Paterson Speaks At Town Hall Meeting
Governor David Paterson visited Rockaway for a town hall meeting at Far Rockaway High School on February 11, taking questions from residents that ranged from teenage violence, unemployment and the lack of quality education on the peninsula.
Concerning crime and gangs in Far Rockaway, the governor said, “Gangs offer, in a sense, what we haven’t been able to offer them – a family, rules and people who are going to look out for them. These are what our schools and our churches and our families should be providing young people that has actually escaped us.”
While the state is trying to help with programs run by non-profits and churches, Paterson added, “A lot of our state programs have been reduced because we’re living on the margins of our means. We’re really flat broke right now.”
The majority of the questions were submitted by audience members prior to the town hall meeting. While he was pressed for time in order to make his appearance on the Larry King Show that evening, Paterson did answer several questions from the audience before leaving.
Arlene Cauley, the director of the Sheldon R. Weaver Day Care Center, addressed Paterson about the city’s proposal to close 15 day care centers, including Weaver and Hammels-Arverne Day Care.
“We are educating on the early childhood level and we want to make sure that this closure does not go through,” said Cauley. “I would like to know your stance on closing these centers, because where are these children going to go? Where are they going to receive the education on a younger level?”
Paterson’s answer gave hope to teachers and parents associated with the day care centers.
“Monday [February 8] I met with the national leader of [the union] that included District 1707,” said Paterson. “We talked about the closures of the 15 day care centers. We did not close the day care centers, the city did. But we are going to go back and talk to the city and see if we can provide any kind of [help].”
Blake Hyatt, the district manager for Councilman James Sanders Jr., asked about one of the most pressing issues on the east end of the peninsula – unemployment and jobs.
“Unemployment of black Americans living in New York has risen in the last two years four times that of [what’s] otherwise average for everyone else,” said Paterson. “Unemployment is hitting our communities more than any other. Our solution to how to create jobs – create businesses and they will create the jobs. That’s why New York State has increased its minority- and women- owned business program five times in the two years since I’ve been governor.”
Paterson added that, “you can’t see the employment that they [and other programs] are creating because of unemployment being caused by the recession, but when the smoke clears and the dust settles you’ll see that the small businesses in our communities now are getting the [help] from state contracts to start creating jobs in our neighborhoods.”
The fight to prevent the MTA from charging tolls to residents of Rockaway and Broad Channel on the Cross Bay Bridge did not escape the governor’s visit. Democratic District Leader Lew Simon asked Paterson for his support.
“I’m begging you governor, you’re doing a fantastic job, please make sure that this toll is not reinstated for the residents,” said Simon, as he held a large sign that read No More Cross Bay Bridge Toll. “This is one of the most important fights we have along with making sure that our children have the bus passes and that Access-ARide is not taken from the handicapped.”
The meeting was hosted by the Reverend Les Mullings of Far Rockaway’s Church of the Nazarene, in conjunction with Rockaway’s clergy and Queens elected officials. Attending the meeting were area clergy, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Assemblywoman Michele Titus.