By Tom Momberg
A recent debate gave eastern Queens residents a better understanding of where four candidates vying for a City Council seat in an off-year election this fall stand on some current city issues.
And because the debate took place at the North Shore Towers Co-op in Glen Oaks last Wednesday night, many of the debate questions focused on concerns facing older district residents.
The Council seat was vacated by Mark Weprin when he took an administrative position in the governor’s office earlier this year. Six candidates, three of whom were absent, are hoping for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 10 primary election.
Council hopefuls grappled with concerns over the Department of Transportation’s limited responses to community traffic needs, the redevelopment of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens Village, city policy surrounding for-hire car service Uber, taxes facing residents of co-ops and more.
Joe Concannon, a retired NYPD captain, U.S. Air Force veteran and public safety advocate who is running on Republican and Conservative party lines, is the only candidate not facing a primary election opponent.
Concannon joined in the conversation Wednesday night between three of the candidates with varying levels of experience bidding for the Democratic nomination: Former state Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik, who is currently on leave from his position as director of parks and community boards for the borough president; former state Assembly and City Council candidate, residential co-op leader and former columnist for the Bayside Times Bob Friedrich; and former Deputy Commissioner of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Office Rebecca Lynch.
The debate, organized in part by North Shore Towers Political Action Committee Chairwoman Felice Hannah, also asked which issues candidates viewed as most pressing to eastern Queens.
Concannon responded by criticizing city policy changes to social services and emergency services. He contended that the creation of a fund to help offenders pay bail and the Council’s passage of the 2014 Community Safety Act that allows individuals to sue the NYPD in state court over instances of bias and ultimately led to the end of “stop and frisk,” have had a negative impact on crime in the area.
Friedrich talked about several issues. He said for parents, maintaining the quality of the Council district’s schools — some of the best in the city — is most important, whereas Queens Village residents might be most concerned over the possible city placement of a juvenile detention center in their area.
But Friedrich said for people in the room, as residents of North Shore Towers, the biggest concern is “keeping co-ops affordable, keeping maintenance in check and making sure we don’t lose our abatement rebate that we are at risk for losing every year.”
Grodenchik said the most pressing issue for eastern Queens residents is the need for the city to allocate more resources for libraries, parks and schools in the area.
“My job will be to be an independent voice for you,” Grodenchik said. “It is critical we remember and remind the city that we are out here. We like our way of life out here, and we don’t want to change. We only want to change for the better.”
Lynch, who is also running on the Working Families Party line, said her priority if elected to the City Council would be to allocate resources to keep schools in eastern Queens some of the best-performing facilities in the city.
“One of my major concerns is that over the years, the city has allowed our schools … to become inundated with more students than they can handle,” Lynch said. “On day one as a City Council member, I would call up the School Construction Authority to come up with a real plan for building a new high school in our community.”
Aides for Ali Najmi, Celia Dosamantes and Satnam Parhar, the three South Asians running in the race, all said they had made other commitments prior to the scheduled debate.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb