Photos by Christina Santucci and courtesy Everly Brown
By Joe Anuta

The Rev. Floyd Flake confirmed Thursday afternoon his controversial endorsement of former City Councilwoman Melinda Katz in the race for borough president, a day after her opponent disputed the nod had taken place.

Katz is running in a Democratic field that includes state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria. A new contender also registered several days ago.

On Wednesday, Comrie’s campaign flatly denied Flake, a former congressman and current influential pastor who heads the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York in Jamaica, had backed Katz’s campaign in a Monday news release.

“He did not endorse Melinda Katz,” said Jerry Williams, campaign manager for Comrie, earlier this week.

At that time Williams said Flake talked about Katz during a service at the pastor’s church while the former councilwoman was in the congregation, but he insisted his words did not actually amount to an endorsement.

Flake did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday, but Thursday afternoon he cleared up the confusion.

“Whereas I have a great deal of respect for Councilman Leroy Comrie and the work that he has done in the Southeast Queens community, I hereby confirm my endorsement of Melinda Katz for the position of borough president of Queens,” he said. “She has worked with me during the period when I brought in the Federal Aviation Administration and the Food and Drug Administration buildings.”

Comrie’s camp was stunned by Flake’s confirmation, Williams said.

The councilman told TimesLedger Newspapers that he had a meeting with Flake Monday afternoon and the reverend said then his mind was not made up about whom he would endorse. Yet Katz’s campaign had already released Flake’s endorsement of the former councilwoman that day.

“I sat with a minister who said he hadn’t made up his mind, and all week I’m having to defend that statement,” Comrie said. “It’s a learning experience.”

Flake has a congregation of more than 20,000 at his church. The minister’s blessing is sought by many who run for political office and can be a potent force in elections.

Comrie is also a notable figure in southeast Queens politics and not getting the nod from the powerful Flake might not be sitting well with his campaign, according to political sources.

However, Comrie said Flake still praised his community work, which includes working on multiple projects with Flake’s congregation.

“I think he pointed to the fact that I had a record of service,” Comrie said of the endorsement statement. “Clearly it is not based on service. Clearly it is based on other issues.”

Katz was also endorsed by the late Mayor Ed Koch, Emily’s List and the Women’s Campaign Fund.

Director of Queens Community Boards Barry Grodenchik also received the first union endorsement of the race when he was backed by Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

A newcomer joined the fray last week. Everly Brown, a real estate agent who has run for several offices — some as a Republican — announced Monday he would join the Democratic field.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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