City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) visited the North Queensview Homes Co-Op in Astoria last week, taking the time to talk about the ongoing city budget process, the school system and a reported beef with Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria).
“I think she cemented many votes for her in the upcoming election,” said Dr. Milton Wilner, a former member of Queensview’s board of directors.
Quinn is often mentioned as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s potential successor, but she has not yet declared herself as a candidate and was mum on a potential run.
Before taking questions from the residents of the co-op, at 34th Avenue and 21st Street, the speaker spoke of the importance of protecting naturally occurring retirement communities and ensuring that city residents do not find themselves having to move away during their golden years.
“We believe people who build up neighborhoods should get to stay in those neighborhoods,” she said.
Quinn said the new budget does not include any teacher layoffs, but allows for 2,500 teachers to be lost through attrition, which could worsen school overcrowding. She said the Council is also working to adjust how property taxes are calculated.
Taxes on some Queens co-ops went up by 100 percent or more because the rate was based on rates for nearby properties, which can include strip malls or auto body shops. Following the lead of Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), Quinn said the Council is also working against a proposed 7 percent water rate increase, which they are trying to reduce.
“I’m not optimistic we can get to stop it,” Quinn said. “I wish we could.”
The speaker also talked about the city’s education system, citing areas where it could be improved but not going so far as to condemn Bloomberg’s controversial policies.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say the mayor knows nothing about education,” she said.
Quinn said while she does not agree with community education councils becoming non-advisory, they should have more influence on the city Department of Education’s decisions. The speaker advocated for a community schools model of managing the schools, which seats the schools, community groups and youth services providers together at the table.
She said she also supported an increased focus on early childhood centers, mandatory kindergarten in the state and increased funding for middle schools.
“Middle school is where a child begins to drop out of high school,” she said.
Finally, Quinn denied that Vallone’s outspoken objection to the Queensboro Bridge being renamed the Ed Koch-Triborough Bridge had anything to do with why his discretionary funding was reduced by $600,000, or about 42 percent, in the last fiscal year’s budget.
She said that while Astoria had needs and Vallone had enjoyed a large amount of discretionary funding due to his seniority and the fact that his father had been the previous Council speaker, the money needed to be spread around to other parts of the city.
“It had nothing to do with the bridge,” Quinn said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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