Photo courtesy Dennis Saffran
By Phil Corso

Republican City Council candidate Dennis Saffran visited a playground in Whitestone to promise northeast Queens voters he would fight to keep registered sex offenders away from places populated with kids if elected in November.

Calling on a similar Nassau County appellate court decision he won as an attorney in September, the GOP-backed Saffran pledged he would draft legislation in the Council to bar sex offenders from living near schools, playgrounds or their victims. The Douglaston native pointed out the residences of 22 registered offenders living near such spots in his northeast Queens 19th District and outlined his plan to mirror what he helped achieve in the borough’s neighboring county.

Standing at the Willets Point Playground on 166th Street, Saffran singled out several registered offenders living near parks and schools throughout the district, pointing to the home of one such offender one block from the playground.

“It is unacceptable that parents in northeast Queens have to send their children to schools and playgrounds within walking distance of convicted child rapists and sexual predators,” Saffran said. “One of my first actions as councilman will be to introduce a bill like the one the court just upheld.”

Early last month, Saffran argued and won on behalf of Nassau County a ruling against a court decision to strike down the county’s sex offender residency restriction law, he said. The case involved designated sex offender Michael Diack, who served 22 months in prison on a child pornography conviction and was later charged with violating Nassau law by living within 500 feet of two pre-K-to-12 schools, including one for children with special needs, Saffran said.

The Nassau County lower court dropped the charges on the grounds that county law was pre-empted by state law, Saffran said, but an appeals court later reinstated the charges.

“The decision is a tremendous victory for the community,” said Laura Ahearn, of Parents for Megan’s Law. “The message is loud and clear — the protection of children is a top priority.”

The victory implemented a similar law to those of other municipalities throughout the state, in which registered sex offenders must file with a state registry under Megan’s Law, barring them from living within 1,000 feet of schools, 500 feet of a park, or 2,000 feet from their victims.

“This decision is a victory for parents across the state, allowing communities to pass laws that place the safety of children above the rights of dangerous predators,” Saffran said. “It is unacceptable that New York City has not passed such legislation providing our children with the same protection as the children in Nassau County and over 100 other localities around the state.”

Saffran was the lone Republican to step up in the race to replace outgoing City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), whose seat will be decided in the November general election against Democratic nominee Paul Vallone. The 19th District oversees neighborhoods including Auburndale, Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing and parts of Little Neck.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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