A cold, bitter wind blew across Rockaway Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t the sentiment of residents toward Mayor de Blasio, but an actual wind blowing in from Jamaica Bay during the Rockaway St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The cold temperature and strong wind dampened attendance, but those turning out appeared to have their usual good time. It’s a world apart from the large Fifth Avenue parades, and even from many parades in other parts of the City, with a strong small town feel to it as the parade flows through a suburban neighborhood of single family homes. Green-clothed crowds filled many front lawns and porches, with cheers for the marchers interspersed amid a steady flow of eating, drinking and talking.
Council Member Eric Ulrich drew several Queens elected officials to a City Hall rally Friday, objecting to the de Blasio administration’s efforts at using hotels in Maspeth and Rockaway as homeless shelters. The electeds’ objections, substantially focused on the process and lack of communication by the administration, left them exposed to the deep anger of the 150 or so people attending the rally. Those attendees, predominantly from Maspeth with a minority from Rockaway, deeply oppose siting a shelter in their neighborhood no matter what process or communication is used. Their anger eventually overwhelmed the elected officials’ efforts to conduct a press conference, driving those elected officials into City Hall as the crowd chanted outside on the City Hall portico and briefly marched on City Hall plaza.
Council Member Eric Ulrich got more than he bargained for this morning as supporters joining a protest he organized overwhelmed the press Q&A portion of that protest, driving Ulrich and other elected officials to abandon the effort.
Ulrich, a Council Member from Queens who’s running for mayor and long a critic of Mayor de Blasio, organized the rally and press conference to “protest Mayor de Blasio’s failed homeless policies.” Joined by State Senators Joe Addabbo, Jose Peralta and Tony Avella and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Ulrich decried the de Blasio administration’s actions around placement of homeless shelters, particularly in the Playland Motel in Rockaway and the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth. Both efforts by the de Blasio administration have generated intense neighborhood opposition. It’s a good issue for Ulrich in many ways as many of his Rockaway constituents are strongly opposed to the administration’s efforts and it provides a means for greater exposure to the City’s full electorate.
His rally spun out of control as Ulrich began taking press questions, with several attendees jumping in to shout over Ulrich and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. Those shouting attendees (including state senate candidate Michael Conigliaro) and the elected officials attending aren’t at odds, they all oppose the shelter placements, but the deep anger flowing out of many attendees overwhelmed the more measured complaints from Ulrich and the other electeds.
Rockaway ferry service supporters came to City Hall Thursday evening to urge Mayor de Blasio to continue operating the service past it’s scheduled October cessation. Initiated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy while the A train was out of service for months, the ferry is subsidized by the City at an annual cost of approximately $6 million. The City calculates that the subsidy is at least $25 per passenger/trip. The de Blasio administration had continued the Bloomberg administration’s short term ferry funding, but has announced that the subsidy will end in October.
The rally featured two citywide elected officials, Scott Stringer and Tish James, as well as Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder, State Senator Joe Addabbo, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Members Eric Ulrich and Vincent Gentile.
The Rockaway peninsula’s physical separation from the rest of the City is matched by a sense of political separation. It’s particularly so in the neighborhoods which most use the ferry, with many residents believing that City Hall is not looking out for them. Those western neighborhoods, such as Belle Harbor and Breezy Point, overwhelmingly voted for Joe Lhota in 2013 and have little in the way of a political relationship with Bill de Blasio.
de Blasio Departs:
Mayor de Blasio left City Hall during the rally, passing just behind the rally as he headed toward his car. Rallygoers took note, loudly chanting and calling out to him, but his only acknowledgment or engagement with them was a small wave as he moved past. The mayor continued talking with an aide, ignoring the chants of “no ferry, no votes.” Unfortunately for the ferry supporters, he did okay in his last election without their votes.
We spoke with New York State Senator Joe Addabbo about the mayor’s race, and particularly on how his constituents view the race. Are his constituents paying attention to the race? Do they have a clear favorite in the race? How do they view Anthony Weiner?
Addabbo’s district covers most of Rockaway and runs north through Broad Channel, Howard Beach and Ozone Park to Middle Village, Maspeth, Ridgewood and Forest Hills. Anthony Weiner’s congressional district overlapped with Addabbo’s district.
We also spoke with New York State Assembly Member Phillip Goldfeder about the mayor’s race and how his constituents view the race.
Goldfeder’s district covers most of Rockaway, Broad Channel, Howard Beach and Ozone Park. Like Addabbo, his district overlaps with Anthony Weiner’s former congressional district.
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