Eye on politics
No sooner had Woodside/Sunnyside regular Democratic Party leaders endorsed City Councilmember Eric Gioia for re-election than Republicans there countered by endorsing local leader Patrick Hurley to challenge Gioia in the general election in November.
This is the second Republican challenge to an incumbent Democrat that has come to our attention. About a month ago, Councilmember Tony Avella (Bayside) was challenged by longtime northeast Queens Republican leader Philip Ragusa, a Beechhurst accountant.
Both Republicans face a tough contest. Gioia and Avella both have their county organization’s strong support and a built-in advantage because there are more Democrats than Republicans in most council districts in Queens. Incumbents can usually raise more campaign contributions than challengers.
Queens County Republican leader state Senator Serphin Maltese announced the endorsement of Hurley, president of the 30th AD Regular Republican Club. Gioia, a Woodside native, is in his first term as 26th Council District representative. Besides Sunnyside and Woodside, the district includes Long Island City and parts of Maspeth and Astoria.
Hurley’s first comments upon being nominated signaled a lively campaign. Branding Gioia "a left wing Democrat," he declared, "The middle class, small property owners and small business entrepreneurs have been abused, cheated and neglected long enough. I will work with the other members of the Republican caucus and responsible conservative Democrats to advance the interests of hardworking middle class families, small business entrepreneurs and property owners, the backbone of New York City."
He continued, "If anybody thinks that the failed ideology of socialism perished in 1989, they are mistaken. This malignant ideology has been unleashed upon New York City by the tax, fine and spend philosophies of the left. It thrives as it devours the city’s economy and parasitically feeds off the body politic."
Hurley’s broad stroke could actually be interpreted as an attack on Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg and major Republicans such as Maltese, a Middle Village lawmaker, and state Senator Frank Padavan (R–C, Bellerose), who, like their Democratic colleagues, voted for the taxes that they felt were needed to pull the city out of a $3.5 billion budget deficit.
Gioia, meanwhile, stacks up as a tough incumbent. He has attended to his duties as a councilmember, both at City Hall and in the district. He has strong support from other Democrats in the area, such as Congressmember Joseph Crowley and Assemblymembers Catherine Nolan of Ridgewood and Margaret Markey of Maspeth. And he has shown an ability to raise large sums for his campaign.
The 30-year-old attorney, as chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Committee, has conducted investigations which uncovered defective bulletproof vests sold to the New York Police Department, unlawful charging of sales taxes on certain items and illegal sales of graffiti products to youths.
In the district he has led a major anti-graffiti cleanup campaign as well as business district cleanups. He has first-hand acquaintance with local schools and secured funding for educational programs, such as nearly $1 million for computers and computer software. This background makes for the beginning of a lively campaign.
GIANARIS TO GOV: DROP FARE FIGHT: Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) has called on Governor George Pataki to distance himself from the MTA’s attempts to appeal the court decision which rolled back the 50-cent subway and bus fare hike.
"Since his re-election," Gianaris said, "the governor has been placing the burden of New York’s fiscal crisis on working families, and now he’s adding insult to injury by trying to take even more money out of the pockets of working families with legal maneuvers. The time is past due for the governor to show some leadership by ending these misguided fare hikes once and for all."
KATZ HITS MAYOR ON SANIT CUTS: "These cuts don’t make sense," Councilmember Melinda Katz (D–Forest Hills), says of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s layoffs of Sanitation workers and a cutback to one-day-a-week garbage pickups in Queens and other areas of the city.
"It doesn’t make sense to spend $50 million in overtime when the amount saved from the cuts equals only $13 million. You would be taking people who want to work and who want to donate to the income stream and telling them they can’t."
Katz also pointed to the unfair distribution of service cuts, which are due to start July 1 and do not affect Manhattan and the South Bronx.
SEARS EYES ‘PAYDAY LENDERS’: "Payday lenders," those who make short term loans at exorbitant interest rates and take advantage of consumers, should be curbed Councilmember Helen Sears feels. She has introduced legislation to do just that.
Sears (D–Jackson Heights) has introduced a five-bill, pro-consumer legislative package, including a bill to end "the questionable practice of payday lenders." She said New York state law restricts the interest rates and fees that may be charged for a loan, but payday lenders get around this by introducing rates from other states to undermine the protective limits put in place here in New York City.
SPITZER EYEING RUN FOR GOV: Not long after Assemblymember Herman "Denny" Farrell, who is also state Democratic chairman, placed Attorney General Eliot Spitzer at the top of the list of possible Democratic candidates for governor in 2006, Spitzer said he was thinking seriously of running for the state’s top office.
Last Thursday, at a party function in Nassau County, Spitzer reportedly was the center of most attention even though Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi also mentioned as a gubernatorial possibility, was being showcased as a Democrat who routed Republicans (about 18 months) ago. Spitzer gave the audience what they were looking for in his brief remarks as he ridiculed Governor George Pataki’s aid plan for New York City, which relied on installing video game terminals in OTB offices.
AVELLA PUSHES FAIR AND OPEN TAX ACT: The Democratic-controlled City Council wouldn’t dignify Councilmember Tony Avella’s proposed Fair and Open Tax Act (FOTA) with a public hearing. But that hasn’t discouraged Avella (D–Bayside) from continuing to seek support for the measure, which mandates public hearings and participation on any future decision to increase the city property tax rates. The proposal grew out of passage of the 18.5 percent real estate tax increase, which was done without public hearings and which Avella voted against. His bill mandates public hearings in all five boroughs after sufficient notice of a proposed tax increase has been given.
Now Avella has gathered a coalition of support to make the measures contained in FOTA a part of the City Charter Revision Commission’s work. The coalition consists of Council Republican Minority Leader James Oddo (R–C, Staten Island), Taxpayers for An Affordable New York (TANY) and the Queens Civic Congress, a boroughwide coalition of 100 civic, condo, co-op and tenants’ associations.
Avella, who voted against the 18.5 percent tax hike, said his proposed law does not preclude the possibility of future tax hikes, but will ensure that the public is heard. "Government must be responsive to or at least hear from the people we represent," he said.