the Sandy recovery with Build It Back drawing to a close in the coming months after six years in the making, according to program director Amy Peterson.
“Build It Back is about to shut down, there’s only a handful of properties left and then reimbursement for anything else is about to shut down entirely,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to do an entirely different approach if we ever have to deal with anything like this again.”
Members of the audience brought up the topic of medical care on the peninsula, which was also discussed at the December town hall in Belle Harbor with City Councilman Eric Ulrich following the death ofThomas Curly, 12, who had to be transported to a Long Island trauma center after being pulled from the blaze.
Some other concerns were that of gentrification which the mayor touted new affordable housing in the Rockaways with preferential rent for local residents and teens from the Rockaway Youth Task Force requested a commitment from de Blasio to put a pause on low level summons for black and Latinx youth to keep them out of the justice system.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall