Good things come in threes.
That may be the case for Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who is hoping her third election in a little more than a year will yield her first full City Council term and a four-year break from the campaign trail. The incumbent will face Republican Tom Ognibene on Nov. 3 as she seeks re-election in the 30th Council District.
And although her tenure has been brief — she assumed her post in January, filling in for the final year of disgraced former councilman Dennis Gallagher’s original term — Crowley claims her accomplishments are numerous.
Crowley took credit for finalizing the long-awaited rezoning of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale — a process she said was stalled after the Gallagher sex scandal.
“A study was started over eight years ago and almost completed four years ago, but it sat on desks without moving forward at the Department of City Planning,” Crowley said. “Part of that was due to poor leadership.”
The new zoning law downsized building regulations on nearly 300 residential blocks across the three neighborhoods — a critical effort to preserve the character of these middle-class communities, according to Crowley.
“In record amount of time we were able to pass legislation to rezone more than 300 blocks,” she said. “The need for this rezoning was so evident in the overdevelopment that was putting our community in a situation that affected our quality of life and compromised the continuity and the very aesthetic that make up the low-density communities that I represent.”
Crowley boasted of efforts to remove truck traffic on Grand Avenue — a source of frustration for many area residents. She said that work is already underway to reinforce an alternate route that would limit commercial traffic on the congested street.
“DOT has pretty much promised me,” Crowley said. “They just need to strengthen one small street near Maurice Avenue.”
She promised to make improving education in the area a top priority. And despite an initial defeat over controversial plans for a new Maspeth high school — Crowley pointed to successful follow-up efforts ensuring that the school would be locally zoned. According to her, the Department of Education has agreed to give local students priority seating despite its citywide zoning policy for new schools.
“The city didn’t want to give me zoning for Maspeth,” she said. “But if I wasn’t persistent, I probably wouldn’t been able to achieve that.”
Crowley believes providing better access to healthcare is a critical issue — calling on city and state lawmakers to do more to establish new hospitals in the area. She proposed expanding nearby hospitals to help ease pressure on the borough’s emergency rooms in the wake of this year’s closures. And while many of her political peers have called for the reopening of St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst — Crowley believes that the facility just isn’t up to snuff.
“I think you have to expand on hospitals that are already open and look at taking down that hospital and rebuilding a hospital on that spot — one that is either a city hospital or one connected to a name that has the wealth to invest in a quality hospital,” she said.
Crowley said St. John’s simply didn’t provide the type of care needed in the area — one of many factors contributing to its decline.
“We need a high quality care hospital,” she said. “We need access to one where if you have a heart attack or a stroke you can go to that hospital.”
And true to her roots in architecture and urban planning — Crowley believes that doing more to remove aesthetic blights will help her district weather the recession. She pointed to recent efforts to reclaim a deteriorating Ridgewood newsstand and convert it into a green space as a small but important step toward making the community more attractive to businesses and consumers alike.
“I think it’s an investment, a partnership — making sure they have a vital business improvement district. It’s the businesses and the city working together to make sure they maximize resources,” Crowley said. “Whatever it takes to improve a district so that people would want to come to spend their money there.”