The Tale of The Tape
In September 10th Primary
By Gary G. Toms
The Wave has met with the majority of the candidates that are set to do battle in the 31st Assembly District Primary on September 10. Those who were not able to meet with us by the requested deadline have presented their plans and proposals for Rockaway in some form. Here is an abbreviated version of their platforms, agendas and ideas of what they plan to do if elected (re-elected) by voters within the district.
Michele Titus (Incumbent)
Graduate of Albany Law School
Served as Chief of Staff and Counsel to State Senator Ada Smith
Former Director of the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus
Former Attorney, NYC Board of Ed
Former Queens Democratic District Leader
On her accomplishments….
"Well, keep in mind that it’s only been six months or so, but I have been able to secure funding to see that the late Assemblywoman’s (Pauline Rhodd-Cummings) initiatives are completed or maintained. I have secured funding for the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center’s new facility at 6200 Beach Channel Drive, which will also serve as a training center for youth in the Rockaway area. I formed a community advisory board (for all phases of community development) to insure that the community has a voice, as far as job training and economic opportunities are concerned. I’ve also created the Merchants Association, for the sole purpose of allowing the business community to present their issues and concerns. Revitalization of the Far Rockaway Mall has also been one of the projects that I am actively involved in."
On her challengers…
"The field of candidates is large, but I have a vested interest in the community. I’m raising my family here, and my parents are here. Unlike other candidates, I did not automatically move here to run for office, and while I may not live in Rockaway, I do live within the district. My office is in Rockaway, and I’m here a majority of the time."
On the rumor that she isn’t "Caribbean" enough for some voters…
"I think that is laughable because my mother was born in St. Kitts, in the Caribbean, so I am of Caribbean decent. I am also proud to be able to continue the legacy that Pauline started by representing Caribbean women in government.
On education issues….
"I’m working with District 27 to provide increased seating for students. I’m set to meet with the new School’s Chancellor in the coming weeks to discuss the overcrowding situation in Rockaway. I also will discuss my plans to implement more after-school programs and various school-to-work programs, which have been very successful at Far Rockaway High School."
On transportation issues…
"I’m currently working with other Rockaway politicians to get ferry service established here. I’m working to secure federal and state money to make this happen."
On the high rate of unemployment in Rockaway…
"We have to find a way to provide skills to these kids so that they can compete in the world. We must find a way to obtain more money to establish training centers in Rockaway. That is the only way we can adequately prepare them for the future. Right now, they have next to nothing."
Newsday, Pastor J.D. Williams of the St. Johns Baptist Church; Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer; Congressman Gregory Meeks, State Senator Malcolm Smith, DC 37, 1199, the United Federation of Teachers, SEIU, AFL-CIO, and the Carpenter’s Union.
Charles A. Pringle
B.A. in Criminal Justice, St. John’s University
Juris Doctor degree from CUNY School of Law at Queens College
Former community liaison for then Congressman Floyd Flake
Former Youth Commissioner for the Youth Commission on Human Rights
Chairman of the Board, Northeast Black Law Students Association Job Fair, Inc.
Vice-Chairman, Young Democrats of Queens
Currently serving Assistant District Attorney for the Bronx District Attorney’s Office.
On the "carpetbagger" issue…
"Some of the candidates don’t even live in the district, and they have made moves to make it appear as though they do. I may not be from Rockaway, but I do live in the district. I don’t have a "machine" behind me. I’m out here on my own, meeting people and finding out what their concerns are. A community can be turned around with the right leadership. I may not have all the answers to everybody’s problems, but you can bet that I will always try to find solutions."
On the education issue…
"I’ll work to maintain Community School Boards and restructure them to perform more effectively; develop a support system for students at risk for dropping out; establish early intervention programs so that all third graders read on grade level; rehabilitate the infrastructure of old and deteriorating schools; and acquire and retain qualified teachers through a pay increase and incentives."
On economic development…
"The community is sorely lacking in job development and training. With all of the housing, and businesses, that is slated to come into Rockaway, we must make sure that the developers give back to the community. That is not being discussed. If we are not careful, Rockaway will experience what is happening in Harlem and other areas of the city. We need a small business development center in Far Rockaway; state tax incentives for business development; a direct ferry service line to the city; to ensure that workers affected by new federal airport legislation are re-trained and placed in jobs; and establish a new two-level high school and college for aeronautics and engineering near Kennedy Airport."
On what his leadership would bring to the community…
"Accessibility and accountability. I will give people the opportunity to meet with me on a regular basis. I can’t understand their needs if I don’t talk to them face to face. I also want them to hold me accountable. If I don’t get the job done, they can vote me out of office. I’m not going to be like most candidates in the race. I won’t make promises I can’t keep, but I will try my hardest to help the community."
On his relationship with the political heavyweights in the district….
"I have a respectful relationship with the district leaders. I have played golf with State Senator Smith, and Congressman Meeks and I are frat brothers (Alpha Phi Alpha). Assemblywoman Titus and I are good friends, and we will be after this is over. However, I do think that the leadership realizes that I am a formidable opponent. I was not surprised that they didn’t endorse me, but I do know that they take me very seriously as a candidate. There could be an upset in the making. It happened for Councilman Sanders. I admire him because he was an underdog and managed to pull out a victory."
Reverend Henrietta Fullard
B.S. in Chemistry from South Carolina State College
Former Endocrinologist, Brooklyn Jewish Hospital
Master of the Arts Degree in Science Education, Teachers College of Columbia University
Former Principal of Mathematics, Science Research and Technology Magnet School, where she partnered with NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to initiate science programs for students.
Long time community activist in the Rockaways.
Currently serving as the Pastor of Bethel AME Church in Arverne
On why she is running…
"Rockaway needs some fresh, new ideas, and I can provide them. For too long this community has lacked services, programs and basic necessities to help its residents. It’s time for a change."
On her three main points of focus in the race…
Education - "I know all about school budgets, education reform, and education in general. All of the other candidates are talking about what they will do for education, but I am the ONLY candidate to actively take part in these initiatives for the last 25 years. I’m also proud of the fact that I have been the sole candidate to take on the issue of "special ed" at M.S. 198, when it was discovered that 98 percent of the special ed kids were black males. There was something grossly incorrect about that numbers, and I took action.
Job Training – "I have worked to establish programs offered through the Bethel Arverne Development Corporation, where we have placed over 30 graduates. We have also set up food banks and given the Department of Social Services referrals for our graduates. I also vehemently opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to do away with funding for food programs in and outside the Rockaway community."
Affordable Housing – "We need to make sure families will be able to live in Rockaway in the future. Displacement of residents has become a major concern in our community, and many are worried that the Arverne project is not for Arverne residents. I, along with other members of Community Board 14, have grave questions about what will happen to current residents of the Arverne community. I am the only candidate that has been present at every meeting involving Arverne-By-The-Sea developers and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. None of the other candidates can say that. I have questions about the project, and I will get them answered."
On her petition being challenged…
"I was challenged by Titus, and ‘the machine’, in effort to knock me off the ballot, but when all was said and done, The Board of Elections certified me to be on the ballot. I was then challenged, for the second time, when the Queens County Democratic Party’s attorneys requested a "line by line" account of signatures, but when local community members questioned why I was the only candidate facing these situations, the attorneys withdrew their challenge, and the court appearance was cancelled. This was all done because they recognized that I was a viable candidate. They know I will give them a run for their money."
On why there seems to be a power struggle within the Democratic Party…
"I believe people have different visions within the party. Therefore, they are looking to restructure it. It’s become a struggle between the party of old ideas and a party that wants to inject fresh, new ideas. If I get elected, it will prove that it is definitely a new day in politics."
On seniors and prescription drugs...
"There is so much money available in disaster relief funding. We should be able to find a way to re-allocate disaster relief money for food and medicine programs to help seniors. The fact that seniors are going hungry because they have to spend all their money on prescription drugs should qualify them for disaster relief."
The New York League of Conservation Voters
The Rockaway Inwood Ministerial Coalition
Southeast Queens Clergy for Community Empowerment
Reverend Norris, of the Bethesda Baptist Church; and Reverend Arthur W. Davenport, of the First Church of God
Bryan J. Block
Community liaison and aide to State Senator Malcolm A. Smith
Member of Community Board #13, serving on its land use and housing committees
Member of Deerfield Civic Association
Campaign worker for former Mayor David Dinkins; NYC Comptroller William Thompson; Queens Borough President Helen Marshall; the Honorable Juanita Watkins; and the late Assembly member Pauline Rhodd-Cummings
Currently working as a senior paralegal at a major NYC law firm.
On the issues he considers priority….
"In education, I would provide more after-school programs, day care centers, and work on improving classroom size. In transportation, I would improve A-train service and push to establish a ferry service in Rockaway. With regard to health care, I would work to make sure that seniors are able to obtain generic drugs to offset the skyrocketing cost of medicine. I would work very closely with present elected officials to make things happen. No matter what, people will say that Bryan Block tried."
