Kingsbridge Avenue residents came out for a town hall meeting with Senator Pedro Espada Jr. on Thursday, July 22, at the Church of the Mediator. But their state senator was a no-show.
Making the scene even more dramatic: several district residents and some members of the Real Rent Reform Campaign showed up to protest Espada. Protestors voiced frustrations about housing and the senator’s strict policy for who would be allowed to attend his town-hall style meeting.
“I came because I had tried to RSVP and was told that I needed to have an invitation,” Van Cortlandt Village resident Jack Marth said. “I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get in, which I thought was very odd.”
According to Franck LaBoy, a spokesman for Espada that came to the event to answer questions about the cancellation, the meeting was cancelled because it looked like too many people were planning to show up, and there would not be enough room at the church.
He also said the senator was concerned about people who do not live in the district coming to the meeting to raise questions that do not concern his constituents.
“The interest was in talking about issues of the people in this community,” LaBoy said. “It isn’t to let people to shout their dissent, but to learn about the issues.” Marth, who lives a few blocks from the church, said he would have asked the senator about housing issues, such as rent-control destabilization.
“A big issue is vacancy de-control and he’s been blocking that and not allowing a vote in the Senate,” he said. “I’m disappointed that he didn’t show up.”
Emilia Robinson, who lives on E. 238th Street, said she alsowould have asked the senator about housing, specifically the increasing rent she is paying on her apartment.
LaBoy said that the senator plans to hold another town hall meeting in the neighborhood soon, but no date has been set. He said that the invitations had been sent out to residents living on several blocks surrounding the church.
Any future town hall meeting will continue to use the invitation system, which is common for public meetings, LaBoy said.
Milagros Davila and Lydia Rodriguez, who both live close to the church and did receive invitations, were also disappointed that the senator did not show up.