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Van Bramer Issues His Annual Report Card, Asks ‘How did I do?’

Jan. 17, 2014 By Christian Murray

At most public events, he’s there, on stage with a big smile on his face often telling off-the-cuff one-liners.

He doesn’t send a representative to these outings but manages to be there in person—and buzzes from event to event throughout the course of a day or evening. The old ladies in the audience always love him, and young school children seem to be fascinated by him.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Sunnyside/Woodside/Astoria & Long Island City, has become a highly recognizable figure in the four years he has represented the district. He doesn’t show up at events and sit in the corner. He is typically the first to speak and is able to hold an audience—whether it’s a group of children or a tense community board.

Last week, Van Bramer produced ‘his’ own annual report card that stated how he had increased the number of schools in the district, upgraded neighborhood parks and funded several cleanup programs. It noted that his office dealt with 4,093 constituent cases in 2013, up from 1,521 in 2010.

On the front page of the report, it reads: “96% attendance record [in city hall] in 2013.” (Click for report card)

Van Bramer’s report card is a unique concept—since no other councilmember is known for producing one. But Van Bramer insists that he issues it for two reasons:  to let the public know what he is doing and to showcase his results.

“I don’t want people asking: ‘Who is he? What does he do?’” Van Bramer said. “When I ran for city council I pledged to be accessible, accountable and transparent. I said I would be visible and I would be all over the district.”

He claims that by going to meetings and events, people have got to know him. By doing so, they have felt comfortable bringing their concerns to his office and seeking help.

Van Bramer said his biggest achievement since being in office has been in bringing schools to the district.

“We have the first new school in 60 years coming to Woodside,” Van Bramer said, referring to PS 339 (57th Street/39th Avenue), which is scheduled to open in 2015. Furthermore, PS 11—located at 54-24 Skillman Ave– is getting an additional 350 seats through the creation of an annex.

Meanwhile, in Sunnyside, PS 313 (catering to 430 students) will be opening in September, and construction will begin this summer on a new $50 million, 600-seat building at IS 125.

In September, a new middle school opened in Long Island City, while a new building was added to PS 78.

Van Bramer’s report states that he has brought several upgrades to neighborhood parks. These include the resurfacing of Sunnyside’s Lou Lodati Park (including a new dog run) as well as improvements to Andrews Grove/Shady Park in Long Island City.

Meanwhile, work is expected to start this year on a $1.3 million revamp of Noonan Playground in Sunnyside and the creation of a dog run at Doughboy Park in Woodside.

Van Bramer claims he has tackled several quality-of-life issues.

The $30,000 graffiti cleanup program he introduced in 2010 continues–where streets such as Broadway, Skillman Ave, 43rd Ave., Roosevelt Ave., Woodside Ave. and 65th Place are cleaned monthly.

Meanwhile, a Woodside street cleaning program that was introduced in 2012 will continue in 2014. The program involves two workers spending three days per week cleaning Roosevelt (51st to 61st Streets) and Woodside Avenues.

A similar program was introduced in Hunters Point in 2013, where the streets around Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue are kept cleaned.

Van Bramer, however, has had difficulty in making headway with traffic safety issues.

“We have pushed very hard for traffic calming measures all over the district,” Van Bramer said. “One of the most frustrating things in my first term has been how long it takes DOT to approve anything.”

“We have been asking for years for traffic signage (such as a stop sign) at 51st Street and Skillman Ave.,” Van Bramer said. “The DOT then comes back and says it is not needed.”

He has been asking for signage around Center Blvd in Long Island City too—and faced similar resistance.

However, over the course of the past year, two slow zones were introduced (one in Sunnyside, the other in Woodside) and changes have been made to traffic flows at Thomson and Skillman Avenues, the location where a 16-year-old pedestrian was killed.

But Van Bramer did have his critics in 2013. Most, however, were ardent supporters of the 5 Pointz ‘graffiti’ building. The artists wanted Van Bramer to preserve the building and the artwork. Van Bramer, however, said the city could not take over the building and that it belonged to the owner.

As Van Bramer begins his second term in office, he said that there will be little change in how he operates.

“When I ran for office [4 years ago] I said that I would be a stay-at-home councilmember and that I would be visible and accessible…and none of that will change,” he said. “I will continue to build schools, ensure safer streets and invest in parks.”

