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Neighbor to Neighbor: Sanders a ‘slick’ addition to city council

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It isn’t every day that a new legislator invites constituents to an open house, but that is just what City Councilman James Sanders Jr. did.

The date was Feb. 9. The place was 220-07 Merrick Blvd., Springfield Gardens. When I arrived, I was greeted by Mr. Sanders’ office manager, Yvonne Williamson. I remarked to her that, with the sun shining in the front windows, all the attractive red, white and blue decorations immediately drew one’s attention to a very tempting display of pastries, cookies, coffee, juice and a tremendous punch bowl of fresh fruit, cut into bite-size pieces, and gleaming like a jeweler’s display.

“Please help yourself, and then join the other guests in the conference room,’ she said. “The councilman is expected any minute.”

I was pleased to do as she suggested, and was happy for the opportunity to see some of my friends and to meet new folks sitting around the conference table.

When Sanders arrived, the very large group gathered around him as he stood — as he said — “As near to the food as possible,” ready to tell us more about himself and to hear our concerns and comments.

Sanders is a tall, well-built, good-looking man who dresses very well and stands with both feet firmly planted as he speaks. In a strong, firm voice he told us he does not plan to work for us, but will, instead, work with us on projects that are worthwhile and that can be carried through to completion. He said he expects to do his best for us, but will need our help.

He asked that we not only tell him what we need, but also what he is doing right or wrong. He said we should tell him right away if we think he is headed in the wrong direction. He said his office in our area will be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Community town hall meetings will also be held.

He then asked that we introduce ourselves and let him know our concerns. The very first topic was quality of life issues. Everyone there (with the exception of two young ones) had some pet gripe about that! There was a discussion about loud parties, double parking, illegal housing, unruly club behavior, loitering, gangs, the need for more police and sanitation, and education, including the New York City Vocational Training Center that continues to impress me so much.

Those who attend the monthly meetings of Community Board 13, may be aware that students from that program are the crafts people who refurbished that building and did a splendid job. I certainly hope every penny of the budget for that program will stay intact. Youth are our future and right now, to help them meet the temptations and challenges they face, education should include physically constructive as well as mentally constructive opportunities.

They should also be encouraged to participate in the many youth programs offered by the New York Police Department, the Queensborough Public Library and, hopefully, recognition of the programs offered to youths, especially in the summer when there is no school, by Parks and Recreation, will be made. Of course, scouting and religious activities for them will also be helpful, but what would benefit all of them most would be familial guidance, support and bonding.

At the end of the meeting, anyone who wished to talk to Mr. Sanders about some specific issue was invited to stay. Many did. Those of us who left about the same time all felt positive about our new councilman and his approach. I was, therefore, surprised to read that someone had referred to him as “Slick.”

I called Yvonne and asked if that was Mr. Sanders’ chosen nickname. It was not. Knowing how the English language sometimes plays tricks with words I went for my dictionary. Although some definitions were not the best, others seem to me to be appropriate to the gentleman we had welcomed as our new partner who will speak for us in the New York City Council: “Smooth, polished, with an elegant, refined finish. Clever, nimble wit characterized by expert proficiency, skillful in every department, first-rate.”

I confess I didn’t vote for him, but he has my support now.

Reach columnist Barbara Morris by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 140.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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