Comrie pushes for Smith’s seat to move city’s agenda in Albany

By Juan Soto

Leroy Comrie is back on the campaign trail. It did not take him long.

Months after completing his third term in the City Council and dropping out of the borough president race, he announced his intention to run against embattled state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis).

The former councilman and the senator came out of the same Democratic Party and had a close relationship, but Smith’s legal problems pushed Comrie to run.

“I introduced him to his wife,” said the Senate hopeful during a recent interview at the TimesLedger Newspapers offices.

“People in the community felt embarrassed by him [Smith] and they understand the need to have an effective state representative as critical,” the candidate said. “I am not happy about it, but it is something I resign myself to do.”

Smith faces a retrial on bribery federal charges for allegedly conspiring to pay his way onto the ballot as a Republican in the 2013 mayoral race.

He has maintained his innocence.

Comrie, special assistant to to Borough President Melinda Katz, referring to Smith’s federal charges, said “it is sad that this has had to happen.” He stepped down as deputy borough president after throwing his hat into the ring.

He faces Smith and Queens Village attorney Munir Avery on the Sep. 9 Democratic Primary election.

He said the incumbent has lost the credibility and respect he had in the state capital.

“He [Smith] can’t realistically repair the damage he has done in Albany with his colleagues,” said Comrie.

The former three-term councilman from southeast Queens has the backing of most elected officials from southeast Queens as well as from several labor unions, including 32BJ, the buildings service workers union. He was also endorsed by U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park). This week he added the endorsements, among others, of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1 and Tile, Marble & Terrazzo Local 7.

Comrie insisted that it is crucial for the district, which stretches from Laurelton and Queens Village to Jamaica and Forest Hills “to have someone in the seat” in light of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reluctance to call special elections. “We can’t afford to have an empty seat” in the next legislative session, which will be weighing on rent control and mayoral control of schools. .

The candidate said he is happy about running.

“The campaign is going very well, actually,” said Comrie, who headed the Queens delegation in the Council. “A lot of folks are happy to see me run because they appreciated my quality of service when I was at the City Council.”

The southeast Queens lawmaker said: “I want to be part of the major issues” occurring next year in Albany, including the mayoral control of schools.

“The mayoral control bill eliminated real parent involvement,” he said. “That has to be changed because it even eliminated school boards and the opportunity for the communities to participate.”

He said that as a city councilman he found out that “you are controlled by the state. You need to get state authority to have education reform, or issues about foreclosures.”

Comrie will also call for a law making the bank industry “more transparent” with the foreclosure process, which has hurt southeast Queens.

In addition, he promised, if elected, to force airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, to better monitor noise and air pollution in their surrounding communities when “planes are taking off and landing.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto‌@cngl‌ocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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