Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) isn’t satisfied with the success she’s enjoyed during her first term. She’s running for a second term because, quite simply, her heart is in her district.
“I look at my past five years since I was elected the first time and anytime I ran for office, I expressed a vision,” Crowley said. “My heart is here in Middle Village, Glendale and Maspeth. I want to stay here.”
Crowley pitched her plans for a second term in a wide-ranging interview with Queens Chronicle editors last Thursday. As a lifelong resident of the district, the 35-year-old Democrat believes she has her finger on the pulse of the community unlike her Republican challenger Craig Caruana.
“He doesn’t have a real grasp of the issues in our district. If you’re going to be a good candidate, you have to have a vision,” she said. “I take every race seriously. No matter who I’m running against, I take it as an opportunity to connect with the constituents I represent.”
In explaining why she would enjoy a successful second term, Crowley looked back at what she believes made her first term a prosperous one. She lauded multiple landmarking campaigns, including PS 66 in 2010, which was the first Queens elementary school to be given such a designation.
She also referenced the Oct. 28 landmarking of the Forest Park carousel, as well as the ongoing debate over whether the Maspeth Firehouse, which lost 19 first responders on 9/11, deserves landmark status.
“I would like to see the Maspeth Firehouse landmarked,” she said. “It is something I believe in and support. I am willing to make it a citywide campaign.”
An issue that Crowley and Caruana are openly divided on is the Republican’s insistance on the use of participatory budgeting, something Crowley doesn’t deem necessary. The incumbent states that she discovers what her constituents want their money going toward in her own way and that Caruana’s views on such a budgeting system’s impact on the community aren’t realistic.
“Any project I have funded has support from the community. I go to the community boards and together, they rate the projects they would like to see happen,” she said. “He doesn’t realize that we have a $70 billion budget and that discretionary funds are one-tenth of 1 percent of the budget.”
Crowley, who earned the endorsement of Gov. Cuomo on Monday, also applauded the recent opening of PS/IS 87’s new $20 million addition, claiming the students of her district now have a better chance at success.
“Never had a Council member before me been able to get that into the capital budget,” she said. “Those junior high school and elementary school students now have what they need for a well-rounded education.”
But Crowley’s first term has not gone without controversy, as when it comes to the Knockdown Center in Maspeth, she remains the area’s only elected official who supports the venue.
The controversial center has played host to a variety of gatherings, including weddings and dance parties, but has recently been besieged by complaints from residents and civic leaders over its attempt to gain a liquor license without a valid certificate of occupancy.
Crowley agrees that a liquor license should not be given to the venue at this time, but unlike some angry residents, she believes the venue could become a successful arts entity in time.
“I look at the arts and film industry as an economic driver,” she said. “In the Bloomberg years, we’ve expanded the number of people working in that industry and I would love to grow that. I know they’re doing that at the Knockdown Center and I support it.”
Some in the blogosphere have accused Crowley of supporting the venue because the center’s owners have contributed money to the Democrat, but she denies the claim, saying “Absolutely not, people don’t pay me to do things.”
Crowley will continue to support the recent City Council proposal to levy a 10-cent fee on each paper or plastic bag used by a customer at retail stores.
“These bags wind up on our streets, in our trees and clogging our sewers,” she said. “That nuisance costs a lot of money.”
The incumbent also opposes the proposed homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue in Glendale, saying that it just isn’t a realistic option for the community.
“There are a number of reasons why it makes no sense at all,” she said. “That site is adjacent to the train tracks and it’s next to the dirtiest known brownfield in Glendale, so it’s not safe.”
When it comes to the Maspeth Bypass Plan, Crowley celebrates her 2009 promise to get massive trucks off Grand Avenue in Maspeth as a “clear win.”
“It has taken thousands of trucks off the streets,” she said. “That’s a promise that I made to my constituents, Maspeth and Community Board 5 back in 2009 when I took office.”
In regards to the noisy New York & Atlantic trains allegedly carrying a commingled concoction of construction and demolition debris and commercial waste behind area homes, Crowley believes that there isn’t much the city can do but she still feels for her constituents.
“It’s an issue that is not regulated by the city but I’ve taken issue with what New York & Atlantic has done,” she said.
Crowley said she has no interest in the Council speaker job, saying that it would keep her from truly focusing on her constituents.