James Gennaro, a Democratic candidate running for his old seat to represent Council District 24, believes his experience in crisis management and budgeting is needed to help manage the city through the COVID-19 crisis.
“We need a crisis leader at this time and I’ve done this before when I came into office after I saw the city through a crisis in 2002 after 9/11,” Gennaro said.
Gennaro, a resident of Jamaica Estates, served as a council representative from 2002 to 2013 for District 24 that includes the neighborhoods of Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills and Jamaica.
The seat opened when Rory Lancman resigned in November to take a position within Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. As early voting in the special election is underway, Gennaro joins seven other candidates who are running for the seat, including Moumita Ahmed, Deepti Sharma, Soma Syed, Neeta Jain, Mujib Rahman, Michael Brown and Dilip Nath.
In May 2020, Gennaro stepped down from the Cuomo Administration, where he had been appointed to serve as the deputy commissioner for the New York Stability and Resiliency at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
To date, Gennaro’s campaign has maxed out an amount of $130,000 in matching funds. His agenda is addressing three key issues: prioritizing the city budget that will be finalized in June, addressing the city’s infrastructure against storms and helping businesses impacted by COVID-19.
As a former councilman having been through 12 budget cycles and 25 overall, Gennaro said the district needs an “experienced budget hand” to make sure it is protected and funding is appropriately distributed.
“Districts that have experienced representation when it comes to the budget process aren’t going to get their pockets picked,” said Gennaro, who is a former member of the Council’s Finance Committee.
As a bonafide environmental scientist with a degree in geology, Gennaro is looking to continue the environmental work he started while in the City Council. He has managed to pass 50 major environmental laws that have remade the city, in terms of clean air, water, buildings and protecting wetlands.
For Gennaro, it’s important to grow a green economy by 2030 and reduce the city’s carbon footprint. During his tenure in as a councilman, Gennaro created a bill that was passed into law that set in motion a planning strategy on climate change adaptation.
Following the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Gennaro’s vision is to create storm surge barriers, a specific type of floodgate, that is designed to prevent a storm surge or spring tide from flooding the protested area behind the barrier.
“We cannot afford to go through another Sandy,” Gennaro said.
As the city continues the fight against COVID-19, Gennaro is in support of Brooklyn Councilman Steve Levin’s bill to create a local version of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help businesses suffering through the pandemic.
Though the mayor and council may be reluctant to pass the bill into law that will result in a huge financial impact, Gennaro says he will attempt to get it done before the city finalizes the budget.
“If the city won’t exert everything it can possibly do to help small businesses stay on their feet, then we’re saying goodbye to a huge part of the city’s local economy and it’s not going to come back soon,” Gennaro said. “That is my specific roadmap and we have to get it done before the budget.”
According to Gennaro, residents are concerned about the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations, among other things such as the local economy, property values and schools. On the education front, Gennaro said the de Blasio administration is not taking into account parents’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Mayoral control has to be much more of a partnership with the parents, teachers, principals as it is now, in which the de Blasio administration talks to itself,” Gennaro said.
If elected, Gennaro said his district office will serve as a hub providing services for constituents, many of whom are south Asian, and he’s confident he’ll get their vote.
“I’ve always had a tremendous relationship with the south Asian community back when there were no votes in it for me,” Gennaro said. “This was a community that was doing everything it could to make its way into the political mainstream.”
According to Gennaro, he has championed the cause of the Bangladeshi community, appointing the first Bangladeshi woman to the local community board, and spearheading the expansion of the Jamaica Muslim Center.
“I made sure that the Bangladeshi, Indian, Sikh, Pakistani and Guyanese community had everything they needed,” Gennaro said. “When I was on the council, I was known as the Bangladeshi councilman.”
Overall, Gennaro said his proven record of accomplishment and experience is the difference between him and the other candidates in the race for Council District 24.
“I have a true vision for the district. I’m the only candidate that has worked very closely with every neighborhood and group of people in the district. No other candidate can say that,” Gennaro said.