Richards Addresses Priorities For Constituents
After being declared the winner of the closely contested special election for councilman from the 31st district last month, Donovan Richards hit the ground running and has already laid out his priorities for the people he serves. Recently he sat down with The Wave for a wide ranging interview on issues that affect those living in Rockaway.
Richards said “making sure people have full recovery from Sandy” is the biggest issue facing the Rockaways.
Part of that recovery is the rebuilding of the beaches on the east end. The availability of block grants will go along way toward the effort. Noting that it is not east against west, Richards said he has already had discussions with his counterpart, the councilman for the west end of Rockaway, Eric Ulrich.
The block grants also make it possible to look at seawalls, dunes, jet-ties and whatever is possible to pro-tect the area from flooding.
“Whatever we can get now is the time to get it, but I just want to make sure my portion of the district is not left out,” said the councilman.
He is also looking to meet with the Parks Department to discuss what type of concessions can be brought to his district that will bring more people to the beaches. “Nothing against the west end, they were hit hard,” said Richards. “We were hit hard too. My job is to make sure we are getting equitable resources and just treatment as well,” said Richards.
The councilman rates unemployment, which has always been a problem in the area, second to Sandy as a concern.
“Part of stabilizing the community is making sure that there’s oppor-tunity for people here,” said Richards.
Part of that opportunity comes with development projects slated for the area. Arverne East is still in the mix with 1,600 units of housing, a possible hotel and more as part of the Bluestone Organization’s current plans.
“I want to make sure that there’s a community benefits agreement in place where they are going to hire at least, I am asking, 60 percent of the people should be from this community,” said Richards.
He also wants some component of affordable housing in the project. In addition he said “We need more businesses. We need something recreational – maybe a bowling alley, a movie theater. This is something people have talked about for years. I would urge them to look at those things, as well as some-thing that can bring jobs here.”
As for the revitalization of the Far Rockaway Shopping Center, Richards wants owner Rita Stark to make sure that locals are brought into the mall as store owners and employees.
Richards recently toured the Brooklyn Terminal waterfront area to see what is being done there to stimulate growth.
“They’re doing some major work down there,” said Richards, who requested and got a seat on the coun-cil’s Waterfront’s committee. Among the terminal’s highlights are restau-rants, ice cream parlors and even cruise ships. He added, “Being on the Waterfront’s committee is going to give me …an idea of what people are doing around the city and the nation that we can do here.”
One thing he would like to do is bring a ferry to Beach 67th Street, thereby making it easier for east en-d residents to make use of the service to be able to be in Manhattan in half an hour.
“I know it has been a dream of everyone for 100 years,” said Richards. “My job is to push for it.”
While NYCHA is pushing to get through the backlog of repairs to its buildings throughout the city, his in-terest lies in his district. Richards told the newspaper he saw many problems in NYCHA buildings during his time on the campaign trail. He will be pushing for correcting the lack of security, such as open doors to buildings in Rockaway developments, as well as other necessary repairs.
He will also discuss with the NYCHA chair finishing the work of installing cameras at Hammel Houses. The wiring was completed before Sandy.
The councilman not only plans a meeting with the NYCHA chairman, but he wants to bring him to the Rockaways to tour the area.
“I’m going to try to bring the chairman out here so he can personally [see the problems], said Richards. “It’s different being at 250 Broadway than being at 1450 Beach Channel Drive, and I want to make sure the city comes to 1450 Beach Channel Drive.”
(More next week.)