However, this term Van Bramer is likely to put in charge of a highly-prized council committee, such as the finance committee. Van Bramer is particularly close to the current speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who he endorsed early for the speaker role and helped her get the votes need to get the top council job.

No matter the case, Van Bramer plans to stay in office for a while. “I think I will run for reelection in four years…this is the most meaningful job you could have.”

For report card, click here

email the author: [email protected]

23 Comments

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Senior Citizen

Yeah, all you naysayers. Never seen you at a community board meeting, or a United 40’s meeting, or any meeting. Ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community. And remember, every time you point a finger at someone, there are 3 pointing back to you.

Reply
Princess

It is a Constitutional Republic established by the founders. What it has become, is another matter.

Reply
Micky

Jimmy has been excellant but i am very worried about his support for Melissa Mark- Viverito, this woman is a radical who hates Charter Schools and along with our new Mayor are very much the 1% they claim to detest,very worried about the direction this regime are proposing to take the city in.

Reply
Rick Duro

Oh, gimme a break, all the naysayers…wah wah wah…

JVB has done a fantastic job and his record speaks for itself. He has helped to improve the quality of life for many in our ‘hood, parents, park users and pet owners alike. What has he spent discretionary funds on that are an issue? Improving a local park & adding a dog run? schools? etc etc. Dont see anything wrong with that. Not everyone is going to agree on how tax payer funds are spent, but when you look to see who benefited I think it’s the widest section of the community.

When you complain about $ being spent on a dog run understand something, WE, yes that’s WE took care of that park for a decade on a daily basis, when no one else was doing anything. The park was a disaster area. We were there every night from 9-10pm cleaning it up, so that our dogs could play safely. We earned the trust of the community (1000 signatures in favor of it) and deserved that dog run. It was approved by several city agencies (2006) before JVB (and before him Eric Gioia) could even think of applying funds toward it (as well as former Qns Boro Pres. Helen Marshall). Not one person, at any meeting we attended over the years, spoke out against it, it was voted on and approved unanimously. SUDS had funding back in 2007-8, but because they hadnt been allocated yet (takes 1 year), we lost them, as the city took the funding back @ its discretion due to the economic collapse. We more than paid our dues….

When you see the price tag on any park project you need to understand something, about 30% of any funding it gets goes toward “administration costs”. Parks Dept gets such a low % of the city budget that they have to rely on discretionary funds to help pay the bills.

The run in Doughboy is a piece of crap, go check it out, it needs to be fixed and will.

We live in a representative democracy, last I checked, not a direct democracy, for that see Ancient Athens and how well that worked out.

Go JVB Go!

Rick Duro
SUDS

Reply
Doglover

Nice guy but he spent more of our money on dogs and pigeons than on more important stuff. He asks us how he’s doing but doesn’t ask us what our budget priorities are. Discretionary funds are up to his discretion. He will not join the “participatory budgeting ” initiative that 8 other progressive council members have agreed to. E-mail him and see what his answer is.

Reply
i'm a fan, but....

Deborah Tharrington in Jimmy’s office is THE BEST! She is AMAZING and she ALWAYS gets back to me whenever I contact her. THANKS DEBORAH!

Reply
SunnysideGuy

If only more politicians would issue report cards.. Doubtless I am the only one of my friends who can name his district’s councilman

Reply
JOR

I am 180 degrees opposite from the direction of Mr. Van Bramer’s political views, but there is no question that he works very hard and diligently to advocate and get action for the residents of Sunnyside. Thank you for your service Mr. Van Bramer.

Reply
Greg @ 40th & Qns Blvd

He’s good at getting his face on NY1, but solving key local issues should be his #1 priority.

Reply
Jeremy Kareken

The man is LOCAL. He is PRESENT. That is nine tenth of the job. He’s representing us, not interests.

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Patricia Dorfman

unequivocally approve
we hit the jackpot with jimmy.
i do have one request. bring back bowtie fridays

Reply
Rob MacKay

We are lucky to have JVB. He’s smart, dedicated, honest and very good at the political aspect of it all.

As long as he’s out City Council member, traffic will never be intentionally created on the Queensboro Bridge.

Reply

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