Folks around the peninsula are watching with bated breath as the candidates for Eric Ulrich’s soon-to-be-vacated city council seat line up, and civic leaders from across District 32 are throwing their names into the hat to be considered for the primaries in June. Ulrich, who is term-limited, cannot seek re-election, leaving many curious to see who will fill the seat of the three-term Councilman.
In order to learn more about one of those seeking to represent half of Rockaway and a large portion of Southern Queens in the future, The Wave sat down with political hopeful Kenichi Wilson to get a sense of just what we might be able to expect should he make it into office on November 2.
Following in the footsteps of his East Tennessee Republican father, Wilson registered as a Republican himself in his youth, but says he was initially uninterested in politics, and preferred a more direct approach to making a difference. At the age of seventeen, Wilson joined the NYPD as an auxiliary officer in the 102nd Precinct, and later became a member of the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps. In time, however, Wilson began to recognize that he could help even more people by getting involved at the civic level, and joined up with his local community board to make a difference.
Now Chairman of Community Board 9 in Queens, Wilson believes that many of the connections he’s made through years of working at the community level would serve him well should he make it to the City Council.
“I’m the only candidate that’s running in this position that already has the experience with the city agencies, and it would be basically turn-key,” Wilson explained. “All I would have to do is take the issues that we’re going to address immediately, and put the pen to paper… there’s no learning curve for me, no ‘I need to meet someone first’… I’ve already been doing this for many years.”
“It takes a certain type of person to be able to gain trust and work with an agency to get things done – some people may think that they can come in and demand services right away, but that may impact in a negative way,” Wilson added, mentioning how his years of working with city agencies such as the DOT and others has allowed him to build the relationships necessary to actually get things done in this city.
For Wilson, quick and easy transportation from District 32 to the rest of the city is an important piece of his platform, and he discussed the potential reactivation of the long-abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line in order to better enable access from Rockaway to the rest of Queens and Manhattan.
“Transportation-wise, it’s going to benefit everyone,” Wilson said of a potential rail line reactivation, adding that it’s important to first conduct studies that would examine the impact on local homeowners along the tracks and find the best middle ground that could bring about a happy resolution for both the homeowners and potential commuters.
Wilson also took aim at the SBS bus lanes, which he believes remove a vital lane from our roads and only add to congestion problems across the city.
“I really didn’t see the need for them to take a lane away from Woodhaven Boulevard, to make the busses faster,” Wilson told The Wave. “It’s created congestion. If you start looking at the stats here, I think bus times only improved by a real small margin. But for me, to get from my location… to West 37th Street, twelve miles, it used to take me, no traffic at all… 38 to 40 minutes. Average during congested times was an hour, hour and fifteen minutes. Now it takes me a minimum of two hours. That’s because they cut a lane away.”
The Community Board 9 Chairman also mentioned the new lowered speed limit, which he says might actually lead to more aggressive driving. “You slow people down to a certain point, and people become aggressive, especially if there’s congestion or a very low-speed limit on an open road.”
Entering into the race this year, Wilson changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, but the civic leader says he prefers to avoid party politics and keep his campaign as local as possible.
“I want to bring City Council back to the community,” Wilson said during a previous interview. “I enjoy going out there and meeting people and listening to their concerns, hopefully, the party doesn’t cloud any of that. I really wish it wouldn’t be thought of as a fact.”