2009-02-18 / Political Page

Special City Council Elections Set For Tuesday

Special elections to fill two City Council seats, one in the Jackson Heights- Corona area, the other in Ozone Park- Howard Beach, will be held next Tuesday. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Four candidates are competing to replace Hiram Monserrate in the 21st district, which includes East Elmhurst and Elmhurst as well as Jackson Heights and Corona. Monserrate was elected to the state senate last November, creating the city council post vacancy.

In the other race, in the 32nd Council District, four candidates are seeking to replace Joseph Addabbo Jr., who also was elected to the state senate last November.

The four candidates in the 32nd district race are:

•Mike Ricatto, an Ozone Park businessman, and a registered Republican running as the Voice of the People on Line 1 A.

•Erich A. Ulrich, a Republican Party district leader in Ozone Park and a community activist, running under the People First banner on Line 1 B.

•Geraldine M. Chapey, a Democratic district leader in Rockaway, whose motto is Community First on Line 1 C.

•Lew Simon, also a Democratic district leader in Rockaway running as the Good Government candidate on Line 1 D.

The district includes Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Broad Channel, the Rockaways, South Ozone Park, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill.

The race shapes up as a battle between the two Democrats, Chapey and Simon, and between the two Republicans, Ricatto and Ulrich, each trying to extract the major part of their vote from their respective party members within the district.

County Republicans have endorsed Ulrich, a 23-year-old who serves as president of the Our Neighbors Civic Association of Ozone Park.

GOP officials point out that their party has a base here developed during the long period that Serphin Maltese represented the area as part of his state senate district. Also, Alfonso Stabile, an energetic Republican civic leader was the city council representive there for two terms before Addabbo won the seat in 2002.

However, Ulrich is getting stiff opposition from Ricatto, a 52-year-old businessman and Republican who is drawing on his long experience in the business sector to fashion his election campaign.

Ricatto, who owns several small businesses, points out that the city can save millions of dollars if it adopts a business person's attitude and keeps a watchful eye on operations to make small economies here and there that can mean large savings.

He recalls he once leased a building to the city that was empty after a few years. The city continued its lease and paid several hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent for the empty building.

"This can be avoided without wasting city dollars unnecessarily," he said adding that tighter administration of business practices can bring this about.

On the Democratic side of the 32nd district race, Chapey and Simon are both situated in the Rockaways and their political activities and voting strengths are concentrated there.

They had been expected to get stiff opposition from the Ozone Park portion of the district, which is Addabbo's home base and where Frank Gulluscio is the longtime Democratic leader.

HoweverGullusciowasknocked off the ballot, leaving a void. But according to reliable Democratic sources, Gulluscio may be endorsing Simon, who works on the staff of state senate Democratic Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (St. Albans). This would give Simon a decided edge over Chapey—and his two Republican opponents.

In the other council contest for the 21st District seat situated near La Guardia Airport, there are also rival Democratic district leaders involved. However, candidates Francisco Moya and George Dixon will have to do it on their own because the county Democratic organization decided to stay neutral in the race.

This created a good opportunity for candidate Julissa Ferreras. The former chief of staff to Councilmember Hiram Monserrate appears to be taking full advantage of it.

Ferreras, 32, has picked up several major endorsements from municipal unions that hold the promise of getting volunteer help on election day. She has also been endorsed by 14 past and present councilmembers, including six women councilmembers who look forward to welcoming her as the seventh woman and first Latina from Queens.

A comment made by Councilmember Karina Cabrera, who heads the Latina bloc in the council, could help Ferreras to land the women's vote. Cabrera stated that Latina lawmakers endorsed Ferreras "because she has worked all her life empowering Latinas and tackling these critical challenges".

Ferreras, campaigning on a platform of better wages, more jobs and improved education and health care, declared, "My election means that my Latina and other constituents will have a voice in the council if I am elected."

In addition to having served as Monserrate's chief of staff, Ferreras was an advocate for students and families at P.S. 19 in Corona, one of the city's most overcrowded schools.

In her role as chief of staff, she worked closely with Monserrate on including more affordable housing, quality jobs for local residents and other community benefits in the final Willets Point development program.

Ferreras has been endorsed by the following organizations:

•Local 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, 1,200 of whose members live in the 21st Council District and have pledged to help in her campaign.

•Local 32 BJ SEIU, with 2,000 members living in the 21st Council District. This group was active in Addabbo's senate campaign.

•New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, which promised an "aggressive" field campaign.

•UFGW Local 1500, the largest grocery workers' union in the state.

•Working Families Party

•ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform now, which was active for the community in the Willets Point development

•LGBT, a lesbian and gay organization in Queens, of which Jackson Heights Democratic Party District Leader Daniel Dromm is an officer.

Ferreras also led all her opponents in fundraising, collecting more than $50,000 and spending more than half of it.

Moya, 33, started his community and political activism early in life, establishing the Corona Gardens Neighborhood Association when he was 18 years old. Since then, he was a member of Congressmember Nydia Velazquez's staff for several years and is now employed as a government affairs specialist for a large media firm.

In his campaign, Moya has stressed the need to address the affordable housing "crisis" and has also spoken out against overdevelopment in his area. Dixon, a Vietnam War veteran is an official in the East Elmhurst/Corona Civic Association and a former member of Community Board 3. The 59-year-old candidate operates a graphic arts and design company.

Jose Eduardo Giraldo has not done much outreach in his campaign. He reported raising $19,600 and spending about $13,000 in the campaign.

The winner of this contest will serve only for the remainder of this year, which was the time remaining in Monserrate's term.

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