Bill de Blasio Sits Down with Tribune Staff
BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
Last Friday, Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio met with the Queens Tribune staff to discuss his platforms and ideas for the City, highlighting the many ways his administration would differ from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.
De Blasio, New York City’s Public Advocate and a Brooklyn resident, said that he was inspired to run because he felt as though there were many inequalities in the City that he felt were unacceptable.
“I thought they were growing. I thought the status quo was unsupportable in many perspectives. As a Brooklynite, I felt City government was overly concerned with Manhattan and not as much the other boroughs,” de Blasio said. “I thought this manifested in small business policy, school co-locations [and a] lack of focus of creating economic opportunity for outer borough folks who were struggling.”
As a public school parent, the highly-favored candidate said that he felt that these inequalities are particularly noticeable in the New York City school system. When asked if there were any particular policies of Bloomberg’s he would seek to overturn, de Blasio focused on the recent co-location proposals.
“Clearly, with more school closures, co-locations and truncations, I think that process has been done without meaningful parental involvement. I think that is wrong on its face and likely to yield bad results in terms of the outcomes of the co-locations and closures,” he explained. “But I also think it’s wrong because it undermines the possibility of meaningful parental engagement with our children, our schools, because they are being shoved to the side in the process of making decisions.”
De Blasio, who referred to the administration’s progress on education as a “mixed bag,” also noted that if he were elected, he would like to hire a completely different Schools Chancellor, although he does not yet have someone in mind.
“[I would elect a] different chancellor [with] different policies on co-locations [and] different policies on standardized testing,” he said. “I want to move away substantially from the Mayor’s orientation there and go down the list.”
Although de Blasio criticized the administration’s attempt to pile so many co-locations and closures just months before Bloomberg’s 12-year term comes to an end, he did highlight some of the administration’s positive impacts.
“I think they started propitiously,” he explained. “I think they started strongly with Mayoral Control of education – which I do not like the way they implemented it at all, but I think the achievement of Mayoral Control is necessary and important.”
Other key points during the interview included development in the Borough, particularly the development proposal at Willets Point. De Blasio, who voted for the original plan, said he saw progress, but that it was not enough.
“What we hoped for didn’t happen, in terms of time and impact on affordable housing,” he said. “I don’t think this has been a very appealing process or set outcome so far and I think community leaders and elected officials did a good job trying to force the issue and get more into the project, which I commend them for. I still am not happy with what I see as far as how long it is going to take for affordable housing alone.”
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or email@example.com or @nkozikowska.
Joe Lhota Discusses Transit, Housing Policies
BY JOE MARVILLI
Republican Mayoral candidate Joe Lhota said that due to a lengthy Democratic primary battle, the positions of his opponent, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, are more widely known than his throughout the City. To help get his own policies and ideas out there, Lhota sat down for an in-depth interview with the Queens Tribune editorial board.
Going over problems in Queens with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, development, Stop and Frisk and education, the candidate outlined his vision for the City’s post-Bloomberg years under his administration.
Having served as the chairman of the MTA, Lhota said that expanding the system in the outer boroughs has to be a top priority. During his time with the transit agency, Lhota said he reversed half of the budget cuts made by his predecessor, Jay Walder. This reversal was supplemented with the expansion of bus service in Little Neck and Douglaston.
“There are numerous subway lines which we need to seriously consider extending. As Jamaica has become a larger employment sector of the Borough, we also need to be able to get bus service there,” he said. “Our services need to be changed to fit where people live, where they work.”
Any such expansion would need funding, which the MTA does not have past 2014, since that is when its latest five-year capital plan ends. While Lhota would do what he could to fund the system as Mayor, he said Albany must get involved.
While he talked about building up City transit, Lhota also discussed more traditional development in Queens, touching on controversial issues like Willets Point. He said he does not approve of the constantly shifting nature of that project.
“It keeps changing every time I look at it. It’s too confusing,” he said. “I do believe [Willets Point] needs to be reclaimed and cleaned and renovated. The people who have businesses there need to be paid. The idea of all the changing plans is not helpful.”
Lhota also brought up a key difference between himself and de Blasio in terms of plans for more affordable housing in the City. Lhota would like to make developers dedicate at least 20 percent of their units to affordable housing if they ask for a variance from the City. He said de Blasio’s idea takes it a step too far.
“Bill wants to go one step further, and basically say that anything that’s built in the City of New York will have affordable housing. I am of the point-of-view that that is taking of one’s property,” Lhota said.
Stop and Frisk has been another hot-button issue in this year’s mayoral race. While de Blasio wants to completely overhaul the policing tactic, Lhota said changes have already been made. He said stops have been reduced by 40 percent and the training for police officers has changed three times to make sure they do not overstep their bounds.
“There’s been an enormous amount of work done there. They’re not talking about it and I don’t understand that. It’s about enhanced communication. We need more of it in New York City, not less,” he said.
The candidate strongly criticized the City’s education policy, saying that he believes in Mayoral Control but thinks the students are getting a subpar learning experience. The two main reasons for this problem, he said, are a lack of communication from the Dept. of Education and a lack of training for public school teachers.
He mentioned that charter schools require teachers to have professional development and training three to five hours every week of the school year, while public school teachers only have four hours of the same training per year. This is one of the biggest education statistics Lhota wants to change. Another one is the fact that 81 percent of students who wanted to go to community colleges were deemed incapable of doing college-level work, a number he found unacceptable.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.