By Steve Mosco
On the eve of his 88th birthday and one day after being released from the hospital for a respiratory infection, former Mayor Ed Koch placed his political potency behind borough presidential candidate Melinda Katz, endorsing her in a race with a crowded Democratic field.
“I am supporting Melinda Katz for Queens borough president,” Koch said in a statement. “She is the one candidate in the race that raises the level of conversation about balancing economic development with the community in Queens.”
Katz, 47, a former assemblywoman from 1993-98 and city councilwoman from 2001-09 representing areas including Rego Park and Forest Hills, had Koch’s endorsement in her run for city comptroller three years ago. She also ran for Congress in 1998, finishing a close second to former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner.
The first candidate to officially kick off a campaign in the race for Borough Hall, Katz is one of several Democrats vying for the Queens seat. The field includes state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans).
She cited education and affordable housing as primary issues she believes would be her priorities if she makes it to the borough president’s office, which Helen Marshall will vacate next year due to term limits.
“People are being priced out of the places they want to be,” said Katz, noting she was chairwoman of the powerful Land Use Committee during her time in the Council. “And schools are clearly a huge issue for parents. Folks in my neighborhood alone tell me that picking the right school is always a challenge. Making sure we have quality schools in every single borough is an important aspect of the job.”
Koch made the announcement prior to his birthday party at Gracie Mansion last Wednesday and said he was swayed to endorse Katz after examining her Council record and, in particular, her work as chairwoman of the Council Land Use Committee.
“As chair of the City Council’s Land Use Committee, she achieved that balance citywide,” he said. “It is why I supported her for city comptroller in 2009 and why I am supporting her now for Queens borough president in 2013.”
It is still undecided when a primary election will be held, according to the city Board of Elections.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.