BIAGGI AT TOWN HALL

NYC still treats the Bronx as lower class

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It’s 94 acres of park land and water separating Kingsbridge from Norwood. But if anyone wants to access it, they’d need good connections and a security clearance.

That’s life around the Jerome Park Reservoir — an amazing man-made lake, completely surrounded by enough fence to make a high-security prison jealous. And it’s something incoming state senator Alessandra Biaggi wants to end once and for all.

“One of the things that is very disturbing to me about it is that in other boroughs, in like Manhattan, this would not be the case,” Biaggi told a crowded Vladeck Hall at the Amalgamated Houses last week. “This just goes to the narrative that many people feel that the Bronx is treated different. And I think that is not acceptable.”

The park surrounding the reservoir is closed to the public — except for an occasional day when limited access is granted — because of what the city has deemed to be security concerns. Because the reservoir is a vital water resource for the entire city, officials have kept neighbors as far away as possible.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who organized the town hall with Councilman Andrew Cohen, pointed toward the event’s moderator, Gary Axelbank, about how long the two have worked to try and open the gates not long after stopping the city from building a treatment plant there.

“When was our first meeting?” Dinowitz asked. “Was it 1990? They wanted to build a huge water filtration plant, and wanted to build an administration building and a parking lot on the reservoir. The reason why this was defeated because the people came out in massive numbers, and we got the Giuliani administration to back down on that.”

But to open the reservoir, the community is going to have to find that source of passion again.

“People should be able to go around the perimeter,” Dinowitz said. “There is no reason that I can think of that people should not have access to an incredible resource right here in the middle of our community.”

This was Biaggi’s first major public forum in this part of her district since officially winning the 34th Senate District in November’s election. The political newcomer ousted longtime senator Jeffrey Klein in the September primary, part of several members of Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference who were defeated.

Although the forum was designed primarily for the myriad neighborhood issues many faced, Biaggi did take a moment to talk about some statewide issues that would have a local effect, like early voting and health care.

When it comes to a statewide adoption of a single-payer health care system, however, Biaggi supports the concept, but says she still needs time to review the overall plan.

“I am a supporter of this bill, and I will fight to pass this bill,” the incoming senator said of the New York Health Act. “But I want to make sure that this bill is fiscally sound. When we pass this bill, we will be the first state in the country to pass a single-payer system, and we got to get it right. If it fails in New York State, then other states will not take the risk or chance.”

The bill also depends on another variable that might seem unlikely at this point — federal wavers on Medicare and Medicaid.

“I cannot imagine our current federal government giving us those wavers,” Biaggi said. “But anything is possible.”

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