Veteran Takes Pay Cut to Return to Changed District...As Karen Koslowitz ran this year for the Council seat she once held for a decade, her campaign manager encountered an exasperating problem.
Every time Koslowitz was supposed to meet her staff at campaign headquarters, she was always at least 30 minutes late.
Easily recognizable with her curly bob of red hair, Koslowitz, 68, would constantly be stopped during the 15-minute walk from her apartment to Queens Democratic Party headquarters by people looking to talk to her.
“I said to Karen, ‘We’re going to have to start driving over to your place and picking you up,’” recalled her campaign manager, Greg Lavine.
That name recognition helped Koslowitz eke out a primary victory over the WFP-backed Lynn Schulman, giving the Queens Democratic Party one of its few success stories during an otherwise dreary election season. She again defended against Schulman in the general election.
In 2001, Koslowitz deferred plans to run for borough president, and took a job as deputy Queens borough president. For the past eight years, she has quietly bided her time, staying in touch with constituents as Helen Marshall’s point person for community board relations.
Koslowitz is taking a substantial pay cut to return to City Hall.
Though other opportunities arose over the past eight years, Koslowitz never really seemed interested in climbing higher up the political ladder.
“She without a doubt has been waiting over the past eight years to again run for the City Council,” said Michael Reich, executive secretary of the Queens Democratic Party. “She’s told me that it’s the best job she ever had.”
Long a party loyalist, Koslowitz worked her way up through the Queens Democratic Party, first joining the Continental Democratic Club, then serving as an aide to Rep. Gary Ackerman and Council Member Arthur Katzman, whom she succeeded on the Council. She was also very close with Thomas Manton, the now-deceased former boss of the Queens Party.
One major selling point for Koslowitz during the campaign was a pre-existing knowledge of how to work the levers of government. She is also known for an almost obsessive commitment to constituent services. (One of the top issues she wants to tackle on the Council: making sure residents of local senior centers again are served hot meals, rather than frozen ones.)
Since term limits forced her off the Council, the district has grown dramatically more diverse, with Russian, South Asian, and Hispanic immigrant groups streaming into upcoming areas like Kew Gardens, and Rego Park.
In an effort to relate to the new immigrants, Koslowitz would tell the story of growing up in the Bronx as the daughter of Polish immigrant mother. She also can relate to the economic hardships faced by many of her constituents, as a single mother who raised two children in the district.
Koslowitz felt this race was more personal than the previous campaigns she ran for City Council. With more Democratic candidates running than in the past, she decided her best bet was to walk through the neighborhood knocking on doors and asking for votes.
“I didn’t go door-to-door the first time. This time I did, it was wonderful to do, but I think it was funny how people answer their doors,” she said, gasping and letting out a little laugh. “What they’re wearing—sometimes you’re startled.”