2013-05-08 / Political Page

GOP Pick For Halloran’s Seat Raises Party’s Hopes

Wasting no time last week, immediately after Dan Halloran announced he was dropping plans to run for re-election for his 19th District seat in Northeast Queens, the Queens County Republican Party met and endorsed Dennis Saffran, a Douglaston attorney who is also vice president of the Douglaston Civic Association.

And in another significant move, the Queens GOP and Saffran announced that former state Senator Frank Padavan, still the most respected and popular Republican in the borough, has endorsed Saffran and promised to actively support his campaign.

Padavan, who had represented the area in the state senate for 38 years until he was defeated for re-election by Tony Avella, stated, “I’ve known Dennis and his family for many years and strongly support his nomination and election. He is passionately committed to preserving the quality of life in our city and in the neighborhoods of Northeast Queens, and will relentlessly fight for these neighborhoods in the City Council in the same way I did in Albany.”

At this point, Saffran doesn’t appear to have any challengers for the nomination, but he and Padavan and the party leaders will mount strong support to make him their candidate against the Democratic Party choice in the general election.

Who that will be is the person who emerges as the winner of the September primary. Presently, the field is very crowded and consists of five hopefuls. They are Paul Vallone, from the highly respected political dynasty in the borough; Austin Shafran, who has high voter recognition from his work in Albany; former Assemblymember John Duane; Paul Graziano, a community activist; and possibly Kevin Kim, who lost to Halloran four years ago.

But Saffran has already experienced the tough road ahead of him if he becomes the candidate. He ran for the same seat in 2001, and lost to a very tough opponent, Tony Avella, but by only about 400 votes out of about 35,000 cast, he pointed out. He was clearly the underdog to the more experienced Avella, who served several terms in the council before he took on a very strong opponent in Padavan and defeated him.

Saffran’s brief resume of his background, released after last week’s political development, disclosed that he is a former head of the Center for the Community Interest, which he described as “a national public interest group that supported many of the Giuliani Administration anticrime and quality-of-life initiatives…” So we can expect we will hear these issues raised again if he’s the candidate. Also it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if Giuliani got involved in Saffran’s campaign. The ex-two-term mayor ran very strongly in Queens in his two election victories.

Saffran, a graduate of Forest Hills H.S., Harvard and NYU Law School, gave some clear indications of what his campaign will look like in his remarks after he won the party’s endorsement. In that statement, he invoked Padavan, Giuliani and Bloomberg, the GOP’s most successful office holders in the past 25 years.

Saffran stated: “I am running to restore the tradition of integrity and honesty in government set for many years by Senator Frank Padavan and former Councilmember Mike Abel, and to preserve and build on the advances in public safety and neighborhood quality of life of the Giuliani and Bloomberg years.

He declared that he would also “focus on opposing overdevelopment”, which has been a serious problem in Bayside, Whitestone and Douglaston; and on “preserving high educational quality” in School Districts 25 and 26. Stressing one educational issue that he would pursue is “strong opposition to a lawsuit that seeks to undermine merit selection and effectively impose racial quotas at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and the other New York City specialized high schools.

Saffran is married to Jane Stewart Saffran, an attorney with WABC. They have two children, Kristina, 20, a junior at Harvard, and Nick, 18, a freshman at the University of Chicago.

Commenting on the Queens party organization’s choice of Saffran to replace Halloran, Queens Republican Party Chairman Philip Ragusa said, “Dennis Saffran has been a great advocate for the policies that have made this city a better place to live during the Giuliani and Bloomberg years, and he’ll be a leader in the council in the fight to keep these policies in place.”

Queens GOP Executive Director Robert Hornak stated Saffran ran a great council race in 2001 as “a relative newcomer to the community”, and added:

“Dennis and his wife have been extremely active in the decade since then, while raising two great children. We’re confident that his community ties, his background in public policy and his close race from 2001 make him the strongest Republican candidate this year.”

HALLORAN DROPS OUT: It came as no surprise that Councilmember Dan Halloran quit his race for re-election in the 19th District last week, about two weeks after pleading not guilty to charges of allegedly accepting bribes to attempt to place state Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, on the mayoral ballot as a Republican.

Halloran said “it had been a great honor” to serve in the council, but he “now must focus my attention on clearing my name and restoring my reputation, while I continue to discharge my sworn duties as a member” of the council. But, he said, he couldn’t continue to serve in the council, try to clear his name and run for re-election, so he dropped out of the race for re-election.

WOULD-BE OPPONENT’S COMMENT: Commenting on Halloran’s quitting the race, Paul Vallone, a Democrat seeking his party’s nomination for the 19th Council District post, stated: “The residents of Northeast Queens deserve representation they can be proud of and a principled city councilmember who is accountable to the will of the people. Now, more than ever, is the time for integrity and trust—principles which the Vallone family has embodied for over three generations and which I will restore to the 19th Council District.”

