Candidates seeking elected office in Albany and Washington this November made their case to Bayside residents at the Bayside Historical Society’s Fort Totten headquarters on Friday night.
The forum, hosted by the historical society, played host to state legislative and Congressional candidates, and even two minor party challengers to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and his Republican opponent, Wendy Long.
STATE SENATE: AVELLA VS. CIPOLLA
Both incumbent Democratic state Senator Tony Avella and his Republican opponent Mark Cipolla attended the forum. Avella, who is running for a fourth term in the state legislature’s upper house, didn’t give a speech, but took questions on overdevelopment, airplane noise and city infrastructure projects.
“It’s very hard for the state to inject itself into city agencies,” Avella said.
He said that he believed the Department of Design and Construction often did a better job managing infrastructure projects than other agencies, such as the Parks Department.
He spoke about his push to allow the creation of “architectural districts” in New York City, similar to what exists in Nassau and Suffolk counties, aimed at protecting the character of neighborhoods like Broadway-Flushing, which has repeatedly been denied “historical district” status as an effort to stop overdevelopment.
“Zoning is just part of the problem,” he said. “We need better protection.”
He said one Republican state senator from New York City — he didn’t name who — has been holding up the bill, but he has been lobbying civic groups and constituents in his district to pressure him into dropping his opposition.
Avella also blamed members from southeast Queens for the statement at the airport noise roundtable. He explained that in his view, the southeast Queens members have been focusing the roundtable discussions entirely on issues dealing with JFK Airport and not LaGuardia. The air traffic over northeast Queens typically departs from LaGuardia. Avella further called for unity.
“Together, we have a powerful voice to get the Port Authority to do what we want,” he said.
Cipolla focused on mainly quality-of-life issues. He noted that crime in the 111th Precinct, which covers a big chunk of the Senate district, has been on the rise.
“The stats don’t lie,” he said. “I don’t want to see the city slide backwards.”
Cipolla, a former prosecutor, explained that he had a professor at St. John’s University School of Law in the early 1990s who said that the city was “ungovernable.” Cipolla said in the wake of the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, he no longer believes that.
Though he said he didn’t consider running for office before, Cipolla called corruption in Albany “a disgrace” and said it was one of the major reasons for this candidacy.
“The leaders of both houses, one from each party, have been sent to prison in the past few years,” he said. “That is an absolute disgrace. You are more likely to get indicted than lose an election.”
Cipolla, who was endorsed by the man Avella defeated in 2010, former state Senator Frank Padavan, said he was a proponent of “education choice” and was against creating a public financing system like the one that exists in New York City.
“You are financing a campaign with taxpayer dollars,” he said. “I’m against that.”
CONGRESS: SUOZZI VS. SURROGATE
The two candidates running for the 3rd Congressional District seat, which though mostly in Nassau and Suffolk counties, including the Queens neighborhoods of Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Douglaston, Little Neck, Glen Oaks and Bellerose, were represented at the meeting.
Democratic candidate Tom Suozzi, the former Nassau County Executive and mayor of Glen Cove, has billed himself the “Queens candidate” and vowed to open a district office in the borough if he wins in November.
Promoting himself as a reformer and not a partisan politician, Suozzi noted that he campaigned against both Republican and Democratic incumbents in state legislative races during his time as county executive, part of his “Fix Albany” campaign.
“If you want to change the status quo, you have to accept that somebody benefits from the status quo,” he explained, encouraging people to vote, even if they are disillusioned. “People are spending billions to get you to be sick of everyone.”
Suozzi said one of his biggest goals in Congress would be to bring more equity in distribution of federal funds to the state, which New York gets shortchanged on, he says.
“We send more money to Washington than we get back,” he said. “That needs to change.”
Republican candidate state Sen. Jack Martins was represented by former Congressman Bob Turner, the Queens Republican Party chairman.
“I’ve gotten to know Jack, and he’s a good friend and a good guy,” Turner said.
The former congressman, who represented southern and central Queens in 2011 and 2012, said Martins would fight for an agenda that would encourage private industry to invest in public needs, including infrastructure, and would seek to make the tax structure more simple and fight for less regulation.
Turner called the Dodd-Frank banking regulation bill passed in 2010 a “monstrosity of complexity” and said Martins would seek to lower taxes for small business and families.
“He has the commons sense, the know-how and the maturity to do what needs to be done,” Turner said.