Clifton Stanley Diaz has spent years managing the ins and outs of one of southeast Queens’ biggest co-op communities, and he said his experience would give him an edge in City Hall.
Diaz, 62, is one of three candidates who will be challenging City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) in next month’s Democratic primary in the special election for the 28th Council District seat.
The U.S. Air Force veteran and customer service worker for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said better leadership was needed to tackle the biggest problems in the district, which includes the neighborhoods of Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale and South Ozone Park.
“We need a clean politician representing out community,” said Diaz, chairman of the board of directors at Rochdale Village.
Diaz, who originally hails from the Bronx but has lived in southeast Queens since the 1960s, said the biggest issue in the neighborhood is the lack of jobs. He blamed City Hall for not putting enough time, money and resources into training programs for youth and as a result hundreds of residents are unemployed and hopeless.
He noted that the long lines outside the Social Security office in downtown Jamaica looked like something out of the Great Depression.
“You can create programs, but there is too much waste, fraud and ?mismanagement,” said the candidate, who has three children.
Diaz said he also has concerns about the rise in crime in southeast Queens. Although he said there is some hostility between officers and residents in the neighborhood, Diaz said the first key to turning things around is an improvement in relations between the police precincts and civilians.
The candidate, who served? in the Air Force police force, said he has worked with the 103rd Precinct in the past and used to be part of the city’s anti-drug task force in the late ’80s.
“You have to have a real commitment to get things done,” Diaz said.
The challenger said he wants the city to take a stronger role in curbing the foreclosure crisis in southeast Queens. Neighborhoods such as Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans lead the state in the number of foreclosures and the problem is not subsiding, according to Diaz.
He said he would propose new legislation that would require the banks to give homeowners more time to work out a solution. Many of the homeowners got into financial straits because of unscrupulous lending practices and they deserve a second chance, according to Diaz.
“We need to do something to help [homeowners],” he said.
Although Diaz has not held public office, he said he has worked to help residents during his years on the Rochdale board and the Rochdale Village Civic Association and that knowledge of the community’s needs would guide him in office.
“Here at Rochdale, I’m known for being with the people,” he said.