Council candidates to meet at forums

By Phil Corso

The six candidates hoping to replace embattled City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) will face off in two political forums this month as the September Democratic primary approaches.

The MinKwon Center for Community Action announced the next forum for Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. at Flushing’s Temple Beth Sholom, at 171-39 Northern Blvd., and the Bay Terrace Community Alliance planned a second one for Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center, at 13-00 209th St.

It will be the second time that voters hear from all five Democrats at a forum, including state Assemblyman John Duane, Flushing activist and urban planning consultant Paul Graziano, former spokesman for the state’s Empire State Development agency Austin Shafran, party-backed Flushing attorney Paul Vallone and former Halloran Chief of Staff Chrissy Voskerichian, of Auburndale.

The group fielded voter questions at a June meeting in Auburndale, mostly centering on quality-of-life issues in the residential district. All five will meet in a Sept. 10 primary to determine who will get the Democratic line on the ticket in the Nov. 5 general election.

Republican-backed Dennis Saffran was also confirmed as attending both forums in what will be his first time sitting down with his opponents in public.

The winner of the November election will go on to replace Halloran, who was indicted on charges accusing him of using bribery and corruption to inject state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) into the mayoral race on the GOP line. Halloran announced he would not be seeking re-election soon after his party chose to back Saffran for the seat.

Bay Terrace Community Alliance President Warren Schreiber said there will be contenders in other hot city races at the Aug. 27 forum as well for mayor, comptroller and public advocate. Not all candidates for those races were approved by press time, but Schreiber noted many confirmations come in the days prior to the event.

“This is one of our most heavily attended events,” Schreiber said. “We are looking forward to letting the voters get to know more about the candidates.”

The 19th Council District includes the neighborhoods of Little Neck, Bayside, Douglaston, North Flushing, Whitestone, Auburndale and College Point.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.