On economic development…
"There are too many kids with nothing to do. I can’t say that I have a ‘cure all’ for this condition, but I will find ways to train kids and keep them employed for prolonged periods. It is also critical that we find ways to get them unionized. Too many programs are being set up to train them, but they are not getting the work. The developers coming into our community should work with co-developers, and not as a sole entity. This way, they can monitor what the other is doing, and the community could have much more input, as opposed to working only with a private developer. I would also love to see a major supermarket in the area."
On the rumor that Rockaway wants a "Caribbean rep" in the Assembly…
"The rumors being spread about Caribbean versus American candidates is a divisive tactic being used by certain candidates to deter voters. No group is better than the other, and the issues in this community affect us all. I will not fall into the trap of class elections."
On those who challenge his claim that Cummings name him as her successor…
"I welcome those who differ to challenge me on this issue. She asked me to run because of my community involvement, not because I’m of Caribbean decent. I promised her that I would continue her legacy and expand on what she had done. Other than Reverend Fullard, I am the only candidate with many years of community involvement, and that’s why I was chosen.
On his challengers….
"Too many candidates are running under the assumption that this seat is something to be listed on their resume. It’s about serving the needs of the people and answering the call to service. Many of them haven’t even gone into Hammels, Redfern, the 40’s or Edgemere to touch, feel and bond with the people. Everywhere I go to campaign, the residents, young and old, tell me this. It’s sad. How can you claim to be an effective legislator if you don’t even connect with the people or their concerns? That’s ludicrous!"
On the housing issue….
"If elected, I would work feverishly to insure there is a balance of low and middle income housing in the community. I would work closely with Congressman Gregory Meeks to make sure this happens. Moreover, too many homes and apartments are being constructed where the work is shotty, and people are being stuck with the bill. This has been the case with a number of developers that are filtering into the communities. We have to hold them accountable and see to it that residents are not taken advantage of.
Resident of the Rockaway community since 1971
On his community involvement…
"Through the efforts of Steve Cooper, of the Frank Avenue Civic Association, and myself the hazardous Edgemere landfill was eventually closed. I assisted the Rockaway Sea Cadet program by paying the rent for their facility for one year when they were in danger of being shut down. I have a track record of helping kids and have sponsored numerous programs for them."
On the key issues of your campaign...
"Establishing a shopping center in the Far Rockaway area; tackling the mosquito problem; and dealing with noise and emissions issues relating to airplanes flying over Rockaway. Airlines should be held accountable for causing health problems in the community. Nitrous Oxide, which spews from the airplanes, is making many residents sick. We have to do something about that. I also plan to fight to keep the firehouse on Beach 59 from being moved."
On his credentials, past or present, and how they will play a role if he wins…
"I have a B.S. in Biological Science, so I know how to address environmental issues. My military experience has shown me how to be an effective leader. I owned a successful security firm, so I know how to generate businesses and provide jobs. A successful, proven businessman is one of the key things needed to bring economic development to the community."
On the education issue…
"I would become part of the educational commission so I could create an ‘educational superfund.’ Money generated from the New York State lottery would be directed in a separate account, which would be specifically earmarked for education. The current lottery system is not doing that, and everyone knows it."
On the Arverne-By-The Sea project…
"It’s a good idea, but, as they say, the devil is in the details. That’s all I care to say about the issue."
We need to install "guide-a-ride" panels so people will know how to get from one form of transportation to another. We need more maps to indicate routes. We need to open up bidding on bus companies, and provide better air conditioning and heating. I’d like to see the Green Bus Line hours extended as well."
On his main objective as the Assemblyperson of the 31st district…
"To see the peninsula develop into a vacation spot for people all over the world. I want to see business and tourism flourish."
The 6th Congressional District
Congressman Gregory W. Meeks
Held elective office for the last 10 years
Member of the Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, and the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology
Serves on the International Relations Committee and its subcommittee on Africa, and the subcommittee on East Asia and The Pacific.
Authored legislation that increased air service from New York City airports to communities in upstate New York- Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester
Led the largest congressional delegations ever to visit the New York Stock Exchange and The United Nations.
An active member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and became CBC Whip in 2001
On his accomplishments….
"I was able to take action in gaining control of the Far Rockaway Shopping Mall, which had been a major issue in the community for many, many years. The problem was Rita Starks, the owner of the property, would not sell it. So, we (the government) were able to strike an agreement with her under the clause of eminent domain, and money was appropriated to local organizations to do a study of the area. Now, plans are underway for a reconstruction of the mall in the not too distant future.
