Gresser’s Credentials Aid BP Run
For too long, Carol Gresser feels, "Queens has been thought of as a place that you drive through on your way to the airport or the Hamptons."
But Gresser, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Queens Borough President in the Sept. 11 primary, wants to change that perception, pointing out that the borough has over two million residents and is larger than many major cities. "I want to make Queens a destination, not a drive through," she says.
Gresser, a 30-year resident of Douglaston in northeast Queens, gained citywide recognition as an educator, thanks to her four years as president of the Board of Education and a lively public battle with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
But she’s more than just an ardent education activist, she’s been telling voters throughout Queens since she announced her candidacy last Apr. 30th.
She’s been involved in environmental issues as a member of the New York State Northeast Queens Environmental Preserve Commission. She’s also a member of the boards of the Queens Child Guidance Center and Walk the Walk, an organization which aids abused seniors, based in Long Island City.
The mother of four grown children and a grandmother, Gresser also has served on the Citizens Union board of directors and as chair of the Educational Construction Fund.
Gresser has put together a large group of volunteers to help her campaign and has about $415,000 on hand to finance the effort.
Her campaign got a major boost recently when she and City Council President Peter Vallone, a mayoral candidate, exchanged endorsements.
She also has been endorsed by the Service Employees International Union, Local 32 BJ, the fourth largest union in New York City, and by the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, among many others.
Her goal as borough president would be to work for the things she would want for her own family—a first class education system, safety and freedom from crime, quality health care, services for seniors and young people and preservation of neighborhoods and the environment.
She states, "I wanted my own kids to grow up safe and in peace, attend good schools, enjoy good parks and recreational facilities, find good jobs and have decent homes that they could afford in safe neighborhoods. And I believe that’s what all families in Queens want." Gresser adds that in talking about families, "I don’t mean only one kind of family."
She states, "We have all kinds of families here—families descended from every country on every continent. Straight families and gay families. Single people and married people. People in Queens speak every language, from English to Urdu and from Spanish to Swahili. Queens has the most diverse population on earth. That diversity is a big part of what makes Queens the most fascinating place to live."
Like so many other women who have run for public office in the past several decades, Gresser got involved in a public activity for the first time as a PTA mom in Douglaston when her children first enrolled in public school.
Gresser later became president of her local PTA and a good many years after that president of the Board of Education, a post she held for four years and which brought her to the attention of every school parent in the city.
After leaving the Board of Ed, where she had been a member for eight years, she has remained in the field of education as director of the Institute for School Board Leadership at Teachers College of Columbia University. She is also an adjunct professor of education at St. John’s University in Queens, of which she is a graduate.
Her service on the Board of Education helped prepare her for the job of borough president, Gresser feels.
When she was first appointed to the Board of Education in 1990, she says, she discovered "My many years of community and school involvement had prepared me well. Whether you’re president of the PTA or president of the central Board of Education, you need many of the same skills."
These skills involve management, administration and consensus-building, all of which she learned in dealing with the city’s unions and teachers, and administering the million-plus student system.
She also learned to formulate and administer a $9 billion budget and to deal with many thorny issues such as school overcrowding, budget cuts, crumbling school facilities and school safety, problems that are still with us.
Gresser recalls: "I fought for more schools, smaller classes and higher standards. And when the mayor [Giuliani] proposed someone who had never led a school system and lacked the credentials to be Chancellor, I stood up to the mayor and said no! Very often there’s a price to pay for integrity, but if you stay true to your principles, it’s always worth the price."
Recently, when it was revealed the school construction budget faced a $2 billion deficit and three proposed new schools in Queens would have to be delayed, Gresser called for construction of the schools.
She said Queens is presently short 27,000 seats and has the most over crowded schools in the system.
Gresser also spoke out recently for the continued operation of school based health centers located in six Queens public schools that were threatened with being shut down.
Her schools platform calls for a fully funded Universal Pre-kindergarten plan, expansion of vocational education, computers and technology equipment for all students, and choice of schools between one district and another.
As borough president, she said, she would establish a liaison with borough and precinct commanders to identify and address community concerns with crime situations and police coverage. She would also advocate for more cops on street patrols and strong community-police partnerships.
Gresser said long-term housing and development plans must include neighborhood preservation and be addressed on a borough-wide basis. "Schools and affordable housing must be built to meet growing demands throughout the borough," she said.
On health care, Gresser supports providing poor and uninsured individuals with government subsidized health insurance. Senior health care service must be maintained throughout the borough, she said, and transportation provided for doctor visits.
Addressing the flight delays and overcrowding at LaGuardia Airport, Gresser called for reverting to controls that were in effect before passage of Air 21 last year which greatly expanded the number of flights by smaller planes to small airports. Besides controlling flights, airport operations must be tailored to reducing noise and air pollution in neighborhoods closest to the airport, she said.