With Primary Day two weeks away, the Bay Terrace Community Alliance held a candidates forum Tuesday night at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center in Bayside, with nine mayoral hopefuls in attendance, in addition to the six candidates for City Council District 19, four for public advocate and one for comptroller.
The moderators, BTCA President Warren Schreiber and Vice President Phil Konigsberg, asked questions on a variety of topics.
For the most part, the candidates reiterated their positions on issues ranging from education reform and stop and frisk to the much-delayed Little Bay Park comfort station and taxes on co-ops and condos.
Among the mayoral candidates, Democrat John Liu addressed mayoral control of the Department of Education. “I am going to be responsible for our schools ... whatever the system happens to be,” Liu said. He wants to “restore the learning environment in every school. Let education professionals do their job.”
Of the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy he said, “I do not believe it works” and he promised to make sure assessments of co-ops and condos “are done in a fair way.”
He suggested that “the City of New York is at a crossroads. We need change” and he wants to “put the city back in the hands of the people.”
Fellow Democrat Anthony Weiner indicated that more attention needs to be paid to the outer boroughs. “The focus has been about Midtown Manhattan. That needs to change,” he said.
Weiner listed among his top priorities improvement of the city’s school system: “I want to reward good teachers. You can’t judge teachers by numbers alone. Make sure the incentives are right.” He called for “extra money for tougher assignments” and more observations of classroom instruction.
He also sees a need for more affordable housing and the creation of additional good jobs with benefits.
Regarding the Little Bay Park comfort station delays, he said, “The Parks Department has to start being a little more honest with us.” He suggested the need for “standby contractors” who would be prepared to step in if original contractors fail to perform.
If elected, Weiner promised, “You will not have a mayor who doesn’t understand” the co-op and condo taxation situation.
Democrat Christine Quinn said she is running for mayor to ensure that “progress comes to every neighborhood in this city.”
She supports mayoral control of the city’s school system, adding: “We want the buck to stop with the mayor.”
Quinn promised to appoint as parks commissioner “someone who is committed to working with the communities.” She suggests that part of the money raised by park conservancies, 10 or 15 percent, be put into a citywide fund that could be used to improve any of the city’s parks, similar to a plan put forth by state Sen. Dan Squadron (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn).
Among the other mayoral candidates in attendance were Democrats Sal Albanese and Erick Salgado and Green Party candidate Anthony Granowicz.
Republican mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota, his party’s favorite, listed as his main issues the creation of jobs in the private sector, reformation of the school system and the affordability of living in New York City.
Lhota said he wants to “give teachers the resources necessary. We need to help the teachers.” The next chancellor, he said, needs to have had experience in a classroom and an understanding of how to manage a large, complex organization.
He indicated that “taxes are out of control” and “We are spending more than we need to. We must put the city of New York on a fiscal diet.”
He is a strong supporter of stop, question and frisk, indicating a need to clarify for the public how the policy works.
Also on the panel was another Republican candidate, George McDonald, who spoke of the nonprofit organization he founded that finds jobs for the homeless; and Randy Credico, a political satirist who, following a brief sampling of his act, promised to return to do the whole show.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a Democrat, was the sole candidate in attendance running for comptroller, the city’s chief financial officer.
When asked to compare New York with Detroit, which recently announced its bankruptcy, Stringer said, “Let’s be clear. New York is not Detroit.”
He said he plans to “fight for the seniors who make this city so great” and spoke out against residents being “taxed out.”
Four candidates, all Democrats, for public advocate, a position that was created to serve as a voice for all residents, were on hand at the forum.
Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn) spoke on her fight against developers in her area who she said “abused eminent domain,” and added she would continue to stand up against special interest groups. She indicated that the Board of Standards and Appeals, a part of the city’s system for the regulation of land use, “needs to be abolished.”
She said one primary order of business would be to transform the DOE, suggesting “the next chancellor should be an educator.”
“The office of public advocate is powerful,” she said. “It’s about standing up to powerful interests, legislation and negotiation, and last but not least, agitation.”
Former Deputy Public Advocate Reshma Saujani introduced herself as “a young woman who’s trying to make a difference,” and said her focus would be on housing, education, jobs and women and seniors.
“We have to get rid of Standards and Appeals,” Saujani said. “We have to change the process.”
Educator Cathy Guerriero indicated that she would “create a Think Tank to harness the intellectual capacity of graduate students” to help families deal directly with city agencies and organizations.
Squadron believes the office of public advocate “can play a vital role in the city for New Yorkers who need it,” though he admits “the office hasn’t been fully defined. We need a vehicle that makes sure the citizens are being taken care of.”
The BSA, he said, “works pretty well.”
All six candidates for the City Council’s 19th District were on hand, including the five Democrats and one Republican.
On the Democratic side, zoning expert Paul Graziano said he would continue with the policy of a participatory budget “with a caveat,” suggesting it must be “done correctly, not as a popularity contest.” He said public participation must “increase drastically” for the system to actually work.
He called the stalled Little Bay Park comfort station project an example of “how a project can go wrong. Agencies must be held accountable,” indicating they “need more oversight.”
Paul Vallone began by saying, “We need to claim our office back. This district has never received its fair share from the city.”
Vallone, an attorney, said there is a need to “make sure there’s a tax cap” on co-ops and condos, suggesting that now “there’s no equal protection” for the owners.
He sees a need to “protect stop, question and frisk, but it needs to be better. Don’t strip them [the police] of a way for them to keep us safe.”
In her first race for public office, civic activist Chrissy Voskerichian listed her top three priorities as public safety, education and overdevelopment.
She would continue the participatory budget process, saying she would like to see greater numbers of people involved and is opposed to the Community Safety Act, saying it is like “handcuffing the police. Public safety is compromised.”
Regarding the MTA, Voskerichian said, “You cannot raise prices and put the burden on the rider until you make your own cuts at home.”
Former state official Austin Shafran indicted that “we lack an accountability with a lot of city agencies, Parks Department first and foremost.”
He suggested “we need to do much better for our small businesses” to help them cut their costs and to reduce their rent and fines and believes teachers have been “far too long without fair labor contracts.”
Attorney John Duane called for the abolishment of the BSA, adding, “I never have and will never take a dime from any developer.”
He called for “stronger advocacy” and said he would “fight for us, get results for us,” indicating he would work full time for the community.
The lone Republican candidate, attorney Dennis Saffran, supports stop and frisk, saying, “I stand squarely with Ray Kelly. I don’t want to turn back to what we had before.”
He believes more importance should be given to community boards.