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Meeks worried about rough economy in 2009

Although U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) has a bleak outlook for the new year, he said New Yorkers will be able to get back on their feet with the help of well-crafted government policies.

In an interview with the TimesLedger Newspapers at his district office Dec. 23, the eight-term congressman reflected on how Americans will be faring in the next 12 months and conceded that the economic recession gripping the nation is so strong that it will not likely be over by next Christmas.

“When I think about the challenges we face in 2009, it’s daunting,” he said. “People are going to have to be patient.”

Meeks said he was particularly worried about how the subprime mortgage crisis will continue to ruin the lives of his constituents in the 6th Congressional District, which covers Jamaica, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens and Laurelton. Those neighborhoods have the highest number of foreclosures in the city due to the loans, according to recent statistics from the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project.

Nearly 6,000 homes in Queens were foreclosed in 2008, including 1,215 within the southeast Queens area, and that number is expected to grow in the new year, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan-based nonprofit said.

“There is a $8 billion debt in the city. It gives me a cause for concern,” Meeks said. Last week state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli warned that New York City could be facing an $8 billion budget gap in fiscal 2011as economic conditions deteriorate.

Despite the problems plaguing his district and the nation, Meeks said he did have some hope that the nation would weather the storm with the inauguration of  Barack Obama as the 44th president.

Meeks said Obama’s cabinet choices and his plans for tackling  the economic crisis have raised his expectations about the future and will reassure Americans come Jan. 20.

“All indications are that the people he has appointed are experts and I will rely on them to help my constituents,” the congressman said.

In addition to motivating the country, Meeks said the incoming president’s plans to fix the economy are excellent ideas. He said Obama’s proposed stimulus plan to create new jobs through national infrastructure projects and other government programs was a good start to financial recovery because it would help working-class Americans first.

Meeks said he would also push for policies that could benefit white-collar workers, since they are the new majority of unemployed in the city.

“The question is, ‘What do we do with the talent in the financial services area?’ ” he said “The jobs that are going to get created won’t be the same jobs that were lost on Wall Street.”

The congressman, who sits on the House Finance Committee, suggested that the United States urge foreign companies to move to America or set up regional offices here. Since America’s largest financial institutions, such as Citicorp, have been making cuts to staff and implementing hiring freezes, Meeks said he feared current and future business workers have no place to go anymore.

“We have to fight with London, Luxembourg and Japan. We have to bring [the companies] here,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

 

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