New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Queens Chronicle Queens pols weigh in on State of the City by Ryan Brady

Queens pols weigh in on State of the City

Mayor de Blasio’s 2019 State of the City address was filled with a long list of progressive priorities. Some of most notable include making healthcare available to all New Yorkers, making individual retirement accounts available to all working city residents and requiring paid personal time for all employees at businesses with five or more workers.

Among some of Queens’ City Council representatives, views are mixed on the mayor’s Jan. 10 address.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) in recent months has harshly criticized de Blasio for the $3 billion incentive package for Amazon’s planned facility in Long Island City.

“Sitting in the audience for the Mayor’s State of the City speech, I had braced myself for the moment where he would laud the Amazon deal,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “To my surprise, he only mentioned Amazon in one sentence and then quickly moved on. It is clear to me that by avoiding Amazon in his speech, the Mayor acknowledged that this deal is a loser in progressive, democratic circles.”

Despite his staunch disagreement with the mayor on Amazon, Van Bramer agreed with some parts of the address.

“But I do see some opportunities for future collaboration,” the lawmaker added. “Health care for all and paid vacation time for all workers are laudable initiatives that I wholeheartedly support.”

Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) said he’s pleased with the mayor’s plans for bus lane enforcement. De Blasio had said the NYPD would be getting its first-ever unit of tow trucks focused on getting illegally parked cars out of the lanes.

“People park in them,” the lawmaker said of the lanes. “Sometimes, it’s government vehicles. Sometimes, it’s people waiting for somebody. ... I was glad that he addressed that.”

The lawmaker also said he plans to press the de Blasio administration in the new budget season to subsidize tickets on the Long Island Rail Road so that commuters can ride it with a MetroCard. Grodenchik’s district has no subway or LIRR stops, though there are some of the latter near its edges and the councilman believes more of his constituents would want to use the rail system if it were less expensive.

During his address, de Blasio also said the city would help prevent buses from being late by “doubling” the number of intersections where buses have green light priority.

Councilman Robert Holden (D-Middle Village), a frequent critic of the mayor, is concerned about costs that will be created by de Blasio’s new plans for the city.

“The mayor tends to announce his initiatives first and figure out how to pay for them later, which unfortunately means that the burden falls on the middle class in the form of increased taxes,” he said in a prepared statement.

Still, the lawmaker said he approves of how “the mayor hopes to speed up buses, but this must be addressed more in my district where transportation options are scarce.”

In his speech, the mayor also announced new ferry routes and stops would be coming, but the expansion won’t impact Queens.

“While creating more ferry routes is great, I would like to see even further expansion to La Guardia and John F. Kennedy Airports,” Holden said.

Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), chairman of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, had introduced legislation with his colleague Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) to establish a “retirement security for all” system in the city. He lauded de Blasio for taking initiative on the issue.

“Too few Americans lack the means or direction to adequately plan for their retirement,” the lawmaker said in a prepared statement. “We all recognized this deficiency several years ago, and dared to act boldly to provide the infrastructure necessary to help nearly half of our City’s private workforce members lay a foundation for a more stable future.”


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