The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Saundra Thomas On the Issues

You've heard the Q talk about Saundra Thomas, the City Council challenger in the 40th District with the best chance to defeat incumbent Mathieu Eugene. She really has been pounding the pavement in search of votes, one at a time, and if she hasn't answered specific questions you may have, feel free to contact her via her website or drop by her campaign office right here in Lefferts at 1190 Nostrand Avenue. Here's contact info:

Folks have asked me to ask her to get more specific on the issues of the 40th. She and I had a chance to chat at length a few weeks ago, but I thought it might be best to collate some of the questions folks have been asking and get her to sound off on them, which she's graciously done over the past couple days. Below you'll find some informal answers to questions. Also, I encourage you to go to her website. She's done a good job of filling in details on various questions she's been hearing on her tours of the neighborhood.

Unlike her opponent, Saundra is way into "Participatory Budgeting," the popular movement towards letting districts spend their own discretionary funds through direct voting. (The Q has problems with P.B., but I'll save that for another day. Actually, why save for tomorrow what you can do today? See, I don't like popularity contests for tax dollars; I prefer money going to the neediest and even UNpopular projects that are truly urgent. Sometimes an elected official must make tough choices, and that's why we elect them. However, I don't believe our current councilman has been up to the task - another reason to let him go back to "the medical profession" he so adores. Heck, if y'all vote him out of office, I promise I will make him my primary care physician after the election! Anyone ever see Marathon Man with the delightful Dustin Hoffman? Sequel time!) That issue aside, I think she's got great answers. Some are necessarily vague, in the sense that there are not always straightforward answers that will get us where we want to go. It's her emphasis on listening and community input that I find most encouraging.

Some worry that she won't have the experience necessary to be an effective legislator. But as others have noted, she'll hire the right people to advise and work with her. She'll need a seasoned council operator to be her legislative aide and/or chief of staff. She's a quick study, and while there are many important aspects of governing that require finesse, term limits have narrowed the distance between newcomers and old-timers on the Council. Saundra is extremely personable, and I expect her to make fast friends where appropriate, but not people-please to the point of obsequiousness. That's one of the things I like about the Progressive Caucus. They're not afraid to gain media attention to dissenting views by standing together. We may not always agree with the Caucus, but she'll be sure its voice gets heard. Too often the Mayor has used his bully pulpit and fat-cat friends to bulldoze over important issues. Here's hoping a more transparent and sensitive administration will work with minority opinions in a more constructive manner. (Full disclosure - the Q voted for Bloomberg twice. I'm not a full-fledged Bloom-basher. I do like to take him to task now and then though. The one time he shook my hand I asked him if he could spare a few bucks. He got the joke, or at least laughed at the right moment. He did not give me any money however. I am a fundraiser by the way; so I'm essentially a beggar by profession. I should have used the line that one scammer used on me, saying that he was a member of the group Spyro Gyra and needed to get to a gig out on Long Island and could I give him enough money to buy an LIRR ticket? Sure, a fellow musician in need, no problem! Until he asked to borrow my Sony Walkman as well so he could bone up on some of the old tunes. Many years later, the exact same guy with the same story hit my wife up for dough in Bushwick; maybe the walkman had become an iPod and...why is it so hard for me to stay on-point?)

The biggest thing I wanted to know is the one thing she really shouldn't answer - whom she supports for Mayor. If it ends up being someone else, why start off with a bad relationship? I get it. But without going out on a limb, I suspect de Blasio is her choice. Or Randy Credico!

Now to the questions:

Is affordable housing really possible? Where else (in NYC and nationwide) is public policy actually working in this regard? Is 80/20 enough? With so many apartments leaving rent regulation, is it really fair to focus so much attention on this decades old law than to create something more meaningful for today that doesn't create perverse incentives and disincentives for landlords?

80/20 is hardly enough. We need to develop thousands of units to accommodate and account for the economic down-turn and the folks who have lost jobs, had to sell their homes and have been pushed out of neighborhoods.

