By Mark Hallum
City Comptroller Scott Stringer bonded with residents at a community meeting at Kew Gardens Community Center Tuesday to discuss de Blasio administration policies they believe have left neighborhoods in a lurch.
Community jails and Vision Zero road redesigns had residents airing grievances about being left out of the process of change in their city, which Stringer condemned.
One resident was angry that there was no community involvement in the decision to redevelop the Queens Detention Complex, located at 126-02 82nd Ave. Many in the audience want the de Blasio administration to revamp Rikers Island instead of closing it within the next decade.
“It’s critical that elected officials come into communities and listen to what people say, to have an intelligent conversation on how we allocate resources, how we look at economic development projects and how we look at contentious issues as well whether it’s the placement of [a] prison facility or a homeless facility,” Stronger said. “This administration has not done that and I find the way in which they’re siting the prisons in the middle of the night … They are ruining [the community planning] process because they thing it is better to do it in the dark without community planning.”
During an October meeting with de Blasio administration officials at Borough Hall regarding the community jail, city officials were not able to get a word in edgewise over the voices of more than 100 people who turned out.
Stringer acknowledged that Rikers poses a dangerous situation for both guards and inmates, but said he had his own frustrations about the number of New Yorkers who claim the administration has taken action either without or despite community input.
In regards to street redesigns, audience members felt as though the city Department of Transportation has put the needs of bicyclists above car owners.
“DOT hates [motorists],” one man said, arguing against MuniMeter rates being hiked recently. “They’re asking us to pay more but we’re not getting anything back.”
Complaining that bike lanes were taking away from parking while crackdowns on existing parking were unfair, few in the audience felt the interests of bicycle advocates were better represented.
Stringer agreed that Vision Zero was an effective plan to decrease the number of fatalities on the streets throughout the city, but agreed that some locations just are not suitable.
“There is no question of bias. We demand safe drivers — that’s what Vision Zero is — but we also want safe bicyclists,” Stringer said.
Over the summer, Community Board 2 fumed over a bike lane proposal from DOT that eliminated over 100 parking spaces on Skillman and 43rd avenues.
Despite holding multiple hearings and revising the plan, CB 2 voted against the installing bike lanes. De Blasio ordered the DOT to move forward with the plan regardless.
“You can’t go to people in Brooklyn and Queens and tell them, ‘you need to get out of your cars when there’s no transportation build-out,” Stringer said. “The people in Kew Gardens and Forest Hills are being pushed out of the decision-making and discussion process. We’re here today to say that has to change.”
The de Blasio administration has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall