James Sanders, Jr.: Challenging A Broken System
James Sanders, Jr. has served as president and current vice president of the school board for ten years. He procured $1.5 million for after school services, created an incentives program for schools that improve student performance, and brought in new books, desks and equipment.
He founded the Fannie Lou Hamer Farmer’s Market, and a local development program that gives seed grants to residents starting new businesses and provides entrepreneurial training. Sanders learned community development from Congressman Floyd H. Flake.
Sanders has played a major role as a community activist in the Rockaway area. When a tenant patrol leader was shot and killed in the Redfern Houses Development, he quickly organized a vigil and a survivor fund for the victim’s children.
The WAVE met with the candidate to pose questions regarding certain conditions and situations that have existed for a number of years throughout the peninsula. Here is what he had to say.
On the "mainland candidates":
"I have heard a number of them state that they can represent Rockaway because the problems here are the same anywhere else. This is true to some extent, but if they really did the research, they would understand that the problems of Rockaway are indeed unique and severe. We have an unemployment rate of 18 percent. We have the lowest income level among any other place in New York City. There are no real recreational facilities for the kids. So, you see, the problems are much more serious here as compared to the areas that some of these candidates are from."
On economic development in the 31st District:
"We need to train people how to run their own businesses. Too many people start businesses in the Rockaways, but because they do not know the basic fundamentals of running a business, they do not survive for very long. As a result, they end up closing shop and another business leaves Rockaway. We need to also train them on how to obtain financing to start their businesses. There is money out there for people, and they should know how to get it. This might mean hitting the banks with the Community Reinvestment Act. This would ensure that the local banks are complying with the statutes allowing funds to be provided to new merchants. We should focus on development capacity of the community and work to see that everyone has a chance to prosper economically."
On being accessible to his supporters:
"The Internet and other types of technology will play a crucial role in my interaction with the community. I will make sure that they will have easy access to me, or one of my representatives, and they will receive responses in a timely fashion. I also have a plan in place that will allow me to take my office on the road. I see no reason why I could not have a meeting at JASA, or any other community center to address the needs of both young and old."
On the crime situation:
"In order to deal with the crime situation, we should focus on three things. The first thing is creating economic opportunities for youth so that they don’t get involved with crime in the first place. The next thing we need to do is create facilities that will keep the youth occupied and off the streets. There is no reason why we could not have a youth newspaper in this community. There are a number of beacon programs set up to make things like this happen, but for one reason or another nothing has happened. Workshops and recreational centers would make a tremendous difference in helping to reduce crime. The final thing I would suggest we do is to strictly enforce certain laws. We have to make people realize that if you do the crime, you’re going to do the time."
On the issue of education:
"The funny thing about a few of the candidates running is that they have never even voted in a school board election, but they have the audacity to attack someone that has spent 10 years trying to get the system to work. In handling the education issue, we should work to reduce class size; repair the infrastructure of the schools; and make sure teachers are paid a wage that is decent and comparable to those outside of the city."
On bridging the East/West gap:
"There are people of goodwill throughout the Rockaway area who want to see change. I believe that in my heart. I don’t think it’s so much a Black or white issue. It’s more of a quality of life issue. I would convene periodic meetings between the East and West ends to dialogue on economic, political and social issues that affect the peninsula. I would invite some of the greatest thinkers from the community to draw up a proposal that will help Rockaway in the aforementioned areas. This is the only way we can insure the future of Rockaway and ourselves."
On the transportation issue:
"I support a ferry service to Rockaway, and the city must put up a certain amount of funding to make it happen. We have to fight to make sure federal money can be obtained. Train and bus service is horrendous, and the City Council has failed to hold the Department of Transportation accountable for the conditions that exist on the peninsula. It certain doesn’t help matters when some of these transportation agencies are providing contributions to some of my opponents. The bottom line is I’m sick of this situation, and I these things will not continue to happen on my watch."
On the Arverne Urban Renewal Area:
"I propose mixed uses for the area. I want both high and low-income residents to be able to take advantage of the site. There should be a combination of high-level housing and affordable housing. That may not set well with people, but it’s the truth. We have to work to insure that as many people as possible are able to have decent place to live. I think working with organizations like Habitat for Humanity would be a viable way of meeting the needs of lower income people. I would also love to see a park, a transportation system, film production studios and small businesses constructed in that area."
On why the people of Rockaway should vote for James Sanders Jr:
"They should vote for me because I have a proven track record of leadership and providing entrepreneurial opportunities for those less fortunate from the community, if you look at what I’ve been able to do with the Farmer’s Market. They should vote for me because they are tired of "machine" politics and want real change. They should vote for me because I am a son that has never turned his back on "Mother Rockaway". I am a man of integrity and I am humble. God willing, I will make sure that Rockaway is transformed in a number of ways, so that it will become the model for other areas in and outside of New York City."