As part of its coverage of Campaign 2017, City Limits invites citizen supporters of candidates on the September 12 primary ballot to submit op-eds explaining their choice. Submit them here.
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On a crisp Monday morning in June, I walked to the Parkchester 6 train subway stop when I saw a vibrant young man sporting an orange-checkered shirt and electric blue pants speaking in a voice so merry it felt like Christmas came early. He introduced himself to me.
“Hi, I’m Michael Beltzer. I am running for City Council, and I’d be honored to fight hard for our community. I am a friend of Soundview Park. I served on Community Board 9. I am a member of the 43rd Precinct Community Council.”
This was how I came to befriend Michael. This was how I came to support and campaign for him. I was awed by the fact that he lent so much of his time and commitment to serving the community by becoming involved with local government and other community institutions. I was further impressed that Michael achieved so many minor, but substantial feats, for the community that had large implications on our quality of life.
For instance, he pursued the installation of a traffic light near the Queens-bound Q44 bus stop at Hugh Grant Circle and added sidewalk space for pedestrians. When the residents of the Castle Hill housing complex expressed frustration at having to endure the deteriorating sidewalks surrounding the buildings, he campaigned to the New York City Department of Transportation to rehabilitate them, and the agency responded and fixed the sidewalks. When a young boy was gunned down by the Story Avenue playgrounds in Soundview, he reached out to the mother and organized a take-back event to raise awareness on gun violence, and submitted petitions to include cameras in the playground. When the orchestra program at his daughter’s public school in Soundview was taken away, he rose to the occasion and organized to protest the injustice. He not only marshaled people to stand behind him, but he used the necessary resources at his disposal to fight back. As a result, he was able to reinstate the program within three days with great fanfare. This is the kind of person Michael is. When problems arise, he straps his belt on and proceeds to find whatever avenue it takes to resolve the issue. Given the results he has achieved from his deep involvement with the community, I am positively sure that he will bring this spirit and tenacity to elected office.
The more I got to spend time with him knocking on doors, the more I realized how much this man speaks and acts with sincerity, honesty, and conviction. He commits himself to doing the thankless work that often goes unnoticed by the community. When Mayor Bill de Blasio debuted his affordable housing plan, Michael scrutinized the proposal, attended the public hearing at City Hall, and spoke out against it because he argued the plan was not affordable enough. He has attended countless tenant meetings in which he speaks out against developers who seek community resources for their projects but do not provide anything in return. At the last public hearing concerning a spot zoning proposal for 1965 Lafayette Avenue, Michael posited the following questions to both the developers and the board members, “This project is talking about saving parking spots and adding ‘affordable’ housing, but what about improving bus lines and the streets downstairs? What will become of the Mitchell-Lama status that keeps rent affordable for those who already live there?” These are the kinds of concerns to which our elected officials should be privy. These are the kinds of questions that an entrusted member of government should raise.
We need more urban planners in elected office. Michael understands how to organize communities, he knows how to solve problems in practical ways, he knows how to visualize and envision, and he is very acutely aware of the issues-both mundane and complex-that affect our communities. As someone who earned his Master’s in city planning, I am impressed by someone who possesses a deep well of knowledge concerning transportation and affordable housing policy, land use regulations, and place-making philosophies. He knows the nuts-and-bolts of what makes a healthy and vibrant community. If Michael gets the honor of being elected, he hopes to implement a community-based plan in which he enacts an agenda based on the input of his constituents. This method of governing lends itself to a healthy, well-functioning democracy.
I was born and raised in Parkchester, so I am touched that Michael cares enough to educate his constituents about what their vote means, what power it invokes, and how they can use their votes to engender the changes they’d like to see. He believes that if constituents are well-informed and engaged, they can make the best decisions for themselves. Michael is the community because he always been an ardent steward of it. He is the visionary we need and he is well-equipped to provide meaningful progress for all of us.
Allen is a Transportation Planner who was born and raised in Parkchester, The Bronx.