2009-01-30 / Community

Thompson: Have To Do Better In Schools, Transportation, Development Comptroller Visits Wave Office For Wide-Ranging Discussion

By Howard Schwach

New York City Comptroller William Thompson. New York City Comptroller William Thompson. City Comptroller William Thompson, who says that he will run for mayor in the next election, came to Rockaway last week for a series of discussions with residents and then, with The Wave editorial board.

Fresh from his meeting at Peninsula Hospital Center, Thompson stopped into The Wave office for a nearly twohour discussion on where Rockaway is heading in the future and what it might need to go there.

Thompson, who had apparently been briefed on some of the peninsula's problems prior to visiting Rockaway, said that he sets up the visits to "better understand the issues."

"It's helpful to me as comptroller and it will be helpful to me as the mayor, to understand what's needed in each community in the city," he said at the outset.

Then, he ticked off some of what he saw as the peninsula's main problem areas: the lack of services and amenities, a poor transportation infrastructure, and the lack of both jobs and commercial development.

"Rockaway is a very isolated community," Thompson said. "Sometimes it gets less than its share of city services, especially when it comes to transportation and jobs."

"The problem is that the large housing development program is not matched by development in the commercial and retail areas," he added. "You have to include affordable retail development whenever you do housing. The city, however, does not give incentives for affordable retail development. Some cities do, but not New York."

In the education arena, the comptroller says that he likes mayoral control, but not the way that Mayor Bloomberg does it.

"[Mayoral control of schools] is not a yes or no issue," he said. "You don't have to either be for it or against it, but you can pick and choose what you like and what you don't like. My problem is with the parent piece. It is non-existent, and parents have no place to go when they have a problem with their schools. Even the local elected officials do not know what's going on in the schools in their districts. That's got to change."

He added that he also finds fault with high-stakes programs that put test scores at the top of the to-do list.

"Giving high stakes tests is not increasing the student's knowledge base," he said. "We need well-rounded students, not just those that can take and pass a test."

He said that he would push for more career and technical education, something that the public school system sorely lacks.

"There are lots of high-paying jobs that do not require a college education," he said. "We have to provide that kind of training for those jobs."

In terms of transportation, Thompson calls for more high-speed ferries and a super A-Train express that would go right from Rockaway into Manhattan with few stops in between.

"We can't expect people to move to new homes in Rockaway if the commute to jobs takes an hour and a half," he said.

He favors funding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), not with fare hikes and the end of the Cross Bay Bridge toll rebate, but with a fee on all automobile owners in the 12 counties in and around New York City, the fee to be based on the weight of the automobile.

"Everybody who lives near New York City has a stake in the health of its economy," he said. "Rather than raise fares, cut services and put tolls on bridges that do not have tolls, the mayor should fight to bring back the commuter tax. Everybody should pay."

Is he unhappy about the City Council's vote to increase term limits to 12 years from eight?

He says that he is "unhappy" about the way the mayor went about extending the limits.

"They should have sent [term limits] back for another vote," he said. "Who knows, the mayor might have won anyway. It was disgraceful and selfserving to do it the way the mayor and the City Council did it, however. It was the low point of his administration."

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