Smith Gets An Earful As He Begins ‘Listening Tour’
By Miriam Rosenberg
“During the three months [of state budget negotiations] I had little ability to talk to people.” Smith told those at PHC. “It has caused me to disconnect with the community.”
He said the listening tour could help us discover “things we can go back and work on – [even] change priorities.”
The priority of the day was the blackout that occurred at Ocean Village the previous Sunday. The problems at the building complex took up a majority of the evening’s meeting.
Smith, who had been keeping track of the situation since the power outage began, talked to The Wave prior to the meeting.
“The problem [with the electricity] is going on three to four years now,” Smith told The Wave. “LIPA said that some equipment [at Ocean Village] is inferior.”
Nadia Charles, President of the Ocean Village Tenant Association, talked about the lack of electricity in Ocean Village.
“The lights are still not up,” Charles said. “The electricity is running on five generators. We had sick people taken to the hospital. People’s insulin needs refrigeration. We had the Red Cross there. LIPA still hasn’t been able to correct the problem.”
Ed Williams, representing Congressman Gregory Meeks said two people who were returning to their apartments after dialysis treatments waited at least two and a half hours for management to send help to take them upstairs.
Another Ocean Village resident, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Lillian, told Smith that the blackout problems have been occurring for years, yet the lights usually go out for four hours at a time.
“The building was one big disaster waiting to happen,” she said.
Smith promised to help the Ocean Village residents.
“We have to bring together management and all the elected officials,” Smith said. “No matter what happens with it, we’re going to get to the bottom of it. Three to four years now makes no sense.”
Later Smith said, “We have to go to the top – the owners. We’re going to fix it.”
Patricia Simon, the executive director of Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation (OBCDC), was concerned about residents of the Rockaways being part of the resurgence in the area in a socio-economic way.
“We recently met with an organization that is coming to Queens who focuses on micro enterprises,” answered Smith, referring to the Business Outreach Center Network (BOC). “They want to partner with an organization. They want to identify groups they can collaborate with.”
Besides hooking up organizations, such as OBCDC, with BOC Smith also had other suggestions.
Smith said that any projects in the area should be required to use local residents as employees.
“It’s really important to have [local people] working at these jobs,” explained Smith.
One gentleman, who has lived in the Rockaways since 1932, felt it is hard to get information on what was happening on the Peninsula. He also was concerned about leadership.
“We have no leadership, nobody to go to, no organizations,” he said. “Who speaks for us in the Rockaways?”
Connie Taylor, a local activist in Rockaway said, “You have politicians who fight for you [such as Senator Smith]. “If there are problems you have to come and tell them.”
Smith, who suggested local newspapers as a way to know what is happening, said, “Before I was elected I asked how come I’m not informed. You have an obligation to be informed. It’s like raising kids. You’re not going to wait, you have to go out and find out [for yourself].”
Michael Felson, a Far Rockaway resident, came with several suggestions for Smith.
Smith particularly liked Felson’s idea about using the electronic bulletin board above the Far Rockaway Library to alert people about upcoming meetings and events.
Felson also believes that O’Donohue Park could use a renovation.
“[A lot of] the picnic tables are burned down,” Felson said. “It’s one of the few places where you can openly barbecue.”
Smith, who said he “wanted to keep the dialogue wide open,” will conclude his listening tour at the Beach Club on September 21.