By: Etophia Lane
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries hosted a telephone town hall meeting on Thursday, March 4, 2013 to discuss the concerns of Brooklyn and Queens residents. In a first of its kind for the massive Brooklyn and Queens area, calls were made directly to residences inviting households to listen, ask questions and share their concerns.
In one hour, Congressman Jeffries answered questions and commented thoroughly on issues including gun violence, hurricane recovery, education, housing, home ownership and the now concerning sequester cuts.
Just over 8,000 people are reported by to have been on the evening call.
Questions asked were reflective of the ongoing issues for many sections in Brooklyn and Queens. Residents affected by Hurricane Sandy raised issues of concern regarding funds for rebuilding community institutions and corporate brand banks not reopening in some Coney Island neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
A member of the United Community Baptist Church shared how her church was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy and stressed how difficult it has been financially for her church to rebuild. The prime community church in Coney Island was flooded and damaged so greatly, services were being held at another location.
Jeffries updated conference callers that many representatives including himself have been actively addressing the eligibility for houses of worship to receive federal funding -referring to the House of Representatives passed bill on February 13, 2013. The bill will allow FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) disaster funding to go to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other houses of worship. The bill must now pass the Senate.
Sequestration was a another hot issue on the call. From budget cuts for education to housing, Brooklyn and Queens residents were very concerned on issues that immediately affected their daily lives.
Jeffries addressed senior citizens concerns about the sequester and assured that social security, medicaid and medicare for New York City residents will not be affected. However Early Childhood Title I would be impacted.
Jeffries commented on the sequester, "We should not have budget cuts on the backs of our children, seniors, -the vulnerable."
One woman caller expressed concerns with the Board of Education and Chancellor seeming to abandon traditional public schools because of the gaining attention and the recent increase of charter schools in New York City.
The $190 million cuts to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was discussed. Jeffries commented that he was actively finding solutions that could assist those affected by the cuts and showed grave concern how the community is affected. "Reduce the resources impacts the community," Jeffries stated.
Violence was stressed during the call. Jeffries informed callers of his continuous support of the Gun Buy Back Program and his support on the Violence Against Women Act that was recently passed. Jeffries stated that he is in preparations to put pressure on the ATF (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives) and how ATF enforcement is important to getting illegal hand guns and assault weapons off of the streets.
Jeffries also commented on the minimum wage proposed increase which he is in full support.
He informed callers that there will be many town hall meetings via telephone including one solely on home ownership.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries represents the 8th Congressional District of New York which includes Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Heights, Brownsville, East New York, Clinton Hill, Canarsie, parts of East Flatbush, Mill Basin, Marine Park, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach Howard Beach and Lindenwood.