By TYRICE HESTER
With re-elections on the horizon, Mayor Bill de Blasio held his 42nd Town Hall meeting on Thursday in his hometown neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn and took hard hitting questions from community members who demanded answers.
The event, co-hosted by City Councilman Brad Lander, began shortly after 8 p.m. as hundreds of people amassed into the gymnasium of the Mayor’s former stomping playground – MS 51, William Alexander Middle School.
Both democratic leaders took center stage to discuss recent developments and their respective agendas, such as reducing stop-and-frisks, Vision Zero, car congestion in Prospect Park, and saving the Affordable Care Act.
Later when the floor opened, a sea of hands shot up amongst eager audience members waiting to be heard, like Melissa Thornton.
Thornton, parent and PTO Secretary at P.S. 282, asked Lander why money allocated years ago to the City Department of Parks and Recreation has not yet gone to resurfacing the playground.
She branded the problem a “gigantic sinkhole” that fills with water and eventually ices over during the winter, endangering the children.
Landers directed the question to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Vincent Sapienza, who is responsible for water infrastructure in New York City. Sapienza assured Thornton the playground is one of many that are enlisted in a new green plant initiative. The goal was to change the landscape of selected city parks by embedding more green life to capture excess water runoff and convert it into a renewable resource.
One man vented his frustration over the lack of employment access for handicapped New Yorkers. One student enrolled in a top performing Brooklyn school urged for classroom expanded to better accommodate an influx of new students. One child asked about the Mayor’s stance on monumental statues.
Several times throughout the night, both Landers and de Blasio demanded questions be kept short to include as many voices as possible.
“I’m hoping whatever the Mayor has in mind won’t affect my children in a negative manner,” said Daudet Phanor, whose two children are enrolled in Medgar Evers College Preparatory School. Although MECPS is not among the nine specialized high schools in New York City, it has a similarly rigorous admissions process.
“There is no way on God’s green earth that you should be able to get into a specialized high school simply by taking one standardized test,” stated de Blasio later in the evening. “I think that’s an abomination on its face because it immediately decides children’s fate according to a single test.”
“My main concern is how in New York City we’re resisting the Trump agenda and how we’re keeping immigrants, LGBTQ, African Americans and Civil Rights safe,” said Park Slope resident Anne Goodman. “That is the most important thing to me, aside from local things like bike stuff and creating more bathrooms in the park.”
Bill de Blasio was scheduled to hold 51 town halls before the end of his term, which The New York Times reports each costs roughly $7,000 to produce. A Quinnipiac poll conducted earlier this month asserts he is likely to win a second term during the November 7th general election, as he takes sixty-one percent of voters and has a fifty percent approval rating.