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Comptroller joins Queens lawmakers for virtual economic town hall

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BY DEAN MOSES

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and a host of fellow elected officials teamed up for a virtual town hall meeting to discuss economic issues facing the constituents of central Queens on Monday, Nov. 9.

From their offices and homes, Senator Joseph Addabbo, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer joined a Zoom meeting, discussing a variety of topics posed to them through the conference’s built-in chat system and questions submitted prior to the meeting.

Over the course of the hourlong discussion, talking points included the new budget, education, homelessness and food insecurity. Yet before the event got underway proper, the evening commenced with the representatives expressing the severity of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on jobs, small businesses and health.

“We should think back to February 2020 when the unemployment rate was 3.4 percent and over the last 10 years, we had actually created almost 1 million jobs during that 10-year period. Once COVID hit in March, within 30 days, the unemployment rate went from 3.4 percent to 20 percent. We went from the lowest to the highest in our history. We lost 9,000 of those jobs in a little more than 30 days. This is the greatest economic challenge our city ever faced,” Stringer said.

Meng echoed how difficult this year has been for many, but also took the time to thank everyone who has attempted to ease the burden.

“These are really unprecedented times, our community leaders have really stepped in and pitched in, in so many ways. This is the best case of neighbors looking out for each other, and so many people have stepped up, from our kids to our senior citizens. I am just so proud of all of you,” Meng said.

Over the course of the conversation, the comptroller took jabs at Mayor Bill de Blasio for his lack of commitment to a sustained education plan. Stringer’s deep-rooted concerns came as both a comptroller and parent, as he was briefly joined by his son Maxwell, who he dubbed his “deputy comptroller.”

“The blended learning was wisely proposed to be a rolling decision for parents. In other words, if you didn’t feel comfortable putting your child in a classroom setting — perhaps you have pre-existing health conditions or an elderly grandparent in the household — you could learn remotely and have an opportunity every quarter to opt in,” Stringer said. “The mayor gets up and with a snap of his fingers says no this Friday, and I mean this Friday, is your deadline for the rest of the school year. What is he doing? Does he even understand what it is like to have young children in the household that require babysitting and the decision of which parent is going to go to work and stay home? The health implications of a Friday deadline … it is simply mind boggling to me how the department of education continues to work for everyone except the people they are supposed to serve.”

In addition to education, another pressing issue was that of the food crisis.

A slew of Queens neighborhoods have seen a steady surge of families requiring food assistance, leading to lines that stretch down block after block as individuals hope to gain assistance. Stringer complemented volunteer efforts while Meng expressed gratitude to all the public servants who have ensured that pantries have the capacity to aid the increased number of New Yorkers who require support.

Addabbo also weighed in, reminding viewers to reach out to their offices if anyone needs further help, that being physical or mental. He stressed that no one should go hungry, and if they are facing food insecurity, they should immediately reach out to one of the elected officials present or call 311.

“A lot of the issues that came up today we can address, and some we cannot. But the idea is that we try. The idea is that we have a lot more work to do going forward. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our offices. I do look forward to working with everyone here. We have a bright future ahead of us, but it’s up to us on how bright it is,” Addabbo said.

As the Town Hall came to a close, the elected officials expressed their excitement for the future as they prepare to work with the new presidential administration on ways to better serve the Queens community going forward. It was also assured that all questions and concerns would be answered by follow-up phone calls the following day.

“I’m optimistic as we go into the year 2021 with a new presidency, a new leadership, and one that is going for unity already. And I think that is what we are going to need. We are going to need people to unite, regardless of which side you isle are on or what your political philosophy may be, the bottom line is with this pandemic, which knows no boundaries. This pandemic does not discriminate it affects everyone. There is no room for politics when we deal with these pandemic issues,” Addabbo added.

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