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Queens Chronicle

QUEENS VOTES 2013 A mayoral underdog who has confidence

Former Councilman Sal Albanese talks policy and politics in Queens

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Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:49 am, Thu May 9, 2013.

It’s been done before, he says. A longshot candidate can win the mayoralty of New York City. Just look at the race in 1977.

At this point in that year, former City Councilman Sal Albanese says, there were two candidates polling about where he is now —in the single digits. But their name recognition improved, and in the end, one of them won. That was Ed Koch. The other lost that election but did all right in politics in the end. His name was Mario Cuomo.

Albanese insisted he can come from behind and beat the big-name candidates he’s facing, and laid out his campaign platform in detail, at a Monday meeting with the Queens Chronicle editorial board.

“I’m not naive,” Albanese said. “These people I’m running against have been around forever. ... But these people have been running for a while, and they’re not exactly hitting the ball out of the park.”

Once matching funds are made available, he said, his campaign will have a couple million dollars on hand — enough to run a serious race for City Hall.

A Democrat from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Albanese served in the City Council from 1982 to 1997, when, he said, he decided he had been there long enough (he favors term limits of 12 years, and said he had served three years too many). Albanese also was a teacher and worked in the financial sector.

His campaign focuses on strengthening the Police Department by hiring 3,800 more officers, improving education by opening early childhood centers in each borough and improving teacher training, expanding mass transit by bringing it back under city control and adding tolls to some bridges and removing them from others, as well as adjusting tolls depending on the time of day, and raising more revenue by reducing and eventually eliminating property tax breaks for major corporations.

In Queens, Albanese said all three projects planned in and around Flushing Meadows Corona Park — the United States Tennis Association’s expansion plan, the proposal to build a soccer stadium and the latest incarnation of the Willets Point redevelopment scheme — “could be good for Queens.”

But, he insisted, “I’m not going to approve any of them without seeing what the community would have to say.”

He expressed concern over the loss of parkland that would occur if the soccer stadium is built, and when asked if he would approve of giving acres of public land to developers for $1, as the mayor plans to do with much of the Citi Field parking lot, he said he would not.

“I don’t like it,” Albanese said. “That’s why I don’t accept money from developers. My opponents are taking millions of dollars from the developers.”

Albanese faces City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu and former Comptroller Bill Thompson for the Democratic Party nomination.

Policy highlights of the former councilman from Brooklyn include:

• Adding at least 25 police officers to every precinct in the city, more depending on the area crime rate, along with more in housing, transit and the detective squads;

• turning student teaching into something like a medical internship, utilizing his experience as a teacher in Springfield Gardens;

• creating a Department of Early Learning that would incorporate all pre-kindergarten programs in the city under one umbrella, and be funded through private donations to start;

• and adding tolls to the East River bridges while reducing them at spans such as the Verrazano, using some of the estimated $1 billion in new revenue to expand express bus service and some to repair infrastructure.

Albanese favors keeping mayoral control of schools and retaining but reforming the NYPD’s stop, question and frisk policy.

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