Torodash enters City Council race
by Michael Perlman
May 15, 2013 | 4927 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In front of the former site of the Triumph of Civic Virtue just west of Queens Borough Hall, Jon Torodash officially announced his run for City Council in District 29. The seat is currently held by Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz.

On May 5, he introduced himself to a fairly large turnout of supporters, and explained his concerns as a citizen and goals as a City Council candidate. At age 31, Torodash, a former Forest Hills resident who now resides in Kew Gardens, is a software engineer by day and a community advocate by night.

Last December, the removal of the publicly owned historic Civic Virtue statue from Queens Boulevard and its transport to the privately owned Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn with little public notice was the turning point that resulted in Torodash’s candidacy.

“Civic Virtue, a symbol of open and honest government was torn away,” said Torodash, who is running as an independent. “I simply do not believe that the major parties are fielding enough candidates that are really supporting the needs and wants of the residents.”

Torodash refers to himself as a “Civic Virtue Candidate” and a regular guy trying to bring openness to City Hall. He seeks fair treatment for everyone under the law, and commits to personally hearing what the public has to say.

“Queens is made on the backs of hardworking residents, not wealthy campaign contributors, which is why for too long it has not had the representation in City Hall that it deserves,” he said.

Torodash also wants fair spending on Queens to be a number one priority.

“We are 27 percent of our city’s population, and it’s about time that becomes acknowledged,” he said.

Torodash noted the signs of neglect throughout Queens by singling out trash and graffiti on the grounds of Queens Borough Hall for weeks, which he reported to 311. He then proposed a neighborhood cleanup program.

In an interview after his public address, he discussed his threefold plan for transparency. The first aspect would encompass legislation that assists small businesses, supports civil service professionals, and defends property owners among other marginalized individuals.

It would also be accomplished through increased investigation and oversight by ensuring adequate inspectors across agencies, clearer procedures in agencies, and budgetary audits. His community outreach aspect would be fulfilled through walks with the councilman, regularly published newsletters in print and social media, town hall meetings, and youth programs.

Formerly a teacher, Torodash now seeks to put education back into the hands of teachers and parents.

“Greater power in the decision-making needs to be turned away from the un-democractic centralization of the Department of Education and the Panel for Education Policy,” he said. “School policies and evaluations should support their growth and professionalism, not an inquisition to liquidate the more expensive veteran personnel.

“Charter schools have not met the performance promised, and have increased inequality through their lottery system,” he added.

Torodash also called for instituting citywide youth involvement programs.

“The Department of Education should be funding afterschool programs with a track record of success that support the extracurricular enrichment of a community,” said.

He recalled his astonishment when he first learned that the Beacon Program, a popular school-based community center, was struggling for funds to remain in operation.

“Many do not realize that almost $1 billion was spent on consultants by the Department of Education a year ago,” he claimed.

He also promises to work closely with libraries and civic groups to support and publicize social and recreational activities.

“We have underutilized cinema resources in our district, so let’s educate and share our experiences through film,” he said.

Another goal is to expand, improve, and upgrade public transit.

“We need subway shuttle lines that have a single start and end point between a remote corner of our borough highly dependent on buses and the nearest subway station,” he said. “Overcrowding can be alleviated if bus passengers have a means to reach the subway with an express option.”

Torodash said he will advocate for the equitable treatment of small businesses and their employees. He noticed how city agencies have been exposed by the Public Advocate’s Office for discrimination against businesses outside Manhattan.

“Certain fines and penalties levied are extraordinarily harsh,” he said. “I support a warning and no fine for all first-time offenses that present no clear and present danger to the public. I also support a city tax-free first year for all new businesses in New York with revenue under a certain threshold.”

Stopping overdevelopment is another focal point. Torodash praised New York City neighborhoods for their rich history and organic growth, but frustration with the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“The loss of Civic Virtue, the Trylon Theater, and St. Saviour’s Church is testament,” he said, before taking aim at the Department of Buildings. “City building codes were not established to be routinely broken. They need to step up enforcement, after getting their own house in order.”

Torodash was also critical of the proposed soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

“Public parkland is sacred,” he said. “Its protection and preservation is explicitly mandated in the City Charter, and no private development should take place.”

Torodash also supports greening initiatives and safety measures for Queens Boulevard, such as the recently installed countdown signals. The Austin Street area also faces significant traffic. “There is insufficient parking as vendor trucks have moved into the area,” he said.

Torodash praised NYPD and believes the public should respect and work with them.

“Despite the slashing of their ranks by over 6,000 officers in the new millennium, they continue to keep crime low, but understaffing is inexcusable,” he said. “We must restore the ratio of police officers to residents to its peak in the early 2000s. Stop and frisk is a tool that I trust our officers to use correctly and lawfully.”

Bernard Lieberman of Forest Hills feels the current political climate is a product of a “one-party system,” and noted how voters' approval of term limits was overridden by our politicians.

“They treat us with the contempt we deserve, if we do not respond accordingly,” he said. “It is time for new blood, which Jon represents.”

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