Borough President Donovan Richards addressing the crowd at the Southeast Queens Regional Town Hall on Oct. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Asar John
By Asar John
Several community members, elected officials and SoutheastQueens residents gathered on the night of Oct. 19 at York’s Performing Arts Center for the Southeast Queens Town Hall event to discuss a multitude of problems, projects and accomplishments in this section of the borough. York’s Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management and
Student Affairs Karen Williams kicked off the town hall on behalf of the college and its president, Berenecea Johnson Eanes.
“Tonight is a critical opportunity for you to listen, share ideas, raise concerns and take the next steps in moving our community forward,” said Williams, addressing the crowd before discussions began.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards then spoke at the podium urging attendees to speak out and also addressed several recent accomplishments in Southeast Queens such as renovations to local libraries, funding towards NYCHA buildings, other housing development projects. Richards also addressed the severe flooding experienced in the area from Hurricane Ida in September, saying that he and other elected officials are working to curb the problems
that were witnessed from the storm that claimed nine lives in the borough.
“We’re trying to figure out ways to get pumping done again to lower the water table because climate change is real,” said Richards. “For those of you that came, who endured flooding for 40 years, I want you to know that we have worked extremely hard, we’ve banged down doors to get money,” Richards said as he credited Mayor de Blasio for investing in infrastructure.
Southeast Queens residents such as 46-year-old Keisha McGregor expressed her frustrations of flooding during storms at her house in Springfield Gardens, being one of those residents that have experienced 40 years of flooding.
“I’m hoping that he [Donovan Richards] will do something because when he was a councilman he said he was going to
do something but I didn’t see anything done at the time,” said McGregor, who works as a bus driver for NICE Bus company.
“My block is like the ‘forget about’ block.” McGregor says during Ida, there was sewage water up to her waist, which took a couple of days to clean out, with some financial assistance from FEMA. “I’m hoping to see what will happen and how far it goes,” said McGregor, who added that she would even consider moving to Maryland or North Carolina if these problems persist. Other concerns addressed included illegal dumping in parts of the area. One possible solution brought up by the borough president and the Dept. of Sanitation includes the installation of cameras at sites experiencing frequent illegal dumping.
“Our enforcement agents are working hard as we’ve done a lot of sting operations across the city resulting in arrests and summonses, and several illegal dumping summonses in particular,” said the Assistant Director of Community Affairs at DSNY, Nicholas Circharo. “We are happy to work with the residents to either place cameras where the
councilmembers have purchased cameras and hopefully combat it that way.” Borough President Richards spoke directly to Pandora’s Box about the concerns addressed at the town hall.
“The point of tonight was to get agencies back in the room so that they know that Queens has to be the center of prioritization as we come out of the pandemic,” said Richards. “Southeast Queens is central to that as one of the communities hit hardest during the pandemic. The pandemic showed us and taught us that the communities most impacted are the communities that need to be solely focused on in a highly constructive manner.”