Mayor says immigrants should not get the vote

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But he drew the line at...

By James DeWeese

Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterated his belief that legal immigrants should enjoy the same economic and constitutional protections that citizens do while taking a daylong tour of Queens, the city’s most diverse borough Monday.

But he drew the line at the voting rights some city councilmen, including John Liu (D-Flushing), have said they would like to extend to immigrants.

“If you want to vote, become a citizen,” Bloomberg said during a coffee break with local reporters at the Esquire Diner on Cross Bay Boulevard in Ozone Park. Last week Liu and Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) said they were working with others to craft legislation allowing legal immigrants to vote.

Bloomberg said legal immigrants should have the same rights as American citizens in the workplace and in society, but voting goes to the very heart of what it is to be a citizen. Citizens, he said, must swear their allegiance to the country and promise to defend it, if necessary, something that immigrants do not have to do.

“I don’t think we should dumb down the requirements,” he said.

Bloomberg made the comments after visiting a Jamaica bank ribbon-cutting ceremony and then heading on to opening day at Shea Stadium.

While nibbling at a plate of matzo with cream cheese, Bloomberg also spoke about the new reading requirements imposed on the city’s third-graders in an effort to end social promotion.

“I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever had happen,” Bloomberg said of the program, which calls for across-the-board testing for the students. If the students taking the test do not perform well enough, they will be required to repeat the third grade.

By the fourth grade teachers are not teaching students to read, they are using reading to teach, Bloomberg has said in the past.

“Society is not nice to everybody,” Bloomberg said of the complaints about the high-stakes test. The objective is to prepare New York’s students and “to teach the kids as well as we can as fast as we can.”

“It’s not your Norman Rockwell school system,” Bloomberg said of the challenges faced by the city’s public schools. Nevertheless, he said the city had secured about $33 million for summer programs to help students with reading difficulties.

The mayor said he was not sure of the guaranteed success of the third-grade testing initiative because it had not been tried yet. But he added, “I can sure tell you what we’ve been doing (before the testing) is wrong.”

In other news, true to his pledge several weeks ago, Bloomberg said he had approached several agencies about sidewalk and mapping concerns raised by Hamilton Beach residents during a meeting of the local civic association.

Residents of the little neighborhood sandwiched between Shellbank Basin and Kennedy airport had complained that the lack of sidewalks on their narrow streets — some of which do not meet the 60-foot width requirements for city streets — made walking dangerous.

“What you have are houses that are built right over the road,” he said.

Bloomberg, who promised to get back to the residents with an answer regardless of the outcome, said he was looking for ways to bypass cumbersome state legislative changes that might be needed to address the sidewalk and mapping concerns.

“What we can do, I don’t know,” said the mayor, who reiterated his promise to respond to Hamilton Beach residents within four to six weeks.

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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