Photo by Michael Shain
Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden decides he will challenge City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley for her seat for the benefit of the neighborhoods in her district.
By Bill Parry

For more than four months, Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden led nightly protests against the de Blasio administration’s plan to convert the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express into a homeless shelter, building a citywide coalition in the process.

In February, Holden declared victory when the mayor announced a policy shift, phasing out over time the use of commercial hotels to shelter the homeless.

During that long fight, Holden was highly critical of City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) for what he called her lack of leadership since she was elected to the Council in 2008. Now, Holden has decided he will challenge Crowley for her seat on the City Council in a Democratic primary this fall.

“It wasn’t just the Maspeth shelter fight, but the Glendale shelter, as well,” Holden said. “Crowley was a no-show in both of those fights. She has no passion for the neighborhoods she was elected to serve.”

Crowley represents District 30, which includes Middle Village, Maspeth, Ridgewood and parts of Woodside and Woodhaven.

“I look forward to a spirited campaign focused on the issues that affect our communities,” Crowley said. “I’m proud of my record in the Council over the last eight years, standing up for our local families. Together, we have secured school funding for 5,400 new classroom seats, enhanced public safety by hiring more police, and preserved essential city services such as fire and EMS. But there are still many challenges we face. I am eager to make the case to voters this campaign season that I am the experienced, enthusiastic and persistent voice they can continue to depend on to lead our community in the Council.”

Holden is set to retire after 40 years as a professor at the New York City College of Technology, and he was pondering his future recently.

“I don’t really like politics, but the thought came to me two weeks ago that I’ve got to step up because there are so many things that need to be taken care of in these neighborhoods,” Holden said. “I know politics can be nasty, and I’ll be going up against the Queens Democratic machine, but I’m ready for their smear tactics, because the truth is she’s been wrong on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to start.”

Before the shelter battles, Holden gained a reputation as a fierce community activist when the Elmhurst gas tanks were demolished 15 years ago.

“The old Elmhurst gas tanks would’ve been the site of a Home Depot if not for my leadership, and now we have a beautiful park there that will be home to the borough’s Vietnam War memorial,” Holden said. “My commitment to this community is unmatched. I’ve lived here all of my life. I live around the corner from where I grew up,” Holden said. “It’s my turn to step up. It’s my duty to run. You can’t fake love of neighborhood, it’s exhibit A, and Elizabeth Crowley can’t prove that. All she has is her name.”

Crowley is the cousin of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the leader of the Queens Democratic Party. Holden is highly critical of both.

“The last time I was so sure of myself over a decision was June 21, 1968,” Holden said. “That’s when I asked out my future wife, Amy, when we met for the first time down on Eliot Avenue. I said to my friend, ‘that’s the girl I’m going to marry,’ and I did. I have an ideal life. I love the civics, but I know I have to step up now.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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