By Bill Parry
The battle between two Democratic candidates heading to the Sept. 12 primary to fill the District 21 seat that will be vacated by the retiring City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) has moved from jabs to fierce body blows.
Former City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who is running for his old job after convictions for assault and corruption, accused his opponent, state Assemblyman Francisco Moya, of avoiding open debate because he is allegedly living outside the district in a Long Island City penthouse. District 21 covers Corona, East Elmhurst and part of Jackson Heights. Monserrate made the charges Wednesday outside a luxury apartment building at 26-26 Jackson Ave., where Moya owns a penthouse unit.
“Moya has a history of ducking debates. He has done so in the past and he’s doing it again in this race,” Monserrate said. “Why is Moya hiding? Because he’s been lying to the community for years. Moya has engaged in outward fraud. The voters deserved better than this. If he can’t be honest on where he lives, what else can Moya be lying about.”
Monserrate did not offer any concrete proof that Moya is living at 26-26 Jackson Ave. other than saying, “people have seen him here.” He filed a formal complaint against Moya at the City Campaign Finance Board and the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
His campaign handed out photocopies of a JCOPE response stating a review is currently underway.
Moya’s campaign responded with a series of gut punches calling the charge “the disgraced lawmaker’s latest hyperbolic, false claims.” The accusation comes on the heels of the Monserrate camp’s failure to secure publicly funded matching campaign funds, something that Moya’s campaign secured. A spokesman said the apartment was purchased by Moya when he was in the private sector in 2009 and in 2010 his bank issued new mortgage terms permitting the use of the property as a rental.
In April 2010, Moya signed a contract and became co-owner with his father of a Corona home on 46th Avenue. Available records from the city Department of Finance and Buildings as well as Moya’s voting record and well-documented public service easily refute the claim, according to the Moya campaign.
“Nothing he says about me or about my record in the Assembly bears any resemblance to the truth,” Moya said. “These are just the sad ramblings of a deeply disturbed man with a well-documented history of violence, theft and public corruption.”
Meanwhile, Ferreras-Copeland endorsed Moya Wednesday, declaring him the best-suited to continue her progressive legacy in the City Council. Ferreras-Copeland stunned observers when she decided not to seek re-election so she could move to Maryland, where her husband works, and spend more time with her family.
“One of the hardest things about leaving the City Council is making sure our hard-fought accomplishments are not diminished,” she said. “At a time when Queens families need affordable housing, wage and job protections, and meaningful criminal reform, we need our next Council member to be ready to pick up the fight. That is why I am endorsing Francisco Moya, who has spent his life improving our community and passing progressive legislation in Albany. I know that as our next Council member, Francisco Moya is committed to continue the fight on behalf of seniors and working families in the 21st District, and carry on with my work in the Council.”
When asked about the endorsement, Monserrate was brief, before ending his press conference.
“That doesn’t surprise me. The political class is working tirelessly, but Julissa Ferreras from what I understand shares in her desire to live in other places, too, and I wish her well in Maryland,” he said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr