Assemblyman Dinowitz, Council Member Koppell, and State Senator Espaillat Hold Town Hall Meeting
Thursday night the room was filled with constituents as Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz opened the Town Hall Meeting. He along with City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, and State Senator Adriano Espaillat were there to hear what their constituents had to say about the upcoming budget cuts proposed, and where each elected official stands . Each elected official gave an opening speech on how they were fighting budget cuts while trying to work with other elected officials statewide to find monies somewhere or ease the drastic cuts proposed.
Questions ranged from senior centers closing, teacher tenure, empty stores on Johnson Avenue in Riverdale, a baseball field still waiting to be fixed in Van Cortlandt Park, the water filtration plant also in VCP, caps on malpractice suits, parking meters, and the removal of special needs children from programs by the DOE to name only some of the topics discussed.
Senator Espaillat said that he was against ending LIFO for teachers, because that would be against gains made in collective bargaining agreements as we see in other states. He added that the pain of the cuts must be spread around so all share and some do not share more than others as we see in this budget proposal.
Assemblyman Dinowitz blamed Mayor Bloomberg for cost overruns on the water filtration plant, and said that he wished that we had the two billion dollars in cost overruns for this years budget. On the subject of empty stores on Johnson Avenue Dinowitz said the owner of many of the empty store Friendland Properties "is a pig" by keeping the stores empty and was actually driving out businesses from the street by asking for exorbitant rents. Councilman Koppell added that the local community board was checking into possible down zoning the area so the empty stores could not be demolished to put up a high rise building.
When it came to the baseball fields still awaiting fixing, Councilman Koppell explained that there was a problem with the winning bidder on the project and that the project had to go to the second bidder. Assemblyman Dinowitz however brought up the proposed ice skating rink by the mayor and VCP Conservancy, saying that that project will get done in eight months.
Councilman Koppell said that his office will look into the removal of special needs children from current programs by the DOE, and that he believes in the local public schools. Assemblyman Dinowitz had a different opinion of the DOE by saying that we were bamboozled by the mayor on how good test scores were. He added we found out after the election for mayor that said test score were inflated and much lower in reality.
A question as to why parking meters were removed for muni-meters was answered by Dinowitz that it is a way to get more money, while Koppell said that there is a savings on the collection of money, and due to smaller cars more can park in the same area.
As the town hall meeting winded down it seemed that there were many questions that still remained on peoples minds, as they were told by the elected officials that they will be fighting all the way for them. Will it still be three men in a room in Albany, or will there be input from every elected official around the state? When it comes to the city, will Mayor Bloomberg's budget ax swing more than it has to? One will have to wait and see what happens, what gets cut, and what is sparred this year.