CROWLEY ENDORSES CONSTANTINIDES: Costa Constantinides, the 36th AD (Astoria) Democratic district leader running for the 22nd District City Council seat, was endorsed last week by Congressmember Joseph Crowley, the Queens County Democratic leader and several other councilmembers from Queens.

The 22nd District covers Astoria, Long Island City and parts of Jackson Heights and Woodside. It is presently represented by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who is running for Queens borough president this year.

Constantinides is opposed for the Democratic Party nomination by community activist Tony Meloni and attorney John Ciafone.

The endorsements from Crowley and others came during Constantinides’ final fundraiser for the campaign and marks the kickoff of the campaign’s field activities, he said.

Among those endorsing Constantinides were Queens Councilmembers Daniel Dromm (Jackson Heights), Julissa Ferreras (Corona), Mark Weprin (Glen Oaks), and Jimmy Van Bramer (Sunnyside), all Democrats.

Constantinides, commenting on Crowley’s endorsement, stated: “Having the endorsement of Congressmember Crowley is a tremendous asset to our campaign. We are honored to have the support of our local congressmember, as well as the support of many of the city council’s most influential and hard-working members.”

KOO ENDORSED: Councilmember Peter Koo (R-C-Flushing) has received the endorsement of the powerful New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in his bid for re-election to the 20th District seat in Flushing.

In welcoming the support of the organization, which includes 300 local unions, and 1.3 million workers, Koo stated, “I want to continue to fight to ensure that union men and women who build and service this great city have ample employment opportunities and are treated fairly. I will continue to stand with the New York Central Labor Council to effectuate their mission to support, advance and advocate for the working people of New York City.

The labor council is a nonprofit labor membership organization representing every trade and occupation in the public and private sector of the N.Y. economy. It includes teachers, truck drivers, nurses, operating engineers, electricians and every type job holder in the workforce.

REDUCE EXCESSIVE OVERTIME, HIRE MORE COPS: Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D–Glendale) has written Mayor Bloomberg, asking him, as he prepares the Fiscal Year 2014 Executive Budget “to hire more police officers… and to reduce the escalating and excessive overtime costs incurred by the Police Department”.

She explains that, over the last 11 years, the police force has been reduced by more than 6,000 officers and overtime spending has more than doubled. The NYPD, she notes, spent $586.1 million on overtime expenses in 2012 alone, and budget projections indicate that expenditure will be almost $500 million yearly for the foreseeable future.

Referring to the 28 co-signers of her petition, eight from Queens, Crowley writes, “We believe that using overtime to fund such a large percentage (40 percent of the overtime budget) of planned events amounts to a fiscally wasteful use of overtime spending. Consistent overtime expenditures indicate the need for additional officers. The use of overtime spending should not be used as a long-term solution to compensate for fewer officers.”

Besides Crowley, the Queens councilmembers who signed the petition to the mayor were: Peter Vallone Jr., Daniel Dromm, Karen Koslowitz, Leroy Comrie, Mark Weprin, Ruben Wills, and Jimmy Van Bramer, all Democrats; and Peter Koo, a Republican.

URGES FEMA TO EXTEND DEBRIS REMOVAL IN BREEZY: The Army Corps of Engineers’ contract to provide dumpsters to remove debris in Breezy Point expired on April 28, but Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder wants FEMA to join with government agencies to continue debris removal because it’s vital to Breezy Point’s recovery.

“We are making slow progress, but our recovery is not complete,” Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) said in letter to FEMA. “There is still a tremendous need for storm debris removal across Southern Queens and Rockaway and especially in Breezy Point. Residents and families have been delayed in their recovery efforts because they couldn’t access their homes, were held up by FEMA flood maps, or are still waiting on insurance checks to arrive.”

Complicating debris removal further, the lawmaker noted the end of the Army Corps of Engineers’ contract meant homeowners who weren’t finished with their demolition or construction were forced to arrange for their own costly debris removal service.

ADDABBO ASSESSES PROGRESS SIX MONTHS AFTER SANDY: Reflecting on progress six months after Superstorm Sandy last week, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D), whose Howard Beach area took a major hit, finds some residents and businesses are back to normal, but others are still facing recovery obstacles.

“Some of those residents who worked at those stores are out of work and some are still out of their homes,” he said referring to the latter group. “I also know that there are children and adults who continue to have emotional issues caused by Sandy.”

Addabbo vows he won’t stop working until everyone is back to normal, and he hopes that the federal funding will continue to flow “and help out our neighbors and businesses”.

Meanwhile, back in Albany, an Addabbo- sponsored bill to close a legal loophole that benefits impaired or drunk drivers has passed the senate. The loophole lists “specific substances” that must have been used to pin a crime on a driver, but Addabbo’s bill “better defines ‘impaired’ and ‘intoxicated’ to clarify that these terms reflect a driver’s state of mind, regardless of the intoxicant used”, Addabbo explained.

