There are at least 22 candidates currently running for New York City Mayor this year but only one candidate, that we know of, has visited the peninsula since launching her campaign. “I think Rockaway is a secret jewel,” Kathryn Garcia told The Rockaway Times during her visit on Monday, February 22.
After The Rockaway Times put out a call to candidates on Twitter, asking if they’d ever been to Rockaway or had plans to come, Garcia was not only the only one to respond—she did us one better. She came to Rockaway to chat about her run for mayor and plans for development and coastal resiliency.
Garcia, the former Commissioner for the NYC Department of Sanitation and chief operating officer for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, arranged to meet The Rockaway Times at Arverne by the Sea coffee shop Locals Collective, for a quick stop on her busy schedule in Rockaway. However, it was far from her first time in town. “I spent most of my life going to Riis and in high school I would go to the Jordache house. And obviously when I was working for DEP and Sanitation, I was down here. I’ve also done the St. Patrick’s Day parade in the Rockaways, which is great ‘til you make the turn towards the beach and the wind hits you,” she said.
Garcia says she’s ready to take on the city’s top job as mayor. “I love this city, from the beaches of Rockaway to hanging out in the Bronx at the Botanical Gardens. It is really an incredibly exciting place and it’s hurting right now. I know I have the skillset to bring it back so that our economy reopens, there is opportunity for people in this city and we get to have a little fun again,” she said.
Among her first priorities would be “to get Covid recovery right,” she said. “We need to get the vaccine distributed much more broadly, particularly for people who are elderly or have trouble getting to a vaccine site.” This would also include helping the economy rebound. “We got to get the economy open. Nothing is affordable if you don’t have a job. We need to be supporting our small businesses and restaurants. You can’t do that if you’re not delivering fundamental city services well. People have to feel safe in their communities, we gotta get snow plowed, garbage picked up and kids back in schools. We need to be thinking of economic mobility and what investments we should be making in our infrastructure and addressing climate change.”
She hopes to introduce electric school buses to the system. “We need to electrify our school buses and ensure we’re protective our youngest lives,” she said. “Buses use very dirty diesel, and you have little kids whose brains get impacted by diesel fuels riding them,” she said. Garcia also hopes to expand green space citywide. “You’re blessed with the beach here and the more tree cover you have, the cooler it is and the cleaner the air is, and I foresee a city where we expand the amount of green space we have,” she said.
On the subject of public safety and the NYPD, Garcia says, “NYPD needs to be reformed but we need to maintain our patrol strength. I believe that the police department can rebuild trust in communities it serves and that will take training and management. We have to hold our officers accountable when they violate the law but celebrate those who do the right thing. I want to increase the age group of new recruits to 25 and have them live within city limits. I think that would be an important step.”
On Rockaway specifically, if elected, Garcia says she would make sure the peninsula is recognized when it comes to coastal resiliency. “I know how important the coastline is in the City of New York. It’s over 500 miles long and right now, we’re not ensuring that there’s equitable distribution of those resources. We’re primarily focusing on Lower Manhattan and we need to have plan for communities on the water,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re using natural systems so we get the drainage we need and we have the sewer infrastructure out there that we need so we’re protected.”
Garcia also addressed some other issues facing the peninsula. “How do you support the small business community in Rockaway?” she said, while doing so herself, drinking a coffee from Locals, before heading off to lunch with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards at Batesy’s. “I’m optimistic the summer season is going to be very robust and transportation and being able to easily move on and off the peninsula is important and we need to make sure we’re investing in that,” she said.
For Rockaway, Garcia sees a bright future. “I’m very optimistic for Rockaway,” she said. “I know it’s been a long, tough year but I feel the corner turning out here.
By Katie McFadden
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