By Sabina Mollot
A day before the primary, we asked around in Stuyvesant Town for voters’ opinions on what the newly elected City Council member, who’ll be determined in the general election, should focus on.
In response, they gave answers that wouldn’t shock anyone in this city, stressing a need to prioritize affordability, saving small businesses, transit improvements and improvements to public education.
Read on for more on the aforementioned issues that need fixing in District 4, which covers Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, Waterside, East Midtown, part of Times Square and the Upper East Side.
Sue Kershbaumer, while strolling through the Oval with her daughter, said her biggest concern was schools — specifically lack of resources and classroom seats for kids with special needs like hers.
Kershbaumer, a computer programmer, added that she hasn’t been able to enroll her daughter in school in the district.
“The class size is too full,” she said. “The DOE doesn’t accommodate children with special needs. You have to hire a lawyer and if you can’t afford a retainer fee you’re out of luck.”
A married couple, both engineers, said they were concerned most about affordability, in particular for their grown children, one an engineer, the other studying to become one.
Lillian Hsu said, “New York City should be more hospitable to real professionals like engineers who make a good living but they’re not investment bankers or attorneys.”
Husband Al Ng added, “New York is unaffordable for most mortals. I’d like a future for our children where they’re not expected to all become financial people, which isn’t good for the world.”
School of Visual Arts student Ashley, who didn’t want to give her last name, said she thought the subway presented a number of hazards, especially L train station at First Avenue.
“It’s too easy to get into the rails and that isn’t safe especially when that area is very crowded,” she said.
Retired cop Chris Perednia said he had a hard time choosing which issue needed the most immediate attention.
“It’s all such a mess,” he said. “Politics, affordable housing, the homeless issue, the crime issue. You have issues living in this place. Transportation. The L train is closing down. Parking spots are gone on 14th Street because of construction. I don’t think I can answer that. Living here and being in the Police Department, I’ve seen everything. Where does all the money go? All of a sudden we have money for free lunches in school? How did that money just appear?”
Sophia Mena, who works at a marketing company, had only one request of her local elected officials.
“Lower rent,” she said. “I’m spending $1,900 for (my share of rent) for a one-bedroom with two roommates. I’m moving out at the end of the month because it’s too expensive.”
A resident named Maria Ann, who also didn’t want to give her last name, discussed her concerns with all the candidates who’d shown up at a meet and greet event last Saturday in Stuyvesant Oval. Mainly she wanted to see the restoration of home rule on housing regulations.
“We should be determining our rent laws here, not in Albany. Albany is a mess,” said the longtime resident, who works as a copy editor. She also wanted to see reforms to the way affordable housing gets created.
“The lotteries are nice but there just aren’t enough of them for the demand,” she said. Referencing the new luxury buildings where a portion gets set aside as affordable in exchange for tax breaks, Maria Ann said she didn’t believe that system was working. “It’s like making a deal with the devil,” she said. “To be in a doorman building, low income people really don’t need that. I’d like to see a Mitchell-Lama system come back, but maybe that’s a pipe dream.”
Retired clothing boutique owner Charles Ahrens said he thought a major problem, that’s become worse in recent years, is traffic, especially on First Avenue.
“You just can’t get anywhere,” he said. “I take a bus but I take taxis as well and that’s when you feel it most. I used to go to 47th and Fifth Avenue and that’s where you’d get traffic. Now you can barely get to 23rd Street before traffic starts.”
Celia Kushner, who works for the Department of Education, and had been advised by her union to vote for Marti Speranza, said, “I heard she is interested in public education. That’s what matters the most to me, and I guess fair housing.”
Florence Stoller, a retiree, said at the age of 98 and a half (“don’t forget the half,” she instructed), she found it difficult to get around in the city. Even some barricades located near the bench she was sitting on, aimed at getting cyclists to slow down, were an obstacle, she said, because she’s legally blind. Other than this though Stoller wanted to make it clear she had “no complaints.”
She added that she’d already cast her vote via absentee ballot though she wouldn’t reveal for whom.
Stoller also added that there was one local issue she hoped the new council person wouldn’t bother with.
“This business of removing the statues — that’s meshugga. For hundreds of years we’ve had these statues.”