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Sanders chairs City Council economic committee

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As chairman of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee, Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) has made the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan a priority but has vowed that the city’s four other boroughs will not be neglected.

“As a Queens guy, I have a special fondness for development outside the central city,” Sanders said. “I also want to be sure we preserve open space and green space. However, I understand that if we put all of our money into Manhattan — this is not called economic development, it’s called Manhattan building.”

Sanders was tapped as head of the Economic Development Committee by Council Speaker A. Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) Jan. 16 and the appointment was voted on and approved by the entire Council.

“I am blessed that the speaker recognized my talent in this area and that my colleagues voted unanimously that I would be the chair of the Economic Development Committee,” Sanders said.

Sanders started his first term this month representing the 31st Council District, taking over from Juanita Watkins, who was barred from re-election due to term limits.

The district covers Laurelton, Rosedale, Far Rockaway, Arverne, Edgemere, Bayswater and parts of Springfield Gardens, Cambria Heights and South Ozone Park.

Sanders said he sees the role of the Council’s Economic Development Committee as threefold: to preserve the sources of taxes in the city, extend the tax sources and ensure that New Yorkers can get jobs in the business world.

In dealing with the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, Sanders said “we need to preserve what is there, extend it to recreate what was there — a smarter version of what was there — and use it as a new opportunity.”

Sanders envisions that a “smarter version” of the World Trade Center would involve improving security, better use of the transportation systems that converge there, and a more energy efficient power system.

“Certainly, part of it should be a memorial, but I think the best memorial we can build is a city that bounces back,” Sanders said of the World Trade Center site. “We will build it bigger, brighter and better than ever and it will bring us together, doing it.”

Sanders said he learned about economic development by watching “a master builder at work,” referring to former U.S. Rep. Floyd Flake, pastor of the Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in St. Albans. Sanders served as Flake’s assistant district manager during his congressional tenure.

Sanders also helped found the Hamer-Campos Farmer’s Market and Craft Fair and the Hamer-Campos Farm and Tree Nursery in the Rockaways. He worked to establish People United for Local Leadership, a micro-economic development corporation in Far Rockaway.

He said he looks forward to working with eight of his colleagues on the Economic Development Committee, including fellow Queens Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Woodside).

“This will be an exciting committee,” Sanders said. “The talent that we have on this committee is amazing. We are all anxious to help guide New York City in the 21st century and indeed we shall.”

One topic Sanders said he does not want the committee to ignore is the value of small businesses.

“I believe that we have overlooked this very, very precious and critically important industry and I intend to correct this,” he said.

Sanders has already planned the committee’s agenda for the next three months, with the World Trade Center redevelopment a priority for February.

In March, which is Women’s History Month, Sanders plans to have the committee examine what is helping and hindering women and minority-owned businesses.

Sanders is set to hold hearings in March on tax abatements — the financial incentives that large corporations have been given to stay in New York City. Sanders said he wants to explore whether or not the tax deals are making money for the city.

He is also planning a community round table, to bring the entire council committee to Laurelton for a discussion on the business district on Merrick Boulevard. That event should take place during the later half of April, Sanders said.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 7:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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