Kew Gardens Patch
Reporters were banned from a heated meeting in Queens about a much-contested plan to build a new jail in Kew Gardens.
Dozens of Queens residents argued Thursday night with Mayor's Office representatives for more than two hours over the proposed jail, which is one of five possibilities to replace the detention center on Rikers Island, attendees later told Patch.
"They don't seem to get the message," Queens resident Sylvia Hack said. "This is the wrong project for the wrong community."
Patch planned to be one of those attendees, but a spokesperson from the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice refused to allow our reporter entry, saying it was closed to press. Patch reached out to that spokesperson on Monday for comment.
"They aren't public meetings," Eric Phillips, a spokesperson for the mayor, wrote on Twitter. "The general public isn't invited en masse
Several Queens locals expressed their anger that a journalist had been barred from reporting on the plans, which they argue would only worsen mounting congestion near the Queens Criminal Court, Queens Boulevard, the Van Wyck Expressway, Grand Central Parkway and Union Turnpike.
"How did they throw you out? It's a public space," Hack said. "They can't decide any such thing. It's our community center. They had no right to throw you out."
"Something of this scope needs to be a transparent process," added Andrea Crawford, a Kew Gardens resident and member of the jail project's neighborhood advisory committee.
Crawford argued Thursday's meeting, should have been open to the press because local community associations, such as the Community Preservation Committee, had invited others who don't sit on the advisory board.
"It's a demonstration of their trying to prevent light being shed on this very poorly constructed farce that they're engaging the neighborhood," Crawford added.
"A meeting to gather 'input from Queens residents' certainly should be open to the local press," said Patch editor-in-chief Dennis Robaugh. "The only reason to exclude the press is to limit public debate and discussion on an important neighborhood and city issue."
This is basically government repression against the press (Well, the press they don't want or desire, because some reporters were allowed to come in). Also according to the mayor's spokesperson in a pathetic play on semantics, an attempt to repress the general public despite it's claim on the flyer above feigning to desire input from the community about the tower jail.
Then there is this that Maya Kaufman, the Patch reporter that was bounced out of this public meeting, told me about the "neighborhood" advisory committees that were assembled by the city for this and the three other tower jails planned for the other boroughs using the ruse about community participation and transparency:
"Theoretically the NAC meetings are just open to the chosen group, but in Queens we’re seeing community members try to open up the meetings to the community at large by sharing notices on social media. So, this specific meeting had many not on the NAC."
City Limits (from January 2018)
The city is pursuing a unique path to getting approval for the four new jails that will take over housing detainees and inmates when Rikers Island closes: There is one environmental review, and one Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure, for the four very disparate sites.
That could mean that the voices of each individual neighborhood are less audible than they would be if the city proceeded jail by jail. However, the city has created four Neighborhood Advisory Councils to create a forum for getting community input into the plans for each facility.
City records are not crystal clear on whether people attending these meetings are NAC members or non-members there to observer or speaker.
These are the individuals selected to advise (or advocate) for the Kew Gardens tower jail:
|Jane Stanicki||Hour Children||Queens|
|Mary Abbate||Queens Community House||Queens|
|Murray Berger||Kew Gardens Civic Association||Queens|
|Robin Spigner||District Leader||Queens|
|Rosemary Zins||Queensborough Community College||Queens|
|Seth Willens||Community Board #9 (sitting in for Andrea Crawford)||Queens|
|Sister Tesa||Fitzgerald Hour Children||Queens|
|Steve Bell||Kew Gardens Civic Association||Queens|
|Sylvia Hack||Community Board #9||Queens|
You think after the Amazon HQ2 debacle, Mayor de Blasio would have learned a lesson about keeping citizens in the dark about their policies and plans for neighborhoods. But as with the bike lanes and homeless shelters that have been induced on eastern Queens, this has been standard operating procedure.