We were able to catch up with Council Member Mark Treyger today, chatting with the District 47 Council Member about everything from the upcoming elections this November to his neighborhood’s old movie theaters over eggs at Tom’s in Coney Island (Treyger had the oatmeal).
Treyger, who is running for reelection next year, represents a large swath of southern Brooklyn, including Coney Island, Gravesend and Bensonhurst.
What do you feel are the biggest problems facing your community at this time?
There’s no question that we are still recovering from the worst storm in this city’s history. There is still so much work that needs to happen. We’ve made progress in securing funds to address the needs of public housing, of homeowners, but there is still some bureaucracy to deal with making sure the grants reach the ground level.
I am making sure all of our schools have permanent and not just temporary boilers. I will be harping on the Department of Education every step of the way until all the schools get the repairs that they need.
In addition to the recovery from Superstorm Sandy we also still have a lot to do in terms of resiliency, both protecting life and affordability. We are soon going to see new FEMA flood maps that are going to redraw and expand the flood zone of NYC.
Certainly we’ve experienced a population boom, which I think is great but also presents challenges that we have to confront in terms of making sure we have adequate school seats, infrastructure and providing the services that people deserve to have in our community.
I would also add that one of the issues which continues to face many of our residents is the issue of affordable housing for working families and for seniors. It’s becoming increasingly difficult. Not a day goes by that a senior citizen doesn’t call my office and ask if there’s anything out there for us to stay here. It’s not fair, they worked hard all their lives and now they have to decide between a roof and a meal.
What do you miss most that has disappeared from your neighborhood?
I miss the old Marlboro movie theater on Bay Parkway. Now it’s a Rainbow, I think. I miss some of those old small mom and pop shops that have been replaced by corporate chains. We used to have some more pizzerias too, although I’m still happy with L&B‘s.
The things that made us a great neighborhood back then are still intact today: we still have a lot of buses and great train service, we’re still a safe community.
What’s one of the most troubling things you’ve encountered as a council member?
The one number one and number two requests I get from schools are air conditioning and bathroom fixes. As a former teacher I never anticipated that being the biggest request of the local councilman. The requests for me should be an engineering room, Smart Boards, a culinary kitchen. When I began to dig deeper into this issue I realized if a school does not have adequate wiring you can’t get to the air conditioning. Some of our schools were built with money from the New Deal and the wiring hasn’t been touched since then, probably. It ranges with how much it costs to upgrade the wiring. If you don’t have up to date wiring you can’t have AC or the type of technology schools deserve in the 21st century. Each year I invest more than half of my capital money into school upgrades.
Could you explain what is happening at the local elections this November?
In this election cycle there’s obviously a very contested competition for president, but there are other races as well. Locally, our assembly members are all on the ballot. If you live in Coney Island your congressman is Hakeem Jeffries; he will be on the ballot. if you live in the Bensonhurst-Gravesend section, Dan Donovon is the Republican incumbent, from Staten Island (he has a slice of southern Brooklyn in addition to his district on Staten Island). So congressman, assemblyman, state senators, and also judges will all be on the ballot.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love my job. I get frustrated by bureaucracy and people who don’t care as much as we do, but I really love it. If you do the right thing and work hard at it, the politics will take care of themselves. I like to focus on doing the right thing and working hard at my job.