With eye on constituents, Katz opens district office

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As chairwoman of the City Council’s influential Land Use Committee, Melinda Katz wields considerable power in city government. But despite her newfound authority, the councilwoman contends she is first and foremost in office to represent the people of her district.

In a Tuesday morning salute to those she represents, Katz officially opened her district office at 104-01 Metropolitan Ave., in Forest Hills.

“I am very proud to be chair of the Land Use Committee,” she said after cutting through a red ribbon with a giant pair of scissors. “However, I was elected to represent this neighborhood that I grew up in.”

More than 50 community members from all walks of life attended the morning ceremony, braving frigid temperatures to watch Katz christen her new home base.

“We have so many different sectors of the community here,” Katz said, noting that representatives of the police and fire departments, local community boards and elected officials turned out for the event.

Katz will have jurisdiction over such agencies as the City Planning Commission and will approve the site selection for new schools submitted by the School Construction Authority, but it is the everyday lives of the residents of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, Elmhurst and Maspeth that will be her primary concern.

Katz said her fellow Forest Hills area elected officials, state Sen. Daniel Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), state Assemblyman Michael Cohen (D-Forest Hills) and U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) have all focused heavily on constituent affairs.

Her predecessor in the Council, Karen Koslowitz, also earned a reputation for being active in the lives of her constituents.

“This neighborhood is used to having community leaders they can approach,” said Katz, who lives in the house where she was raised.

Thus far, the councilwoman said most of the calls her office has received have come from seniors complaining about rent increases and other housing issues.

“People need help with everyday problems because those take time to work through the city system,” she said. “We have the type of office where people should feel open to stop by.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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