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U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens), former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields sought support from the ethnically diverse crowd of mostly seniors who attended the meeting at the Elmhurst-Jackson Heights Senior Center at 75-01 Broadway.The forum, attended by about 200 people, was co-sponsored by the New Immigrant Community Empowerment of Jackson Heights and the Institute for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly Inc., of Manhattan.Weiner said during his opening statement that his would be a more transparent administration, even as he hoped to strengthen the power of the office by increasing control over the powerful Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and bridges as well as tunnels.He said as mayor he would be more "active and aggressive and not just sit back." He repeatedly criticized Bloomberg, a Republican, in similar language."We are getting less from Albany and D.C., where there are Republicans. We are getting less because the mayor is being passive," he said.Ferrer in his opening remarks called the November contest "probably the most important election in a long time." "Bloomberg wants to build a playground for the rich. But I want to build a city that works better for children and for immigrants who come here to work," he said.Affordable housing was a primary concern for Fields, who cited a study which said about one-fifth of New Yorkers pay over half of their income in rent."My vision is to make it possible to live in the city by building affordable housing," she said.After the candidates made their statements they took several question from the audience.Ahsan Ali, an immigrant from Bangladesh, said he was concerned about a controversial state Department of Motor Vehicles program instituted in 2002. The DMV ran checks of drivers' Social Security numbers and ultimately suspended nearly 6,000, according to a DMV spokeswoman. The program was halted by a court order in May."There are 10,000 Bangladeshis driving in New York and working hard. If they lose their licenses, they could go underground," he said.Weiner voted against a related piece of federal legislation, the Real ID Act, which he said was "an effort by the Republicans to divide" the country. The law requires states to create uniform national standards for documents needed to obtain driver's licenses. "Mayor Bloomberg has been silent on this. The mayor has to fight for us," he said, and then added, "But he has betrayed us." The mayor was away on a brief trip to Accra, Ghana, courting the International Olympic Committee with the city's revised Olympics bid based on a stadium in Flushing after the rejection of the West Side stadium in Manhattan.Another Democratic mayoral contender, Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan), also missed the forum, but a campaign spokesman said he was close by in Astoria during part of the midday forum.Moni Jahangir from Coney Island asked the mayoral contenders about Executive Order 41, which Bloomberg signed in 2003 that prevents police from asking questions about immigration status. "We want a commitment from the candidates to make [Executive Order 41] stronger, because police are harassing people in the streets," he said.Ferrer pledged to not only strengthen the order, but he added "hold commissioners liable and responsible if there is a violation."Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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