By JULIA JOHN-SCHEDER
Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota on Tuesday criticized city officials for “horrific” communication among agencies as he got an earful from small business owners about bike stations being erected outside their stores with little or no warning.
The displeasure of small business owners about the bike share plan and other urban problems arose at a forum on small business at St. Francis College in Brooklyn attended by four would-be mayors.
Lhota, a former deputy of Mayor Giuliani said he was certain that the bike lanes “were here to stay” but said that as mayor he would assign a deputy mayor to insure that communication between city agencies such as the police, fire and transportation departments could be improved. “All it requires is humans meeting,” said Lhota who was joined at the forum by rival candidates, including Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, roshe run flywire Jr., Gristedes grocery magnate John Catsimatidis and George McDonald, head of the Dow Fund.
“Watch your language and clean up after yourselves,” college provost Timothy Houlihan told the candidates in his joshing introduction.
Catsimatidis, a billionaire businessman, tried to forge a bond with the small owners and members of the Chambers of Commerce, recalling his formative years on E. 135th Street. “I grew up on the streets,” he said, pledging to create an office of business advocacy as mayor. He also veered to the subject of crime: ““I don’t wanna give the streets back to the hoodlums. Remember the 1980s?”
Lhota, former chairman of the MTA, was criticized by his rivals for not stemming fare and toll increases. He defended himself by arguing that the system was broken because the agency was controlled by state officials. “People in Albany deciding tolls makes no sense,” he said
Catsimatidis parried that that he should have put his foot down as a chairman by blocking a pension increase for MTA employees.
Lhota accused Catsimatidis of taking “a cheap shot.”
The debate switched to education and job training as Catsimatiis cited a recent study of city colleges showing that 81 percent of students lacked college-level skills. He suggested widening vocational education to create more skilled workers such as plumbers and electricians who could earn “between $60,000 and $70,000 a year.
Lhota agreed, adding, “You don’t want a carpenter who doesn’t understand angles.”