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Wills tours borough barber shops

City Councilman Ruben Wills (r.) jokingly shapes up the chin on state Sen. James Sanders in a Richmond Hill barber shop. Photo by Phil Corso
TimesLedger Newspapers

There are few places like the neighborhood barber shop, where regulars and visitors can be found sounding off about the issues of the day as they reshape their hairdos.

That is why City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) said he booked himself a tour of barbershops throughout his southeast Queens district, with the first of four meetings Saturday at Bacchus Hair Studio in Richmond Hill.

The councilman sat all ears just feet away from the barber’s chair. On their way out the door, customers snagged a seat and sounded off about what was buzzing through their community.

Jamaica resident Gavin Ramlall, 10, just finished having his hair trimmed when the councilman asked him to hash out his gripes.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” Wills asked.

Gavin said he wanted to see his nearby parks, including Baisley Pond Park, in better shape so he could have a clean and safe place to play after school.

The 10-year-old said he hopes to one day become a lawyer and liked being able to speak with an elected official face-to-face in a forum as laid back as his barbershop.

“It feels like you have someone on your side,” Ramlall said. “He helped me understand how government works.”

When it was his turn to speak, Gavin’s father, Vic Ramlall, asked the councilman how he could address his concerns with the police precincts in southern Queens, including the 102nd, when it comes to following up with police reports. Afterward Wills directed him toward the possibility of attending community council meetings, which Ramlall said he knew nothing about.

“You’re right. We need to do better making sure we advertise government meetings,” Wills said. “My office will look into arranging a newsletter or mass mailing to let people know.”

Throughout the two-hour listening period, Wills fielded questions and referred handfuls of residents to different government agencies and offices to have their concerns addressed, The councilman heard issues on topics, including overdevelopment, traffic patterns and stop-and-frisk.

State Sen. James Sanders (D-Jamaica) also made an appearance to throw his verbal support behind different proposals and suggestions, such as exploring ways to change bus traffic surrounding Resorts World in Jamaica.

Wills said he hoped to see his barbershop listening tour encourage constituents to realize that government works as a two-way street, whereas he is willing to listen as long as voters are willing to act.

“We don’t have to get along or agree,” Wills said. “We just have to agree enough to get the work done.”

The councilman will host three more listening tours this month, including April 20 at The Playaz Den of Jamaica from noon to 2 p.m., April 27 at Pro-Grez Barbershop in South Ozone Park from noon to 2 p.m. and the same day at Butter Cutters of Jamaica from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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