Beep candidate Marshall plans for boro’s future

By Betsy Scheinbart

With six weeks remaining before she faces City Councilman Al Stabile (R-Ozone Park) in the general election for borough president, Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst) is planning how she can help Queens residents recover from the World Trade Center disaster.

After defeating City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) and former Board of Education President Carol Gresser in the Democratic primary Sept. 25, Marshall — the first black candidate to run for a boroughwide office — is working with Borough President Claire Shulman on future plans for Queens.

Marshall said all five boroughs should remain involved in the rescue and recovery from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in which many Queens residents lost their lives.

“The mayor is calling all boroughs to help,” Marshall said in a press briefing late last week. “We are sharing our resources, our police, firefighters, ambulances.”

Queens’ uniformed officers shared in the casualties, especially one Maspeth firehouse, which lost 19 members, Marshall said.

While working to help Queens recover from the World Trade Center disaster and meeting with Shulman on plans for the transition if she wins, Marshall also remains dedicated to her council district, which covers Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and LaGuardia Airport.

She is focusing her efforts on improving security at LaGuardia in the aftermath of the attacks and was planning to contact Queens District Attorney Richard Brown on that issue.

“I am going to talk to him to make sure we are doing everything we can do to ensure the safety of our airports,” Marshall said.

She said she is also concerned about the loss of jobs at Queens’ two airports, a mainstay of the borough’s economy, which were closed down for several days after the attack.

Passenger traffic has declined sharply since the Sept. 11 assault and most airlines have cut back their flights.

“We depended upon a lot of revenue from the World Trade Center,” Marshall said, referring to the tax on the recent sale of the Twin Towers, “like affordable housing funds. Now it’s in jeopardy — it’s gone.”

Creating more affordable housing in the borough is one of the councilwoman’s major priorities.

“This is the residential borough,” Marshall said. “We have people from all over the world, but we don’t have enough housing or schools. We need new immigrant impact numbers and we need to get some outside help.”

Marshall, the daughter of Guyanese immigrants, grew up in the Bronx and moved to Queens as a young adult. She spent nine years in the state Assembly and is completing her 10th year in the City Council.

Preliminary results from the Democratic primary for borough president from the Associated Press showed Marshall winning 52 percent of the vote in Queens, with Gresser capturing 31 percent and Leffler 7 percent.

“Queens is an amazing place and I am really so happy for winning this race,” Marshall said of the primary.

With Democrats outnumbering Republicans 4-to-1 in Queens, Stabile will have to take Democratic votes from Marshall to win.

“I am taking him very, very, seriously and I hope I win,” Marshall said, “but Queens is a Democratic borough, and considering I got such a large percentage in the primary, I think it will hold.”

She had the support of the Queens Democratic Party, whose workers came out in full force for her campaign.

Leffler, a Queens native who has served in the Council since 1978, said the Democratic endorsement “was the whole game.”

“It was the county organization that made the entire difference,” Leffler said. “The candidates who they supported got a tremendous amount of assistance.”

Gresser said she thought the World Trade Center disaster affected her bid since voters were more focused on the terrorist attack than the election. She stressed that losing the Sept. 25 primary was minor in comparison to the thousands of lives lost in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Both Gresser and Leffler called Marshall the day after the primary to congratulate her, but neither one has made a formal endorsement of Marshall in her race against Stabile.

Stabile, who said he has “been through hell” in the past two months while being investigated by the Queens district attorney for allegedly misusing Ozone Park Little League funds, is “feeling very confident” about the general election.

Stabile denied misusing any funds, saying he was the victim of a smear campaign after he failed to support a specific candidate in the city council race to succeed him.

He said he has a strong base of support in Hispanic, Guyanese, and some black communities in his run for borough president, but he needs support from almost every region of Queens to win.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.