Mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa recently paid a visit to Ohr Natan Synagogue and Knish Nosh in Forest Hills, where he took the time to greet voters and hear their concerns.
Sliwa has been a radio talk show host for 30 years, and is best known for founding the Guardian Angels, a volunteer organization focused on crime prevention.
“After 42 years, we are in 13 countries and 130 cities,” said Sliwa.
If elected mayor, Sliwa wants to reduce crime by increasing funding to the police, work on property tax reform, and make no-kill animal shelters the norm.
He said there is a lack of transparency in politics. He calls it the “DID Syndrome.”
“They ‘deny’ that you have a problem, ‘ignore’ doing anything about it, and ‘delay,’” Sliwa explained. “That’s why we need a strong and diverse free press, who should not be friends, but adversarial. They’re the truth gatherers.”
Sliwa has three children currently attending public schools, and shared his plans for the education system
“I want to see two teachers in every classroom,” he said. “I’ve been to classes before the lockdown, and the behavioral issues are stifling for the teachers and the other students.”
He is also a supporter of charter schools, as well as vouchers and tuition tax credits for religious and parochial schools.
“All schools will have to provide vocational education at the junior high and high school level,” Sliwa added, “since there are demands for trained personnel such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and computer programmers.”
He wants largest vocational education programs to be for professional home healthcare aides.
“They need to figure out the psychology of the elderly, since many more of us are graying at a rapid rate, and we are not providing,” Sliwa said. “Aides have to learn how to be a friend, especially for those who may not have any family or friends, as well as how to give out medication and be aware of their effects.”
On a related note, he called for greater transparency and regulation of long-term senior homes.
“I have seen people with Alzheimer’s live in a vegetated state in hallways with no communication,” he said. “Most people never see what happens behind closed doors, but with transparency we could be a greater society overall.”
And as his past with the Guardian Angels would indicate, Sliwa would be strong on crime as mayor.
“The handcuffs need to be taken off the cops and put on the criminals, so they can be proactive and not reactive,” he said. “We need 38,000 cops patrolling, and that means we need to hire 4,000 more police to fill the void.”
To pay for the extra police officers, he wants a new property tax on large institutions that currently don’t pay any.
“Because of early and normal retirements, we are going to get down to a dangerous level of 32,500 cops, and we cannot patrol the five boroughs adequately,” Sliwa warned. “We need to preemptively stop crimes before they take place.”
He also shared his plans on tackling the rise in graffiti that has occurred since the start of the pandemic.
“It is no longer an arrestable offense,” Sliwa said. “When I’m mayor, you’ll get arrested. And landlords that allow graffiti to stay on and don’t have their super remove it within 48 hours will be severely fined, since they are neglecting their responsibilities.
“Other properties that are public, abandoned or in distress, the city will have to put together a task force and paint over it,” he added. “We need zero tolerance, just like we have in the subways.”
As for the homeless problem, Sliwa said the city’s current position is destroying neighborhoods and doing a disservice to the people they are trying to help.
“The city is shoving 90 shelters, with two-thirds already completed, into neighborhoods with no transparency or communication with elected officials and community boards,” he said. “It does not help the homeless since they warehouse them rather than providing services.”
Sliwa said he would reopen Camp LaGuardia, an upstate homeless shelter in Chester where addicted and homeless men were sent beginning in the Great Depression to recover. They also grew crops to make the shelter more self-sufficient.
By the 90’s, its population consisted mainly of drug-addicted and mentally ill young men who were allowed to leave the grounds. It was closed in November 2006.
Sliwa also spoke about preservation and overdevelopment. Locally, he opposes RJ Capital Holdings/Trylon LLC’s plan for a large high-rise on the site of the Trylon Theater.
“I was just in the former Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan synagogue, and they were telling me that they have to leave and need new space. Why should they?” he asked. “They helped keep that beautiful Art Deco building active and thriving. Tower Diner with its clock tower, which I would take my youngest sons to, is also an iconic place. Both the diner and the theater should be landmarked.”
Sliwa said there is a lack of transparency and effectiveness when it comes to landmarking.
“The outer boroughs need to have landmarking, which maintains the unique nature of a neighborhood and our city,” he said. “You have to go to the people who have the passion and not the bureaucrats. There’s a humanity in it, so who knows better than the people and preservationists who live in their communities and understand a building’s historical significance?
“That is why the Landmarks Preservation Commission needs to be decentralized by borough,” he said.
Sliwa said he has a reputation for being a tough individual, but say many people don’t realize he will bring a different side of personality to City Hall if elected.
“People know I’ll be hard on crime, but what people don’t realize is that I’ll bring more compassion to City Hall than any previous mayor,” he said. “I’m compassionate about the homeless, the emotionally disturbed who I dealt with for 42 years as a Guardian Angel, and for animals.”