With about two weeks to go before the February 24 Special Election to fill the City Council seat vacated by Senator Joseph Addabbo, the candidates came out on Friday, February 6 for a very special debate, hosted by The Queens Courier and Courier Sun newspapers, and set to air on Queens Public Television.
Held at the Howard Beach Assembly of God, the candidates that were able to answer questions and give their point of view were Geraldine Chapey, Glenn DiResto, Frank Gulluscio, Michael Ricatto, Lew Simon and Eric Ulrich.
However, after appealing with the Board of Elections (BOE), on Monday, February 9, Gulluscio was thrown off of the ballot because of a legal technicality about the nature in which his validating petition was served. “I look forward to pursuing all options to allow me to continue to serve the people of the 32nd Council District," said Gulluscio.
DiResto also appealed, but as of Tuesday, February 10, he said, “The judge has not made a decision.”
Each of the six spoke out against the Cross Bay Bridge toll and the MTA’s proposal to rescind the rebate.
“I’m probably the only one up here who can say I got arrested for that toll,” said Simon. Chapey suggested that the MTA sell or lease its property; and Ulrich noted that the money the MTA makes from the toll, about $2.2 million, is “a drop in the bucket.”
Another issue the candidates tackled was the traffic along Cross Bay and Rockaway Boulevards. Many noted that the traffic lights are not in sync and suggested rectifying the “horrendous” traffic with safety or crossing guards and improved public transportation, including the “A” train and reactivating the Rockaway Beach line of the Long Island Rail Road.
A major issue in the district, graffiti, was brought up next, with DiResto, a former NYPD lieutenant, saying that there needs to be more enforcement, more accountability by local businesses and more police. Many of the candidates also called for stricter penalties, including fines and/or community service. Ulrich, whose organization, the Our Neighbors Civic Association of Ozone Park, does graffiti clean-ups, said the war on vandalism is “two-pronged,” including clean-up and prevention. “You need to send a strong message to people who want to deface property,”he said.
When asked what challenges face area schools, the candidates raised the issues of safety, overcrowding, too few teachers, mayoral control and parental involvement.
After audience questions having to do with the Broad Channel Volunteers Firefighters and a lack of police, FDNY and sanitation in light of the Rockaway building boom, the candidates were then given one minute to present their closing statements.
“The only promise I can make is to be honest,” said Ulrich. “I will never give up fighting for these communities.”
Simon told the overflowing audience that he has a “proven track record of success” and personal service; Ricatto gave his “Triple Ace Guarantee” of access, attention and action; Gulluscio, who noted that he was endorsed by more unions than any other and by Addabbo as well, said the City Council is about “real life experience.”
DiResto noted that he has been a “life-long public servant” and will continue to serve; and Chapey said “You can prove the future by the present,” adding that she would work to eliminate wasteful spending and reduce taxes.
The Special Election for the 32nd District will be on Tuesday, February 24. For more information, visit www.vote.nyc.ny.us.
QPTV will air “Meet the Candidates 2009 District 32” on Friday, February 20 from 4 to 5 p.m. on channel 56; and on Sunday, February 22 from 9 to 10 p.m., also on channel 56.