Town Hall breakfast on Staten Island’s North Shore focuses on helping the needy

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With economic hardships hitting many communities, First Central Baptist Church in Stapleton hosted a Town Hall legislative breakfast this morning to discuss ways to aid the borough’s neediest.

“This is a wonderful coalition of grassroots organizations,” said the Rev. Demetrius Carolina, First Central Baptist’s pastor, addressing a crowd inside the Central Family Life Center, located down the block from the church. “The focus here is team building, community building and collaboration.”

Attending were Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-North Shore), state Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn), Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn), and North Shore City Council candidates Debi Rose and the Rev. Tony Baker. Also present was John Tabacco, who is trying to be reinstated on the Council ballot.

They were joined by community leaders, local pastors and representatives from numerous civic groups.

“Some would say ‘Woe is me,’ but in tough times we still have to build for a better future,” said city Comptroller William C. Thompson, the keynote speaker.

Thompson noted that with the prospect of hope promised by President Barack Obama’s new administration, there are also tough realities to be faced.

“It is the best of times in so many way, but it is also on its way to, perhaps, being the worst of times,” he said, paraphrasing Charles Dickens’ literary classic, “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Thompson noted how the nation lost 600,000 jobs in January, while the city lost 60,000 jobs during October, November and December.

Thompson took Wall Street to task for its greed and excess, and highlighted the foreclosure crisis — Staten Island being the highest in the city.

Thompson encouraged using monies within the $787 billion economic stimulus plan to fund affordable housing, implored people to live within their means when using credit cards, and stressed the need to focus on job training skills for young people.

“Now is the time,” he said repeatedly, emphasizing the overarching theme of his talk.

Thompson recounted the city’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s, the stock market crash of 1987, the dot-com bubble burst of the late 90s and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Each time we’ve come back so much better than ever before,” he said, to standing ovation. “It is tough times. But in these tough times, there is opportunity, but only if we work together.”

Following the breakfast, the church hosted the “Fourth Annual State of Black America” forum, featuring Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn).

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