By Betsy Scheinbart
City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans), who is being forced out of office this year by term limits after 27 years in the Council, was honored by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce for his service to the southeast Queens community at the organization’s 82nd anniversary dinner last Thursday.
Spigner, who has been in the Council since 1974 and rose to the second-highest position in that body as deputy majority leader, also heads the powerful Guy R. Brewer Democratic Club in St. Albans.
Spigner represents Council District 27, which covers Hollis, Jamaica, Queens Village, St. Albans, Addisleigh Park, Rosedale and Cambria Heights.
Percy Sutton, a civil rights leader from Harlem and lawyer who represented Malcolm X in the 1960s, introduced Spigner to the crowd of about 200 in the penthouse ballroom of Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Sutton said he has known the councilman since the early 1960s and has always been awed by Spigner’s political leadership, especially in the Guy R. Brewer Democratic Club.
“His is the strongest political club in the city of New York,” Sutton said. “I go out each Election Day to be with his people, because I know they are the best and because of my great admiration for him.”
Sutton said Spigner is so well-liked “because he is a great leader, a hard worker and he attracts people.”
In his speech, Spigner emphasized that while he will not be a council member much longer, he will not be disappearing from the political landscape.
“I don't see myself as going away,” Spigner said. “I feel confident having Leroy Comrie succeed me, knowing that he will emphasize the same values I have.”
Comrie won the Democratic primary Sept. 25 in the race for Spigner’s seat. He faces three opponents in the general election Nov. 6, but the district traditionally votes Democratic.
“I know he will make all of us proud,” Spigner said of Comrie, who shied away from taking the microphone but waved to the crowd.
Spigner said he will retain his role as a Democratic district leader, running for re-election to that post next year, and continue to act as an adviser and mentor to Comrie, who has served as the councilman’s chief aide for more than a decade.
Spigner sees himself playing the role of a “civic gadfly” who will keep an eye on the environment, housing, health care, schools and other issues in southeast Queens.
“I want to do things I’m not required to do but free to do,” Spigner said, alluding to his numerous responsibilities in the Council over the past 27 years. “I enjoy civic work.”
Spigner will remain involved in the Guy R. Brewer Democratic Club and as a board member of the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and the United Black Men of Queens, all of which he said he will have more time for now that he is retiring from the City Council.
For fun, Spigner said he wants to take Spanish, piano, trumpet, singing and bridge lessons.
Spigner thanked the Jamaica Chamber for honoring him and praised its work in establishing a solid commercial base on Jamaica Avenue.
“If you walk Jamaica Avenue, you will see it is still vibrant,” Spigner said. “A lot of that success has to be attributed to Bob Richards and the board” of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.
Richards and Edward Morgan both serve as presidents of the chamber.
Spigner said the challenge for the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce is to keep the standards of business high on Jamaica Avenue, especially after the World Trade Center disaster’s economic blow to the city.
“Your role is needed now, more than ever,” Spigner told the chamber’s board members, who awarded Spigner with a plaque expressing the organization’s gratitude for the councilman’s commitment to the people of southeast Queens.
Explaining why the chamber chose to honor Spigner, Richards said the councilman was working to improve Jamaica at a time when everyone else was worried about the area going downhill.
“He was a stabilizing force,” Richards said of Spigner’s impact on Jamaica, “and Archie gets so little credit … we just hope that he doesn’t disappear.”
State Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), who was honored by the chamber last year, said he was very pleased that Spigner was recognized this year.
“I think people are beginning to realize how important he has been now that he is leaving,” Scarborough said.
Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by E-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.