Bloomberg Booed On Bike Lanes
At least, that was the impression left after a well-attended community meeting at the Bayswater Jewish Center on Monday night.
A number of questions were asked and answered by the mayor, and two dozen of his commissioners and the crowd of 350 Rockaway residents remained quiet…
Until Bayswater resident Michael Gliner brought up bike lanes and the impact they have on busy streets such as Beach Channel Drive.
Bloomberg deferred to Maura McCarthy, the Queens Commissioner for the city’s Department of Transportation. “Numerous communities throughout the city are getting the bike lanes,” McCarthy told the crowd. “Rockaway is one place where we’re very proud to have put them.”
She was roundly booed by the crowd and catcalls of, “Take them away,” filled the room.
Bloomberg tried to save his commissioner.
“Bicycle lanes are one of the more controversial things,” the mayor said to laughs and boos. “Some people love them and some people hate them. It’s probably true that, in many cases, we could have done a better job [of consulting the community] and we’re going to try and do that.”
“We will not have any of that at this meeting,” Glabman said angrily. “We are just here to make our voices heard, not for detailed discussion of these issues. That will come later.”
Glabman also enforced the ruling that only Bayswater residents could ask questions and that the questions had to be submitted in advance.
At the end of the meeting, cards were handed out to others so that they could submit questions to the appropriate commissioners for them to answer at a later date.
From the beginning, Bloomberg made it clear that there were tough times ahead and that union work rules and benefits were the culprit.
“We are in a very difficult time,” Bloomberg said in a statement at the beginning of the meeting. “We will not raise taxes, so that means we will have to find a way to do more with less, to provide services with fewer city workers. We spend millions of dollars for pensions and we can’t afford that any longer. Each city resident pays $2,500 a year to fund those pensions. We can’t cut pensions for those who already have them. That is the law. But, we can come up with a plan to cut the costs for future workers. If they don’t want to work for the city under those conditions, they don’t have to work for the city.”
Retired teacher Phyllis Rudnick asked Bloomberg and new Chancellor Cathie Black about community high schools.
“You have closed or are closing both of our community’s high schools,” Rudnick charged. “How come there was no community input into those closings?”
Bloomberg admitted that the Department of Education could do better in consulting with communities before making decisions, but he defended the closings by saying that he felt bad that all of the schools of his youth were gone, but that he had to move on.
“We have a great loyalty to the schools of our youth, but this is a different time, a different world,” he said. Teachers have a more difficult job and there is more accountability. We have to just move on.”
Black added that the schools in Rockaway were failing and that the smaller schools set up to replace them would do a much better job.
“The buildings are not closing,” she said. “They are moving towards a sounder educational foundation.”
“This is an island, and it is difficult to evacuate,” the mayor said. “The good news is that we have sufficient warnings about storms and we have worked hard on a plan that we are sure will work.”
Beverly Champion challenged the mayor on his contention that street crime was no longer a major problem.
“This is the worst I have ever seen it in the city housing projects,” Champion said. “We have shootings and all that the city is moving in is Section 8 people, who cause problems. Something has to be done to stop the crime and drugs.”
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that crime is down in the eight years since Bloomberg took office and way down from the time he walked a beat in Far Rockaway.
Tom Edison, one of the locals at the meeting, said that he was unhappy about the way the meeting was controlled by the Bayswater association.
“We should have been allowed to ask questions of the mayor and his commissioners,” the Arverne resident said. “He should have heard our anger about the way we are treated by his administration.”