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Town Hall Meeting Focuses on Public Service, Housing

by Linda C. Jones

On Wednesday, December 6, a town hall meeting, sponsored by Borough President Scott Stringer, City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, Community Board 3, and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) was convened at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center. An audience of about 200 heard brief speeches from the panel and then stepped up to a microphone to have their say.

Demeris Reyes of GOLES started the meeting with a brief history of Community Boards, stemming from community activism in the time following World War II up until the present time when they have quite a formal but mostly advisory role in city decision making.

BP Scott Stringer, who emphasized that he was holding town meetings throughout Manhattan, said that he wanted to hear what community members had to say.

He spoke of the importance of community boards and about his efforts to depoliticize and professionalize them. When he took office, the community boards had many vacant positions and were insufficiently knowledgeable about zoning and land use issues. Now they are fully staffed and have received training in these issues, as well as ethics.

David McWater, President of Community Board 3 spoke next. He described in unabashed terms the improved quality of his Community Board resulting from the Borough President’s efforts. He described the various committees that make up the community board and urged members of the community to apply to serve.

City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez called for a civil discourse. For the most part, she got her wish.

Most questions from the audience focused on issues of affordable housing and the proposed rezoning of the Lower East Side (mostly north of Delancey Street). One speaker asked about the unfortunate state of the East River Park. Another pleaded for preservation of the buildings that not only represent our immigrant heritage but also provide affordable housing themselves. Concern was expressed that the new developments (both the high-priced condos and the proposed low cost housing) will put too much stress on outmoded infrastructure (water, sewers, gas and electric, parking, price of staples) in our neighborhood.

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