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Photo by Christina Santucci
By Bianca Fortis

The only political debate between two Middle Village candidates for City Council was a fiery one, prompting a steady stream of cheers and jeers from the audience for nearly an hour and a half.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) is fighting to keep her seat against Republican newcomer Craig Caruana in Council District 30, which includes Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood and Woodhaven.

The debate Monday at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village began with a hot-button issue for the community: the plan to transform an old Maspeth factory into an art and events center, complete with a liquor license.

Crowley stood by earlier comments she made that the business, the Knockdown Center, is an opportunity to create jobs for the community.

“Do I support good jobs? Yes,” Crowley said. “Do I support art as an economic engine? Yes.”

She made an additional jab at Caruana by saying that he does not have the ability to think outside the box for ways to create jobs.

Caruana, however, stood firmly against the center, saying that the issue is about “hipsters coming from out of the area, creating a club that doesn’t represent our values.”

Crowley, a Middle Village native who was first elected in 2009, says she is running on her record of accomplishments, which includes bringing in funds for parks, building new schools and fighting to keep firehouses open.

“While I’m proud of the work we’ve done to improve the quality of education, to keep our streets safe, to protect our seniors, I know there’s still so much to do,” she said. “And that’s why I’m running for re-election.”

Caruana, also from Middle Village, however, says Crowley takes too much credit for the changes in the district and makes excuses when something is not accomplished.

“All too often it can feel as if there’s just too much going on and impersonal forces either ruin our neighborhoods or affect our quality of life,” Caruana said. “It’s in those moments you need someone who can punch at the same city level, who can advocate for you truly as if you’re in the room.”

In Council District 29, Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) is campaigning to retain her seat against software engineer Jon Torodash, who hails from Forest Hills and Kew Gardens.

Koslowitz also served in the Council from 1991-2001. She was the deputy borough president until 2009, when she was again elected to the Council.

The district includes Forest Park, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and parts of Maspeth, Richmond Hill and Elmhurst.

Torodash is running on the Civic Virtue line, a nod to the controversial removal of the 1923 “Triumph of Civic Virtue” statue from Borough Hall to a private cemetery in Brooklyn.

Both have emphasized public safety in their campaigns.

Antonio Reynoso remains the frontrunner in District 34, which encompasses Ridgewood, Bushwick and Williamsburg. In the Democratic primary, he beat his two challengers, former state Assemblyman Vito Lopez, as well as Gladys Santiago, a former district leader.

Santiago returns as a third party candidate on the School Choice line. Reynoso currently works as the chief of staff for the current Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn), a position he has held since 2009. Reyna has served the maximum two terms.

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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