Sanders Defends Personal Travel Expenses
City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. fired back this week against a study, released by AM-NY, which found that his personal spending on trips was the highest in the council.
The study revealed that Sanders spent more than $6,000 in 2007 to attend workshops in Denver, Dallas and upstate New York.
Sanders told The Wave, however, that his traveling benefited Rockaway and the rest of his council district by contributing to the economic growth of Rockaway.
"Not all knowledge is in Rockaway," Sanders said, "or else we wouldn't be in the hole we're in now."
Sanders said that the workshops were specifically for the purpose of educating himself and his staff on the various development projects occurring in the district, in order to prevent developers from getting the financial upper hand on the community.
"If we were better educated and trained in dealing with our development, we wouldn't have the situation with the swimming pool," Sanders said.
Sanders was referring to the struggle by community members to acquire the funding to adequately complete the YMCA to be built by Arverne By The Sea on Beach 73 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.
Sanders defended how vital the workshops were to community development in the Rockaways.
"Our district, outside of lower Manhattan," Sanders said, "is doing more development than any other district in the city."
Experts project that Rockaway's population is expected to skyrocket in the next ten years as thousands of new homes continue to sprout up across the peninsula.
"Therefore, I think it is the wisest thing to go and get training for projects," he continued. "We only get one shot to make the right deal with the developers and want to make sure to get things right the first time."
Sanders is working to solidify various projects throughout the peninsula, including the Arverne East development and the creation of a new vocational school on Beach 59 Street.
Therefore, Sanders explains, there is little time to waste, and his staff must become educated on how to go about achieving all the community's needs.
"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance," Sanders said.
He continued to say that the study only provided a "cheap headline" and he felt that $6,000 was not really that much money. The money spent, he says, will benefit the district many times over.
"There's no Pulitzer Prize in a story like that," referring to the AM-NY study.
"I should be praised for this," he said. "I didn't go to luxurious places."
According to Sanders, these are legitimate places. He says the workshops are called "Neighborhood Works" and are chartered by the federal government to provide the training that will enable him to better provide for the developing areas of Rockaway.
"At the end of every training, I have to take a test," he said. "If I pass, and I always do, I receive a certificate."
He then insisted that anyone could come and see them anytime they want.
When asked if he would do it again if given the opportunity, he quickly answered.
"I would absolutely do it again," he said. "I learned about many things at those workshops, things I never knew anything about previously."
He also believes he is in a better position now, because of those trainings, than he was a year ago.
"Yes, definitely," he exclaimed. "When I vote on the Arverne East project, I have to know what I'm doing or else these developers will get over on everyone."
Sanders says he knows what to expect now and is better prepared as a result of his outings to provide Arverne East the type of benefit agreement that will enhance life for everyone involved.
As far as the vocational school goes, Sanders says he is closer than ever to making what he believes is a necessity to this community a reality.
"Let's face it now, everyone can't go to Harvard," he said. "This school is close to happening because of the things I learned outside of Rockaway about creating a vocational school."