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Photo via elizabethcrowley.com
Photo via elizabethcrowley.com
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley will vacate her seat at the beginning of the new year.

Many New Yorkers have time off from work during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but inside Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s office overlooking the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, the staff was busy closing down for good.

After Crowley’s nine years of service for the 30th Council District, she lost the 2017 election by the narrowest of margins. Her successor, Councilman-elect Robert Holden, won by just 137 votes, the end of a bitter and grueling campaign.

Looking back, however, Crowley said there’s nothing she would have done differently.

“I’m proud of the race I ran, I’m proud of the work I did as a Council member, and I ran with those accomplishments,” Crowley told QNS. “When you look at the district, you never know what’s going to happen in the November election. It wasn’t surprising, but it was disappointing.”

Crowley’s term was historic for her presence, if not her achievements. When she was elected in 2008, Crowley was the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected to represent District 30. She championed education, transportation and criminal justice reform, and as Fire and Criminal Justice Committee chairperson, worked to effect change not only in the district but also across the city.

Within District 30, Crowley said she is most proud of her work for the local schools. Overcrowding was a big problem in the school district when Crowley took office, and when all the construction projects that she started are complete she will have added nearly 6,000 seats, she said.

Crowley was also able to allocate $2.2 million in capital funding to 21 local schools through her “You Decide: Education Engagement Budgeting” program. This gave each school $100,000 and the ability to vote on how it should be spent at the school. Some examples of how the funding was used include gym upgrades, laptop and smart board purchases and playground equipment.

Her proudest achievement, however, was fighting former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to close firehouses amid budget cuts during and after the Great Recession.

“I just thought that was the wrong area to take from,” Crowley said, and one of her first actions as a member of the Council was to help save 20 firehouses that were on the chopping block.

Much of Crowley’s success depended on her ability to collaborate with other members of the Council and other branches of city government. She said she’s always been “independent of” the mayor, but current Mayor Bill de Blasio played a role in preserving those firehouses and supported Crowley’s efforts to expand law enforcement.

When asked about how she thinks Holden will be able to coexist with de Blasio, Crowley expressed hope that the two would make it work.

“Being an elected official, regardless of whatever party you belong to, you need to be able to work with others to build consensus and to be a leader,” Crowley said. “I do very much hope that my successor will rise to the occasion and move the district forward.”

As Crowley moves on, she plans to remain engaged with causes that she’s passionate about. The first thing on her mind is the “21 in 21 Initiative,” a nonprofit that she launched in partnership with outgoing Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The goal of “21 in 21” is to increase the number of elected women in City Council to 21 by the year 2021. There are a total of 51 seats in the Council, and after Crowley and Mark-Viverito leave there will be just 11 women on the Council.

“It will be a better city, a fairer city, more just, if we have gender balance in the Council,” Crowley said.

She also plans to continue working on her proposed QNS Rail project as a solution to the transportation desert in Queens. The plan calls for the addition of commuter service to the Lower Montauk branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which runs from Jamaica through Maspeth and over to Long Island City. The results of an AECOM study to measure the effectiveness of the proposed rail system will be released soon, Crowley said.

As for another political campaign, Crowley said she won’t think about that for a while.

“It has been a privilege to serve as a Council member,” Crowley said. “I’m not going to rule it out, to run for office in the future, but I’m certainly not planning on running for anything now. I’m exhaling a little bit.”

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