Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bloomberg Stops by Ridgewood Civic Meeting

Discusses Landmarking, Crime and Education

By Conor Greene

With test scores rising and crime dropping, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stopped by last week’s Ridgewood Property Owners Association meeting, just as his bid for a third term in office starts to heat up.

“I’ve got some good news about Ridgewood,” the mayor told the crowd of nearly 200 inside IS 93 on Forest Avenue, before addressing four topics - landmarking, education, public safety and the economy during his 11 minute speech.

Mayor Bloomberg did not mention his run for a third term or his controversial push that led to the City Council’s decision to overturn term limits. He didn’t take any questions, instead allowing audience members to submit a written query on forms distributed around the auditorium.

The mayor began by announcing that the city Landmark Preservation Commission is expected to vote on September 15 to vote on a Ridgewood North Historic District, something he has been told “will be very popular” and is likely to be approved. Also at that meeting, the commission will hold a hearing on a “larger Ridgewood South [Historic] District,” added Bloomberg.

“For those of you who want landmarking, I think you are going to get what you want,” he said. “Ridgewood’s history needs to be preserved and celebrated and these landmark decisions will go a long way towards doing that.”

Mayor Bloomberg was also eager to tout progress city students have made on standardized tests. He said that IS 93 students have made “huge progress” and are now outperforming citywide students. Three years ago, just 40% of IS 93 students were at or above acceptable standards for English, while this year nearly three-quarters of students scored proficiently in English. For math, only half of students were proficient three years ago, compared to 82% today.

“We’re seeing progress all over the city,” said Bloomberg. “Why? I think it’s because we’re investing in teachers… [and] making everyone in the system accountable, and we’re getting the results… It really is amazing what the schools system has done – the city is catching up to the state, and big cities never catch up to the state.”

Even with the city struggling through a recession, crime is down both in the 104th Precinct, which includes Ridgewood, and across the city as a whole, according to Bloomberg, who said that crime is down 9.4% this year in the 104th Precinct, and down 43% over the last eight years.

“As everybody knows, when the economy slows down due to a recession, crime goes up… except it doesn’t have to be true,” said Bloomberg. “Crime is going down at a time when sadly the economy [is struggling]. It is just so counterintuitive… but you don’t have to suffer the conventional wisdom… We just don’t have to sit back and say that’s just the way it is.” He vowed that the city will continue to make investments in its infrastructure “that we stopped making back in the 1970s.”

At the end of his quick speech, Bloomberg thanked the residents for employing him, even if he accepts just “a dollar a year” salary. When a woman yelled out that he is the best mayor in the world, Bloomberg responded, “You and my mother think so.” He accepted a gift bag containing neighborhood favorites before heading out to his next appearance.

Prior to Bloomberg’s speech, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) briefly addressed the audience, speaking among other things on the importance of investing in Ridgewood Reservoir. It was recently announced that the $50 million earmarked for improvements there has been cut in half, and Crowley urged the mayor to reinstate that money. “Despite these tough budget times, we have an opportunity to… create a place where we can learn about preservation and conservation for future generations,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Crowley later said that the Councilmember was “disappointed” that the mayor didn’t mention the Ridgewood Reservoir during his speech.

Members of the RPOA pose for a photo after Mayor Bloomberg’s speech. At left, the mayor is presented with a gift bag containing items from the neighborhood. The Forum Newsgroup/photos by CONOR GREENE

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