The mayoral frontrunners from both major parties chose to skip a candidates forum in Laurelton last week.
But those hoping to force their way into a runoff after the Sept. 10 primaries took full advantage of the platform offered by the Concerned Citizens of Laurelton to make their case before about 200 potential voters.
There were few surprises out of the more prominent candidates.
Among the Democrats, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Congressman Anthony Weiner reiterated their criticism of a Bloomberg administration they say is “Manhattan-centric” and out of touch with Queens and the other outer boroughs.
“Have the outer boroughs been treated fairly in 12 years under Mike Bloomberg? I would say not,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio and former Brooklyn Democratic Councilman Sal Albanese both said their goals for economic development, job growth, unemployment, expanding the middle class and public safety stem largely from their ambitious plans for education reform starting with early intervention in preschool years.
Albanese would establish a department of early education, while de Blasio would increase taxes on high earners to fund mandatory pre-kindergarten.
Bill Thompson, the Democrats’ nominee in 2009, had to leave early for a prior commitment, but did repeat his criticism of the Bloomberg administration’s policy of inspections and fines when it comes to small businesses.
“They are being used as the city’s piggy bank,” Thompson said.
Comptroller John Liu said the recent controversies surrounding his campaign finances that followed years of investigation have not tied him to wrongdoing, and have made him a stronger candidate.
“For three years I have been called ‘the embattled comptroller,’” Liu said. “Come January I hope to be called the embattled mayor.”
Republican George McDonald had a clear field, with neither former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota nor supermarket magnate John Catsimatides choosing to attend.
He would have to catch at least one of them on Sept. 10 to have any hope of forcing a GOP mayoral runoff.
The creator of the Doe Fund said all one needs to do is examine the candidates’ records, such as his for helping ex-convicts and at-risk young adults get job training and placement.
Green Party candidate Tony Gronowicz was not initially invited but was allowed to be seated on the dais.
He said the Democratic and Republican parties — and by extension his opponents — are too connected with the banking and real estate industries to truly represent residents.
Citing the foreclosure crisis in Southeast Queens, he pointed to Green Mayor Gayle McLaughlin of Richmond, Calif., whose city is proposing to use eminent domain to buy up underwater mortgages in order to renegotiate terms with the lending institutions and keep people in their houses.
Gronowicz would be physically removed from a forum hosted in Queens Tuesday by the AARP when he again showed up and attempted to seat himself.
The most each candidate had to say was on the topic of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. Liu said he is the only candidate calling for the flat-out termination of the practice.
“Don’t mend it. End it,” he said.
Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., running as the Independent candidate, said whole neighborhoods have been affected by the policy, and that the current numbers do not support the claims of City Hall and the NYPD.
“Ninety-seven percent of the people stopped have done nothing wrong,” he said, saying a modification is needed.
Albanese said modification should include better training for newer officers; the hiring of 1,300 new officers to make the practice less necessary; and the reformation of the state’s drug laws.
Commissioner Ray Kelly, de Blasio said, would have to be replaced before any reform could be implemented, calling him the architect of the current status quo.
McDonald said he would keep Kelly on, that stop and frisk can be a useful tool when properly applied.
Thompson, who has become increasingly critical of the policy as the campaign has worn on, had to leave the forum before the stop-and-frisk question was put to the candidates.