By Bill Parry
In his 30 years of community service, Robert Holden remembers a time when old-school elected officials reached across party lines for the good of their constituents. Today, everything has changed and that is one of the main reasons he is running to unseat City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale), who is seeking her third term representing District 30 covering Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale and Ridgewood.
“I don’t like the atmosphere now,” Holden said. “There’s so much vitriol now. It’s so bad. Everything is left or right and there is no middle ground. We have to elect leaders that are better at getting people together. Elizabeth Crowley is just fanning the flames of that polarization.”
When Holden announced in April that he would challenge Crowley, the retired college professor knew he would be going up against the Queens Democratic Machine, and that he was ready for what he called “their smear tactics.” But even Holden was surprised when negative campaign mailers were sent out depicting him as a Republican supporter, and featuring a photo of him accepting a lifetime achievement award in March at the Queens Village Republican Club’s annual Lincoln’s Dinner.
“What is a good Democrat, one that hates Republicans?” Holden said in an interview with the TimesLedger staffers. “Don’t we have enough of that in this country? I think you work with both parties. I can work with anyone who is pro-community. She’s gone to the extreme left and I’m a moderate Democrat, conservative on some things and progressive on others. I was never a part of a political club being labeled a Democrat or a Republican. I’m a civic guy, a community guy. You have to work with both parties for the good of the community. I know I can do a better job than her, I know it. I work everyday with people who couldn’t get help from Crowley’s office.”
As president of the powerful Juniper Park Civic Association for 25 years, Holden has worked with both parties to accomplish vital projects and deliver services to the community. He has criticized Crowley and the so-called Democratic Machine, for years in the organization’s Juniper Berry quarterly magazine.
“I’ll always say it the way I see it,” Holden said. “I was never afraid of an elected official. They work for us. They’re public servants and I don’t have to kiss their ring. When you do something bad, I’ll turn on you.”
Holden has called out Crowley for her lack of leadership during protests against the city and its plans to house the homeless in Glendale and Maspeth.
“We formed a citywide coalition to protest and she wanted no part of it,” Holden said. “She didn’t help with the shelter protests because she has her eyes on citywide office and, as a member of the radical left, she could never be photographed fighting homeless shelters or holding a protest sign against them. We can’t afford four more years of Elizabeth Crowley because when de Blasio gets re-elected, he’s going to throw the kitchen sink at us.”
Holden is running a grass-roots campaign, with 70 volunteers, out of the garage of his Maspeth home, fueled by the city’s campaign finance system, which matches $6 for every $1 raised.
“She opted out of the matching fund program, which means she’s taking big money from special interests, and that’s when they control you,” Holden said. “My allegiance will be to the constituents and not the special interests that funded me.”
He likened his campaign so far to being on a roller coaster.
“What I like is there are so many people out there who know me and support me,” Holden said. “The bad thing is my opponent lying about me.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr