By Gina Martinez
In June Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) surprised everyone when he announced that he would not seek re-election. Goldfeder announced that he was leaving the Assembly to work as a lobbyist for Yeshiva University and focus more of his time on his family. With an endorsement from both the Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Goldfeder himself, Democratic candidate Stacey Pheffer Amato has become a front runner for the District 23rd seat.
Amato has a long history of public service in the Rockaways. The married mother of two has served on the Scholars’ Academy Parent Association and was the female Democratic district leader for the 23rd Assembly District. Her mother, Audrey Pheffer, held the Assembly seat now being vacated by Goldfeder from 1987 until 2011. Pheffer now serves as the Queens County clerk.
Amato is running against Republican candidate Alan Zwirn, a fellow Rockaway resident. Zwirn has lived in the neighborhood for more than 25 years, raising his two children there. He is the president of the Rockaway Republican Club and spent 37 years as city public school teacher before retiring.
Amato is confident she is more qualified for the position,
“I’m active in the community and a great listener,” she said. “I also have the patience necessary to lead. I have participated in fund-raising and I’ve loved getting to know people and what matters to them. I’ve been involved in district, associations, civic groups.”
The service she is most proud of is her part in helping the Rockaway community rebuild after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Amato served on the governor’s Rockaway West NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program after Sandy.
“I was involved in the reconstruction of the Rockaways,” she said. “It’s been a slow recovery and so many families still don’t have homes, it’s all still up in the air. We’ve bought equipment for the community and volunteered. I really know the issues and the community. I’m devoted, I love it so much.”
As PA president Amato helped Scholars’ Academy high school students, teachers and administrators. Students were relocated to a school in Brooklyn while Scholars’ Academy was making initial fixes. She worked closely to orchestrate their transportation and made sure they were comfortable in the Brooklyn school and safe when their school reopened in March 2013.
Amato has also advocated working on or improving public transportation in her district, where it is lacking. She supports the plan to create a Rockaway Beach Rail line, which in her view would improve transportation and create jobs. Amato said she wants to expand the current proposed ferry schedule to Manhattan and include a free transfer to subway and bus.
“I’ve been one of the strong voices before and I want to continue great service,” she said. “I want to take it to the next level. Phil (Goldfeder) has done so much already and the individuals endorsing me have a fire in their stomach to continue his great work. I’m ready to take that baton.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart