Over 200 seniors crowded into the Sunnyside Community Center last Thursday to hear the candidates debate how the city should be dealing with issues regarding transportation, homebound individuals and senior centers.
When the issue of transportation was mentioned, all of the candidates discussed the flaws with the Access-A-Ride system.
“There has to be an easier way,” said Katz. “There has to be a better way to accommodate transportation of our senior population.”
She discussed having one of her staff members on the issue when she served in the City Council because of how many constituent phone calls her office was receiving.
Katz said that one of her priorities would be fixing transportation on a large scale, inevitably helping the elderly population of Queens.
“MTA is a disgrace,” said Avella. “The long-term solution here is that we have to break up the [the agency]. It's about time New York City got ahold of it’s buses and trains.”
In addition to problems with transportation, the city has cut over $50 million in funding for senior centers in recent years.
“Because of these cuts, I gave 5 percent of my salary in the City Council to the senior centers in my district,” he said. “And that was out of my pocket.”
Vallone said he would fight any cuts in funding because it was an issue of safety.
“When it comes to money, it’s all about priorities,” said Vallone. “And my priority and expertise is keeping you safe. Part of that is through these great programs at senior residences.”
Vallone and Katz agreed that a registry of homebound seniors is important.
“There needs to be a registry,” Katz said. “You need somewhere to find folks hat are homebound. During Hurricane Sandy many folks were stuck in their house.”
Three of the four candidates have a background in politics, but Arcabascio, argued that his lack of experience may be a positive. He criticized his opponents for saying they would set up meetings with individuals and staff to sort out problems.
“I don’t need you to come to Borough Hall,” he said. “If I’m in Borough Hall, I’m not doing my job. I’ll come to you, I don’t need the seniors or anyone else traveling to Borough Hall.”
To applause, Arcabasio said he would spend his time working in the community rather than running the borough from behind a desk.
“I think all of the candidates have really good plans for the borough of Queens,” said Doris Guevara, a local resident who attended the forum, and is leaning toward voting for Katz. “The transportation for the seniors is a main issue, but I think that everyone is lucky to have these candidates to vote for.”