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2021 Elections: Who’s running for Queens borough president?

The candidates for Queens borough president. (Courtesy of campaigns)

There are six candidates running for Queens Borough President, according to the latest campaign finance filings.

The borough president proposes legislation, zoning changes, city-wide budget recommendations, and direction for land-use in the borough. Borough presidents appoint members to the New York City Planning Commission, and members to other local boards.

The candidates include Elizabeth Crowley, Danniel Maio, Stan Morse, Diana Sanchez, Jimmy Van Bramer and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who took office in December after winning the special election.

We sent all of them a brief list of questions about them and their campaign. Only Maio declined to send in responses. Here’s what those who got back to us had to say. Their responses have been ended for length and clarity. 

Elizabeth Crowley

Elizabeth Crowley. (Courtesy of campaign)

QNS: How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

Elizabeth Crowley: Queens is the most diverse urban area in the world, a rich tapestry of varied backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. Nowhere in the United States can you taste authentic Korean, Greek, and Pakistani food as delicious – and as close together – as our borough! Our community has no doubt recently faced challenges, but there is no better time to invite others to be a part of the Queens Comeback. All of the elements for revitalized transit, a booming economy, and a flourishing arts scene are there – and it’s up to us to get the word out.

QNS: In no particular order, what are your five top restaurants and/or favorite businesses in the borough?

Crowley: Whits End Restaurant in Rockaway; II Poeta Restaurant in Forest Hills; Hairitige Maspeth Hair Salon; Jora Peruvian in Long Island City; Bourbon Street in Bayside.

QNS: What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Crowley: The Post-COVID Economic Comeback. We need a comprehensive plan to help our small businesses and get people back to work – and I have the proven record to get Queens back on track. 

Public Education. On the City Council, I led the fight to reduce class sizes and to reward our gifted and talented students. 

Expanding transit and affordable housing. I’m the only candidate with a comprehensive transit revitalization plan that would increase public transit ridership and create jobs. Moreover, I also have always been on the side of tenants and homeowners, not big developers and special interests.

QNS: What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

Crowley: I’m a fighter through and through. As a public-school mother of two, head of my household, and lifelong union member, I am dedicated to building a Queens that our children and future generations can be proud of. I got results on the City Council: I took on the mayor when he wanted to close twenty firehouses—and I won. I took on the former city council speaker when I felt our borough was being shortchanged in the city budget. As borough president, I’ll never stop fighting for Queens.

Stan Morse

Stan Morse. (Courtesy of campaign)

QNS: How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?   

Stan Morse: I would market Queens as the most beautiful and diverse place to live in the world.  Nowhere else will you find the many different ethnicities and languages that you will find in Queens. I would also market Queens as the most progressive borough, with a growing number of young politically active residents fighting to make Queens the most racially and economically equitable borough in the city.

QNS: In no particular order, what are your five top restaurants and/or favorite businesses in the borough?

Morse: ECB Burgers in Maspeth; La Daska Manufacturing (a minority/woman owned clothing manufacturing company in Long Island City); Belle Aire Diner in Astoria; Vegetarian House in Maspeth; All the delis in Queens that helped us to survive during the pandemic.

QNS: What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Morse: I believe the biggest issue facing Queens, and the entire city, is the upcoming crisis of residential evictions when the moratorium on evictions expires. Queens, like every other borough, is also facing a crisis of small businesses not being able to survive the pandemic, which will lead to a loss of jobs. The other major issue facing Queens is the over emphasis on private development, while NYCHA developments are crumbling and the need for true affordable housing is being ignored.  

QNS: What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

Morse: I have well over 10 years experience as an organizer, and in my current position as an organizer with Justice For All I am directly involved in fighting to preserve and transform NYCHA, as well as fighting against the unfair land use policies that are leading to the overdevelopment in Queens and the lack of true affordable housing. We have shown every day residents how to fight back against unjust landlords, while also supporting people led initiatives like Community Land Trusts. In my role as Queens Borough President, I will bring that same fighting activism to the office.

Donovan Richards

Donovan Richards. (Courtesy of campaign)

QNS: How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

Donovan Richards: We’ve already broken ground on hundreds of new units of affordable housing. The launch of our Immigrant Welcome Center, with the help of Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, will provide the resources our newest neighbors need to secure a future in Queens. As our businesses struggle because of the pandemic, we partnered with the Mets and the New York City Economic Development corporation to provide a $17.5 million grant program towards operational expenses, with specific help for minority owned businesses. We will continue to work with our local sports and cultural institutions to bring in tourism.

QNS: In no particular order, what are your five top restaurants and/or favorite businesses in the borough?

Richards: Southern Girls in Laurelton; SHI in Long Island City; Batesys in Rockaway; Queens Bully in Forest Hills; and Kebab King in Jackson Heights.

QNS: What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Richards: The first is of course our recovery from the pandemic, which has affected almost every aspect of our lives. People are struggling to pay their rent, access the vaccine, and find employment. We must find solutions to these issues that ensure that low income and minority communities have ample resources made available to them so that they are not left behind. We must also continue our mission to build more affordable housing so that Queens remains an affordable place to live. And we must improve our transportation system by redesigning streets, improving our bike network, and increasing bus service.

QNS: What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

Richards: Throughout my years of service I’ve worked hard to build bridges and form coalitions among so many different groups of people. To get through these next few months and years, we’re going to need to work together in order to rise again. When I was first elected to the City Council, my district was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, but we bounced back. We improved our infrastructure and built thousands of units of real affordable housing. I know that there are challenges that lie ahead, but we’re already taking those on and I know we will be successful.

Diana Sanchez

Diana Sanchez. (Courtesy of campaign)

QNS: How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

Diana Sanchez: Through TV commercials, movie theater ads, social media, websites, magazines, newspapers and/or posters to different states and countries in different languages showcasing anything from neighborhoods, companies, brick and mortar shops and malls, schools, restaurants, people saying how happy they are to be in Queens, to key places like Citi Field. Also showing how easy it is to commute by car and mass transit. For social media and websites, having specific and easy to remember tags. Also connecting with Chambers of Commerce of different states and countries, the Consulate Generals of different countries, etc.

QNS: In no particular order, what are your five top restaurants and/or favorite businesses in the borough?

Sanchez: Ricon Crillo in Elmhurst; Taste of Bengal in Astoria; Pollos a la Brasa Mario in Jackson Heights; Taverna Kyclades in Bayside; White Radish in Forest Hills.

QNS: What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Sanchez: 1) To make sure there are enough food pantries in each neighborhood able to be fully stocked to distribute items to people every week; 2) Whether or not all children go back to school, there is still the problem with costly internet fees especially when families are on fixed incomes. Companies need to offer their least expensive packages first; 3) To help the 13% of women in the age group of 25 to 34 years of age have the proper resources so they do not continue to live below the poverty line.

QNS: What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

Sanchez: Being a daughter of immigrants, a mother of four, and a realtor has given me the ability to see where changes need to be made in this borough. 1) The undocumented need economic resources like Universal Basic Income (UBI) since they don’t qualify for any federal stimulus benefit. 2) We need more middle and high schools in different areas of Queens because time and again the idea was maybe it’s better to send my kids to school in Manhattan. 3) Has shown me that there are a lot more things that unite us than divide us, and we have to achieve common ground.

James Van Bramer

James Van Bramer. (Courtesy of campaign)

QNS: How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

James Van Bramer: Queens is the most diverse county in the country, filled with culture, food, beautiful parks and beaches. There should be a Queens & Company arm of the borough president’s office to promote the borough’s offerings around the world. In order to attract more people to plant roots in Queens, we must create more affordable housing and help small businesses survive. We must put a stop to luxury development and build housing that is actually affordable. We must help small businesses find relief, but they need longer-term reform to support them and make sure Queens stays a great place to live.

QNS: In no particular order, what are your five top restaurants and/or favorite businesses in the borough?

Van Bramer: It’s hard to choose only five with so many amazing restaurants and small businesses, but my top five favorite restaurants are: Casa del Chef in Woodside; The Queensboro in Jackson Heights; Max Bratwurst in Astoria; The Alcove in Sunnyside; Harbor Light in Rockaway Park.

QNS: What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Van Bramer: Queens was hit the hardest by COVID-19, and I’ll fight to prioritize our needs as we begin the recovery. The biggest issues currently facing the borough are access to vaccines, the survival of small businesses and the need for more affordable housing. We have to work to ensure that Queens residents have better access to vaccinations. Our small businesses need more than just relief — they need reforms, such as commercial rent control. And we need a moratorium on luxury development, focusing instead on building housing that is actually affordable for working families. 

QNS: What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

Van Bramer: My family struggled in the way so many families are struggling now: My mother worked three jobs to care for eight children, living in a homeless shelter when we were evicted. I entered public service as an organizer for LGBTQ rights and getting money out of politics. I was an organizer for the Queens Public Library for eleven years, working with communities all across Queens. In my 12 years on the Council, I’ve been able to build new schools for my district, the only Planned Parenthood in the borough, deliver on funding for parks, libraries and the arts, and more.

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