By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilman-elect Mark Treyger’s top priorities all start with the letter S – Sandy, safety, seniors and schools.
Treyger, a high school civics teacher and Democratic Party activist who won a landslide victory over Republican-Conservative Andy Sullivan in the race for the 47th Council District (Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) on Nov. 5, discussed his vision for the office he will take in January in an interview with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Wednesday.
Treyger, who won his election with more than 70 percent of the vote, said his priorities upon taking office will be to help Superstorm Sandy victims, particularly those in storm-ravaged Coney Island, work closely with local police to ensure the City Council provides them with the resources they need to keep streets safe, advocate for additional resources to keep the district’s senior citizen centers open, and fight for changes in the city’s public school system.
Oh, and there’s a T in his priorities list. That’s T as in trash. Treyger vowed to keep up the fight on behalf of the Bensonhurst community to stop the city from building a trash processing plant in the neighborhood.
It all adds up to quite a wish list for a freshman lawmaker, but Treyger, 31, said he is up to the task.
“I’m grateful to the voters and I’m ready to get to work,” he told the Eagle.
On Election Day, Treyger won 71.2 percent of the vote and easily beat Sullivan, who had 26.8 percent, and a third party candidate, Pastor Connis Mobley, who trailed far behind with just 1.9 percent. It was Treyger’s first time running for public office after years of heading a Democratic Party club in Bensonhurst, where he worked closely with Assemblyman Bill Colton (Gravesend-Bensonhurst) on many issues. Treyger, a civics teacher at New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst, will leave his job in a few weeks to get ready for his first council term.
Treyger will succeed Domenic Recchia, the Democratic councilman currently representing the district. Recchia was unable to run for another term due to the city’s term limits law.
Treyger is hoping to keep his district office at the same location in Coney Island where Recchia has been working out of for several years. In addition, he said he would like to open a satellite office in Gravesend or Bensonhurst and periodically set up a help desk for a day in a senior citizen center or civic organization headquarters.
When asked about his priorities for his first term, Treyger didn’t hesitate to answer. “Sandy,” he said.
He vowed to concentrate on helping Coney Island residents still struggling to put their lives back together a year after the superstorm. “We are not fully back,” he said. “Our infrastructure has proven to be vulnerable from Coney Island all the way back to Cropsey Avenue in Bensonhurst,” he said. Residents are also dealing with mold infestation in their storm damaged homes. Sewers are still backed up and sinkholes are forming in some areas of the district, he said.
“I want to return a feeling of normalcy and safety to our community. This issue is very personal to me. Many of my students at New Utrecht are from Coney Island. They were displaced by Sandy,” he said.
Chief among his Sandy-related goals: funding. “It’s going to be my job to make sure the recovery money gets to where it needs to go. And that means money for building, recovery, and protecting against future storms. A lot of the district is on the shoreline,” Treyger said.
Looking ahead to taking his oath of office in January, Treyger said he would work to ensure public safety by consulting regularly with the local police precincts in his district (the 60th, 61st and 62nd precincts) “to make sure the NYPD has the resources it needs.” He is opposed to the time-honored practice the NYPD has of re-deploying officers from local precincts to cover other areas of the city, charging that such a policy leaves neighborhoods vulnerable. “It must stop,” he said.
The 47th Council District has a large population of senior citizens and Treyger said they have a friend in their new councilman. “We must keep our bond with our seniors,” he said, adding that he will fight to keep senior centers fully funded.
Education is another top priority. “As a teacher, I have a keen interest in our public schools,” he said. He would like to see the city move away from the Bloomberg Administration’s policy of stressing preparation for standardized tests in favor of a more balanced approach. “Some students are very bright but they’re not great test-takers. We should measure our students by more than just test scores. We should be helping kids develop their particular skills,” he said.
He recalled that when a cooking club was launched at New Utrecht, the response was overwhelming. “More than 60 students signed up for it. It gave some students a chance to find a new skill,” he said.
As a teacher, “I believe I will have credible voice on the council on the issue of education reform,” Treyger said.
The council-man elect said he would continue to work with Colton and others to try to stop the city from moving ahead with its controversial plan to build a marine transfer station, a type of trash processing plant, on Shore Parkway. The facility will increase truck traffic and pollution in the community, since sanitation trucks will be navigating local streets to get there, he said. “This plant will hurt many of the same people who were hurt by Sandy,” he said.
Treyger is grateful for the opportunity for the life he has had. “My parents came here from Ukraine in 1979. I was born three years later. I’m a first generation American. My parents always taught that if you work hard, you can get ahead. This is a great country,” he said.
His parents, Norman and Tatyana Treyger, are an inspiration to him, he said.
Treyger said he is also grateful for the love and support he has received from his wife Christine, a teacher. “My wife has been incredibly supportive. I have learned a lot from her. She helped me become a better teacher,” he said.