Community Board 5 voted at its Jan. 9 meeting to devote over $25,125 of discretionary spending on a “respect program,” which will hire a preferably bilingual temporary administrative assistant, whose job will be “to convince people to be more civil.”
The project, spearheaded by CB5 District Manager Gary Giordano, will take up the lion’s share of the additional $42,500 of funding that the city gave each community board in their 2020 budgets.
Giordano, who in years past had dedicated extra discretionary spending to an anti-graffiti program, came up with the idea for an initiative that aims to promote respect in all shapes and varieties, including peacefulness, respect for the environment and the desire to learn.
Despite the broad definitions of the program, Giordano specifically referenced forms of domestic abuse and misbehavior that target women in outlining the project at the board meeting.
“I’m very concerned with too much lack of respect. And I think we have a specific problem in our precinct, related to the number of calls that police officers have to respond to related to the potential for domestic violence,” said Giordano.
The materials Giordano wrote to describe the program reference a grizzly crime story about a “man who sawed off his girlfriend’s arm crazily” and a story about a Bronx stabbing to illustrate a tide of “disrespectful and violent behavior.” The examples also span more moderate quality-of-life offenses like vehicular speeding, illegal dumping and blaring music “littered with cursing and disrespect, especially against women.”
To fight this grim portrait of contemporary Ridgewood life, Giordano said that he envisions the project as creating materials that encourage “what we can all agree is good, responsible behavior,” then distributing them among all other community boards in Queens, and possibly throughout the entire city.
After Giordano finished presenting the program at the meeting, the board voted to approve it. The other proposed expenditures involve buying a new photocopier and office security system, which total $11,000.
“So now the question becomes can we do it and how can we do it. It was much easier removing graffiti,” said Giordano.