By Courtney Dentch
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) may face a familiar opponent at the Democratic primary election in September.
Helen Cooper-Gregory, who came within 177 votes of winning the Democratic Party ticket in the 2001 election when she ran against Comrie, launched her campaign for the council seat at a fund-raiser Saturday morning.
Cooper-Gregory, a lawyer and St. Albans resident, is hoping a less crowded race will allow the candidates to look at the issues facing the 27th Council District, she said.
The southeast Queens district covers St. Albans and stretches from part of Queens Village into Springfield Gardens. Under redistricting proposals that would shift the boundaries to accommodate population changes, the district would also include part of downtown Jamaica.
Cooper-Gregory and Comrie were among six Democrats vying for the party nod in the 2001 primary. Comrie, who won the primary with 29 percent, just one percentage point more than Cooper-Gregory, replaced Archie Spigner, who had been forced out of office by term limits.
The crowded race two years ago left little time to discuss topics such as education, zoning and water quality concerns, Cooper-Gregory said.
“We never got to the issues last time,” she said. “There were a lot of people in that race. This time we'll be able to look at the things that are going on in the community.”
Cooper-Gregory pointed to the 18.5 percent property tax hike passed by the City Council in November, an abundance of waste transfer stations in the area and the quality of water coming from the old Jamaica Water Supply wells as top concerns in the community, she said.
“People are still upset about services in the community,” Cooper-Gregory said. “It doesn't seem like any of these things have been resolved.”
Aside from the full slate of candidates who ran in 2001, the primary was also postponed when the World Trade Center was attacked just a few hours after the polls opened. The terrorist assault may have affected the results of the vote when the ballots were finally cast Sept. 25, Cooper-Gregory said.
“It threw off the momentum,” she said. “It was a lot of little things. And a lot of people still weren't ready to go to the polls when the vote was rescheduled.”
Cooper-Gregory, 49, has law offices in Jamaica and St. Albans, and she is a past president of the Macon B. Allen Black Bar Association in Queens and treasurer of the Queens Women's Network. She grew up and lived in Jamaica before moving to St. Albans five years ago, she said.
Comrie, who has taken on the mantles of majority whip, Queens Council delegation chairman and head of the Rules, Privileges and Elections Committee, will probably prove to be a powerful adversary for Cooper-Gregory.
“We've been able to maintain programs for the district in the face of severe budget cuts,” Comrie said, referring to senior citizen programs and the summer youth employment program. “I think that we've really been able to change the focus in the community.”
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.