“As such, the measure will address the fact that some drivers, in the past, have escaped prosecution for driving under the influence (DUI) because they have not ingested alcohol or specific drugs now listed in the Public Health Law,” Addabbo said.

HONORS ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH: As we entered May, Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), a member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, issued the following statement in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which is celebrated annually during the month of May:

“I am proud to join my fellow Americans in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have long made, and continue to make, positive and meaningful contributions to New York and our entire country. Whether it is through the sciences, arts, business or government, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have helped shape every facet of American society. As we celebrate this month, let us recognize the struggles of the past, while paying tribute to the many stories of achievement and success.”

MARSHALL: ‘NO SURPRISES IN BUDGET’: Commenting upon Mayor Bloomberg’s Executive Budget presentation last week, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall stated, “The mayor’s presentation today showed a balanced spending plan with no surprises and no new taxes. However, it still leaves unaddressed the restorations requested in spending for senior programs and services, childcare slots and after-school programs, almost $30 million for libraries and four firehouses in Queens—to mention a few.”

The restorations and initiatives funded by the City Council in this year’s 2013 Adopted Budget are not included in the 2014 Executive Budget presented today, Marshall added.

KOSLOWITZ, VAN BRAMER ON BUDGET: In a statement commenting on the mayor’s Executive Budget, Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz (D–Forest Hills) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) also criticized respectively cuts to the FDNY, after-school programs and libraries.

Koslowitz stated: “I am disheartened to see that once again this year’s Executive Budget targets firehouses and after-school programs, which are slated to lose thousands of slots throughout New York City including in my own district [Rego Park and Forest Hills]. Closing these vital programs, like Beacon, hurts parents who rely on after-school programs to provide a safe place for their children while they are at work. We cannot compromise our public safety by closing firehouses nor risk harming our children if we take away services that provide a safe and supportive culture of learning and cognitive development.”

Van Bramer, who chairs the council’s Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, “vehemently objected” to the proposed library cuts which threaten to slash $106 million in funding for three prestigious public library systems, as well as $65 million for museums, zoos and other cultural organizations.

“Once again,” stated Van Bramer, “the city council has been posed with the task of fighting to restore funding to the institutions that our city residents love dearly. Alongside Speaker Christine Quinn and my colleagues, I will continue to fight to restore funding we so desperately need.”

Van Bramer said New Yorkers “deserve a better budget—one which grants them all-the educational services as well as social services that make New York City the information and cultural capital of the world.”

SIMOTAS STILL PUSHING FOR EARLY VOTING: At the urging of Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D–Astoria), the Assembly has passed her bill permitting early voting in all general, primary and special elections held in New York state.

“Maximizing the level of participation in the electoral process is fundamental to our American democracy,” she stated. “Long lines, closed polling locations and confusion can effectively be alleviated with the legislation the Assembly passed today.”

Under the bill, which must still be approved by the senate, early voting would give voters a two-week time frame to cast their ballots in a general election, and a one-week time frame in primary or special elections. Polls would be open from 8:00 a.m. to 8: p.m. each weekday and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekends.

If enacted into law, Simotas said, New York would join 32 other states and the District of Columbia in permitting an alternative to in-person voting on Election Day.

“Early voting will mean fewer people waiting in long lines on Election Day and allow people with disabilities, seniors, and those with non-traditional work schedules easier access to voting,” she explained. “This legislation goes a long way toward improving the voting experience for our community.”

OPPOSES DOING BUSINESS WITH SHEIK: Councilmember Daniel Dromm was “shocked” to read in a recent newspaper story that the Bloomberg administration is “negotiating to give New York City parkland away “to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyas to build a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Dromm wasn’t livid over the parkland giveaway, but because the Middle Eastern “oil billionaire that helps rule a country [Abu Dhabi] where gays or lesbians is a crime punishable by death. This is outrageous.”

Dromm, who is gay, went on, “This is also a country where gay or lesbian people could be subject to chemical castration. I urge my colleagues in the city council and elected officials across the state to join me in saying that New Yorkers won’t do business with a murderous regime and we won’t sell, trade or giveaway our public assets to those who discriminate and participate in human right abuses.”

The story which Dromm referred to was the April 30 issue of The New York Times and was about bin Zayed’s offer to buy 13 acres of parkland at $1-a-year. In exchange he would build a $340 million major league soccer stadium where a team he will acquire will play.

There is much debate going on in favor or against giving city parkland away, or selling it to build either a soccer field or to expand the National Tennis Center in the same huge city park. And bin Zayed is not the only individual who wants to build the soccer field there. In fact, other major league soccer teams want to build in the huge park, and so does Major League Soccer. But, as we said, there are those who want to preserve the park as a park, and so the fight goes on.

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