It is possible. Public policy will work when it includes really making landlords accountable. Much of this depends on the state and federal government, but city council members can make noise and align themselves and influence their peers. 

In the meantime we have "affordable" housing...but people are being pushed out to make way for middle and upper income people-by pulling back on repairs, a horrible housing court system and uneven "playing" field. There are also designers and builders committed to creating affordable housing right in our district-but they are too few and too far between.

People can refer to my website for many of my thoughts on affordable housing
Empire Blvd, moving out from the park, seems like a HUGE missed opportunity. Do you imagine something better for this grand sounding wide street leading to the park?

Ah...the glorious Blvd.  Here is a visionary's dream:  I was tempted to say bring back the roller-rink but hey...I'm aging myself! I would love to see the beautification of Empire Blvd.  I think it certainly has the potential to become a state of the art "corridor" and reflect the future of our community. With sensitive development that reflects both the  needs of the community, a pathway to future opportunities and serves all, I can envision a cultural arts center where groups such as the Flatbush Film festival would have a home, as well as some of our regional theater groups and dozens of others.  With so many artists and musicians living in Flatbush-a center that has programs, performance space and classes at the very least. Would dare also to say I would love this to include a small independent movie theater.

Included in this vision would be: A technology incubator. I would love to see a facility dedicated to educating, training, discovering, supporting, growing future talent in the tech field who live right here in our community.  Maybe even throw a school in there.  How big can I dream? 

Do you have particular thoughts on bicycles and bike safety and bike lanes and bike, bike, bikes?

I am a cyclist. I love biking. Biking plays a huge role in livable and safe streets. I want to bring in DOT to do a complete assessment of the WHOLE district and look at the traffic calming issues before I even get to the issue of bikes and bike lanes. Our neighborhoods are changing in respect to traffic issues: more children, more cars. We need safer streets and we have to see what the effects of the Select Service bus routes will have on these changes.

Lowes-King: So, it'll open in the fall of 2014? Who's watching this project, er, minding the store? Has it really been thought through? What do YOU think, honestly?

Because I am nostalgic, I am excited about this project.  However, we have been mulling over what will be the outcome since long before I moved here in 1999. Marty Markowitz...wherever he is...will see this through. It's HIS legacy project. Capital funds will find their way to the project-trust me. My only concern right now is that the programming reflects the community; that there is appropriate and strategic marketing to bring the people into the place, unlike other performing arts centers in our backyard, and that it will be accessible for EVERYONE.
Would you join the Council's Progressive Caucus? Any caucus?
I do intend to join the Progressive Caucus and in fact had a conversation with Brad Lander about just that when I was at the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn endorsement interviews (They did endorse me). It would be a privilege. The Caucus' 13 bold progressive ideas for NYC falls in line with my ideology. I would also join the BLA (Black Latino and Asian Caucus). 

Do you support increasing the number of charter schools allowed in NYC.
I believe in the original intention of charter schools, but not at the expense of district schools. I'd like to see minimal growth and more funding put into city schools.

What is your plan to address the increase in violent crime in the 71st Precinct?

Please see my extended statement on my campaign website: Community Safety. 

What do you think of Mayor Bloomberg's climate change plans (sea walls, etc)? 

Parts of Bloomberg's climate plans are comprehensive and innovative. It's just imperative that those in poorer communities (Rockaways and Red Hook, eg) are at the top of the list for consideration for sea walls, levees, etc.  The big question is:can we afford to do it without tons of federal aid? 

When change happens to Brooklyn neighborhoods, it often comes in the blink of an eye. How does a councilperson both cheer a neighborhood's development while being respectful to those who've lived there for decades? 

The question about changing neighborhoods is the elephant in the room in CD40, but also requires a lengthy response. Gentrification is not new.  We have issues of co-existence and clashes of culture in our communities. It's local, it's national, it's global. I believe a councilperson who has the talent to bring disparate groups together can absolutely make headway-but it takes a community and people willing to TALK TO each other-and listen. I have that talent frankly. It's what I have done my whole life.

