A Rockaway Primetime Reporting Exclusive
By Jeffrey Williams-Maisonet
Rockaway Primetime Reporting recently sat down with New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer to discuss several topics, including how money is spent and controlled throughout New York City and the Rockaways.
RPR: What is your most important role as Comptroller?
Stringer: “With the Comptroller’s job, you have to be able to do two things at once. There’s a lot to this office. The budget is $100 million a year and there are over 700 employees. I am the fiduciary in charge of protecting a $160 billion dollar pension fund that protects the retirement security of 70,000 people. I am also the auditor for all city agencies. I am also the chief account of the city.”
RPR: So, the city can’t function without you, right?
Stringer: “It is also about protecting the people, especially when we have people out in the Rockaways that go to work every day and play by the rules. They want to be safe. They want better jobs, and they want a decent living for them and their families. Our job is to make sure people’s voices are heard.”
RPR: Rockaway residents are concerned about the budget for the Rockaways and want to know how the money is being spent. What are you doing to make sure this community receives the right amount of funding?
Stringer: “Well, I have to give a lot of credit to Councilman Donovan Richards for his advocacy, as well as the other elected officials. I think the city’s response to the Rockaways has not been good. I have to continue to urge the city not to forget about the Rockaways and help people to get back what they lost from Sandy.”
RPR: Speaking of Councilman Richards, he allocated $96 million dollars toward downtown Far Rockaway, an area that is projected to have the largest economic growth on the peninsula. What is the money going to be used for?
Stringer: “I think it’s important that when you allocate money to a project, there has to be a community planning component to everything. I have every confidence that Donovan, Assemblywoman Stacey, Joe (Addabbo, Jr.) and Ulrich will work together to get what’s needed. Again, I am the watchdog. I will continue to monitor the situation to make sure it’s done right for the people of the Rockaways.”
RPR: Do you think that’s a fair amount of money for Far Rockaway?
Stringer: “I don’t know. That’s a local… that’s a Donovan question.”
RPR: What is your vision, as far as New York City is concerned?
Stringer: “I am very concerned about the Trump budget that’s being purposed. The city is looking at cuts of up to $400 million dollars in funding; funding that is targeted for people that need the most assistance, such as SNAP, public housing, Meals on Wheels and so forth. We seem to be going backwards, with respect to immigration, helping people, and other things that made America great and, most importantly, made this city great. I want to make sure everyone in the Rockaways has a fair shot at making it in this city. I am blessed to be 56-years-old with two children, a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. They are not my grandchildren. They are my children, and I want to make sure they live in a city with people of all demographics and religions. Kids should grow up in a diverse city.”
RPR: We have a shelter crisis here in the Rockaways. Even though the mayor has affordable housing programs, many still believe not enough is being done to get them out of their situations. Where is the funding for Section 8 programs and other housing?
Stringer: “The housing plan and the homeless plan have to be linked together. Let’s face it, 69,000 people are going to sleep in homeless facilities, and thousands will be sleeping at hotels that are costing the city $300 million dollars a year. I think the mayor’s plan has to be better for the children and families that are homeless. To say we are going to reduce homelessness in five years is just not good enough. I was the one who blew the whistle on the dangerous conditions in the shelters. We have children living in these facilities with rats and other rodents. It angers me to no end. I think the community wants to see more low-income affordable housing, and that’s what we need to focus on.”
RPR: Some Rockaway residents don’t want additional housing, according to recent published reports. They want more recreational activities for the youth and programs to help people avoid the shelter system. What’s your response?
Stringer: “I think the first step is prevention. Thirty percent of people working can’t find affordable housing. That’s pretty unbelievable. Working people are living in homeless shelters. So, I think the need for more low-income housing is necessary. But I do think we need a more robust education system. I want our kids to be able to enter special training programs and get prepared for city jobs that give them a chance to make $85,000 dollars a year. But if they don’t have the education or resources, it will be hard for these young people to find jobs in New York City.”
RPR: Rumor has it that you’re seeking higher office. If so, what office have you set your sights on?
Stringer: “My next move is to continue doing my job as Comptroller for New York City. Whatever happens after that is for another date and time.”
RPR: Sounds like a re-election bid.
Stringer: “Sounds like it to me.”
RPR: Thank you, Comptroller Stringer, for granting this interview and being so generous with your time.
Stringer: “My pleasure, and I look forward to following your career.”