Scarborough joins race for boro prez

By Bryan Schwartzman

State Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-St. Albans) said he plans to run for borough president in 2001 when term limits force Claire Shulman to step down.

Scarborough announced at a fund-raiser last Thursday that he has formed an exploratory committee. He joins a host of Democratic candidates vying for the open seat.

“I have a real upclose insight into the problems Queens faces,” he said.

Scarborough, who was elected to the Assembly in 1994, said as borough president he would focus on the relationship of Kennedy and LaGuardia airports with surrounding communities and building up commercial areas of the borough.

Unlike some of his opponents, Scarborough is not being forced out of office because of term limits. He said serving as borough president is the best way to help Queens' communities.

“Under the old system of the Board of Estimates, the borough president was more powerful,” Scarborough said. “But the position still has a powerful influence.”

Prior to 1989, a six-member board consisting of the mayor and the five borough presidents decided city land use issues. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared the system unconstitutional and it was abolished by the 1989 city charter.

Scarborough grew up in Jamaica and attended Andrew Jackson High School and Queens College. Prior to his election in 1994, he served as Community Board 12 district manager and as a member of School Board 28.

He joins a list of potential Democratic candidates that includes former Board of Education President Carol Gresser, City Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst), City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis), Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill.)

If either Scarborough or Marshall win, they would be the first black person elected to the borough president's office in Queens.

Gresser and Seminerio each said in telephone interviews they welcomed Scarborough to the race and considered him an effective legislator.

Gresser, a Douglaston resident, said while she has not yet formally declared, she has filed the appropriate papers that allow her to raise funds for the race. She said because the seat will be open and the race is so far off it makes sense for there to be a large pool of candidates eying the position.

But she said as the race draws nearer the list of candidates will become smaller.

“This is going to be uncharted territory,” Gresser said, meaning whoever wins will govern with a new mayor, a mostly new City Council, and four out of five new borough presidents.

A fund-raiser luncheon for Gresser was scheduled for Sunday at Baraka Restaurant in Little Neck from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Seminerio, who was contacted in his Albany office, said he considers himself the clear front-runner for the race.

“I have more experience and more visibility than anyone else,” he said.

Seminerio said his close friendship with City Comptroller Alan Hevesi would be a tremendous asset. He predicted Hevesi would win the 2001 mayoral election.

“I'm not sure everyone that recognizes Seminerio will necessarily be voting for him,” said Leffler, referring to Seminerio's statement that he was the front-runner.

Leffler said he believes many of the candidates will drop out of the race when the Queens County Democratic Party decides who it will support.

“I am the reform candidate, I am the most professional,” said Leffler.

Marshall and Koslowitz could not be reached for comment.

Two Republican councilmen, Mike Abel (R-Bayside) and Al Stabile (R-Ozone Park), also have said they would seek the borough presidency.

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