By Richard Altabe
Far Rockaway Jewish Alliance
If there is one major lesson to be learned from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, it is that when push comes to shove and our communal back is against the wall, we need to take care of ourselves and no one does it better. During the storm, in its immediate aftermath, and in what is turning into an ongoing saga for many, our city agencies continue to fail us and demonstrate how inadequately prepared they were for such an event. Through it all, we learn that we are a resilient community that is capable of greatness when we marshal our resources and work together.
Sandy brought out the best in our community. Agencies and individuals rose to the occasion with unparalleled demonstrations of leadership and care. There are many who deserve unbridled recognition, accolades, and the collective admiration of the community. One community hero is Pesach Osina. Pesach was one of the few permanent fixtures of hope and support in the days following the storm. He was visible 24 hours a day, coordinating city, state, and federal services to ensure maximum response to meet our needs. He served as the face of the community for the Department of Sanitation, Long Island Power Authority, the Police Department, the Department of Buildings, and many others. Pesach served as the go-to person for the most accurate updates on power restoration and pushed the city to expedite that process. It is unfathomable how long we would have been without power if not for the advocacy of Pesach Osina.
For the past 20 years, our community has experienced the minimal acceptable standard of representation in city government. While over $30 million of city funding has been allocated to our district over the past five years, our community mosdos have seen less than 1% of those funds. It is now time to get our fair share and be represented in a manner that maximizes our opportunities. On February 19, we have the opportunity to propel one of our community heroes into the New York City Council, where he will continue to do what he does best—deliver to our community. Both pre- and post-Sandy, as a community volunteer and as an aide to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, Pesach has demonstrated his willingness and ability to tenaciously work on behalf of our community.
The February 19 special election is occurring as a result of a vacated seat previously held by James Sanders, who has been elected to the State Senate. In a special election, anyone can declare candidacy and run—and it seems just about everyone has. Nine people are running for this seat, a wide range of candidates, from individuals with little or no governmental experience to an individual who has strong ties to the Nation of Islam group under the leadership of Louis Farrakhan. We do not want to be represented by such individuals.
In order for us to succeed, our numbers must once again be strong. In 2009, Councilman Sanders was elected with 3,200 votes. With an anticipated total turnout of 7,000 voters for this election, in order for us to win, we must be able to deliver the same 3,000 voters that came out for Phil Goldfeder in 2011.
The Far Rockaway Jewish Alliance has endorsed Pesach Osina because we believe in his ability to deliver for our community. We believe that he will represent the entire district in a fair and responsive manner and ensure that city monies are distributed equitably. For the continued growth of the Far Rockaway/Bayswater community, the success of agencies like Achiezer and JCCRP are critical, and their success is strongly related to our partners in government and the support necessary to continue to do their vital work. We can no longer accept being the 1%; we are nearly 12% of the district population and perhaps the largest share of the district’s taxpaying public.
Excellent representation is critical in ensuring that we get the maximum available for city projects like flood mitigation and power mediation. There is only one candidate that will worry about every resident in the high-risk zones in Far Rockaway and Bayswater, and that candidate is Pesach Osina.
Let us not miss this opportunity—for our residents, for our agencies, for our children, for ourselves. Together we can make February 19 a historic day for our community, and all is takes is five minutes in a voting booth. As with Sandy, together we can achieve the improbable. v