Challenger in race for Queens district attorney endorsed by key leader of Jamaica renaissance

Judge Grasso Canvassing in Flushing
Former Judge George Grasso (r.) lands key endorsement in his campaign for Queens district attorney. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

After watching Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz land more than a dozen endorsements from organized labor unions in recent weeks, George Grasso, her challenger, announced Friday, Feb. 3, that he secured an endorsement from Carlisle Towery, who led the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation as its executive director and president for 44 years.

The nonprofit organization ushered in a wave of community improvement and economic growth for Jamaica residents over the past five decades. Towery was a key architect of the neighborhood’s renaissance after many department store giants like Macy’s, Gertz and Mays closed down and moved to malls across Long Island.

Towery formed relationships with businesses, investors and public officials, along with solidifying state and federal partnerships, to revitalize the neighborhood. He proved that urban planning with a focus on small businesses, arts and culture can spur community and economic development that serves to benefit the residents of the neighborhood.

Carlisle Towery, who led the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation for nearly 45 years, has endorsed Grasso in the race for district attorney. (QNS/File)

Towery, who was named 2015 “Man of the Year” by The Queens Courier, endorsed Grasso, the Douglaston resident who retired as an administrative judge at Queens Supreme Court, criminal term, in August 2022 to run for district attorney.

“Judge Grasso, an early graduate of the York College Class of 1980, was among the pioneering students who actively demonstrated, and successfully so, in supporting the retention and growth of York College as a four-year senior institution when government budget cuts were threatening to reduce it to a two-year junior college,” Towery said. “His continued support and confidence of a York College education is evidenced by one of his sons attending and graduating from York.”

After Grasso graduated in 1980, he began his long career in the NYPD walking the beat in the 113th Precinct while pursuing his law degree taking night classes at St. John’s University School of Law. Grasso served more than three decades in the NYPD, rising through the ranks to become the first deputy police commissioner before stepping down in 2010 and heading to the bench.

“In his distinguished record of law enforcement, judicial and community service, my admiration for Judge Grasso’s commitment to Queens is long and strong,” Towery said. “The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation benefitted from his special involvement and leadership, as he served as an effective member of our board of directors.”

Grasso said he was proud to be endorsed by Towery, who devoted his career to improving Queens.

“He has worked his entire life to uplift the community, including fighting for the permanence of York College, my alma mater in Jamaica,” Grasso said. “His support reinforces my connection to the Jamaica community, through my years at York College, as a young police officer patrolling the streets of southeast Queens, and, more recently, as a former board member of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation and the York College Foundation.”

Grasso had two years remaining in his judicial term when he resigned in August to challenge Katz in the June 27 Democratic primary.

“As district attorney, I will make neighborhoods, like the one Towery worked so hard to revitalize, safer for everyone,” he said. “I am proud that he has decided to publicly place his trust in me, as we are mutually driven by seeing the betterment of our communities and ensuring that everyone in Queens has an opportunity to work, thrive and live safely.”