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Meeks talks foreclosure, financial crisis in S. Ozone Park

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks speaks to constituents at a town hall meeting in South Ozone Park. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) showed the scope of his gift of gab during a South Ozone Park town hall meeting Saturday.

Meeks opined on the foreclosure crisis facing southeast Queens, the debate over fiscal responsibility in Washington and even culminated the meeting by making a plea for world peace.

The 13-year congressman also fielded questions from the audience of roughly 50, who gathered in the auditorium of JHS 226, at 121-10 Rockaway Blvd. He disarmed many testy constituents by adamantly agreeing with them.

“I agree with all that,” Meeks said in response to one woman who presented a list of problems she had with the borough and federal government.

Another man stabbed his cane on the floor and rose to denounce the amount of foreign aid the government was giving to countries that, in his words, “hate us.”

By the end of Meeks’ response, in which he repeatedly praised the man for serving in World War II, he has his interlocutor sitting and clapping along with the rest of the auditorium.

In response to one question, Meeks addressed a major problem plaguing southeast Queens.

“The worst thing that I’ve seen is families in my office crying because they are about to lose their house,” he said.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, a foreclosure crisis hit southeast Queens, which comprises a sizable chunk of Meeks’ district.

“Families are living in cars because their houses are being foreclosed on,” he said.

The congressman segued into the federal government’s bailout of major financial institutions in America, since the whole idea was to protect mortgages and pensions. The federal government loaned taxpayer money to the banks, but citizens ultimately paid more than that, Meeks said, by paying with a loss of capital.

“It’s not often talked about that the taxpayer didn’t get their money back,” he said. “[Banks] are not loaning money to anybody and that’s where we have to hold them accountable.”

His office has tried to discuss the situation with major national banks, he said, but has found many of them evasive when contacted by his staff, he said.

In other fiscal matters, Meeks held the Democratic Party line that both taxes and cuts to spending are needed to balance the budget.

“If you want to cut everything, you’re still going to be left with debt,” he said. “You have to meet us halfway and talk about revenues.”

But the partisan bickering that has typified this year’s Congress will have real effects if an agreement is not reached, he said.

Meeks spent a healthy portion of the meeting talking about a House super committee that is tasked with trimming money from the federal budget.

But, if that super committee does not reach an agreement by late November, it will trigger automatic cuts that will largely pare down the defense budget while keeping entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid intact.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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