UPDATE: Due to a technical issue during the recording, Queens Borough Public Television has canceled all scheduled cablecasts of this debate. It will run a Meet the Candidates Night program scheduled for Monday, Oct. 21, at St. John's University.
An Oct. 10 debate between the two candidates for borough president started with questions about the partial federal government shutdown and Obamacare and ended with a terse exchange over just which candidate would only represent the interests of the city’s one-percenters in Borough Hall.
The one-hour debate between Democrat Melinda Katz and Republican Tony Arcabascio is scheduled to air 12 times on Queens Public Television between today and the end of the month.
The most contentious moments came in Arcabascio’s closing remarks, during which he addressed a mailer sent out recently by the Katz campaign.
“You call me an evil Republican, a one-percenter,” Arcabascio said. “Do you mean the one percent who are the children of immigrants, who work hard and succeed? Maybe you mean the first four and a half pages of your [campaign] donations, which is how far you have to go before you see anyone who contributed less than $3,850.”
He also asked the former city Councilwoman and Assembly member how many wealthy “one-percenters” she was hob-knobbing with at a recent fundraiser for the arts in Queens.
Katz’s reply in her own closing was direct.
“Your party shut down the federal government,” she said, a shutdown that both candidates acknowledged early in the debate was hurting Queens residents.
On local issues such as job creation, Katz, citing her years as chairwoman of the Council’s Land Use Committee, said creative land use regulations and investment in infrastructure would make a difference.
She said the city is going a long way in its efforts to make Long Island City a high-tech destination. But Arcabascio said those Queens residents entering the job market with the required skills often are leaving the area for high-paying jobs elsewhere.
Touting his more than 30 years in the tech and private sectors, he said high tech is not enough, and the new borough president will have to work with businesses to foster job creation in a wide array of areas.
On education, neither showed much deference toward Mayor Bloomberg’s administration.
Katz said the initiatives that Bloomberg’s Department of Education is trying to push through in its final weeks — such as dozens of school co-locations — should be held in abeyance until a new mayor assumes office in January.
Arcabascio, without mentioning Bloomberg by name, assailed the mayor’s unrelenting attacks on the teachers’ union.
Both said the borough is woefully underfunded by the city given the respective populations of Queens and Manhattan, and that they would be better suited to take the funding fight to City Hall.
The debate was moderated by QPTV hosts Clifford Jacobs and Roslyn Nieves.