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September 10, 2009: Vol. 1, No. 7
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Comrie says he needs more time to continue SE Queens progress

TimesLedger Newspapers

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) has taken pride in the work he has done over the last eight years in southeast Queens, but he said more needed to be done to help his constituents ride out the recession.

Comrie, facing challenger Clyde Vanel in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, laid down some of the solutions he would explore if elected to his third term during an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers Friday. The incumbent said it was crucial that City Hall be a place for New Yorkers to turn to when they need help.

“We’re facing a dire economic time and during those times we have to do more to make sure the city gives enough to its residents,” he said.

Comrie said he would strongly push for more services that aim to help displaced workers get back on their feet. The councilman noted that 60 percent of males are unemployed in his district, which includes St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights, Jamaica, Baisley Park, Addisleigh Park and parts of Queens Village, and many are caring for their families.

He proposed setting up job fairs, career education forums and training centers that would help them learn new skills for the new job market. This would not only lower the unemployment rate but also the crime rate since job seekers would not have the incentive to commit felonies to make ends meet, Comrie said.

“We need to help our men find alterative ways of finding money,” Comrie said.

The councilman also posed a solution to two of southeast Queens’ dire health care needs.

In February, Mary Immaculate Hospital closed its doors after its owners filed for bankruptcy, which resulted in other area hospitals, including Jamaica Hospital, being flooded with extra patients. The St. Albans Veterans Hospital has been long slated for a major upgrade since the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department announced it was going to tear it down and rebuild it into a smaller hospital. But plans have been stalled due to a debate over what to do with the extra space.

Comrie suggested the VA hospital open its doors to civilians to fill the void created by Mary Immaculate’s demise.

“It’s a large enough footprint where we can treat the veterans and give emergency care,” he said of the 55-acre site. “[Veterans] wouldn’t mind sharing the facility as long as it has all the things they need.”

The councilman said he would continue to tackle the community’s other needs, including the ongoing subprime mortgage crisis. Although the federal government, state and city have enacted laws and plans to help homeowners refinance their loans, southeast Queens leads the state in the number of foreclosures, according to Comrie.

The councilman, whose office provides constituents with free financial help, said he would push free workshops to educate homeowners on predatory lenders and ways to save their homes.

“I want to bring that help to everyone,” he said.

Vanel has criticized Comrie for his vote last fall that extended term limits for the mayor and Council members. The incumbent said he does not regret making that vote, claiming the rough economic times demanded seasoned leaders to take charge.

“To me, it’s institutionally important that the legislative branch stays in office to have the experience to deal with the bureaucracy,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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