By Anna Gustafson
Former City Councilman David Weprin, who is running against Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich in the special election for the state Assembly, said he would be able to hit the ground running in Albany since his years in city politics allowed him to form longstanding relationships with state leaders and prepared him to tackle New York’s significant financial woes.
“The fact that I’ve been in the Council for eight years and chaired the Finance Committee means I know the leadership and I think I could be more effective because of that,” said Weprin, who lost his bid for city comptroller in the Democratic primary last summer.
A Democrat elected to the 23rd Council District in 2001, Weprin is well-known in the state’s capitol, especially since his father, Saul Weprin, and brother, Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Hollis), previously held the seat representing the 24th Assembly District.
The district covers Bellerose, Bayside, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.
“My family history, I’m not running away from it,” Weprin said in response to criticism lodged by Friedrich for being part of a “political dynasty.”
“If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” said Weprin, who made an effort not to criticize Friedrich, a Democrat who is running on the Republican ticket.
Weprin, who was a reader for the legally blind Gov. David Paterson while they were at Hofstra University law school together, said he would hope to apply what he learned at the city level to address New York’s $7.4 billion budget deficit by investigating how much money the state spends on outside contracts.
“For example, the Department of Education in the city was spending $2.5 billion in outside contracts, a lot of which were no-bid contracts,” he said. “ I’m sure the state agencies have outside contracts as well.”
To improve the city’s finances, Weprin said he would like to see more state aid funneled from Albany.
“We’ve produced $11 billion to the state that they’ve not gotten back in services,” he said. “We should get additional aid, not less.”
The former councilman has also lambasted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposal to eliminate free and discounted MetroCards for students and cut bus lines in northeast Queens and said he hopes to reform the agency’s finances.
“The MTA has more six-figure salaries than any other agency,” he said. “There could be a lot of savings there.”
As Weprin speaks with possible future constituents, he said many are concerned with over-development — an issue which he said is mainly addressed by the city but which can be heavily influenced by state lawmakers.
“In my council district alone, we’ve done 10 downzonings which responded to the needs of the community,” Weprin said.
He said state lawmakers can also use their positions as a “bully pulpit” to advocate against plans to close 14 Queens libraries on the weekend.
In a city with a 10.6 percent unemployment rate, Weprin said it is crucial to create jobs and said he hopes to create incentives for people to go into fields where they need employees, such as nursing or biotech.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.