2005-01-21 / Community

Sanders ‘Brings Home The Bacon’ For Rockaway

By Miriam Rosenberg Contributing Editor

By Miriam Rosenberg
Contributing Editor

The liberation of the Far Rockaway Shopping Center is Councilman Sanders’ first project with the 31st Council District’s share of the $100 million from the Port Authority lease.The liberation of the Far Rockaway Shopping Center is Councilman Sanders’ first project with the 31st Council District’s share of the $100 million from the Port Authority lease.

  • Over the last half of 2004, Councilman James Sanders, Jr. says he secured over $1,850,000 for Far Rockaway.
  • Yet, he adds, that amount pales in comparison to the amount that the 31st Councilmanic District, particularly the Rockaway portion of the district, will receive as part of the $100 million that communities in Queens will receive from the city’s new lease agreement with the Port Authority.

    That agreement provides the funds to those communities impacted by the two airports in Queens – John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia.

    According to Sanders, the $100 million will benefit Queens residents through capital improvements. Sanders, who chairs the Community Advisory Board, that will distribute the funds, has already decided on the first project for the 31st District. Sanders is joined on the board by Rockaway’s other councilman, Joseph Addabbo, Jr.

    “I want to liberate the Thriftway Mall,” says Sanders.

    “We finally have money to buy it,” he told The Wave, discussing the largely-unused mall in Far Rockaway’s business district.

    “Negotiations are underway on this issue with the current owner or her representatives. The situation is very sensitive.”

    He admits that if talks slow down and another opportunity presents itself he will go after it.

    “If we cannot liberate the mall in a short period of time and something else as worthy is attainable, we’ll grab it,” the councilman said.

    Sanders’ goal is for his district to be involved in one big project a year. In addition to the Rockaways, he also represents Laurelton, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens.

    “It will be between five and eight million dollars a year, so it must be used wisely,” he explained.

    In November, Sanders acquired $500,000 in city monies to clean up various types of debris at Dubos Point in Arverne and $100,000 to help control the mosquito population in Rockaway.

    His original idea to purchase mosquito magnets, which he said mimics body heat and is sort of like a roach motel, was denied by the city. Sanders now wants to buy a van for spraying.

    “[The city] wants to take the van all over the city,” Sanders said. “I say that it needs to be in the 31st District 70 percent of the time. I’m arguing with them over that issue.”

    “Now that the State Department of Environmental Conservation has declared the Rockaways a ‘nuisance area,’ we no longer have to ask permission to spray.”

    The councilman said of the unresolved van battle, “we should have something dedicated to here – the front line in the mosquito battle.”

    Sanders is also involved in the problem of the city’s unemployed. His $10 million initiative was approved by the City Council to help the structurally unemployed.

    “The Rockaways will receive a large amount…up to one million of the $10 million,” said Sanders, who explained that it will mean one million dollars a year to the Rockaways.

    The money will be used to train workers in growth industries. In the Rockaways those growth industries include construction, health care and the airport industry.

    The money should be available by March. Contractors can then bid to operate the various training, which will be expected to result in employment.

    Sanders has also secured $750,000 for a new facelift for the playground and the latest in children toys at PS 104, a capital grant in the amount of $500,000 for a state of the art science lab at IS 53 and $500,000 for on-going improvements at Bayswater Park.

    Legal difficulties kept the playground from being finished by its August 2004 due date. Sanders, who is not pleased with the delays, hopes that the work will be completed soon.

    Sanders feels that 2005 is going to be a great year for his constituents.

    “We’re going to explode this year, the whole district,” said Sanders. “This is a great time for the people of the 31st District.”

    The Rockaways are bringing in resources in historic numbers.

    “I’m blessed by being in a key leadership position in the third most powerful committee in the City Council,” said Sanders of his chairmanship of the Economic Development committee. “We also have the support of the speaker and a warm relationship with the mayor. These facts help us to bring more resources than anyone would expect from us.”

    Sanders’ style to focus on a project, get it accomplished and move on to the next thing has – he admitted – made it hard to keep his constituents up-to-date on what he has done for them. Yet, what is important to him is that he has kept his promises.

    “When I was elected, I promised the 31 st District that anything that wasn’t nailed down I would bring home,” recalls Sanders. “I’m keeping that promise.”

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