Candidates in 32nd Special Election Square Off
by Stephen Geffon
Feb 17, 2009 | 2236 views | 0 0 comments | 54 54 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Geraldine Chapey
A standing room-only crowd of 150 south Queens residents braved the frigid temperatures and howling winds to attend a candidate’s forum last Thursday to hear the remaining five candidates vying for the vacated 32nd City Council District seat in the February 24th special election.

The district includes the communities of Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, South Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Old Howard Beach, and the Rockaways.

The debate was held at St. Barnabus Church in Howard Beach and featured candidates Dr. Geraldine Chapey, Glenn DiResto, Mike Ricatto, Lew Simon, and Eric Ulrich.

The forum’s moderators dispensed with the candidates’ opening statements and platforms and just asked for a show of hands on key issues of community concern. All of the candidates were in favor of more police officers and firefighters and were against tolls on the Crossbay Bridge. They agreed that funding for senior citizen programs should not be cut. All were also in favor of mayoral control of education with some changes, as well as improving transportation in the district.

Democratic District Leader Lew Simon renewed his call for reactivation of the Rockaway Beach line of the Long Island Rail Road.

According to Simon, if the line were reopened, it would save south Queens residents a tremendous amount of time. He noted that a ride from Howard Beach to Penn Station would take 20 minutes – a big improvement from the typical hour-and-a-half it takes commuters riding the A train.

Donna Gilmartin, president of the Locust Grove Civic Association, asked what the candidates would do about the parking problem in her area, where federal TSA employees park their cars all day, taking spaces away from community residents. Only Ulrich and Simon were aware of the problem.

With roughly 80,000 residents of the district living within Community Board 10 (half the population of the district), board chairwoman Betty Braton asked the candidates if they had had a discussion during the last year with her or board district manager Karyn Petersen regarding any issue of concern to the community. Of the candidates, only Ulrich indicated that he had talked to Braton.

Andrew Bauman asked the candidates, if elected, what they would do about the day-worker situation on Liberty Avenue. Only Eric Ulrich addressed the question, commenting that he thought that there should be one specific location where the day workers should meet. He also stated that these people are not looking for handouts, they are looking for jobs.

David Quintana pointed out to the Leader/Observer that the candidates in discussing problems with Shell Bank Basin in Old Howard Beach said the basin was federal property and the federal government had the responsibility. However, Quintana noted that the basin, until it gets to the bay, is actually owned by New York City.

Simon asked Chapey who the employees of Trinity Senior Services – a non-profit community transportation company for the elderly in south Queens started by Chapey in 1994 – were and why she uses the company offices as her Democratic Club offices. Chapey did not answer Simon’s question. According to media reports, Trinity has received $1.5 million in government grants.

In an interview after the debate, Mike Ricatto’s communications director James McClelland said that Ricatto wants to bring his knowledge as a businessman to the City Council to find areas where waste and spending could be cut and not impact any of the city’s core vital services. McClelland said that Ricatto would like to lower the city’s property tax and sales tax and save jobs.

“What we really need to do is address the current economic crises that’s facing this city,” said McClelland, adding, “we need to make the city operate more efficiently.”

Simon in an after-debate interview that, if elected, he would open a full-time office in the Howard Beach-Ozone Park community. He said that he would work closely with civic and community leaders on issues to solve them. He also pledged to work 24/7 as well as to be reachable 24/7 for his constituents.

With the city looking for revenue to close its budget deficit, Simon proposed a new lottery he called “Borough Bucks.” Under this lottery, each borough would have its own scratch-off lotto with the money put into a pot to be used for each borough.

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