Do you support the council's recently-passed legislation concerning the NYPD? (Intro 1079, which establishes an Inspector General for the NYPD and Intro 1080, which opens the door to racial profiling lawsuits against the NYPD)

I support the Community Safety Act and in fact stood on the steps of City Hall with members of the CC when the Act was passed.  A step in the right direction to the elimination of marginalizing and targeting our youth with little evidence of success in stopping crime. Stop, Question and Frisk is not helping anyone in the community and certainly not helping to bringing community together.

What do you think of the emphasis on testing in the City's schools? Do you support the job Dennis Wolcott is doing as Schools Superintendent?

We are over-testing our children. We need to spend more time preparing them for life.  We need to find models around the country that increase learning with little high-stakes testing. They exist.  I am hopeful that the Common Core Standards will be step toward changing the dynamic. My personal inspiration is found in the A+ NYC Roadmap to successful schools in NYC.  Take a look-holistic approach to education.  It contains many elements that I will encourage the education council I intend to develop to bring to our district. 

Quality of Life stuff: How will you use your office to help lessen trash, get people to scoop their poop, lessen mosquitoes, help new businesses move to the neighborhood? Can a councilperson help a neighborhood become more livable? 

BIDS can make a tremendous difference in QOL as BIDS have the potential to create resources for cleaner and safer streets. If a community agrees to bring in a BID, I would work with them to do so.  I have seen their success and their failures. It takes time and patience, but can be a wonderful way to bring people to the neighborhoods.  There are private services, that employee low-wage workers-some who have to perform community service-to take care of street cleaning and beautification. Someone needs to fund this.  A citycouncil person can do that.  A strong partnership between the merchants' association and a local CDC can also bring beautification to a neighborhood. The CDC applies for a grant and the work begins. What really needs to happen in PLG, is for there to be a local CDC that would become the infrastructure to receive government funds from such agencies as SBS and commercial revitalization and DYCD for youth and community development programs.  

Would you support the art project currently taking shape around the green sheet metal Flatbush trees at Empire/Ocean/Flatbush? 

I would absolutely support the art project taking shape on Empire/Flatbush/Ocean-with the caveat that all opportunity to include a diverse team of community members to make it happen be considered. Great idea...needs maximum input.

Are you supportive of (and will help see that money is found for maintenance for) the Parkside Plaza project?
I can't wait to help find ways to support the sustainability of the Parkside Plaza Project! I would put this on the list for Participatiory Budgeting which I would absolutely bring to this district.  I know YOU have mixed feelings, but if you want to think of a way to bring folks together...this is one of them.


Anonymous said...

I was pretty bearish on her chances as recently as last week. But that has changed after meeting Saundra as I know Mathieu is freaking out. After meeting Saundra herself I know She is definitely turning people on to her canidacy and with that off of Eugene. I know its not scientific but the fact that there is no support for him anywhere here of DPC has got to be a good sign.

Anonymous said...

Saundra Thomas gave coherent, though woefully unimaginative, answers to all the questions.

However, the coherence alone sets her a couple of orders of magnitude above the witless Mathieu Eugene.

Sadly, she's opposed to charter schools. That raises a school question.

What percentage of kids in PLG are in the Gifted Program? How many kids enter the competitive middle/intermediate schools?

Do neighborhood kids attend Mark Twain Intermediate School?

When it comes to high school, do neighborhood kids attend Brooklyn Tech? Stuyvesant? The Med/Sci Program at Midwood H.S.?

Anyway, the only hope for replacing the incompetent and untrustworthy occupant of the district's city council office -- Mathieu Eugene -- is to vote for Saundra Thomas.

Again. The other candidates have to put aside their ambitions and give their support to Saundra Thomas. Otherwise, Eugene, the do-nothing goldbrick, will hang on for another term while siphoning off more taxpayers' money for self-serving projects.