Know your candidates: Kathleen Sforza, Staten Island native, working for Mid-Island Metropolis Council seat

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — In the crowded 2021 primary, Kathleen Sforza thinks she is the right candidate to replace Minority Leader Steven Matteo as the City Council representative from the Mid-Island.

Sforza, one of several Republican candidates vying for the seat, is the former small business owner of Town & Country Gifts and Crafts, Inc and currently the Economic and Community Development Coordinator at Northfield Community LDC of Staten Island.

Sforza’s core issues include property tax, education, transportation, public safety, and affordable senior housing. As a life-long Staten Islander, Sforza looks to boost small businesses and support the entrepreneurship of women.

Given the crowded fields in this year’s City Council races, the Advance/ opted to send questionnaires to each of the candidates in this year’s Mid-Island and North Shore City Council races.

Here are Sforza’s unedited responses:

What will you do to ensure your district fully recovers from the pandemic?

Bringing back NYC will be one of the biggest challenges that Council Members will face. We must maintain city services post-pandemic. Otherwise, we will see a deterioration in our quality of life. We, as citizens of this city, have the right to live in safety. If quality-of-life issues ensue, we will see many people leaving our borough, city, and state. I will fight for Staten Island. I will fight for NYC. Because I Love Staten Island, and I Love NY!

This pandemic has shown the small business community just what the government thinks of them. DISPOSABLE! Big box stores all open, but small businesses that can control their crowds need to be closed. Unfortunately, years of government regulations cause innovative entrepreneurs to throw their hands up in the air and give up! Let us change from Government the Great Discourager to Government the Encourager! Post-Pandemic Recovery will need to involve cash grants, without all the red tape, to assist small businesses with back rent and utility bills. No fining! We need to open this city and build it back. Public Safety is important. Crime is out of control in NYC, and it needs to be addressed asap.

Our schools need to be opened to in-person learning.

We also need to address the education and care for our developmentally disabled. College is often not an option. Their future requires guidance, support, and services. We need to look at options that turn their disability into ability. We all have basic needs, desires, and feelings. We all have the right to be treated with respect and dignity.

What is your top priority outside pandemic recovery?

I want to preserve Staten Island for future generations. My top priorities will include small business/economic development, police/fire public safety, transportation/traffic, and affordable senior housing. I would like to see neighborhoods form civic associations. I want to encourage people to be involved with their community. People are the eyes and ears of the community. Government is only as good as its people. Issues that the people want me to address will be my focus.

What do you see as the future of policing in New York City? What is your position on the City Council’s reform package announced on Jan. 29?

Public Safety is a concern. The system is failing. In the past year, we have seen our police officers abused and demoralized. Bail reform is not working; defunding the police will not work. Add in qualified immunity ending for police officers, and you have a recipe for disaster.

How will NYC attract new people to the police force?

Officials tout that arrests are down. In their next breath, they report that murders, burglaries, robberies, and car thefts are up. It is a known secret that crime statistics have been manipulated for the past 7 years. Nothing is a crime anymore!

Blaming the victim for leaving their cars unlocked, walking outside at night, parking in the wrong spot, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, does not work! Do you know what works? Police on the streets! Walking the beat and getting to know the neighborhood and its residents.

As Councilmember for District 50, Staten Island, I will always address the complex issues that will have a lasting impact on our community. I will fight to restore qualified immunity for our police offices.

What efforts started by Councilman Matteo would you like to continue, and what would you like to do differently?

Councilman Matteo has been an asset to the Staten Island community. He is on top of all quality-of-life issues litter, traffic lights, etc. I would continue to address these issues. However, I will keep my constituents abreast of city programs that could be detrimental to their communities. Programs such as the Department of Homeless Services open Requests for Proposals from developers for homeless shelters across the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to open 90 shelters in NYC by the end of his term. His intentions are crystal clear! It is all here in the 2017 report, Turning the Tide on Homelessness in NYC,

I am fearful that before Mayor de Blasio’s term ends, there will more shelters in Staten Island. As of right, it gives carte blanche to many developers. Right now, there is little that can be done to prevent this from happening. Something needs to change! Why was the community left out of the process? It is the job of our elected officials to inform the community of Requests for Proposals (RFP) by various government agencies. The Department of Social Services Department of Homeless Services (DSS-DHS) has open RFPs for shelters. Here is the link

Residents of Staten Island have a right, as a community, to be a part of the discussion about shelter proposals in their communities.

Homelessness is a serious situation. It is an issue that society needs to address. We do not want to see the homeless sleeping and living on the streets. They need to have shelter. What is the answer, a hotel, a homeless shelter, housing with supportive services, or permanent housing? Where should funding go, and should NYC be dedicating so much funding to the Department of Homeless Services? Wouldn’t the money be better spent on developing permanent housing such as senior housing, displaced youth housing, developmentally disabled housing, family housing, etc.? Instead of displacing families into shelters, should there be an increase in housing vouchers?

