DKCA Holds Candidates' Nght For 26th District Contenders
Instead of its regular meeting, the Dutch Kills Civic Association (DKCA) held a candidates' night in the cafeteria of St. Patrick's School on 28th Street on June 11. Five persons spoke of their desire to succeed Eric Gioia as 26th City Council District representative and a sixth had someone to speak for him. Each introduced him- or herself, and the candidates present also took a few questions from the attendees. DKCA President Jerry Walsh severely limited the time each candidate had to speak and the attendees to inquire. The campaigning and other matters concluded, all in attendance were invited to partake of the abundance of food and drink the DKCA provided for the occasion. The DKCA will also hold a special meeting with Department of Buildings officials June 23, also at St. Patrick's School.
First of the candidates to speak was Kwame Smalls, a Democrat, a student at LaGuardia Community College and a resident of Queensbridge Houses, one of the oldest and largest public housing complexes in the U.S. Legally blind, he felt his handicap put him on a level with the common and struggling populace and concluded that he "walks in the shoes" of other District 26 residents. When asked about housing, education and the menace of swine flu, he said he needed to study each problem before issuing any answers. He did, however, suggest that he could stage an information event about swine flu in which the public could learn about the health hazard amidst music and other entertainment features.
The second candidate was Republican/Conservative Angelo Maragos, who has an engineering degree from Cooper Union. He said the current council lacks balance and diversity, needing relief from the overwhelming sameness the Democrats bring to it. In the audience, Al Volpe, describing himself as a Reagan Democrat, asked Maragos about gay marriage and abortion. The candidate began his reply by saying he admired and hoped to emulate the former president. As for gay marriage, he said he was opposed to the marriage part but in favor of the rights of companionship. He generally opposed abortion too, but favored the right of choice for a woman physically endangered by her pregnancy. He favors school choice. When asked about the $35,000 cut being forced on every community board in the city, he said that it wouldn't be necessary if many flagrantly bloated city institutions were shorn of their luxuries and the funds given to worthier bodies such as community boards. He also favors privatization of many current city agencies.
Brent O'Leary followed. He called himself a progressive Democrat, and is therefore interested in reforming the city's $60 billion budget. While he is a lawyer who favors public funding for education, child care and health issues, he said he recognizes that getting such funding would entail much fiscal streamlining and finding monies "under every rock". "We need a government that's accountable and a councilmember who must demonstrate responsibility at all times," he said. His first questioner was a Queensbridge resident who wanted to know if as a councilmember he would provide repairs for Queensbridge Park's crumbling East River seawall, which has needed fixing for many years. O'Leary deplored the delay and said he would find funding for repairs. Asked about town meetings, he said any councilmember should look at them as a requirement, and he certainly would. He was asked if he had plans for higher office and said no, having yet to win even a four-year term at the council level. His answer to the gay marriage question was that such a matter is not the government's business.
David Rosasco began by calling himself a conservative, blue dog Democrat. Saying he was opposed to gay marriage and abortion, he also said he wanted to hear no more of those issues, since they bore no relevancy to his candidacy for city council. Catch basins and train stations were more to the point, he said. He attacked progressivism as false and currently pessimistic. If there are problems, he said, it's no excuse to bewail the halfempty glass; the glass is really half full of the material and spirit we need to solve those problems. His appeal, he said, is to individual initiative, not a mass movement. He stressed his business experience over what he called his opponents' lack of it, calling himself the only candidate who's running a payroll. He said the question of open space and parkland, seemingly lacking in the district, could be answered by finding and developing "undetermined" patches. As for real estate development, it simply has to be managed, and certain accomplishments lived with, he said, referring bluntly to the Dutch Kills hotel situation.
Deirdre Feerick, the fifth candidate introduced, has prior city council experience, having served as one of its attorneys. She told her Dutch Kills audience that her work in that regard has allowed her to see the possibilities of being the 26th district's representative. She called the district a "mini-New York City" and believes she can serve it because she is willing to sit down and talk to persons whether she agrees or disagrees with them, basing her claim on her record of having done it repeatedly as a city council counselor. She summed up the district by saying, "This isn't a neighborhood where you can run and hide"—rather, it is a place whose representative is always on the spot. Questioned about charter schools, she said they might not have been necessary once, but a general decline in public schools has made them necessary now. She endorsed same sex matrimony as simply a matter of fairness.
Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Borough Public Library official, Democratic Party committeeman and Community Board 2 member, was unable to attend the meeting and promote his candidacy because his stepfather had just died. Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley spoke for Van Bramer, saying he is "ahead of the issues, not just waiting for them".