Air thick with complaints - Upset residents sound off at town hall meeting

The Brooklyn Paper
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A gamut of complaints and community concerns were aired as State Senator Marty Golden held a special town hall for his constituents in Bensonhurst.

Utilizing the skills of a traffic cop at times, Golden forwarded residents’ complaints right to the source – the agency that is responsible for handling those complaints.

Upwards of a dozen community agencies from the NYPD to the FDNY to the New York City Parks Department, the MTA, and Community Board 11 were on hand to address whatever concern was raised, be it dog poop littering the street or fresh produce markets on 86th Street that stretch their store fronts out to the middle of the street.

“They can’t do that,” piped up one outraged resident. “They [merchants] bring everything they have out and are blocking the street. And the smell is terrible.”

Other residents complained about a store owner on 18th Avenue near 69th Street who lost his store to a fire, and is now selling his wares outside the store while his building is being repaired.

Others in the audience, which swelled to about 100 at times at the meeting at Mary Mother of Jesus, 2326 84th Street, complained about arrogant motorists who park in handicapped spaces in parking lots and then “run out of their cars like gazelles,” according to one outraged senior, as well as Bensonhurst homeowners who have converted the front of their property to allow parking slips for their vehicles.

“That’s one of our major bugaboos,” explained Community Board 11 chair William Guarinello. “[Some homeowners] take out the gardens in front of their homes to put in parking, but then they have to put in a curb cut which takes a parking spot. There are blocks in this community board where you can’t find any parking because of all the curb cuts.”

“We’re going after that now in a big way,” Guarinello said. “Everybody’s doing it and we have to say enough is enough.”

As Golden promised, by airing their complaints, residents received a quick education on how the city works.

They also learned about some of the city’s quirks – such as the fact that the Parks Department will never remove a tree from the city streets – even if the homeowner who faces the tree every day is willing to pay to have the tree uprooted.

“We don’t remove any trees unless they are dangerous, diseased or dead,” said Julius Spiegel, Brooklyn commissioner for the Parks Department.

And if someone scrawls graffiti on the tree, leaving it unsightly?

“We won’t remove it. [The tree] has to heal itself,” Spiegel explained. “There’s nothing we can do.”

Those in attendance also received a lesson about the legislative process – meaning that Marty can’t do it alone.

While he gave a brief account of some of the bills he helped pass in the State Senate, from allowing the police to take a swab of DNA from a suspect upon arrest, not just conviction as the current law allows, to tax exemptions for families who are paying for homes and health care aides to take care of their elderly parents, neither bill may become law if it doesn’t pass the Assembly.

Neither will a bill recommended by one town hall attendee that it becomes legally mandated that criminal convictions and sentences are widely publicized so “we can find out what Johnny Jones got for mugging an old lady.”

The attendee also recommended that a new law was written to take sentencing out of the discretionary hands of the jurist handling the case.

“Something like that will never pass the Assembly,” said Golden. “I can put the bill in to the Senate side, but someone has to put the pressure on the Assembly so it can become a law.”

Tuesday’s town hall was one of ten meetings that Golden holds through his 22nd State Senate District each year.

Golden has held similar town halls since his time in the City Council, said a spokesperson.

“We have two offices and a web site, but still people hesitate to come in because it’s not convenient or they’re working,” the spokesperson said. “The town halls allow the senator to be more accessible so he can hear the problems and take action.”

The spokesperson said that every one of the complaints is responded to “in a matter of days.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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