Post-Acquittal, Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr. Focuses on Community Development

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Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr. has now emerged after a grueling federal trial that demanded a lot of his time and energy. Since he has been acquitted, Boyland is energized. He has been developing new initiatives for the 55th Assembly District. Boyland sat down with Our Time Press for an exclusive interview.

OTP: How are you feeling now that the trial is over?

Boyland: We knew there was no truth to it. I couldn’t wait to tell my side of the story.
We represent a neighborhood that has been underserved by health care for quite some time. We have always been advocates for bringing quality healthcare to the neighborhoods of East New York, Brownsville, Bed-Stuy and East Flatbush.
Even with the prior administration at Brookdale, it had been lacking simple things like infrastructure issues. The seniors needed a place to sit when they came into the lobby. That was a major issue. The relationship between the hospital and the neighborhood was always an issue. Now there is a big issue with the unions there. The first people they always reach out to other local elected officials and representatives to get the word out to the community on what’s happening. They have a benefits issue where the union workers benefits are not being paid. They reach out to us. We’ll always get first line of defense in the relationship between the hospital and the community. That’s all that was.

OTP: The community doesn’t realize that statewide, one of the major responsibilities of elected officials is to make sure that within the annual budget there is funding for vital services.

Boyland: Moving forward post-acquittal, what’s next is to educate folks on what’s happening. You can write newsletters and speak out at certain town halls at community meetings, but to actually know what is going on from you are left officials day-to-day in Albany, I don’t think folks know a lot about.
What we try to do around this time of year — November, December, into February and early March — is try to get the word out about what’s going on with the budget and the process. A lot of times, that information does not disseminate all over the district. This is why I’m pretty happy about what happened at the [Anti-Violence Brownsville] town hall the other night. I think it was the first step to communicating and bringing all our services together. You have my office. You have the Brownsville Partnership right across the street, the community board, Council member Mealy’s office, Sen. Sampson’s office. There are several social service and nonprofit groups in the neighborhood. The information isn’t shared.

OTP: You elected officials are going to start having joint town halls?

Boyland: Yes. We’re going to start in January. Sampson, Mealy and myself, along with the nonprofits and local social service groups will come together and bring our resources. A lot of times we are all doing the same work, but the information is not disseminated in the same way. We are all coming together to basically look at rebuilding the infrastructure of our community. This is the basic problem. You have budget on the state level not working as well as the budget to the federal level, as has been the case for the last three or four years. The state budget is in the deficit. Local initiatives have not been able to be disseminated back into the community. We are looking to come together to make sure that the different community centers, after-school programs and healthcare organizations economically look at what is going on in our district.
We can have rallies and town halls, but it is the local elected who have the power to bring resources together to do exactly what everyone is screaming about – better services at the schools and better protection. The police only work if we knock on their doors to make sure we all holding them accountable for what is happening at [PS] 298 or 150 or 332 or talk to the PSA’s about what’s going on in housing. We need to look at these things, and work on improving it. There is no more room for looking at it after something happens. We had to get in front of it.

OTP: What kind of initiatives do you envision for dealing with the gangs who are fighting building to building?

Boyland: We need more mentoring, but we also have the infrastructure needs. We need to put more resources in the schools for a singer or dancer or poet to express themselves. That’s the problem; they have no outlet. Our athletes don’t have an opportunity to feel safe while developing their skills. The academia is not there after 3:30. There is no after school in a lot of cases. The Beacon programs are doing a great job, but bottom line, I think a lot of the problem is economic. Money isn’t there.
This happened in the 80s. We were hit hard by the same kind of deficits and recessions. During the crack epidemic, things were a lot worse than they are now. It took over the city. But today, it almost seems like the way they make money is shooting each other. It’s terrible.
Getting on the ground is important for finding out exactly what the needs are. We have been talking with the DA’s office and with the kids in a lot of the local groups in the area. The problem is economic. They want to make money and support themselves. A lot of them are in single-parent households; mom is either unemployed or underemployed. There is no money coming into the home. We need to face these issues.

OTP: Shouldn’t there also be values? There is a problem with the pimping of the little girls. The older dudes say, “I have to make my money.” What they’re doing is sex trafficking the little girls.
Boyland: It’s an economic issue. If there is a husband/father and wife/mother in the home to put food on the table, the values are set there to make the nuclear family that we all remember. That’s not happening right now. We are about to lose a generation because the parenting is not there.
I represent Brownsville, but I hear about what is going on all over the city. It’s an economic issue: one all over the country. Focusing on our community, the infrastructure has weakened over the years. I am talking about basic stuff. When I was a teen, Pitkin Avenue was thriving. It wasn’t until the 90s recession, that businesses started to leave. We can’t sit back and think that the Pitkin Avenue BID is going to bring that back. They need incentives. It would mean more businesses all over Belmont Avenue and Mother Gaston.
Our office is working right now with the city to bring tax breaks to businesses to bring them back to the neighborhood. Our dollar in our neighborhood is very loyal. We have to work on sustaining businesses to give people something to be proud of once again.

OTP: Are you looking to bring tax credits to the buildings that are not being utilized, or underutilized, like the bank building on Pitkin Avenue or the overgrown public school on Blake Avenue and Rockaway?

Boyland: Yes, tax credits in order to rebuild and sustain businesses that are already there. We have plans for those buildings, as well as Howard Avenue, Fulton Street, Broadway, Ralph Avenue, Rockaway Avenue. These are once-thriving retail and commercial areas. It’s not happening anymore. Businesses need incentives to stay open. I am working with my counterparts in government to make sure we bring sustainable business back into the neighborhood.

OTP: Right now, businesses such as hospitals purchase supplies as mundane as light bulbs and toilet paper from outside the district. Would you consider bringing those types of businesses into the district?

Boyland: That is the goal. Right now, no one is holding them accountable for that dollar. At one time, people were coming from all over the city to shop on Pitkin Avenue. We need to replicate that in Brownsville. It will happen with the help of my colleagues in government, community leaders and church leaders. We have a vision for leadership in this community.

OTP: What do you say about the fight to maintain public housing? We don’t want another Cabrini Green to happen here.

Boyland: It’s an economic issue. And it’s about giving the kids something to do. We are big education fans; it is something no one can take from you. We also need that to leverage support services for them.

OTP: What about the quality of life around homeless shelters?

Boyland: We have to focus and make sure we are not inundated. Around Junius Street, the police are overwhelmed because there is always an issue. It is insane that a shelter would be put on Herkimer Street, a quiet residential block. City Hall is not going to listen to one person, but as a collective neighborhood say, “We don’t want this here. Listen to our pleas about sustaining our neighborhoods.”
There should be a system or a process in place for shelter placements. The issue is a lot bigger than the actual placement of a homeless facility. Look at the prison system. A lot of folks there are coming from the zip codes. Where are they going to live?

OTP: Is there anything else you would like to tell the people?

Boyland: I am looking forward to this next year and a half to make sure that a lot of initiatives will be put forward. You will hear a lot more as we go forward. We are very enthusiastic about making the 55th Assembly District a better place.