BY JOE MARVILLI
Four Democratic candidates came together in the Rosenthal Library at Queens College to debate and discuss their plans if elected mayor and how those plans would affect residents of Queens.
Former Brooklyn councilman Sal Albanese, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu and former Comptroller Bill Thompson met for around an hour and a half to discuss the issues affecting Queens and the City to a room full of students, faculty and administrators. The debate was moderated by Errol Louis of NY1 and Michael Krasner, a professor of political science at Queens College.
Although some candidates showed up late due to traffic on the Long Island Expressway and Council Speaker Christine Quinn was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, professor Ron Hayduk, who coordinated the debate, was happy with how the event turned out.
“From an organizer’s perspective, I was pleased that the candidates came and stayed the duration,” he said. “We got some very nice feedback from students, faculty and staff. We’ve gotten high marks.”
The ongoing recovery effort from Superstorm Sandy was a strongly discussed topic. All the candidates thought that City Hall was not doing enough to help the Rockaways mend.
“City Hall needs to open their books to find out where the [FEMA] money is,” Liu said. “There are still thousands trying to piece their lives back together.”
“People need answers. After the initial burst of activities, it’s now been an afterthought,” Albanese said.
De Blasio praised the State’s plan to help people relocate, saying “the City has not been as willing to help people through the transition.”
“Extreme weather patterns are part of our future now,” Thompson said on the recovery process. “We have to rebuild smarter.”
College tuition and the City University of New York’s new curriculum, Pathways, were both topics that garnered the interest of the student/teacher crowd. While the ongoing high cost of tuition has been an issue for years, Pathways is a new policy from the City that some teachers felt dumbed down the curriculum.
While Thompson was unfamiliar with Pathways, he mentioned that tuition costs were a serious problem and tied it into the City’s public school system. He said the current administration’s education policies meant that high school students are not ready for college and they wind up using their grant money on remedial school instead.
“It is time to hold the line,” he said. “We are pricing out our young people and we can no longer do that.”
Liu disagreed with the Pathways system and said that he wanted to increase the percentage of students with degrees from 42 percent to 60 percent by 2025. He would do this by giving the top 10 percent of high school graduates free CUNY tuition and providing free MetroCards to CUNY students.
“We have to do more to provide assistance for our high school students to get into college and to allow them to graduate from the CUNY schools,” Liu said.
Albanese, who said he was the only CUNY alumnus candidate, called the system a jewel of the City and said that he proposed slashing the school’s tuition in 1997. He vowed to fund CUNY adequately if elected mayor.
“It’s smart to support CUNY,” he said. “Education will solve our crime problem, our economic development problems and our quality of life problems.”
De Blasio also felt that solving the City’s public education issues would be a good first step to improving the preparation and education of those who attend CUNY.
“We have to think where we’re going to put our resources best,” he said. “We have to start first by fixing our public schools.”
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.