A City Council candidate’s long-rumored run was made official this week, as John Duane formally kicked off his campaign after months of fundraising and behind-the-scenes legwork.
The Little Neck resident spent one term in the state Assembly nearly three decades ago and is making a second push for public office since that initial stint in Albany. (Duane lost to Ed Braunstein for the 26th Assembly District seat in 2010.)
Duane said his drive to represent the people of Northeast Queens has not diminished since his long-ago stint in Albany, and in fact has only grown.
“I certainly know the struggles my neighbors have had, and I’ve had them as well,” the Democrat said. “I’ve spent my whole life serving my community.”
The 59-year-old often portrays his candidacy and potential stint in the City Council as a time of bridge-building and nuts-and-bolts legislating. Transportation, education and public safety top his priorities list, as well as veterans issues. The latter concern distinguishes him from his potential opponents.
The race for the 19th Council District was an already crowded one even before Duane’s entry. Community Board 7 member and local political scion Paul Vallone, state-level public servant Austin Shafran and community activist Paul Graziano have already loaded up the field of Democrats vying to oust embattled incumbent Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). The district includes Auburndale, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck and Whitestone.
The Whitestone Republican is in the throes of his own troubles, facing corruption charges for his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme that exchanged taxpayer funds for cash.
Halloran’s re-election push, unlikely as it seems, appears to be moving forward. And Duane’s entry comes at a time when the incumbent is teetering.
“We need some people with integrity,” Duane said, adding a gentle admonishment of the press for its focus on the scandal rather than issues in the district. He did, however, throw Halloran a compliment.
“To be honest I think Dan Halloran did focus on constituent services,” Duane said. “On that level, he was a good City Council member.”
The father of three has served as the vice president of the Little Neck Community Association and the Little Neck Historical Society, among other civic groups, and worked as an assistant attorney general.
The public service work hasn’t stopped the near-consistent rumor that Duane’s candidacy and fundraising are a push to induce a judicial appointment by the Queens County Democratic Party.
Duane vehemently denied the chattering class’s assertion.
“I find that really unbelievable because I have no ulterior motive,” he said. “I want to win this City Council seat. I have no ulterior motive of becoming a judge. I can unequivocally deny that rumor.”
Politicking aside, the Flushing native said the Department of Buildings needs to be taken to task for not doing its job. He promised to give it “a much stronger enforcement mechanism” to stymie “a lot of illegal building.”
The same goes for the Police Department.
Duane said his home was robbed less than three years ago, but the 111th Precinct never caught the culprit. The 111th Precinct is geographically large, Duane asserted, and needs more cops on patrol as such.
Rather than increasing the number of officers in the force overall, however, he suggested cops should be reassigned in a more proportionate manner.
“We in Northeast Queens are shortchanged when it comes to resources,” he said.
Duane also believes the MTA is too quick to chop away at the limited transportation options in the district every time it’s looking to save a buck or two. He hopes to stop the trend, should he get elected.
But the question remains: With a crowded field vying for the limited financial resources and votes of an admittedly cynical electorate, why would anyone want the job anyway?
“I have no agenda other than serving my community,” Duane said. “It seems to me that we are entitled to nothing less. Honestly, I really enjoyed my time in public service.”