A small group of Brooklyn constituents gathered this past Sunday afternoon at Long Island College Hospital to take part in an open conversation with our State Senator Daniel Squadron. Most residents were from Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, but Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Vinegar Hill, and the Columbia Waterfront were represented as well.
Senator Squadron, who was just elected for a second term, has planned such open conversations around his district in order to give people an opportunity to voice their concerns about legislature, reform in Albany and neighborhood issues. The senator obviously enjoyed the dialog and stated that it helps him to stay focused on what matters to his constituents.
Senator Squadron started by giving a brief overview of his last two years in the Senate. He spoke about the budget crisis and the looming $9 Billion deficit, campaign finance reform, the political partisanship, as well as the cuts in subway and bus services by the MTA. Answering questions about budget cuts, Squadron is hoping that Andrew Cuomo, the governor elect, will take less of an across-the board approach than the previous administration.
To increase revenues, Squadron would not be opposed to a sugar tax, which could potentially add as much as $1 billion to the state's coffers. "Sugar is not needed by anyone." he said.
From Albany, the conversation then turned to more community-based concerns. The first issue discussed was the proliferation of night life in brownstone Brooklyn and the lack of concern of the New York State Liquor Authority. "The Liquor Authority is historically ineffective and corrupt" Squadron stated. But he is confident that the new chairman Dennis Rosen is serious about cleaning up the authority."
A Columbia Waterfront resident spoke about Resolution 414 , the implementation and enforcement of innovative environmental solutions for truck pollution related to the ports of New York and New Jersey.
From residents of the Gowanus/ Carroll Gardens neighborhood came a request to ask the NY State Department Of Environmental Conservancy for a higher water quality classification for the Gowanus Canal, which would result in a more comprehensive level of water clean-up.
The last topic addressed was hydrofracking in New York State. Hydrofracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water (with unknown chemicals) deep underground to shake loose capture natural gas, which is then piped away. State Senator Squadron was categorically opposed to hydrofracking in the New York State Watershed.
Open conversations with constituents should be a required by all of our electeds. It fosters citizen engagement in politics and reminds our politicians that they have an obligation to fight for what matters to the residents in their districts.