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Gillibrand talks unemployment in visit to Queens

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said a complete financial turnaround for the country’s economy will not be coming any time soon, but she is working to bring jobs that would help Queens residents and individuals facing a state unemployment rate of at least 8 percent.

“Recovery is going to be extremely slow,” Gillibrand told a meeting with reporters at The Georgia Diner in Elmhurst last Thursday. “We have to focus on job creation. I want to focus on growing industries.”

Sectors like green energy and biotechnology are fields that could bring a plethora of job opportunities to New York, Gillibrand said. These jobs, many of which students can study at SUNY schools, should help lower New York’s 8.2 percent unemployment rate, Gillibrand said.

While New York’s unemployment rate is lower than the nation’s 9.5 percent, Gillibrand noted the actual figures are likely higher because the federal statistics do not take into account individuals who have given up looking for work or those who are underemployed.

New York’s junior senator said the government needs to help boost small businesses in places like Queens and throughout the state because “the key to getting us out of the recession is small business growth.”

To help small businesses in Queens, Gillibrand said she hopes to secure federal funding for such infrastructure projects as sewers.

“At my first meeting in Queens, I learned one of the No. 1 priorities for people here was sewers, and that’s a No. 1 priority upstate, too,” Gillibrand said. “Sewers bring jobs and allow for more growth.”

Additionally, Gillibrand said she supported a $2,400 tax credit for employers who hire veterans returning from places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Democrat who Gov. David Paterson appointed to the Senate in 2009, Gillibrand is being challenged for her seat by three Republicans: David Malpass, president of Encima Global and a former chief economist at Bear Stearns; Bruce Blakeman, a former Nassau County legislator; and former U.S. Rep. Joe DioGuardi of Ossining in Westchester County.

The junior senator had faced the threat of a Democratic primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) for what Maloney characterized as Gillibrand’s pro-gun stance. Maloney, however, eventually opted not to run against the senator.

Two years after earning a top rating from the National Rifle Association, Gillibrand last week was endorsed for election by a prominent gun-control organization, The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The organization in its endorsement said she has become a leader in gun control laws.

She emphasized that while many of those in the city have been angered by upstaters who want to keep their right to have guns, individuals do not want “criminals to have guns, they just want to go hunting on the weekend.”

Besides Maloney vowing to run against her as soon as she was appointed, Gillibrand had a rocky start as senator. Rumors circulated that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gillibrand were consistently at odds with each other.

This, Gillibrand said, was more media speculation than anything else.

“We work well together,” she said. “The discordance was more perception than reality.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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