2008-08-15 / Top Stories

Insurgents Rally For Support

By Miriam Rosenberg

Ruben Wills, far left, and Donovan Richards, second from left, listen as a resident explains to the candidates the problems facing the area. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg. Ruben Wills, far left, and Donovan Richards, second from left, listen as a resident explains to the candidates the problems facing the area. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg. Two insurgent candidates, both seeking to score upset victories against incumbents in the Democratic primaries on September 9, hosted "A Rally 4 Change In Far Rockaway" last weekend to call attention to the problems that plague the area and the fact that they were having problems remaining on the ballot.

Donovan Richards hopes to replace State Assemblywoman Michele Titus, who represents Far Rockaway in the State Assembly. Ruben Wills wants to take Gregory Meeks' seat in the House of Representatives, from the 6th Congressional District, which covers all of the peninsula.

Following a barbeque, each man attempted to make his case for the need for change to a small group of locals gathered in Far Rockaway's Thriftway Shopping Center.

Richards, who is fighting to have his name restored on September's ballot after the Board of Elections threw out the majority of his petition signatures as invalid, took his campaign to the people.

"There's no reason we have to take the Q22 to Beach 116 [Street] to get a handicapped accessible train," said Richards, who decried the 41 steps that women with strollers and the elderly must navigate to get on a train at the Mott Avenue station in Far Rockaway.

"There's no reason our youth centers are closing and yet we don't get any response except, 'We're going to allo- cate some money this time around,' but if that money is going to run out, will we have money next year to keep the center open? We have to start coming together in Rockaway and stop being appeased by these people who really don't have our interests at heart."

Richards urged the small group at the rally "to really get out there and let our voices be heard and let these people know that the insanity [of electing the same people over and over] is gone…. We're waking up, and we're starting to wake up to take this community back."

Wills, the chief of staff for State Senator Shirley Huntley, reeled off some of the problems in Far Rockaway.

"You guys are living with crumbling schools. You guys are living with poor mass transit. You guys are living with as high an asthmatic rate as Harlem," said Wills. He spoke of the large number of those who live in NYCHA buildings, yet the lack of enough affordable housing and jobs.

Standing in the middle of the dilapidated shopping center Wills said, "You have 60 percent of your main shopping district boarded up. How is that acceptable? You have a congressman that's the fifth most traveled in the United States. How is that acceptable? When do we keep people in office who travel more than they are in their district?

"I'm going to amplify your voice and take your concerns to Washington, D.C."

Those to whom The Wave spoke after the rally were impressed with both candidates.

"I like his [Richard's] attitude, I like his enthusiasm, I like his philosophy. He has a philosophy I agree with," said a man who goes by the name of Justice, who lives on Mott Avenue. "He believes in the community, and I like what he stands for."

Gloria Page, an eight-year resident of Rockaway believes both candidates really care about the people of Rockaway.

"Nobody cares," said Page, who works for the city. "Just to see that somebody cares, because nobody is doing anything."

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