By Tom Momberg
Democratic candidate Barry Grodenchik is continuing on the campaign trail in the race for the open state City Council seat in eastern Queens after securing the Democratic nomination in a higly competitive six-way primary in September .
The former state assemblyman said he and his team are still doing their footwork across the diverse District 23 that covers Glen Oaks, Bayside Hills, Fresh Meadows and Queens Village, among other neighborhoods.
Unlike the contest in the primary election, which he said got personal among the candidates, Grodenchik said he is proud that he and his GOP opponent are sticking to the issues.
And in going door-to-door and meeting his neighbors and potential constituents, Grodenchik said it appears to him that people will listen to what the candidates have to say on the issues and cast their votes based on quality-of-life concerns.
“We are fortunate enough to live in some of the most beautiful communities in the city of New York,” Grodenchik said. “And everywhere I’ve knocked, which is everywhere, everybody loves their neighborhood and wants to be there … you know, everything’s different in whatever can be on people’s mind at a given time, but there isn’t really a pattern of problems that I have seen.”
Although district residents have an array of quality-of-life concerns, Grodenchik said many of them are rooted in larger city problems, both in policies and in allocation of services.
In his experience working in administrative positions under both Borough President Melinda Katz and former Borough President Claire Shulman, Grodenchik said some of the greatest needs for eastern Queens could not be more apparent: better mass transportation, improvements in general maintenance for parks, and relief for overcrowded schools.
One of the districts most underserved by public transportation in the borough, District 23 does not have a single subway or Long Island Rail Road station.
Grodenchik said there are feasible solutions, such as restoring LIRR service to Belmont Park and allowing parking at the station. He pledged to advocate on behalf of the district to give residents more commuting options.
As for parks projects, Grodenchik said the city contracting process for projects like playground upgrades or facility renovations needs to be reformed.
“I’ve spoken to some of the Council members about this already,” he said. “You are able to fund programs locally or request funds from the mayor or City Council capital funds. So you get the funding, but then the projects seemingly take forever. And that’s not good.”
School District 26 has some of the best performing schools in the city, but Grodenchik said that success could be threatened by an increasing overcrowding problem. He said in some schools, like Martin Van Buren High School, the success of its programs creates overcrowding by attracting too many students from out of their zoned school districts, which might bring about the need for redistricting reform.
“I think it’s a good opportunity that people can go to different schools, but I think in the case of Martin Van Buren, maybe it’s been overdone,” Grodenchik said.
The Queens Village resident and Council candidate said there is no magic wand in government. He said in his work in government he has realized that everything takes a lot of work, that only by listening and being persistent about the needs for eastern Queens, he will get the district’s fair share of services and make sure its interests are represented in Mangattan.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb