2012-10-17 / Political Page

GOP Eyes Borough’s State Senate Seats

Queens Republicans and the party’s strategists in the state senate saved the bulk of their energies and financial resources in this year’s elections to apply them to four candidates running against as many Democrats in hopes of scoring some upsets that perhaps would enable the GOP to retain the crucial majority in the upper chamber in Albany.

The Republican strategy was formulated after the party’s delegation laid the groundwork by packing as much Republican voting strength as possible into the new 11th, 12th, 15th and 16th senate districts when they redrew the district lines earlier this year.

Queens Republican leaders designated the four candidates carrying the state organization’s hopes earlier this year and their names were confirmed when the Board of Elections issued the official candidates’ lists for the November 6 elections last week.

In three other state senate races in Queens, the Republicans did not enter candidates, so three Democratic entrants are running unopposed. In order to rule the senate, one party must elect a majority of those running throughout the state on November 6.

In the four Queens state senate contests where Republican candidates are challenging Democratic incumbents, the pairings are:

11th District (Northeast Queens: Senator Tony Avella (D–WFP-I) is opposed by Joseph Concannon (R/C) of Bellerose, a former police officer, who’s running for the first time.

12th District (Western Queens): Senator Michael Gianaris (D–WFP) faces Aurelio Arcabascio (R/C). Both are from Astoria.

15th District (South/Central Queens): Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–WFP) is challenged by Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R–C–I). Both are from Ozone Park/Howard Beach) and Ulrich succeeded Addabbo as the area’s City Council representative.

16th Senate (Eastern Queens): Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–WFP-I) faces J.D. Kim (R–C) of Flushing, an attorney.

Running unopposed are Councilmember James Sanders, who defeated Senator Shirley Huntley in the primary; and Senators Jose Peralta and Malcolm Smith.

Among the four challenged Democrats, Addabbo and Stavisky appear to be the most threatened. In the redistricting, Addabbo’s senate district was extended from Ozone Park westward to include the areas of Forest Hills and Rego Park where GOP district leader Jack Haggerty and his organization, supporters of Ulrich, are in command. At the same time, traditional areas of Addabbo’s strength, where his late father, Congressmember Joseph Addabbo Sr., was the representative, were removed from the district.

Recently, Addabbo got some welcome help–a $500,000 contribution from the state teacher’s union and the endorsement of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Addabbo has earned constituent support for laying the groundwork that brought Resorts World Casino New York City and thereby some jobs to Ozone Park, and he’s worked to cultivate support throughout the area. However, Ulrich has also been a hands-on representative since he succeeded Addabbo as the council representative several years ago.

As for Stavisky, Republican map makers made many changes to her district, the cumulative effect of which added many East Asian residents to the new 16th Senate District.

When J.D. Kim announced his candidacy, he reached out directly to these new constituents, declaring he aimed to be the first Korean-born person elected as a state senator.

Stavisky, who’s been in office for nearly a decade, adapted to the new conditions and, as in her winning Democratic primary campaign, she joined forces with Congressional candidate Grace Meng and Assembly candidate Ron Kim, no relation to Stavisky’s opponent.

Meanwhile, Avella and Gianaris appear to be well set for their challengers. Avella has settled into a favorable groove since replacing former Senator Frank Padavan, which indicates he should be able to handle Concannon, a newcomer.

Republicans presently have a 33-29 advantage in the senate. When it is organized for the 2013-14 session next January, it will be a 63-member body.

Meanwhile, it appears Democratic incumbent congressmembers from Queens—Joseph Crowley, Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks, Nydia Velazquez and newcomer Grace Meng— should have little trouble winning the election.

Incidentally, under the reapportionment, Maloney’s district becomes a Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn district, including Greenpoint and North Williamsburgh in her district; and Velazquez continues with a tri-borough BQ M district.

As for the Assembly, it’s an 18-member delegation for Queens in 2013. In sharp contrast with four out of seven state senate races in Queens, there are 12 unopposed Assembly elections and only six challenges on the ballot November 6.

CANDIDATE ACTIVITY: Stavisky, responding to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s veto of legislation to require the Board of Elections to include Russian-language assistance at the polls, commented:

“More than half a million New Yorkers speak Russian as a primary language, of whom more than 80 percent are foreignborn. In light of the governor’s veto, it is incumbent upon the mayor to ensure that the Russian speakers in our city have every opportunity to participate in the democratic process.”

ENDORSEMENTS: Citizens Union announced endorsements, including Avella and Assembly candidates Nily Rozic and Ron Kim.

BOTH DARTMOUTH GRADS: U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is seeking election to a full six-year term opposed by Manhattan attorney Wendy Long (R–C). Both are graduates of Dartmouth College, Gillibrand, Class of 1988, and Long, Class of 1982.

PERALTA, KATZ SAY THEY’LL SEEK B.P.’S SEAT NEXT YEAR: Queens Borough President Helen Marshall will be term-limited out of office at the end of 2013, but there’s a long line forming among the borough’s Democrats who are interested in succeeding her.

Last week, in quick succession former member of the Assembly and city council, Melinda Katz threw her hat in the ring, as well as state Senator Jose Peralta. Showing his neutrality at this point, Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Crowley hosted Katz’s announcement bash and also was a “special guest” at the occasion of Peralta’s announcement.

Already in the field contemplating seeking the office are Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Leroy Comrie and Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik. Vallone leads in the campaign cash department with a reported “over $1 million” in the bank. Vallone’s most recent comment was he’ll be “making a decision” in the near future.

VALLONE BACKS SMALL BIZ AID: Last week, Vallone praised the city council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration for proposing a package of five bills that would help small businesses by loosening their regulatory burdens and eliminating needless obstacles that hinder growth.

“Small businesses provide jobs and pay the taxes that support this city, and the owners need all the help they can get right now,” Vallone declared. “As one of the few elected officials who has owned and managed a small business, I understand how much these measures will help, particularly restaurants that are being hit with frivolous fines that can go as high as $2,000.”

The measures propose the elimination of obsolete violations, identification of violations for which a business should receive a warning instead of an automatic fine, streamlining the regulatory process, standardization of customer service training for all agency inspectors and designation of agency liaisons to serve as contacts with chambers of commerce and industry groups.

Vallone, a member of the council’s Health Committee, said he had recently voiced his support for Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s efforts to streamline the appeals process and reduce fines for restaurants for non-health violations.

SCHUMER SAYS S.S. CHECKS STOLEN: With just a phone call, scammers are stealing seniors’ Social Security checks that are deposited into their accounts at their local banks, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D–NY) charged.

The lawmaker said that as of August 31, the inspector general of the Social Security Administration (SSA) reported “over 19,000 reports of unauthorized changes to bank account information within the SSA.

“It shouldn’t take just one phone call and a scrap of information for a thief to reroute Social Security payments to their own bank account,” said Schumer. “Social Security is a lifeline to seniors, and a thief shouldn’t be able to sever that line with a snap of their finger. Fortunately, there are easy steps that the SSA can take to protect them, such as requiring immediate notification when bank account information is changed.”

Here’s how it works, the Brooklyn lawmaker explained: “Scammers get their hands on the bank account information and full name of Social Security information. Then they contact the SSA and ask to have payments rerouted to their own accounts.” He added that scammers often get hold of a bank account info by preying on senior citizens with lottery and prize winning scams.

Schumer said the inspector general has recommended that the SSA take steps to better verify the beneficiary’s identity before changes to an account are made. And the lawmaker says, “For changes made to account information over the phone, the SSA should take additional steps to confirm the legitimacy of the transaction.”

He notes, “The agency has beneficiaryspecific information in its systems it should use to improve verification prior to making the account changes. Additionally, the agency should implement a new notification system to alert beneficiaries that changes have been made to their account, through written confirmation mailed to the beneficiary’s home address or through email, text and automated phone calls. Finally, if a beneficiary fears they are the victim of identity theft, they should be allowed to “freeze” their account, requiring face-to-face verification in an SSA office for any changes to the account.”

SMALL HIKE IN S.S. BENEFITS IN 2013: According to press reports, the Social Security benefits will increase by one percent to two percent beginning January 1.

For an average benefit of $1,237 per month, the typical retiree can expect a raise of $12 to $24 per month. This would be among the lowest annual increase since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975 and tied to inflation.

SIMOTAS HITS INCREASED AIR TRAFFIC: Aiming to retain and ensure the quality of life in Astoria, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas has requested the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Port Authority “examine and address the sudden increase in air traffic” that has subjected residents of Northwest Queens “to an upsurge in air and noise pollution”.

The increase in air and noise pollution affects her district, comprised of Astoria and Long Island City, which are both near LaGuardia Airport.

“Several constituents have reached out to me to voice concern about the aircraft noise and air pollution problem in residential neighborhoods, citing that the frequency and volume of overhead flights have increased in recent months,” Simotas said.

“Aside from being unable to open their windows due to the air noise and pollution,” the lawmaker added, “the air traffic has impeded some residents’ sleeping patterns while also giving cause for concern about fume smells from overhead aircraft.”

Simotas stated that the source of the problem “stems from the FAA’s flight departure testing—evaluating the impact of the recently implemented New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace Redesign in tandem with the new NextGen satellite technology—at the nearby Runway 13 based at LaGuardia Airport.”

She said, “The increased air traffic directly accounted for detrimental [effects] of noise on educational development, emissions on health, as well as adverse effects on ground safety and property values.”

Simotas commended the FAA and the Port Authority for “developing a unified, streamlined complaint system”. However, she expressed concern that the agencies must do more to address the aforesaid complaints in a timely manner, especially in light of overpowering evidence that noise detrimentally affects mental and physical health and well being—in particular on children’s cognitive, language and learning abilities.”

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