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Smith meets with residents of Flushing on district tour

Smith, whose name has been mentioned as a possible candidate to take over for state Sen. David Paterson (D-Harlem) as Senate minority leader, sat and took notes as the 10 constituents in attendance expressed concerns about tenant-landlord relations, traffic on Parsons Boulevard, the lack of job opportunities in the neighborhood and the condition of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The informal hourlong conversation was an extension of Smith's 2005 "listening tour," a series of meetings that brought him to eight sites throughout his sprawling district in an effort to stay apprised of the pertinent issues facing the neighborhoods he serves.The first installment of the 2006 tour was held just as the state budget process is gathering steam and gave constituents from Flushing and Kew Gardens Hills an opportunity to air complaints and request funding for pet projects.Pat Dolan, acting on behalf of the Flushing Meadows Park Conservancy, presented Smith with a formal $10,000 budget request. The money, she said, would be used to create a "natural shoreline or portion of a natural shoreline" along the west side of Meadow Lake, which is in the park.Smith said it was unclear if he would be able to provide the entire amount. He said that in coming weeks he plans to examine all of the requests he has received and determine what funds he can allocate and to whom.Smith noted that the budget process is moving quickly this year and that oftentimes funds will become available and also disappear very quickly."You have to be ready," Smith said. "Sometimes you meet a commissioner (of a state agency) in the hall and you have to act."Smith began his listening tour last July and held eight meetings in 2005. The idea for the informal conversations, he said, began when he realized that the hectic state budget process was keeping him in Albany four or five days a week."I felt like I lost touch," Smith said. "I wanted to find out what was happening, take the pulse firsthand."Smith has held meetings in Far Rockaway, Rosedale, Queens Village, Flushing, Briarwood, Kew Garden Hills, St. Albans and Jamaica. He said that in general the concerns of his constituents were similar regardless of neighborhood."Basic quality-of-life issues: education, overbuilding and public safety," Smith said, ticking off the universal list.Reach Reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 ext. 146.

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