We should be investing time and effort into permanent housing solutions, not temporary shelters. A shelter is not a home. I would also address the illegal dumping problem that is rampant in Staten Island.

On a recent ride around Staten Island, I was appalled by the amount of illegal dumping that is taking place. What does this say about our borough?

Laws need to be enforced.

We need to hold the offenders of this accountable. The only way to stop this is to impose fines on the perpetrators. We see more of this because people do not know where to dispose of their electronics and bulk household items.

Years ago, you could drop paint, cardboard, furniture off at sanitation dump sites. I propose that we reopen or open a new site where people can dispose of electronics, mattresses, paint, etc. Perhaps we would see less dumping on the sides of the road.

Know your candidates: Kathleen Sforza, Staten Island native, running for Mid-Island City Council seat.

Do you support any of the current mayoral candidates? If so, which one and why?

At this time, I have not thrown my support to any mayoral candidate. I will support the candidate with expertise and experience. I will support the candidate who knows how to run a city and has experience working with city agencies. If a candidate emerges who possesses these skills, that will be the person who I will support.

How would you like to see transit improved in your district?

Staten Island is a transit desert with no subway access to the other boroughs. We are a car community. We need to make taking the bus easier for people. MetroCard needs some work. There are not many places in Staten Island to refill a card. The OMNY works only if you have a smartphone. Public transportation should accept all modes of payment cash, credit cards, debit cards, Omni, and MetroCards.

Although the bridges fall under the jurisdiction of the state-appointed MTA, I will continue to advocate on my constituent’s behalf for the return of the carpooling discount as well as the Staten Island resident discount.

Again, another issue by the state-appointed MTA, I would continue to advocate for NYC Transit West Shore Bus Rapid Transit and the NYC Transit North Shore Bus Rapid Transit. These projects have all have massive funding shortfalls. Study after study after study. Staten Islanders have study fatigue. It is doubtful that these projects will ever get out of the study phase.

What steps would you like to see the different levels of government (federal, state, city) take to expedite the East Shore seawall project?

This type of project takes time. Critical infrastructure is involved. With that said, the public perception is that government works too slow. People want to see progress. Community engagement is needed. Timeline updates about the project should be through social media, community meetings, and perhaps a billboard near the construction site.

What is your position on a public hospital for Staten Island?

We should have a public hospital in Staten Island. We are the only borough without one. Does this seem fair to the 500,000 plus residents of Staten Island?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the classification of whether a hospital is in a large central metropolitan area (“urban”), a fringe county of a large metropolitan area (“suburban”), a small-t to a medium-sized metropolitan area (“micropolitan”), or non-metropolitan area (“rural”), is as defined using algorithms provided by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). If Staten Island does not meet the demographics set for having a public hospital, we then need to advocate for a change in the demographic criteria.

This year, Staten Island University Hospital (North and South) and Richmond University Medical Center emergency rooms were beyond capacity with Covid-19 patients. There is no substitute for another hospital, but a solution could be to open satellite emergency facilities near the three current hospital locations.

Staten Island residents deserve better. If Staten Island continues its future development plans, two hospitals will not be enough.

How has your previous work prepared you for the city council?

I was the co-owner of Town & Country Gifts & Crafts for 25 years. Currently, I am the Economic & Community Coordinator for Northfield Community LDC of Staten Island. I execute many federal, state, and city grants. I am the project manager for the NY Main Street Program. A grant which provides 75% matching eligible reimbursement funds to participating property owners for façade restorations and building renovation projects within target areas on Port Richmond Avenue. Thus far, the project has yielded 12 residential units and 3 renovated storefronts.

A Project Consultant for the Port Richmond Mariners Harbor Brownfield Opportunity Area Study, a strategic redevelopment plan. Program Manager for Avenue NYC. Co-Chair Community Improvement Committee Wagner College/Port Richmond Partnership. Program Manager NYC Council Discretionary. Additional skills include grant writing, a marketing manager, fundraising, and an event organizer.

I have the skills to create, implement, and manage program resources that support community revitalization.

What steps would you like to see taken to address drug abuse on Staten Island?

Rehabilitation facilities should not release people back into society until they have fully recovered. This requires more funding for healthcare services and treatment addiction services. While addressing the drug issue, we also need to address mental illness. In many instances. the two go hand in hand. All require funding.

How would you like to see the deer/turkey issues addressed?

Staten Island’s Greenbelt and Bluebelt provide green spaces and wetlands, which make it very difficult to rid the island of the turkey and deer population. Trap & release with turkeys does not work. Sterilization of the deer does not seem to be working either. People should not feed the turkeys or deer. In neighborhoods where turkeys are a nuisance, residents must keep their trash covered and not keep bird feeders in their yards. Unfortunately, the burden falls on the homeowner when dealing with wild turkeys and deer. The only way to solve the problem would be to catch all of them and relocate them. Catching all of them may be an impossible task.

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