Supporters of Councilman Robert Holden hosted a rally on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to encourage him to run for mayor — but were met with protesters who called on him to resign his current post, instead.
About 50 supporters of Holden, who currently represents Council District 30 (which encompasses the Queens neighborhoods of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Woodhaven and Woodside), gathered in front of the Maspeth Federal Savings Bank at 56-18 69th St. on Tuesday evening.
They held signs that read “Holden for Mayor,” “NYC Needs Real Leadership,” “Let NYC be safe again,” among others, urging the councilman to consider a run.
Many supporters wore Trump hats and waved “Trump 2020” flags. Others waved large U.S. flags and a banner that read, “We support the NYPD.”
Some of the speakers included longtime supporters Charles Vavruska, former prosecutor and candidate for Queens Borough President Jim Quinn and Community Education Council 24 President Phil Wong.
Several supporters cited Holden’s stance on crime and his opposition to the closing of Rikers Island as a reason for him to run for higher office.
“We need a mayor to stop NYC from going in a spiral, stop the insanity,” Wong, who volunteered in his campaign for City Council, told QNS. “People who live in Forest Hills and Rego Park came and said they’ll have their own rally, many residents and parents shared their views. We need someone to clean up the city, like Giuliani. We have a spike in crime, filthy streets, rats living in trash cans — I, myself, on Queens Boulevard see these trash cans overflowing, but it’s everywhere. It’s sad: We’re still in COVID-19, you’re brewing another pandemic. We need a strong mayor, and we think Holden’s ideal.”
Shortly after the rally began, a group of about two dozen protesters set up across the street, many of whom were members of the Ridgewood Tenants Union.
Bicyclists protected the protesters on either side, while police officers put up a barricade to prevent them from entering the busy intersection.
Protesters held signs that read “Holden hurts our neighborhood,” “Vote Bob out in 2020” and “We keep us safe.”
Many of the protesters cited Holden’s support for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and his push to close the homeless shelter in Glendale as a reason to oppose his run.
“We need Bob Holden to resign,” RTU wrote on Twitter. “He is harmful to our community and instead of supporting the most vulnerable of our neighbors, he makes them a target. We can’t let this racist continue to be in power.”
Juan Ardila, who is running for Holden’s seat, joined the counter-protesters. He said he lives nearby and needed to show up to the counter-protest when he heard of the rally to recruit Holden for mayor.
Toward the end of the rally, as counter-protesters chanted, “No racists, supporters,” Vavruska took the mic on the side of the Holden rally to address them.
“Listen, everybody sees what’s going on,” said Vavruska. “You see the craziness, you see the crime, you see the riots, and these snot-noses over here, they’re the ones responsible for it. I don’t know if anybody out here remembers the ’70s — I remember the ’70s, I remember how it was. But when it gets like that, they’re gonna be running back to mommy and daddy’s house to the suburbs or wherever it is, and they’re gonna stop getting their rent paid by their parents’ trust funds. But we’re gonna stay here and we’re going to fight, and we’re going to elect Bob Holden the next mayor of New York City.”
— Dean_Moses (@Dean_Moses) September 22, 2020
Holden was not in attendance at the rally.
“I was humbled when I heard about this, and I certainly appreciate the support,” said Holden. “We have great people in District 30 and I’m focused on being the best Council member I can be. I plan to run for re-election to the NYC Council and will announce in the near future.”
Although Holden shut down the calls for his run for mayor, Wong is hopeful he’ll reconsider.
“If the turnout was higher, I would think he’d give it another look,” said Wong. “All movements start out small.”
Holden has not yet filed for re-election for his City Council seat. He’s served as councilman since 2018. After losing the Democratic primary race to then-incumbent Elizabeth Crowley, Holden won the general election by running on four party lines, including the Republican Party.