Eye On Rockaway
On February 19th area residents on the east end of Rockaway will elect someone to replace Senator James Sanders Jr. in the City Council. Sanders has moved on to the State Senate. Of the eight names on the ballot there is one clear choice – Donovan Richards, Sanders’ chief of staff. Richards has been in Sanders’ office for 10 years watching the ins and outs of navigating city government as not just chief of staff but as community liaison to Rockaway. He has been through the wars, so to speak, of everything from budget battles to Superstorm Sandy relief. He knows Rockaway from having gone through the area’s problems with the residents even if, at times, those problems hit a bit too close to home. Almost a year ago, just two days before Richards attended a crime summit with the community and top law enforcement from Queens and Rockaway, his father-in-law was mugged on the streets of Rockaway.
Before continuing, as full disclosure, last year Richards and the then Councilman Sanders’ office helped resolve an issue a child in my family was having with school busing. But even if that had never happened, I would be recommending he get your vote. Richards has earned a reputation among members of the community as someone who can get things done. Here are some of the things area residents can attribute to Richards’ hard work.
As Sanders’ point man Richards worked hard to save Engine 381 in Far Rockaway and local day care centers that Mayor Bloomberg has, continuously targeted with budget cuts. Thanks to the work of Sanders and Richards these vital services were saved. It looks like these same things will be up for cuts again this year, and we need Richards to be there for us again.
Richards was put in charge of the yearly issue of getting more spraying by the Department of Health to eradicate mosquitoes on the east end.
He has worked with the youth of Rockaway for years through carwashes, hosting Youth Town Halls, open mic nights, and acting as the advisor for the local NAACP Youth Committee. Richards has said, “I believe if the leaders in Rockaway start getting the youth involved in their community and provide them with more activities and less promises, we will ease a lot of the unnecessary violence occurring on the peninsula. …most importantly it will provide our youth with a sense of unity and self-determination to make things happen for themselves.”
Richards has taken numerous stands against violence. It was the death of a friend, as a result of gun violence, in 2003 that led to the candidate meeting Sanders. Last summer, a day before taking part in an anti-violence march, a friend of Richards’ was shot. For Richards taking a stand against those who are “killing our community” is personal.
After Superstorm Sandy, Richards led Sanders’ massive relief effort out of the then-councilman’s Far Rockaway office. For weeks, Richards and volunteers inventoried and distributed needed supplies to locals.
You know an election is coming when, six to 12 months before you see people coming to events in Rockaway who would not normally be there or you haven’t seen since the last election. Unfortunately there are a number of those on the ballot for this council seat. Then there are some who seem to be running on a Superstorm Sandy platform. Richards has been here through a decade’s worth of Rockaway’s good and bad times. As someone who has lived here, he’s gone through many of the same problems we have. His experience working in the City Council is invaluable.
This column endorses Donovan Richards in the special election for city councilman from the 31st District.