BY LYNN EDMONDS
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) visited the Queens Tribune office last month to talk about top issues in her district as well as goings-on in Albany. During the hour-long visit, she covered a wide range of issues, including transportation, infrastructure and development in Downtown Flushing, corruption in Albany, funding cuts at CUNY, and her appraisal of the Mayor and the Governor’s performance so far.
As she spoke about Downtown Flushing, the senator said that the infrastructure in the area, especially when it came to public transit and roads, had exceeded its maximum capacity.
“It’s being tested, no question about it,” Stavisky said.
She added that with a municipal parking lot being turned into housing, she expected even more congestion.
“We’ve got to encourage people to leave their cars,” she said.
At the same time, the senator did say she had concerns about the new Select Bus Service lanes, which run along Main Street in Flushing. Cars are prohibited from driving in the bus lanes during rush hour, and the City Department of Transportation began issuing tickets this week to drivers who go into the lanes.
“I think the select bus routes are going to be a problem in Downtown Flushing. As a condition for my support, they eliminated the area from Northern Boulevard to the library,” Stavisky said, adding that she believes the lanes should be eliminated in additional areas.
Stavisky said that she was concerned about how the bus lanes would affect pedestrian safety, a persistent issue in Flushing.
“Too many people have been killed,” she said.
In October 2015, Stavisky was among politicians that attended a street re-naming for Allison Liao, a three year old who was fatally hit at the intersection of Cherry Avenue and Main Street in 2013. The following month, she joined forced with the 109th Precinct and a number of Flushing politicians to step up police enforcement for jaywalking.
Transitioning to a discussion of Albany, Stavisky said that she was concerned about the 30 percent funding cut that CUNY was currently facing.
Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a budget that eliminated $485 million of state funding for the university system. CUNY has been receiving a similarly-sized chunk of cash from the state since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.
Stavisky said that Cuomo was telling those upstate, “‘New York City has lots of money, now we don’t have to make you pay 30 percent.’”
But that wasn’t the way she saw it.
Stavisky said she was circulating a sign-on letter asking each New York state senator, regardless of party affiliation, to protest the cuts.
The cuts would force students to pay an extra $300 per year in tuition.
They would also spell the elimination of programs like Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, which significantly boosts graduation rates for the CUNY’s community colleges by supporting students financially, academically and socio-emotionally.
“His education formula needs a little work,” Stavisky said of Cuomo.
She added that she wanted to see the governor fully fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Lawsuit, a case which resulted in New York’s highest court awarding New York City Schools billions of dollars that was then never fully paid out.
Stavisky also said Cuomo should have extended mayoral control for more than one year.
Nonetheless, the senator had positive words to say about many of Cuomo’s initiatives, including his inclusion of the DREAM Act, which would help grant permanent residency to children of undocumented immigrants, in the budget, his women’s equality agenda, and his push for a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave
“These are good progressive issue, so on that score, I think he’s doing a great job,” Stavisky said.
Regarding the Mayor, Stavisky said she was happy with his work on Universal Pre-Kindergarten, affordable housing and policing, but that she didn’t like the way that he’d handled controversy over the Pan Am shelter in Elmhurst and homelessness in general.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana