Queens DA challenger rallies with grassroots supporters at Borough Hall Monday

Democratic district attorney candidate George Grasso rallies with supporters Monday at Queens Borough Hall. (Photo by Adrian Childress)

With less than three months to go until the Democratic primary, the race for Queens district attorney is heating up.

On Monday, challenger George Grasso rallied on the steps of Borough Hall Monday. The retired judge from Douglaston received endorsements from 11 law enforcement organizations and community members after officially filing more than 9,500 signatures from Queens residents to appear on the Democratic primary ballot — more than double the number needed.

“The women and men who have put their faith in me to be Queens district attorney know what it takes to make our streets safe for every New Yorker,” Grasso said. “I was proud to serve with many of them in the NYPD as we achieved record levels of crime reductions and public safety decades ago.”

The rally occurred just days after Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz filed nearly 23,000 signatures to secure her place on the ballot for her re-election after she received several endorsements from Congress members Gregory Meeks and Grace Meng, as well as multiple unions including 1199SEIU, SEIU 32BJ, 1199SEIU, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council, and the New York State Court Officers Association, among others.

“When I took office, I made a promise to the people of Queens that we would make this office the most effective it can be, we would work day and night to keep our communities safe and we would be able to improve the fairness of our criminal justice system,” Katz said. “Since then, we’re taken down gangs and gotten countless guns off our streets. We’ve created new units to address domestic violence and crimes against immigrants. And we’ve created a Conviction Integrity Unit which has helped nearly 100 people who were wrongfully convicted.”

The incumbent said submitting 22,767 Democratic petition signatures, five times the number required, is a sure sign her re-election bid is building momentum. Katz took office in 2020 “in the most turbulent of times,” just months ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is hard work and serious work, but it’s very gratifying work and I am honored by the faith people continue to put in our office,” Katz said. “The fact that so many people signed these petitions reflects the effective work my office has done on these issues, and the fact that people want us to keep doing it.”

Grasso was the administrative judge of Queens Supreme Court, Criminal Term, when he retired in August to run for district attorney with two years left on his term. Before joining the judiciary, Grasso spent more than three decades in the NYPD rising through the ranks from a beat cop in Queens to the executive level where he would become the first deputy police commissioner. He launched his campaign in October listening to Queens residents about their public safety concerns.

“As current District Attorney Melinda Katz continues to refuse to even recognize the historic crime increases across the borough, it is abundantly clear that she has no plan to combat the growing crisis,” Grasso said. “This is unacceptable. The opportunity for true public safety and justice throughout our city is now.”

He often presents current NYPD CompStat figures that are compared to data two years ago that shows a 126% rise in major crimes in the 109th Precinct in Flushing, a 122% increase in the 111th Precinct in Bayside and 91% increase in major crimes in the 110th Precinct in Elmhurst.

“The membership of the NYPD Retired Lieutenants Association overwhelmingly voted to endorse Judge George Grasso for Queens District Attorney. Members of our association worked hard for many years to save lives and protect every resident here in Queens,” said Michelle Schaefer, president of the Retired Lieutenants Association. “Crime has been going in the wrong direction over the past few years. Judge Grasso understands the criminal justice system at many levels. He is committed to once again enforcing the rule of law to make Queens a safer place to live, work, travel, and visit.”

Eugene Lowery, President Emeritus of the Glen Oaks-based New York 10-13 Association, said Grasso is a well-respected figure in the borough.

“Judge George Grasso is not new to the Queens community,” Lowery said. “He lives in Queens, worked as a beat cop in Queens, and went to school in Queens — earning degrees from York College and St. John’s Law School. Judge Grasso is recognized for his honesty, integrity, and victim advocacy. As Queens District Attorney, residents will have no greater partner in ensuring public safety.”

Other law enforcement organizations endorsing Grasso included the Retired Sergeants Association, NYC Retired Transit Police Officers Association, the Retired Police Association of New York State and the Superior Officer Association Retired. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 27.

“Rarely in politics does a candidate come forth with exactly the training, experience, and education required for the position at that time,” said Gurpal Singh, of the Singh Law Firm of Richmond Hill. “Judge George Grasso is temperamentally the right person with the precise pedigree needed for Queens District Attorney. There probably has never been a more qualified person to run for this position. His resume speaks for itself and his voice speaks for the people of Queens.”