Election season has officially begun when individuals find themselves bombarded by folks outside of supermarkets, events and stores asking for signatures as residents go about their errands. Petitioning for the right to be on the ballot is what these important annoyances are about. It is an important first steps for candidates to get themselves on the ballot for the upcoming Primary and subsequent election.
Residents were introduced to candidate Anthony Rivers at the civic meeting a week before petitioning began. Rivers is running for City Council District 27 which covers the areas of Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, Queens Village, St. Albans and Springfield Gardens.
“What happened in Harlem is about to land on us,” he said to shouts of agreement from residents in attendance for the meeting.
The candidate was talking about gentrification and the burgeoning development in Downtown Jamaica and in close proximity to the AirTrain at the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) Jamaica Station.
Rivers is a former NYPD lieutenant and came to prominence through his fight in the community against the Hollis Gardens Development. The development began as a proposed homeless shelter which was converted into housing for physically and mentally ailing veterans. The group challenged the development because of the lack of affordable housing for residents and the oversaturation of homeless shelters in the area.
“We have bigger issues than just those buildings,” he said.
Those issues include a community Rivers feels has been overlooked but is a prized commodity for others looking to cash in.
“We are ten minutes from an international airport. The AirTrain is 11 minutes and one stop away. LIRR, twenty-three minutes and you are in the heart of downtown Manhattan,” he said. “This makes us very desirable for other people”.
Rivers will be running for council seat which is currently held by I. Daneek Miller. Rivers contends that Miller has “sold us out to big business and could care less about us. He doesn’t even live in the area,” he said of the Miller who Rivers contends lives in Brooklyn.
Rivers has strong condemnation for elected officials whom he believes let others infiltrate and overlook the Southeast Queens community. He pointed to examples in other neighborhoods which garner favor like Howard Beach which has an AirTrain station. Overdevelopment on Farmers Boulevard where a site which formerly housed approximately 22 individuals will now house hundreds. The oversaturation of shelters in the area makes it one with one of the highest percentages of shelters in the borough. He noted that there are three waste stations in Southeast Queens while there are none in Northern Queens. Schools were also on the list as well.
“How are there more co-located schools in our area, but fully functioning schools in other areas,” he said.
“Now is the time to stand up. Four years will be too late. We are a ship headed to the dock at full speed,” said Rivers. “We are the last stronghold. They took Harlem…and Brooklyn.”
Those gathered agreed in unison as Rivers’ posed the question “what are we willing to do”. Their reply, fight.
Residents connected with Rivers’ message and assertive tone. Some felt they lived in the area for decades and find their quality of life diminished. Others took responsibility for the shortcomings in the community as they didn’t hold current elected officials accountable. Mostly residents have noticed the changes happening and the feeling that improvements and upgrades to the neighborhood are not happening for their benefit.
But there was some concern about a candidate that is strongly attacking elected officials. If elected, how would he work with those who he has condemned?
Rivers invoked the name of Assembly Member Charles Barron. He cited Barron as a legislator he will emulate as far as commitment and courage. “I want to be a representative, not a leader,” said Rivers.