2009-09-18 / Letters

Who Owns James Sanders?

Dear Editor,

In 2001 residents of Far Rockaway, Edgemere, Arverne and Hammels were able to look forward to a new day. James Sanders came in first in a crowded Democratic primary for City Council. A school board member, not a politician, he had the support of a number of young idealists from ACORN who lived at the donated campaign headquarters and seemed to work around the clock.

Coming into office, Sanders pledged his first priority would be the renewal of the Far Rockaway Shopping Center on Mott Avenue. Despite frequent assurances the shopping center would be restored and reopened, the area remains an embarrassing blot in the center of the town.

Local residents reporting community problems at the local Council office found a sympathetic staff member to take the complaint. When they returned to check on progress, they would find a new staff member with no knowledge of the problem. We will offer a free trip to City Hall to the first person (including Councilman Sanders) to name all of the people in charge of the Far Rockaway office.

When the death of two members caused vacancies on the Community Board, two members of the local civic association followed established procedure and submitted applications to the Councilman's office. Instead of being accepted or rejected they were simply ignored until the period for appointment that year had passed.

During the eight years James Sanders has served, cheaply designed and built multi-family houses were built on lots formerly occupied by one and two family homes. These houses often selling for over $500,000 were sold to persons without the income to meet the payments. Foreclosures are now common.

Residents working to change and enforce zoning laws to prevent inappropriate housing had to work directly with State Senator Malcolm Smith, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and Councilmember Tony Avella to get approval for more protective zoning. When local residents opposed a new car wash in a partly residential zone, Councilmember Sanders appeared to defend the unwanted developers who wanted a variance.

Examination of the required finance reports (nyccfb.gov) filed by City Council candidates may explain James Sanders' failure to adequately represent our community. While his opponents have collected relatively small donations from their neighbors, friends and family, James Sanders received substantial contributions from real estate developers and officers of major corporations.

Peter S. Kalikow of Manhattan is a major real estate developer (H.J. Kalikow & Co.), who was MTA chairman. He contributed $1000 to Sanders. During Kalikow's tenure at the MTA, they forgot about their promise to install an elevator at the Mott Avenue A train station. We don't recall Sanders ever demanding that his friend Peter Kalikow obey the federal ADA law and see that the elevator was built, or advocating for the reopening of the Rockaway Beach line of the LIRR.

Sam Chang, a Centre Island resident, is president and CEO of McSam Hotel Group. He contributed the maximum $2750 allowed. A web search of Sam Chang found "the Bronx would rather have a chicken slaughterhouse than one of his hotels ... Chang has made a fortune building cheap, ugly hotels on the quick and then selling them off just as fast ..." Is Chang looking for a site in our district? Margaret Ling, McSam's executive director, also contributed the maximum.

Carlisle Towery, an Irvington, New York resident and president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, was a leader of the effort to stop the reopening of the Rockaway Beach line of the LIRR. Airtrain passengers are forced to go to Jamaica to get to Manhattan. Towery gave Sanders $250.

A surprising contribution came from Michael Bloomberg. The Mayor who has contributed $36,650,000.00 to his own campaign also contributed $2750, the maximum allowed, to James Sanders. With Republicans running in many districts, including our own, Bloomberg's only contribution was to James Sanders Jr. Sanders voted for the removal of the term limits that allow both Bloomberg and Sanders to be reelected.

It may be easy to decide that James Sanders should move on as he planned to do before the term limits were lifted. Now enforcing term limits is in our hands.

Our district is fortunate that as of September 4 three candidates, Marquez Claxton, Michael Duncan and Jacques Leandre, met the Campaign Finance Board's standards for collection of small contributions from district residents and will receive matching funds. All would be an improvement over the incumbent and should remain in public life.

Our district has a very difficult decision to make. Recent senseless crime in our community reminds us of the long standing criminal activity in a number of locations in our community. Marquez Claxton has experience as a NYPD detective and the Guns, Gangs and Gainful Employment subcommittee of the New York State Democratic Conference. I believe his experience would serve us best at this time.

NORMAN SILVERMAN

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