The neighborhood of Bayside has a leafy, suburban feel, but it’s not a stereotypical white bread suburb: there are plenty of Democrats as well as Republicans, whites make up less than half of the population, and large numbers of Asians and Hispanics call this corner of Queens home.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that there are also a wide range of opinions among residents about the direction of New York City and what exactly the next mayor should focus his or her energies on. Some recurring issues include education, jobs and public safety, but even these topics reveal stark contrasts among the residents of Bayside.
Jessica Aviles, who has three children in the city’s public schools, said she hasn’t paid any attention to the mayoral race so far but that the most important issue to her will be education. She said that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been in office too long and that she looked forward to having someone replace him.
“Education is a big part of my issues with Bloomberg,” said Aviles, who works at a nursing non-profit. “Although he makes it seem like he’s doing everything for the better, I don’t really see that, because my kids are in the public school system. I think they feel the brunt of that.”
Aviles, who has children in the second and third grades and one in high school, said she has been unhappy with the mayor’s cuts to after-school programs as well as stricter standards for students.
“Not to say that our kids are not capable, but I think they’re rushing through the curriculum, so our kids are not absorbing what they’re supposed to be learning, so it’s not a good foundation,” she said. “And then we wonder why our kids in college cannot perform?”
Yet Henny Lin, a hair stylist in Bayside, said she felt that Bloomberg has received too much unfair criticism. She said that while many people complain about public schools, not all of the challenges are the mayor’s fault.
“If you want a good school, parents need to get involved,” Lin said. “You need to work with children and sacrifice your time, and work with the teacher. Everybody has to get it together and work together to participate. If you don’t participate, I don’t think any kind of job is done well.”
Nury Ferrer, who has lived in Bayside for five years, said the city’s next mayor should follow in Bloomberg’s footsteps and be a strong manager who learns from his or her past mistakes, like the mayor did in his response to natural disasters, including blizzards and hurricanes. She said she approved of Bloomberg overall, even if he gets carried away with initiatives like the soda size restrictions.
“Other than that, I think he does a good job,” she said. “I think that since I’ve been here and what I’ve heard from the past, if they keep doing what Bloomberg did, and what was the one right before him – Giuliani – if they continue like that, we need someone like Bloomberg and Giuliani who makes things happen.”
John Novak, who works in public health, said he expected jobs to be the key issue in this year’s election, much as it has been on the national level. He credited the current mayor for having a strong record on budgeting, but he added that Bloomberg had not done enough to deal with the increasing costs of living in the city.
“He’s not really rewarding city workers for the time they put in,” Novak said. “For my salary, I’ve been here about four years now, and I haven’t had a salary increase, a promotion or anything like that. In the meantime, the cost of living has gone up and pay has just stayed flat.”
But Leo Gorynski said that the real problem is public pensions, even if nobody wants to talk about it. The self-employed 54-year-old said rising pension costs would “sink” the city, arguing in particular that teachers have attractive compensation packages that need to be scaled back.
“Private industry gets it up front,” he said. “They don’t get it deferred, and it goes on for life. Until they correct it, which they’re not going to, because you don’t get elected if you take on the unions, particularly the UFT, we’re on a sinking ship. If you can get out of New York, get out of it right now.”
Diane, a middle-aged Bayside woman, said Bloomberg had done some good things and some bad things, and gave him a five or a six on a 10-point scale. She said he had cleaned up the Department of Education, for example, but had also raised taxes. She cited public safety, parks and low-income housing as three issues she would like the next mayor to deal with.
Like most residents, Diane knew that Council Speaker Christine Quinn is running for mayor, which partly reflects Quinn’s lead in the early polls. Beyond that, some residents knew that “the MTA guy” — former MTA CEO Joe Lhota — is also running, and others volunteered that Bill Thompson or John Liu are running.
But few know enough about the mayoral candidates to have a strong opinion of who should or would end up replacing Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Gorynski, however, is an exception.
“I don’t think the Gristedes’ guy’s money is going to make a difference like Bloomberg’s, because I don’t think he has the political savvy that Bloomberg does,” Gorynski offered, referring to Republican candidate John Catsimatidis. “So I think you’re going to have a Democrat win.”
Other residents said that while they aren’t paying much attention to the race now, they do expect to vote and will assess the candidates closer to election day.
“I think it’s still a long ways away, and I think a lot of the issues will change when it comes down to actually voting,” Novak said.
Gorynski offered a more cynical take.
“The American voter is more interested in what Snooki’s going to name her baby than what is actually happening,” he said. “That which I think is the biggest issue in New York is going to have very little to do because we’re going to be more concerned about are we going to elect the first female, gay mayor? We’re all about glitz. This is an MTV election. Is what it is.”
A previous version of this post said that large numbers of blacks reside in Bayside, and that a third are white. In fact, only 2.6 percent of Bayside and Bayside Hills is black, while 46.9 percent is white, 37.3 percent is Asian and 11.6 percent is Hispanic.
Tags: 5 borough ballot, Bayside, Bill Thompson, Christine Quinn, Henny Lin, Jessica Aviles, joe lhota, John Catsimatidis, John Liu, John Novak, Leo Gorynski, mayor, Michael Bloomberg, New York City, Nury Ferrer, Snooki