Concannon and Grodenchik square off

By Tom Momberg

Three candidates will face off Tuesday in the city’s off-year elections to fill a vacancy left by Mark Weprin in the City Council’s 23rd District.

The eastern Queens district runs from Bayside Hills and Queens Village east to the Nassau County line.

Only two candidates—Republican Joe Concannon and Democrat Barry Grodenchik—have been running campaigns since the Democratic primary in September, and have been squaring off in debates leading up to the general election.

Rebecca Lynch, a former aide in the de Blasio administration, will be on the ballot on the Working Families Party line. But she has not been running a visible campaign since losing in the Democratic primary. She has not publicly endorsed Grodenchik either.

Voters heard Concannon and Grodenchik hammer out the issues at a candidate forum hosted by the Bayside Hills Civic Association Tuesday and at a debate hosted by North Shore Towers the week before.

Concannon, a former NYPD captain, has centered much of his campaign on criticisms of the current City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, calling for a change in leadership and for Council members to challenge the mayor on his positions and his goals. He expressed disappointment specifically with the way de Blasio handled anti-police protests last summer, the creation of a bail fund for non-violent offenders and revisions being implemented to the NYPD’s use-of-force policies.

Concannon said weak leadership and these changes in policies have had, and will continue to have, a greater impact on crime.

“This city is in a downward spiral. The mayor of the city of New York is a train wreck… If one more of my NYPD family has to fall in the name of Bill de Blasio, I’ve had it,” Concannon said, referring to the shooting death of Officer Randolph Holder.

Grodenchik, a former state assemblyman, has focused much of his campaign on proposing cost-effective solutions to the lack of public transportation options in the district. He has also contended he would be an independent Democratic voice in City Hall, advocating for the needs of eastern Queens and speaking up against the mayoral administration.

Grodenchik said the district is diverse and he would work tirelessly with any group to get something done.

“I know it and Joe knows it, because we have both been knocking on doors. This district stretches a long way, and it’s complex but simple at its base,” Grodenchik said. “My opponent would have you believe the sky is falling on the 23rd Council District—I assure you it is not.”

Concannon said that as he has been campaigning across the district door-to-door, he has been told about several quality-of-life complaints. He claimed city agency responses to those complaints are not good enough. He has pledged—if elected—to strengthen constituent services in the office of the Council district to streamline those complaints and act as a record and a check when advocating for policy reform or better agency response.

Endorsed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani Tuesday, Concannon said he belongs to the same school of thought—that low-level crimes must be prosecuted to prevent more violent crimes from occurring, and that agency leaders must be held accountable.

Grodenchik disagreed with the complaints Concannon said he found among their potential constituents, saying he has heard mostly positive remarks while campaigning. He said that although the city is Manhattan-centric and services may be disproportionate, it only requires a strong advocate to make things like education reform, public transportation work better in favor of eastern Queens. Just the same, he said it is unjust that taxes are so heavy on single-family homes or co-ops and condominiums when people in the area do not receive their fair share of city services.

To fix it requires persistence, which Grodenchik said he learned early in his political career..

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

More from Around New York