NY Assembly District 46 Candidates on Issues – Part 5 of 5 – Transportation & Environment

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Coney Island Creek Photo by Carly Miller/BKLYNER

Tomorrow New Yorkers will fill polling sites to cast their votes for candidates across the city.   Here’s the final installation of a 5-part Q&A series from candidates running to fill the vacant seat in the 46th Assembly district.  You can view, parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 here along with the Bklyner sponsored debate between the two Democratic candidates.

Mathylde Frontus (Democrat)

Q: How will you work with those constituents who are disabled to provide equal access to transportation in the 46th Assembly District including public transportation and other means. What does equal access look like to you?

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Mathylde Frontus (D): First, I want to say that I am proud to be the only candidate in this race endorsed by the 504 Democratic Club, the first democratic club in the country focusing on disability rights. As the former executive director of a social service agency in Coney Island for 12 years, I was proud to advocate for the needs of local residents who are disabled and I will bring that experience to my candidacy for this Assembly position.

As you know the MTA was sued by the federal government in March because of its unwillingness to comply with ADA regulations. As the next Assembly Member for the 46th District, I will work closely with my constituents who are disabled as I stand in solidarity with them to denounce the MTA’s refusal to meet their needs some 28 years after the passage of ADA. In my district, there is only one accessible subway station which is Coney Island. Unfortunately, if you’re a disabled resident of Bay Ridge and you need to get on the subway, there are no stations to accommodate you. Furthermore, one will not be available until another two years. My plan to address this issue will be to 1) call for public accountability from the MTA 2) receive input from my constituents who are disabled through a disability rights advisory council, and 3) prioritize the necessary upgrades in the State budget.

The issue goes well beyond the subway, actually. As an Assembly Member, I would be fighting for equal access to transportation which would include making sure that our already accessible buses all have working wheelchair lifts, and that Access-a-Ride does more to increase their capacity to serve individuals with disabilities.

What does equal access look like to you?

To me, equal access is about respecting the civil rights of our disabled neighbors and not treating them like second-class citizens. It means a city and state which is fully accessible and welcoming to individuals in wheelchairs or walkers. Right now our neighborhoods are not set up that way. The majority of buildings and structures remain inaccessible and even when commercial tenants purchase adjustable ramps to accommodate individuals in a wheelchair there is no guarantee that it will work as many of the entrances to our buildings have uneven concrete work done at the entrance. It is going to take ongoing advocacy and legislation to ensure that our neighborhoods and communities become fully accessible.

As an Adjunct Assistant Professor, I always include Joseph Shapiro’s book No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement on my syllabus because it is crucial that people understand that people with disabilities are not looking for pity but to have their civil rights respected just like everyone else.

Q: Illegal dumping and sewage issues have tainted the Coney Island Creek for years. How would you address the issue?

Mathylde Frontus (D): Coney Island Creek has indeed been tainted for years. Recently, Beach Haven apartments were found to have dumped 200,000 gallons of raw sewage per day into Coney Island Creek, for every day during August 2016. They were subsequently fined $400k, and most of the money went towards the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the form of a fund, which they used to issue grants to the organizations with the best ideas for protecting the creek. I would propose significantly raising the fine and penalties for future dumping and sewage so that companies would be dis-incentivized to do it.

More importantly, however, I would repeat some of my previous efforts over the years to have an environmental awareness campaign throughout the community, including in our schools, houses of workshop and non-profit organizations. Ten years ago I launched the Going Green campaign at my nonprofit agency in partnership with Con Edison so that more people in the community could learn about technology and habits that are energy efficient and sustainable.

Ethan Lustig-Elgrably- Democrat

Q: How will you work with those constituents who are disabled to provide equal access to transportation in the 46th Assembly District including public transportation and other means. What does equal access look like to you?

Ethan Lustig-Elgrably (D): Equal access means that all residents are able to use all transportation resources without restrictions or limitations, not just supplementary services like Access-A-Ride, which has significant problems of its own. For far too long, our city and state have failed to prioritize accessibility upgrades to infrastructure from transit to schools to emergency evacuation shelters. During Hurricane Sandy, our we saw first-hand how this disregard for accessibility can jeopardize the safety and well-being of residents with disabilities during an evacuation period.

We must ensure that all services are accessible. I have demanded that the MTA prioritize accessibility improvements over cosmetic changes, and I have specifically called for the
installation of level-boarding ramps at all MTA bus stops. Level-boarding means that seniors and people with mobility issues can avoid that “step-up” getting on the bus. On subways, we have a lot of work to do to make our stations accessible for all New Yorkers.

Even in the flood zone and near NORCs, many of our subway stations, like the Neptune and West 5th station on the F line, lack elevators. The only fully accessible subway station in the district is the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue station. For seniors, for people with disabilities, and for families with young children, it is imperative that we work to make all subway stations fully accessible. Our transit system is in crisis and it is a travesty that all New Yorkers don’t have access to the public transit that they need.

Q: Illegal dumping and sewage issues have tainted the Coney Island Creek for years. How would you address the issue?

Ethan Lustig-Elgrably (D): Coney Island Creek holds an important place in the Coney Island community. People fish (both for subsistence and for commercial purposes), celebrate religious events and engage in recreational activity in and along the waters of Coney Island Creek. It has also been home to historic and current contamination, between pollution from former industrial uses to illegal sewage dumping from building complexes and individual homeowners. Working in Council Member Treyger’s office, I worked with the New York City Department of Environmental Preservation and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to ensure that illegal dumpers were held accountable, and that the penalties for those bad actors went into environmental benefits projects to restore Coney Island Creek, not to NYS DEC’s general fund.

I have also been worked to support environmental stewardship efforts along Coney Island Creek, from the Billion Oyster Project’s oyster reef which was installed earlier this year, to Coney Island Beautification Project’s clean-ups, to New York State Marine Education Association’s “It’s My Estuary Day,” which combines STEM lessons with coastal cleanups, to the City Parks Foundation’s Coastal Classroom in Kaiser Park which provides middle schoolers with 5 weeks of water-based recreation and environmental education.

If elected, I will call for additional funding for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), to fund more Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) in our area. DEC has the ability to confiscate shellfish and fish that are removed from the Creek, to ensure that they do not make it to the market, and to hold illegal dumpers and polluters accountable. If there are any court decisions that result in monetary penalties, I will continue to demand that those funds go directly to clean up the Creek. ECOs are the first line of defense for Coney Island Creek, and we must ensure they have the resources to do robust enforcement.

Earlier this summer, DEC proposed removing Coney Island Creek from the Impaired Waterways List, along with several other water bodies. I submitted a formal comment to the Bureau of Watershed Assessment and Management about the importance of keeping Coney Island Creek on the 303(d) List and that Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) remain in effect. Public and community monitoring were what first alerted us to unusually high levels of contaminants in the Creek that led NYCDEP to identify sources of illegal dumping. The Creek needs more protections, not fewer. I will also work with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and other local leaders on the federal level to list the Creek on the federal Superfund list and advocate for funding for remediation at the state level.

In addition to advocating for continued protections, I will fight for legislation to increase penalties for companies and individuals caught illegally dumping into waterways. My office will also partner with the many existing environmental stewardship advocates and organizations to host periodic cleanups to get the community involved.

Steve Saperstein (Republican)

Q: How will you work with those constituents who are disabled to provide equal access to transportation in the 46th Assembly District including public transportation and other means. What does equal access look like to you?

Steve Saperstein (R): To help provide equal access to transportation in the 46th AD for constituents with disabilities is to fix transportation as a whole because once all of our transportation infrastructures is repaired, this will help everyone. Obviously, we need to make our train stations accessible and comply with the ADA. Building elevators and investing in ramps is a start. I am encouraged that the MTA is already piloting level boarding buses and their idea is a great step to provide access. I would also seek to invest in nonprofits like the “Independence Care System” that advocate for disabilities to come to senior and community centers and provide bus training sessions. I believe the MTA should completely overhaul the unreliable Access-A-Ride program. It is in much need of revamping, new leadership and an investment of new environmentally friendly accessible vehicles and we must fully integrate rideshare platforms to work simultaneously with people who might use access a ride.

Q: Illegal dumping and sewage issues have tainted the Coney Island Creek for years. How would you address the issue?

Steve Saperstein (R): We have exhausted the use of how far government agencies at multiple levels can intervene. The hold up for clean up of the creek falls with the State Department of Environmental Conservation. When elected, my office will make approval of permits a priority and lobby the State DEC to speed up the process. I do believe there’s more lobbying to be done at the federal level and I would leverage my relationship with the majority Congress to access funds for repairs. I am open to encourage the use of private civil lawsuits. I would seek to raise capital and use local pro bono attorneys to assist the community.

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