Mr. Mayor Comes to Bay Ridge
By Lucretia Regina-Potter
As the Republican District Leader of the 46 Assembly District, I was compelled to attend the recent densely packed town hall meeting with Mayor de Blasio in Bay Ridge, the heart of my Assembly District. What follows are my observations and opinions of the well attended meeting. While I recognized the usual politicos and their staff filling the room, it was refreshing to see that actual concerned citizens and residents of Bay ridge were there in full force. I strongly recommend that the Mayor include the District Leaders of all political parties be invited to attend such meetings in the future. After all, District Leaders are the closest representatives of their community, and are well aware of the needs and concerns of their area. Too bad the current Assemblymember of the 46 Assembly District did not present her views on the topics discussed, and opted to sit quietly. I am sure the Bay Ridge community would have liked to know of her positions, if any, on these issues. From her lack of participation, one would assume that either she was not familiar with the topics that affect the Bay Ridge community, or she does not think that these issues are relevant. However, I feel it is my responsibility to my community to voice my concerns.
Some of the issues discussed at the meeting were the illegal conversions in Dyker Heights, sex shops posing as Spas, and the Waste Transfer station being built upon our shoreline.
A question was posed to the Mayor about property tax rates and assessments. While he stated that he would look at the tax rates, and request the City Council not raise tax rates, he skirted the assessment issue. Let us clarify the fact that property assessments are based upon the property’s market value. Market value is how much a property would sell for under normal conditions. The property’s assessment is one of the factors used by our city government to determine the amount of the property tax. Property tax rates are set by the City Council by determining the amount of taxes it needs to raise in proportion to the amount of money it needs to spend to maintain city programs.
I go into detail about this issue because the reform of illegal conversions was one of the main platforms in my recent campaign for the NYS Assembly in the 46 Assembly District. Property tax rates and assessments are important points that pertain to illegal conversions of one and two family homes, especially in Dyker Heights, into multi unit dwellings. The main bone of contention is the lack of enforcement by the city and their inaction to alleviate this burgeoning problem. In my opinion, I believe that city agencies remain inactive in dealing with illegal conversions because illegal conversions generate high profit margins to those who invest in certain areas. Homeowners are offered and paid very large sums for their one and two family homes, increasing the market value of these homes, which result in higher assessments. Thus, the higher the assessment, the higher the tax rate for the neighborhood, resulting in more money for the city’s coffers. While the Mayor stated he is aware of the situation, and has hired some new building inspectors, he also pointed out that not every complaint is a true illegal conversion. The Mayor also placed the burden of accessing these illegally converted properties onto the shoulders of the NY Fire Department. Mr. Mayor, the New York City Fire Department is there to save lives, not to generate income for the city through inspections resulting in fines and violations.
Quality of life issues regarding “Spas” acting as illegal sex shops were brought up. A resident pleaded with the Mayor to close down these “Spas,” and shut down at least one avenue of human sex trafficking. While a “follow the money” approach was the Mayor’s cookie-cutter answer for this problem, clearly more needs to be done to close these sex shops. In addition, the proliferation of Hookah lounges in Bay Ridge leads to the problems of exposing minors, especially teenagers, to the dangers of smoking. There are smoking bans throughout the city of New York, I am curious as to how and when these Hookah lounges became exempt from this law. Other quality of life issues raised were the large number of sanitation and waste treatment plants in our area, including the Waste Transfer station under construction on our neighboring shoreline. The shoreline of Brooklyn is not a dumping ground and our concerns need to be addressed and not be brushed aside. The Sanitation Commissioner clearly stated that Bay Ridge is one of the better areas in the city that follows recycling rules, and that garbage tonnage is down 5% in our area. Obviously, no good deed goes unpunished!
Many other issues and concerns of Bay Ridge still need to be addressed and discussed. It is only through participation and awareness that they can be resolved. Town Hall meetings should be more common, proliferate, and not be an occasional occurrence.
Lucretia Regina-Potter is the Republican District Leader of the 46th Assembly District and the Secretary of the Kings County Republican Party