|Mayor Bloomberg addresses the large crowd inside Our Lady of Mercy Church as Forest Hills Community and Civic Association President Barbara Stuchinski looks on.|
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and commissioners from a several city agencies joined the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association for a town hall meeting at Our Lady Mercy Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday night.
Mayor Bloomberg opened up the evening speaking about the progress New York City has made. He noted that the local unemployment rate is lower than the national average and city schools are improving. The mayor also stressed the importance of tourism. “Tourism is the second biggest industry next to Wall Street,” he said, adding that it’s important for the city to keep attracting foreign tourists because it is a multi-billion dollar industry.
The mayor also mentioned that crime is down 36 percent citywide since 2001, and gave special mention to the 112th Precinct where crime is down 60 percent over the same period.
After his short speech, Mayor Bloomberg and the commissioners answered questions from residents. There was a heated discussion about immigration and undocumented aliens getting jobs. Bloomberg said immigration is a federal problem, but more needs to be done. “Employers need to know if you’re legal,” he said, but social security and green cards are too easy to counterfeit. Bloomberg also stated immigration is good for small businesses and employment. “I would offer a green card to anyone who opens a small business and employs 10 or more people.”
Another question that elicited some spirited discussion was the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. Bloomberg once again stressed the importance of religious freedom. “The U.S. government should not be involved in who they pray to and where they pray,” Bloomberg said.
Many residents had some concerns about landmarks in Queens. One person eventually stormed out of the meeting because he felt the city was not doing enough to help landmark important Queens’ structures. There was also a strong contingent of residents hoping Mayor Bloomberg could help preserve the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.
At the end of the night, Mayor Bloomberg thanked Barbara Stuchinski, President of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association, and presented her with a rosary as a gift.