The Joseph P. Addabbo Health Center has been another project that I have been involved with. I have been able to obtain $460,000 in funding for the new facility, which will be located at 6200 Beach Channel Drive, and I’ve just obtained an additional million dollars for the proposed medical and aviation-training center.
I have provided funding for the Financial Literacy Center Program at Far Rockaway High School, which allows students to conduct business and obtain jobs via the Internet. I was successful in bringing the woman who was missing in South Africa, Natasha Smalls, back to the United States. I’ve helped set up various job training programs, through Hope VI, which give people in the community a chance to obtain jobs and union membership. I must say that although we are making progress in providing jobs, I am not happy with the level of jobs being provided by NYCHA for graduates of various Hope VI projects. To date, 44 residents are now employed with NYCHA, but we want to see many more people working."
On Arverne residents being displaced because of Arverne-By-The-Sea and the housing boom….
"No one will be displaced in Arverne or Edgemere. I want to make that very clear. However, there will be an attempt to get middle-income residents into the community as well.
"I am actively working with Congressman Anthony Weiner to push for a ferry service in Rockaway.
On the allegation that he relies on mainland voters, and ignores Rockaway voters…
"I have a vested interest in Rockaway. I live here, and it is my base. I will never turn my back on this community. It would not be in my best interest."
On the fact that some residents consider him an "absentee Congressman"…
"Unfortunately, I’m needed in Washington most of the time to cast votes and to help consider certain legislation that will presented before me. I would love it if I could be in Rockaway more often, but this is the nature of things. I need to travel because of the international committees I am part of. We are in a global economy, and I am always looking for ways to bring employment opportunities, and business entities, into Rockaway. I work very hard all the time. I have a vision. I don’t have a magic wand, but I work hard to address the community’s issues. We (my team and I) try to do the best we can, and I look forward to continuing my service in the Rockaway community."
Graduate of Cornell University, with a degree in Political Science
Worked for Con Edison as a Senior Engineer Tech
Worked with Utility Workers Union of America, Local 1-2
Daytop Advisory Board, Chairman
Bayswater Civic Association member
Frank Avenue Civic Association member
Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation member
Peninsula Hospital Community Committee member
Member program organizer for the Youth in Action Youth Program; Hammels Houses Boy Scouts; and the Boys and Girls Club for the Rockaways
101 Precinct Council member
Far Rockaway HS PTA President
Long time community activist
On his accomplishments…
"I played a major role in each of the following: renovations to the Early Childhood Playground of PS 104; external restoration of Far Rockaway HS; assisted the Queens District Attorney’s Office in establishing a prototype school base security safety program in the Rockaways; opposition to the development of the Nehemiah Housing Development; opposition to low air flights and extended gas lines over and through Rockaway communities.
On the lack of activities for Rockaway youth…
"My concerns regarding the lack of youth entertainment and activities prompted me to organize a committee to address their needs. Their concerns were forwarded to the local Community Planning Board, urging them to consider establishing a Boys and Girls Club at former religious institutions in Far Rockaway. I want to have the opportunity to build on these programs as the Congressman for this district"
On his record as a community activist…
"I opposed and spoke out against the 1990 area redistricting at a special hearing held at the Queens County Borough Hall Office; supported the Deerfield Civic Association in their fight to obtain better rainwater drainage in the area; supported the Mott Avenue Tenants Association take-over of city-owned housing and conversion to Co-Ops; and brought together many community leaders to help bring local and national attention to Rockaway’s rape crisis and the massive proliferation of drugs and guns in the Far Rockaway community.
On his goal for Rockaway….
"I want to see corporate sponsored educational/community outreach programs; welfare reform modification outreach incentives; voluntary early retirement for public service employees; increased funding for AIDS research; enforcement mandate of the Voting Rights Bill of 1870; low interest loans and tax relief incentives for small business expansion; national health care for undocumented children; and congressional sponsored annual spring/summer youth activities, to name a few.
On why he wants voters to give him a chance….
"We must move beyond politics as usual in this district. I have sat back and watched nothing transpire for the last twenty something years. It’s sad, and no one pays a higher price for it than our children. The time for change is now. I want to have the opportunity to do away with the same, old machine politics. People are tired of empty promises and living in despair. I can bring fresh ideas and change to the community. I hope the voters will give me a chance to do that on September 10. If they do, we will end up surprising a lot of people on Primary night."