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Move over Tweed.
Move over Steinbrenner.
There's a new boss in town.
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) took off the gloves last week and punished three Democrat City Councilmen, two of them from Queens, who stood against him on the vote to increase property taxes. Councilmen Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Allan Jennings (D-Jamaica) were each stripped of a committee position, although each retains a chairmanship and the extra pay that comes with it.
Miller, of course, did not invent this tactic. Council Speakers have long used the stripping of committee positions as a tactic to punish those who step out of line. Still we had hoped for better from the young Eastsider who seems to have the potential to bring reform to city politics. Sadly some of the other councilmembers see the punishment as no more than a slap on the wrist.
Only four councilmembers, including Jennings, voted to oppose the committee member changes. Jennings took to the council floor to protest the action comparing his punishment to the crucifixion. He then forgave those who knew not what they had done. By contrast, Avella voted in favor of the changes. After less than two months has Tony been whipped into submission?
City Hall has its own woodshed of sorts. Avella and Jennings were told that there would be delay in the issuing of their parking permits, although no one officially linked this to their vote on the tax increase.
It happens that we disagree with Avella and Jennings on the property tax increase. Faced with an enormous budget deficit, the city had to find ways to increase revenues while cutting spending. Nobody likes the idea of increasing the property tax, but no one, including Jennings and Avella, offered a better plan for balancing the budget.
But Boss Giff was wrong to punish councilmembers for opposing him. These councilmembers were elected to represent their districts and when he treats them like naughty children he is disrespecting the people they represent.
Is there a plan for College Point?
No community in Queens has experienced greater change or greater growth in the last 10 years. It is as if the city woke up one morning and found this peninsula populated by working-class families and mom-and-pop stores.
The first change, the building of an industrial park on the swampland on the southern border of College Point, met with limited success. Soon after, developers discovered acres of underdeveloped waterfront property. They built hundreds of town houses and condos and the population of College Point began to swell. The opening of a shopping complex on 20th Avenue brings thousands of shoppers to peninsula.
Today College Point is in danger of drowning in its own success. The two public schools are so overcrowded that each spring parents camp out just to get their children a place in the local kindergarten.
Last week we reported that two developers had applied for variances to build townhouses on the west side of College Point. Both plans have their merits. Both would build on property zoned for industrial use. It is no longer practical to think of using that space for industry.
But there needs to be a long-term plan for College Point. People are attracted to College Point because it remains a nice place to raise a family. Great care must be taken to ensure that future growth does not diminish the quality of life in a community that is already bursting at the seams.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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