Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wills Prepares His Council Agenda by Ivan Pereira - Queens Campaigner

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Ruben Wills campaigns outside PS 223 in southeast Queens on election day. Photo by Christina Santucci

In the week since he won the special election to the southeast Queens City Council seat, Ruben Wills said he has been hard at work at making sure his constituents’ voices are heard when he enters City Hall.

The councilman-elect for the 28th Council District, which includes the neighborhoods of Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Rochdale Village, said he has been visiting with community leaders and constituents to hear their concerns and work on his agenda.

“It is just starting to settle in because we have been working, working, working,” Wills said of his Nov. 2 victory in the non-partisan election. “I haven’t had the chance to absorb it and smile.”

Wills, 39, filled the seat that suddenly opened up when Councilman Thomas White died Aug. 27.

The Democratic former aide said he already has a plan to help the district and has starting working on implementing plans for the community. He has met with the borough president and Aqueduct Race Track developer Genting New York about the jobs that will be created by the racino project.

He is also talking with the principals and parents of PS 30 and PS 40 in Jamaica, PS 147 in Cambria Heights and IS 231 in Springfield Gardens, which are slated for closure by the city.

“The education agenda is something that I have been working out. This is not a one-sided thing. It’s not just about if you have a child in the school. You can have a nephew or neighbor in the school and it affects them, too,” he said.

Wills said he also has long-term plans for the other problems that have been crippling the neighborhood. He is looking into drafting legislation that would curb the foreclosure problems in southeast Queens and has spoken with the NYPD’s chief of community affairs to see what can be done to stop the growing cases of violent crime and murders in the area.

Wills said the best solution was for law enforcement and residents to work together to combat crime.

“We want to let people know what’s going on with the gangs so we can discuss ways on the best possible solution to deal with it,” he said.

Wills won with 31.17 percent of the total vote and beat out Nicole Paultre-Bell, Albert Baldeo, Allan Jennings, Charles Bilal, Harpreet Singh Toor and Martha Taylor Butler, who had 436 votes, or 4.06 percent, according to unofficial results from the city Board of Elections.

Wills said that as of Monday the only challengers who had contacted him were Toor and Baldeo, both of whom congratulated his victory. He did, however, get congratulatory phone calls from U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), who both endorsed Paultre-Bell during her campaign.

Wills, who was endorsed by former bosses state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) and Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), said his years of work and trust with the community is what led to his victory.

“I had the confidence of the most important people in the community: the voters,” he said.