Some of the candidates vying to challenge City Councilman James Sanders (D−Laurelton) this November took on the incumbent last Thursday night in a special candidates forum that focused on southeast Queens’ environmental issues.
The Springfield⁄Rosedale Community Action Association hosted the event at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Rosedale that featured Sanders and fellow Democrats Michael Duncan and Jacques Leandre, who will face the incumbent in the September Democratic primary, and Scherie Murray, a Republican.
The forum focused on the environment and each of the candidates gave different solutions on how to fix problems in the area, such as air pollution, decrepit park space and water quality.
Challengers Marq Claxton, whose father died last week; Frederick Lewis; and Hillard Grays did not participate in the debate.
Sanders used his experience to bolster his commitment to improving the greenery in the 31st Council District, which includes Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, Rosedale and the Rockaways. The councilman reminded the audience that he helped allocate money to repair football fields and soccer fields at several playgrounds in the area and promised to find ways to make all the greenspace fresh and usable despite the city’s tight budget.
“We will keep our fingers crossed as we continue to repair our parks,” he said.
Leandre said the Council has been taking the wrong direction with the environment by focusing its efforts on specific projects throughout the city. The 38−year−old lawyer said if the City Council concentrated on improving general areas, such as the 31st District, instead of individual green spaces, the entire community would see a major improvement to their environment.
“Brookville Park helped raise me and without it I wouldn’t be the man I’ve become,” he said. “Back in the ’70s, that lake used to be a great place. Me and my friends used to net goldfish there.”
Duncan, who used to be Sanders’s chief of staff, said he would involve the community in cleaning up the parks and area. The candidate noted he has taken children who are part of his Rosedale soccer program to places like Idlewild Park to clean up the greenspace and said focusing on educating the youth on environmental issues will leave long−lasting effects.
“Education is my platform. Our children have not been educated,” he said.
Murray also focused on the children for her plans on the environment. She said the city should look into promoting the parklands and playgrounds as a place for kids to get healthy, since childhood obesity is on the rise.
“Our kids are not eating right and I would like to see more activities developed in the park to get them healthier,” she said.
Sanders and Leandre sparred over their approaches to the topic of water rates. Leandre promised the audience that he could prevent their water bills from rising by acting as a voice for their combined cries for help.
“When we have a big community, people respond,” he said.
Sanders blasted Leandre for dodging the issue and not coming up with a solution to the rate increases. The councilman said the best way to stop the water rate from going any higher was to petition for a change in the composition of the members of the water board.
“This is the time when ... you have to make it a big issue,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@c
©2009 Community News Group
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