Photo By Lynn Edmonds
De Blasio came to Bayside on Monday night.
BY LYNN EDMONDS
Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared in Queens on Monday night for a town hall meeting in Bayside.
Members of the audience in Bayside, a neighborhood considered to lean politically right of de Blasio’s progressivism, were largely respectful and warm to the mayor. The crowd clapped, if not effusively, for many of his answers, and during one moment of criticism they responded with equal parts boos and cheers.
In his introductory remarks, de Blasio praised host and moderator Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), before touted his legacy program, universal Pre-kindergarten, as well as Vision Zero, his affordable housing initiatives for seniors, the 2,000 additional NYPD officers he approved in the budget, and job growth in Queens.
In the Q&A, Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, asked the mayor to reduce property taxes on co-ops, which he said were taxed unfairly compared to homes.
The mayor responded by saying, “Any solution, I believe this strongly, has to be across the entire property tax system.”
He pledged not to increase property tax rates in the meantime.
Bob Friedrich, President of the Glen Oaks Village and a former candidate for city council in the 23rd District, seconded Schreiber’s concerns about taxes on co-ops, and criticized inclusionary zoning and pop-up homeless shelters in small hotels.
“Now your inclusionary zoning program is threatening to undo all the hard won battles that we fought down-zoning our communities,” Friedrich said.
“First of all I don’t know why you say that about inclusionary zoning,” de Blasio responded. “We’re not trying to undo downzoning, we’re trying to create affordable housing where it’s appropriate and require developers to create affordable housing for people who need it.”
The mayor said he wasn’t happy to turn hotels into emergency shelters, but he felt it was the only option.
Another resident said he thought the City Council members’ recent pay raise was a waste of taxpayer dollars, calling it a direct insult on everyone in an already overburdened community.”
De Blasio said that it had been a decade since they last received a pay increase, that the council members had given up the right to outside income and lulus, and that they had a lot of responsibility as representatives of an entire district.
Three times, audience members raised the issue of aircraft noise, whether from helicopters or airplanes. De Blasio said he would work with the community to advocate to reduce
Susan Carroll, a representative on the aviation roundtable, brought up airplane noise, as did Janet McEneaney, President of Queens Quiet Skies.
“Why has the city taken a backseat on the airplane noise and pollution issue? Because the city owns the lands on which the airports are situated,” Carroll said. “I’d like to see a more proactive stance from the Mayor.”
“I don’t like it when a community feels afflicted by noise, especially if there is any other alternative,” de Blasio responded. “We’ll also look at the airport question in general and see if there is any way we can make a positive impact.”
McEneaney also breached the tender topic of the School Construction Authority’s actions in Bayside, where they recently attempted to build a school at the Bayside Jewish Center, in the face of great community opposition.
“We have not had a productive relationship with them in this neighborhood,” McEneaney said of the SCA.
“We need more school space. There’s a problem and a challenge, lets be real about it,” de Blasio said. “If people say no school anywhere, I’m going to look them in the eye and say, that’s not the right way to look at it.”
But he added, “We will work with the councilman to find a better way with all of you.”
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana