Smith listens to budget and quality of life issues at town hall
by Jason Cohen
Feb 12, 2014 | 3192 views | 0 0 comments | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last Thursday, State Senator Malcolm Smith held his first town hall meeting of the year at Calvary Baptist Church in Jamaica. He was joined by Inspector Charles McEvoy, commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct, Miltiadis Marmara, commanding officer of the 113th Precinct and Frank Manetta, a lieutenant with the FDNY.

“Tonight it’s important that if you have a priority that’s good for Queens, that you come to the microphone and testify,” Smith said.

Residents spoke about many issues, including healthcare, culture and education.

Dr. Otto Starzmann, who is on the board of The River Fund New York, discussed the organization’s desire to create a health clinic. The mission of the group is to feed and empower children, the homeless, working-poor families, low-income seniors and children and adults living with HIV/AIDS.

The non-profit has existed for 23 years and was recognized in 2012 for creating a mobile pantry that serves hundreds of people every day. For the past 19 years, they have distributed food to families at Rufus King Park, but recently the Parks Department told them they have exceeded their boundaries in the park.

Starzmann asked Smith for financial assistance in using a building north of the park, the old Mary Immaculate Hospital that has been vacant for seven years, to create a community health clinic.

“We would like to get the support of the state, city and other officials in accessing that space, so we can make something worthwhile for the needy in this area,” he said.

Springfield Gardens resident Ladonna Cunningham said the graffiti issue in her community is out of control. McEvoy said the police would speak to the owners and hopefully resolve the situation.

“We in this borough take graffiti very seriously,” he said. “It’s ugly and it’s an eyesore.”

Carl Clay, founder of the Black Spectrum Theater in Jamaica, said he is excited for the future of the 44-year-old organization, but they need funding or risk losing several programs.

“We feel that culture must be a priority in his community,” Clay said. “We want to make sure that the young people coming behind us have a place that they can come and learn about people that have contributed to this community.”

Rev. Melvin Artis expressed his displeasure with the state of the subway stop at Parsons and Archer. He said the bathrooms are always broken, smell, and most people do not even go in them. This is the worst subway stop in the entire borough, he said.

“It seems like nobody’s really paying attention” he said. “I think it’s a disgrace. You probably have to hold your nose to get down the steps.”

Teachers Jeremiah and Lycia Grant spoke about the need to improve education in District 29. Located in the northeastern corner of Queens, adjacent to Long Island's Nassau County, District 29 includes the ethnically diverse communities of Holliswood and Queens Village, as well as the middle-class, predominantly African-American neighborhoods of St. Albans, Hollis and Springfield Gardens.

Cambria Heights, Laurelton, Brookville and Rosedale also fall within District 29

“Education is vital to a community,” Lycia said. “Kids need to have more choices in District 29. As educators in Queens, we’re concerned that parents have the kind of options that their children need to succeed.”

She said District 29 is the lowest-performing district in the borough and that needs to change. They are part of a group of people proposing to open a K-5 charter school with a focus on math, engineering and science. They have partnered with Pace and Columbia universities and hope the city will assist them with funding.

“When our children are educated and well prepared it affects everyone,” Lycia said.

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