2008-02-15 / Columnists

Chatting with Chapey

What Does the Future Hold For Us?
Commentary by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader

T.C. Lennon, Marie Heffernan, Kerry Cardio, Vera Lynch, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Francis Abbracciamento and Geraldine Chapey discuss neighborhood issues. T.C. Lennon, Marie Heffernan, Kerry Cardio, Vera Lynch, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Francis Abbracciamento and Geraldine Chapey discuss neighborhood issues. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn spoke at the Breezy Point Seniors at the invitation of the President, Joanne Anderson. A special thank you to Anderson for planning this excellent event.

Quinn was accompanied by Councilman Joseph Addabbo and her father, Larry Quinn. Speaker Quinn discussed many issues of concern to Rockaway residents.

Quinn spoke about an initiative called "Age Friendly New York," in which the New York Academy of Medicine, the City Council and elected councilpersons are working to develop a "blueprint" to assist New York in meeting the needs of its aging population. Speaker Quinn noted that one area which needs attention, but is often undercounted, would be the needs of our senior population. Quinn finds that in 2030 the city will have an additional 300,000 seniors. The city wants to be sure that individuals who live in New York City and retire can do so safely with the appropriate resources available to them.

Mayor Bloomberg has joined this effort. "Age Friendly New York" will be assessing basic needs of seniors as well as quality of life issues. Open forums will be held around the city in each borough. This is an opportunity for key policy makers to hear from the seniors at the community level.

This "age friendly" program would allow New York City to join a World Health Organization protocol to assist cities around the world in becoming senior friendly. New York City would be one of two American cities to join this comprehensive program, according to a city council press release.

Quinn is working hard to have libraries open seven days a week. She finds that additional library hours would give more accessibility to seniors, schoolchildren and working people. Christine Quinn is very proud that in last year's budget she was able to increase library service to 6 days a week. This level of library service had not been available since 9/11/01.

She is also supportive of a Rockaway Ferry service to Manhattan. It would run, she hopes, during peak rush hours with some service available during the rest of the day. The seniors were enthusiastic, because they would like to avail themselves of the activities and happenings in New York City. Of course, the obvious question was whether or not the fare would be subsidized and by how much. Speaker Quinn didn't have any specifics but she was enthusiastic about making it affordable and accessible.

My mother, Regent Dr. Geraldine Chapey, and I were invited to hear Governor Spitzer give his State of the State Address in the capitol in Albany. Governor Spitzer was very focused and amicable. I was delighted that he focused a good part of his speech on education. He wants to use a good solid education as the center of his economic growth package for New York State. He clearly stated, "Without a world class education we cannot have a world class economy." Spitzer quoted the words of FDR, who demanded, "We need bold, persistent experimentation." Governor Spitzer has been bold and persistent when it comes to education. Last year New York State made the largest investment in education in the states history. In return for this infusion of money the state demanded accountability from our schools and the districts. Working with the New York State Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department, almost half of our schools signed Contracts for Excellence.

Last year, the Governor concentrated his focus on grades pre k through 12th grade. This year he is moving to higher education. The Governor feels the need to "make a vital investment in our community colleges." He is again focusing on providing a seamless transition from one level of education to the next. He wants to make sure that high school students can easily transfer to the community college and those community college students who want to attend the four year school can do so with ease. The community colleges are an integral part of our investment in education. Having taught at Kingsborough Community College/ City University of New York (CUNY) and being a tenured full professor at the college, I can talk firsthand about the motivated student body and the dedicated and credentialed faculty. Governor Spitzer wants to hire more than 2000 new faculty in CUNY and SUNY. This faculty will work with traditional college students as well as people who are changing careers and jobs. This will be essential in our current economy. Governor Spitzer also recommended establishing renowned research centers. His recommendation for funding this higher education endeavor is to borrow from future lottery revenues. His aim is to make the funding source consistent so that educators and policymakers could move ahead with a consistent plan. His funding sources will need more discussion and thought. Stay tuned.

Congratulations to James Mc Keon on his being honored as the Man of the Year by the Graybeards. My mother, my husband and I were pleased to attend the Graybeards annual dinner at El Caribe at which he was honored. He is the Director of Athletics at St. Francis de Sales. He is a United States Marine and has served two tours in Iraq. He is truly a great American. His son is currently serving in Iraq. He and his wife, Jean have three sons. James and Jean, have given a life of service to the children of New York City through their service as educational professionals in the New York City schools. Kudos to the McKeon family for truly making a difference in our lives. Also honored were the ladies of the Rockaway WISH for their efforts on behalf of people in need. We wish them well in all their endeavors.

Thanks to Steve Stathis and the Graybeards for all their good work.

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