2017 City Council Screening Questionnaire
Candidate Name: Robert Holden
Council District 30
Contact Person: Robert Holden
If there is a Campaign office(s), is it wheelchair accessible? Yes: 74-19 Caldwell Avenue, Middle Village, NY 11379)
Campaign Address: 63-17 84th Street, Middle Village, NY 11379W
Action Shows Commitment!
What have you accomplished in regard to advancing disability rights? This can include work towards accessible housing, transportation, employment, health care, education, and including people with disabilities in the political process? As a member of the Community Board 5 Queens Transportation Committee, I have advocated for improved pedestrian ramps at corners and accessible subway stations. As managing editor of the Juniper Berry civic magazine, I have made sure to include disability rights issues, spotlighting problems with accessibility and improper design of public and private property. When Community Board 5’s lease was up on their current location I fought to have them move their office since it was not wheelchair accessible. Instead of moving the office, the City of New York installed an elevator in the front of the building.
Will you only attend / sponsor events that are accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs including providing written materials in alternate formats, providing assistive listening systems, and sign language interpreters as well as ensuring that locations are physically accessible? i believe in providing proper access to information to all people.
Local Law 28 requires City department and agency “advertising and other materials pertaining to public events to include information regarding accessibility for people with disabilities” but it does not include elected officials or Community Boards. Do you believe the law should be amended to include electeds and Community Boards? In the absence of an amendment to Local Law 28, would you voluntarily comply? Yes, it should apply to community boards and elected officials and I would voluntarily comply.
II. General Questions:
What personal and professional experience have you had with people with disabilities? As a college professor for 40 years, I’ve worked with dozens of students with disabilities. In fact my very best student was a deaf student from Japan who could only understand a portion of English-based sign language. I gave him more time after class, spent time with him on the weekends using email looking and commenting on his work and helped him land a job. Today I use him as an example of someone who overcame tremendous obstacles to be top of his class. He continues to be an inspiration to all of us.
What would be your strategy to work closely with the disability community to assure passage of vitally needed legislation through the City Council? In order to understand the issues faced by the disabled members of the community, I need to hear their stories and problems. I would ask that community boards create PWD committees to discuss these issues, come up with solutions and then attempt to enact them.
How will you use your office to affirm or strengthen, rather than weaken, civil rights protections for persons with disabilities? As council member, I would use my power and influence internally as well as externally to strengthen protection for persons with disabilities.
Will all events planned by your office be accessible with all material including the appropriate accessibility symbols (such as the wheelchair, ASL CART, etc)? Yes. Events in my district will only be held in accessible locations. All of my candidate events are being held in accessible locations.
What is your position on the development of supported apartments/homes for people with disabled in your borough? I very much am in favor of these homes. There are 2 sites within the community I represent that I believe would be ideal for supportive housing – the current site of the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, which the property owner would like to see converted into senior housing and a large parcel on Cooper Avenue in Glendale which would be ideal for accessible apartments.
Visitability sets guidelines to ensure newly constructed multi-family dwellings have basic accessible/adaptable features to permit people with disabilities can visit, and for residents to "age in place," without having to move out when age and/or disability set in. Do you support incorporating the concept of “visitability” in the Building Code? My district is comprised of mostly seniors and I would like to see them live out their years in comfort within the community. I definitely would like to see this concept adopted into the NYC Building Code.
What will you do to expand affordable wheelchair accessible transportation in NYC, express buses, and shuttles, more accessible subway stations, etc.? The key is funding. The MTA needs to be better funded in order to implement better wheelchair accessible transportation options, and I would lobby Albany for this funding as well as push for city funding from the mayor and city council.
Access-A-Ride (AAR) users experience unnecessarily long trips, causing users to be late for work and appointments. Users have been stranded and penalized as a "no-show" when the vehicle never arrived. Riders who complain report they have been subject to retaliation. What would you do to improve the quality of service? Changing the system to allow current users of Access A Ride to instead hail an accessible cab but pay the regular fare might be one way eliminate this problem. It’s also important for Access-a-Ride bus, van and car drivers to use GPS which will track pickups, drop-offs and routes to hold those drivers accountable.
VI. Community Boards:
Do you support requiring all Community Board meetings and functions to be accessible, including requiring sign language interpreters and large print format material? Yes.
b How many people with disabilities have/will you appoint to your local Community Board? I currently serve on my local community board with several members who are disabled. I foresee reappointing them. As for future appointments, I would consider all qualified applicants.
VII. Discretionary Funds:
Will you use your discretionary funds to support organizations serving PWDS or service organizations seeking to make their programs accessible to PWDS? Yes, this is something I plan to do as a council member. I can think of several not-for-profit organizations that are in need of elevators and ramps.
What steps do you think NYC should take to encourage business owners to make their establishments more accessible? Offering tax breaks for construction work that promotes accessibility and a program run via the Small Business Services Agency that would educate business owners on their responsibilities with regard to providing accessibility.
How would you ensure that emergency evacuation for PWDS provisions are put in place to improve survival rates of PWDs in the event of fire, attack, blackout, or other emergency situation? By liaising with the FDNY and other city agencies, I would promote the National Fire Protection Association’s procedures for evacuating disabled people in the event of an emergency. These procedures should be reviewed with staff of all organizations as part of routine fire safety drills.
X. Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD)
Mayor Bloomberg elevated the Director of the (MOPD) to a
Commissioner without any increase in budget. How would you ensure
that city departments/agencies coordinate through MOPD? Each city
department should have a dedicated staff member that liaises with
the MOPD and is responsible for bringing back information to be
disseminated and seeing that all regulations are being adhered to.
How do you believe the City Council should enforce and do oversight regarding the work of the office and be certain of the implementation and its efforts? I believe that Disability Services should be a separate committee from the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and that there should be a reporting requirement to the council from the new agency listing progress on issues being worked on and the number of contacts that were made with the general public.