An open appeal to new NYC Speaker Corey Johnson

Dear Speaker Johnson:

“For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”- President John F. Kennedy

Congratulations on your elevation as the second most powerful person in NYC government! Indeed, the discrimination you overcome for being openly gay and HIV-positive has fortified you for the fights ahead. Your history and the issues that you have worked have stood in solidarity with communities of color, the marginalized and the vulnerable. Like you said, “That is where you come from. That is what my life’s work has been about.”

We also applaud your statement that, “The problems and challenges we continue to face are of historic proportions. Overflowing homeless shelters, mom and pops unable to compete with deep-pocketed chain stores and a failing transit system are just three of our problems.”

You should put a stop to the over criminalization of New Yorkers, like stop making criminals of poor people who cannot afford the fare to travel to work on the trains. You should roll back the senseless e-bike ban because it helps immigrant workers get by. Transform this city into a beacon that’s in solidarity with poor and working-class New Yorkers, including increasing your audit and scrutiny of the many failing city agencies that routinely waste and abuse our tax dollars, while preserving it as a “sanctuary city.”

The mayor has promised us more senior centers, better schools, hospitals, city services and personnel and transparency in how benefits are awarded. Hold his feet to the fire.

You also said that, “I would support us putting up a significant amount of money,” referring to city funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a stance that Mayor Bill de Blasio has resisted. “But there needs to be accountability involved so we know how that money is being spent, and that it’s being spent wisely and that the projects remain on time.” (NY Times 2/2/18).

Mr. Speaker, we urge you to address these and other issues speedily, not least here in Queens. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is in breach of their public commitment and obligation to complete the wheelchair-accessible elevator in the Richmond Hill / Ozone Park community at the fulcrum Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue subway stop. This $29 million project, commenced since 2014, was scheduled to be finished since the end of 2016, but unpalatable excuses abound each time we enquire about the constantly deferred completion date, making it a virtual “pie in the sky!”

MTA will also benefit from increased revenues, and its procrastination raises serious concerns, including the forced closure of the adjacent main stairway, affects businesses, the local economy, and congests traffic. Seniors, pregnant mothers, kids, the physically challenged, students, workers, indeed, everyone in our tax paying community would benefit greatly from this elevator which makes mobility and travel easier.

Affected communities deserve to have this project completed. Moreover, the fencing, construction and accumulating garbage are an eye sore, and a danger to public safety. This delinquent entity must recognize that it is failing in its duty to make access easier for residents with disabilities, contrary to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Indeed, the nonprofit Center for Independence of the Disabled New York just filed a lawsuit against the MTA for lack of elevator access citywide. Why must Richmond Hill / Ozone Park residents be forced to expend resources and bring a class action law suit against the MTA when it feeds off the public trough of our taxes?

As a matter of customer obligation and due compliance with our laws, this project is long overdue, and must be completed now!

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