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Bright Bloomy Touts Administration’s Accomplishments

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A genial and relaxed Mayor Michael Bloomberg returned to Dyker Heights for a town hall meeting where he was able to present the accomplishments of his administration in the best light possible. With a bevy of commissioners and assistant commissioners as his companions, the mayor told the standing-room-only crowd at St. Philip’s Church Hall, 1072 80th Street, that he had arrived with generally positive news. The town hall was arranged by the Dyker Heights Civic Association, which had previously hosted the mayor in the autumn of 2004. “We are going to talk about good things, not about bad things,” Bloomberg announced. “The city is actually doing pretty well. We’re going in the right direction. I can’t tell you everything’s perfect. I was talking to two mayors today from big cities, and just listening to the problems they have, we are pretty lucky. Our problem is over-development. They would kill to have some development. Our problem is how to keep crime coming down. They would like to start crime coming down.” Big News Bloomberg then proceeded to introduce Department of City Planning (DCP) Commissioner Amanda Burden who gave area residents the news they had been waiting for – DCP has completed a preliminary proposal for rezoning Dyker Heights (see accompanying story). Other achievements in the area of southwestern Brooklyn which he reminded his listeners of included the fact that “We did keep Fort Hamilton Army Base going,” and the opening of the Moose Lodge Senior Center. While acknowledging that positive advances for the community usually come about because people work together , he did note, with respect to the senior center, “I will take some credit for that, along with Marty Golden.” Bloomberg also spoke about the $400 property tax rebate that has been mailed to property owners the past couple of years. “This year, you get it again,” he told the crowd. “Then, we have to go back to the legislature for approval for the next three years. Hopefully, we will get that.” The rebate, he added, had been envisioned as, “A way to sort of shift the burden to big commercial owners.” Building at Standstill One major unresolved issue – not good news for the city’s residents —- is the refusal by the state to contribute to the city Department of Education’s $13 billion capital plan, a refusal that has caused planning for new schools virtually to grind to a halt. Bloomberg reminded his listeners that the city had contributed $6.5 billion to build new schools and upgrade existing schools over the next five years, with the expectation that the state would contribute the other half of the funding, as part of the court-ordered recompense that arose from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (DFE) lawsuit, under which a judge had found that New York State had failed in its mandate to provide city students with a “sound basic education.” Under that decision, which the state is still appealing, New York State had been ordered to hand over to the city DOE an extra $5.6 billion in operating funds over the next four years and $9.2 billion over the next five years for capital projects, to begin making up for the years of inequity. While Bloomberg said he was “optimistic” that eventually the state would cooperate, and that the new schools planned by the city would be built, he urged the crowd to make it known to their state elected officials that they expected the state to do its part. The Assembly has shown its support for compliance with the CFE decision, but the governor and state Senate have not. Indeed, Bloomberg pointed out, “This year, they said, they were passing some laws in their budget that would give a lot of financial help to education for every place in this state, every community, outside of New York City. Literally, the law was drafted exactly that way. It doesn’t apply to any city over 1,000,000 people, and we’re the only city like that. I said they are not going to get away with that. “I think we will get the money from Albany,” Bloomberg went on. “What you’ve got to do is call your assemblyperson, call your senator. They’ve got to be able to report to their leaders in Albany is that the people are mad and they are not going to take it anymore. We send $11 billion more to Albany every year than we get back. And when they help education throughout the state and won’t help our kids, I say, enough. I think we are making progress, that we will hold their feet to the fire, and they won’t get away with that. Every year, we have 100,000 kids coming into the school system. They can’t wait.” Building Issues Illegal conversions were also touched on by Bloomberg, who decried the trend, which has been increasing in recent years. “It’s a big problem,” he told his listeners. Why? “They are doing two things,” the mayor explained. “They are overstressing the infrastructure and they are also putting people’s lives in jeopardy.” There is, however, “A limit to what we can do,” Bloomberg acknowledged. Nonetheless, he said that, thanks to a new program, the city will allow representatives of DHCA to accompany a building inspector once a month to locations they have identified as problematic. “The law is the law,” stressed Bloomberg. “If they want to change the zoning, there’s a legal process. The law shouldn’t be applied someplace but not in others.” What’s That Smell? Another sore spot in southwestern Brooklyn is the Owls Head Water Treatment Plant near the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge. Acknowledging that “The smell from there really gets to be quite noxious and annoying,” the mayor explained that the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had been moving ahead to solve the problem. The agency, he said, “had a $20 million contract with somebody, but the contractor walked away.” Currently, added Emily Lloyd, DEP’s commissioner, the agency is engaged in re-awarding the contract. “We expect to award the contract in June,” she told the crowd, adding that she was hoping that work at the plant could begin by the end of the year, on a project that she said she expects to last between two and three years. “I’m going to regret this,” added Bloomberg, “but I’m going to make a commitment to you. It will be fixed before I leave office.” Residents in the audience had varying concerns. One man asked about an ongoing problem with his neighbor’s overgrown hedges which are “blocking the whole street, blocking a fire hydrant. “That, said Department of Transportation (DOT)Deputy Commissioner Judy Bergtraum, is currently being taken care of. “We sent the homeowner a letter today,” she recounted. “The homeowner has 30 days, then we issue a violation.” Following that, the homeowner has a second period of time in which to comply, she said. If he does not, at the end of that time period, then DOT will take care of getting the hedges cut. Driving Concern Bergtraum also responded when Dorothy Garuccio asked about getting school crossing signs at 72nd Street and 10th Avenue, near the Leif Ericson Day School. “I know you have issues with speeding,” Bergtraum acknowledged. “We are going to put crosswalks and signs that warn the driver that there are children.” “So, when is this woman going to get her signs and crosswalks?” asked Bloomberg. “Let’s say, less than 60 days,” rejoined Bergtraum. “We can’t solve all your problems,” Bloomberg acknowledged as the town hall wrapped up. “It’s 60 days on some, four years on others. But, you have a right to get services you pay for. You have a right to get government that is responsive. This is a democracy so not everyone is going to be happy with every decision. But, I have always been a believer that government should be held accountable, and if you’re not happy, to have an opportunity to say so and an opportunity to change it.” Bloomberg then thanked the crowd for allowing him another four years at the city’s helm. “It’s a wonderful city. I’m just glad to be part of it.”

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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