Thursday, May 5, 2016

Race to Replace Vacca in City Council already under way

By Dan Gesslein

While most political observers are handicapping the possible Trump/Clinton race, northeast Bronx residents are looking forward to a race 17 months away. The race to succeed Councilman James Vacca is already under way and one newcomer says he has the experience to get the job done.

It be might almost a year and a half away but John Doyle has already tossed his hat into the ring for the City Council race for the 13th District. The contest will be held to replace the term-limited James Vacca for the district that runs from Morris Park to City Island. A former aide to Jeff Klein, Doyle said there are many challenges in the district and he believes he has the tools to get the job done.

Doyle has outlined a laundry list of issues he said need to be addressed in order to maintain the district which includes Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay, City Island, Morris Park, Westchester Square, Van Nest, Pelham Parkway, Allerton and Pelham Gardens.

Doyle wants to stop the small business squeeze. Many mom and pop stores throughout the borough, who have been around for decades, are being forced out by an explosion of commercial rents. An example of this is Zaro’s bakery which had been in Parkchester for 56 years and was forced to close because of a sudden spike in rent.

Doyle supports the “Business Survival Act” which is designed to secure long-term leases for small business at fair rates. This would be up to 10 years and prevent a sudden rent spike that would force a business to close. Closing mom and pop stores have led to many vacant shops in Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay and Morris Park. Such vacancies lead to blight and an erosion of a community’s quality of life.

“This community can go either way in the next 20 years. Someone with experience can make the difference,” Doyle said.

He cites a lifetime of community involvement and working on the issues which, he believes, will give him the edge in this election.

Born in Pelham Bay and raised on City Island, Doyle’s father worked as a heating and ventilation engineer and his mother worked as a respiratory therapist at Jacobi Medical Center. For the past four years Doyle has worked in communications for Jacobi.

At the hospital he helped to put together the “Stand Up to Violence” campaign which hired former gang members to speak to at-risk youth. The program is designed to have youngsters learn from theses mentors and not make the same mistakes.

“We have got to re-engage the community as to what is important,” Doyle said. “People are not given the tools to empower themselves. And they need to see that someone is out there working and is as dedicated to the community as they are.”

Prior to Jacobi, Doyle worked as Senator Jeff Klein’s director of community affairs for five years. During his tenure he worked with Klein to close some questionable night clubs that popped up in the community- the most famous of which was Pompeii.

The club, which opened around the corner from a community lined with one and two-family homes, was a magnet for trouble. Fights frequently spilled out of the club and into the quiet community. During Doyle’s time with Klein, four different night clubs were closed down.

It is this battle over quality of life versus a new night life which still remains on Doyle’s radar. There are number of restaurants and bars along East Tremont that need to be kept an eye on. He said he would force these clubs, when they want to open, to be soundproofed and provide a parking lot. This is to prevent incidents from spilling out into the local streets. He would use the carrot and stick approach by requiring soundproofing as a prerequisite for the club to receive their liquor license.

As a member of the 45th Precinct Community Council, Doyle said the precinct needs more cops. On a given weekend there are only four sector cars to patrol an area that runs from Throggs Neck and Pelham Bay to Zerega, Westchester Square, City Island and Co-op City. This also includes the massive traffic and gatherings created by the opening of the Bay Plaza Mall and the Throggs Neck Shopping Center. Residents in the 13th Council District value proactive policing, he said.

One area that needs intervention is education. Schools in the 13th Council District are swelling from a population boom. Such growth is causing growing pains.

The Lehman Educational Campus is extremely overcrowded and that has led to trouble and bad press. Lehman garnered city wide attention during several incidents where large crowds of students would fight and harass local merchants. Some 5,000 students attend six schools in a building that was designed to house 2,000 students and one school.

They also have six principals who are not working together to address safety.

“Making it a smaller school doesn’t lead to smaller class size,” he said.

Doyle would like to see the construction of more schools in his district to accommodate the population boom.

Doyle is looking into possibly redesigning Pelham Bay Station. The station was designed for 30 years ago and cannot accommodate the larger congestion of traffic of today.

The Council candidate would like to see the two overpasses at the station be converted to accommodate two-way traffic. Currently cars can only go one way on the overpasses which leads to congestion.

If elected Doyle said he would push for participatory budgeting in the district. A certain amount of money is allocated from the City Council and the candidate said he would hold different forums to allow residents to vote on how that money gets spent.

Doyle has pledged to hold massive town hall meetings in every community throughout the district. The goal is to have forums so people can talk about the issues in their community.

“Even though I’m probably the youngest person to be entering this race I’m probably the one with the most experienced in terms of just a resume,” said the 30-year-old Doyle. “People understand I have a record. That I am not afraid of hard work.

“They don’t expect miracle workers but they do expect you to work,” he said.

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