On The Waterfronts Committee
by Anthony Stasi
Jan 17, 2013 | 1887 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Flushing Councilman Peter Koo was recently named chair of the City Council’s Waterfronts Committee. This has normally been one of the Council’s less active committees. They meet only a few times a year, and while they deal with important issues, past meeting agendas show that they tackle a few issues, but not many.

Concerns like invasive species and recreational boating are usually on the docket. But now, following Hurricane Sandy, this should be a more muscular committee.

When the city puts money into development projects, it often involves development corporations that broker plans coming from City Hall. The city is good at getting things done with private sector help, perhaps due in part to Mayor Bloomberg’s business acumen.

The waterfronts in our city need help, and not just those in Manhattan. It is now time for this committee and the rest of city government to focus on Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Jamaica Bay was hit very hard by Sandy, and the waterfronts Committee should have this on their agenda at their next meeting. The good news is that the committee has some strong city Council voices as members, such as Eric Ulrich and Peter Vallone, Jr.

Jamaica Bay is important to this city for a number of reasons. It runs alongside the country’s most storied airport (much to the chagrin of residents), it is home to many species of birds, and the bay itself is special to New Yorkers. I, for one, grew up fishing and crabbing in this bay.

Then there were the lean years, when the numbers of fluke and all kinds of fish were decreasing. But they are thriving again, and the waterfronts should be strong and reflect that. The businesses around the bay matter.

This is where Koo seems to be the most concerned. His background is in the private sector. “A great deal of future plans are the development stage,” Koo explains. “This is a bigger job now. We didn’t meet as much in the past, but now it is different.”

One could say that Koo, who is a Republican-turned-Democrat, was given a chairmanship as a sign of good faith from the City Council. But he brings a lot of experience from the business sector, and he comes from a very important district in Flushing.

The importance of Koo being chair of this committee is that he is from Queens. Following Sandy, this committee needs the Queens delegation to be front and center, since a lot of the new development will hopefully be there as well.

It’s Math!

Remember when President Barack Obama said that Mitt Romney’s economic plan was not feasible because it did not add up mathematically?

The statement was debatable, but it could it be used in the contract stalemate between the mayor and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) over evaluations. Without a deal by late January, the city’s schools could lose $250 million. That is a lot of math.

For years Bloomberg has taken on the union as a way to improve public education and take responsibility for the results. A recent ad by the union criticizes Bloomberg for taking a “his way or the highway” approach. How was the situation before it was “his way?” It was not much better.

The ad includes the mayor’s appointment of Cathie Black as chancellor, which was a mistake on the mayor’s part. But the UFT might still be upset over the idea that the mayor is a big fan of charter schools, like many people who want public education to render better results.

The UFT and the mayor (along with Chancellor Dennis Walcott) are not far away from a deal on how to evaluate teachers, but it appears that union president Michael Mulgrew does not agree that they are close.

The problem is that the union may be losing the support of parents who are tired of waiting for public education to improve on its own. They want bad teachers fired, not transferred. They want that $250 million in their public education system to hire more teachers and have smaller class sizes.

The mayor does not have a dog in this fight. He will leave office next January. He cares about the results, but his life will be fine whether your child is educated or not. He is taking on this battle because he sees it as right, not because it benefits him.

Both sides have increased the political hyperbole in the last few weeks, and that makes this process lengthier and less productive. Both sides need to remember that the school system would be badly disadvantaged without that money.

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