Harrison may run against Liu for council

By Alexander Dworkowitz

Feeling the call of higher office, longtime Flushing politician Julia Harrison is considering doing battle with Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) to reclaim her old seat.

Harrison, 82, plans to make a decision on whether to run after her political club, the Democratic Club of Flushing, celebrates its 25th Anniversary on April 12.

“What I've been saying is that the door is open,” she said. “I haven't made any conclusions … I want to give it serious thought before I jump into the water.”

Harrison and Liu have been political rivals for several years. In 1997, Harrison defeated Liu to keep her seat, which she had held since 1986.

In 2001, term limits forced Harrison out of office. While the Queens Democratic Party backed Liu to replace the councilwoman, Harrison, who has been loudly critical of Liu, supported almost every candidate but him. She contributed to the campaigns of fellow Democrats Martha Flores Vazquez, Richard Jannaccio and Terence Park, threw her support behind Ethel Chen in the Democratic primary, and backed Republican Ryan Walsh in the general election.

Liu said he was looking forward to the possibility of running against Harrison.

“To me, it's not personal,” he said. “It's an opportunity I relish to have, to be able to compare our records, my 16-month record against her 16-year record.”

Last year Harrison challenged state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), losing the race handily.

Harrison, however, did hold onto her district leader position in last year's election, and two other members of her club also won district leader spots. She has since become president of the Holly Civic Association.

In the past, Harrison has been accused of bias against the district's large Asian population. In 1996, she was quoted in the New York Times as describing the influx of Asian immigrants into Flushing as an “invasion.” Harrison, however, has said she was misquoted. She has since become politically allied with Chen, a former critic of hers.

Harrison said she thought the current city council members lack years of front-row roles in politics.

“I have the experience that nobody else on the whole City Council has,” she said.

Harrison recently has been an outspoken critic of the city's decision to hire Cooper Carrey, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, to design a plan to link downtown Flushing and Willets Point.

In public hearings on the project, Harrison pointed to a 1993 plan drafted under her administration.

“I don't think they know what they are doing,” she said. “I don't think they understand the wheel has already been invented.”

Harrison said if she decided to run, a main focus of her campaign would be the need for more affordable housing in Flushing. She said the area's homeless population needed a place to live.

“Having been poor myself, and having lived in the cellar as a janitor's daughter, it could have happened to me,” she said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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