BY JAMES FARRELL
During a town hall event in Briarwood on Thursday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced additional funding for an outdoor classroom at Willow Lake Park in Flushing Meadows Corona Park
De Blasio committed $800,000 to building the classroom, adding that Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), who hosted the town hall, had been pursuing the project.
“He’s put almost $2 million into this effort,” de Blasio said of Lancman. “We’re going to add another $800,000 to finish it and get it done.”
Flushing Meadows Corona Park was recently the subject of a lawsuit between Lancman and the city. In 2016, Lancman sued the city over its appointments to the board of the Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a conservancy that helps preserve and maintain the park. Lancman, whose district includes the southern tip of the park, which includes Willow Lake, argued that he and other legislators whose districts contain parts of the park were excluded from the board.
The city settled the lawsuit in August, allowing Lancman and the others to join the board.
“Thank you @MayorDeblasio and @RoryLancman for funding a new outdoor classroom in Willow Lake,” the alliance tweeted after the announcement. “What a great addition this will be for our park.”
The announcement for the funding was part of de Blasio’s introductory remarks at the town hall, where Briarwood residents and Lancman’s constituents grilled the mayor with questions for three hours.
The mayor also announced that he would commit funding to renovate and provide air conditioning to a room in the NYCHA Shelton House in Jamaica—although he did not offer a dollar amount—and that five of the city’s 21 incoming Select Bus Service Routes would be located in Lancman’s district.
In response to a question about when a new Briarwood Library—which is expected to begin construction in 2020—would be built, de Blasio admitted that there was no concrete answer, adding that “there are some challenges.”
“It’s on our radar screen, we’re trying to come up with a real plan, we’re trying to come up with a real timeline,” he said.
Martha Taylor, the chairwoman of Community Board 8, asked the administration about the status of Par Central Motor Inn in Jamaica, which is currently housing homeless individuals.
“We have an overall plan to end the use of commercial hotels [as homeless shelters],” said Steven Banks, the commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration. “We have a five-year plan to end it, but I have to tell you, we’re working directly with your council member, and we’re working on an effort to end that one sooner rather than later.”
A Spectrum employee named Troy Walcott referenced cable workers’ ongoing strike against Spectrum Cable and Charter Communications. He asked if any other companies have reached out to the city to provide service or if the city would be willing to take on the striking cable workers to help provide service.
De Blasio accused Charter of “union busting” and said that he was “shocked” at its “unacceptable behavior,” adding that he had invited Charter’s leadership and the union to city hall to resolve differences, but that “they have never agreed to that.” The city has launched an audit on the company.
“We are interested in more competition going forward,” he said. “We’d definitely like to hear if there’s something we could do with the workers themselves, that’s a really interesting idea.”
When two children—one Jewish and one Muslim—jointly asked the mayor about including halal and kosher meals in the city’s free school lunch program, de Blasio praised them for their participation, but gave a tough answer.
“We do not feel we can afford that in this environment, particularly with the uncertainty coming out of the federal budget,” he said.
“Is it an impossibility for the future? No, there might be a day where we could get to it, but today we can’t.”
Some vegetarian meals are available through the program, de Blasio added.
When asked how he would address subway delays and other shortages in service, de Blasio referenced his feud with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about whether the city or state should be responsible for fixing subway issues. De Blasio pointed out that the state controls the MTA.
“The reason I have vociferously pointed out the state’s responsibility is because I believe the only way the situation will change is if the state has to recognize its responsibility,” he said.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.