Even though a revision to the City Charter in 1990 reduced the borough president position to a largely ceremonial one with a limited advisory role, there are no lack of candidates for the job in Queens.
Four of the six hopefuls came to the Old Mill Yacht Club in Howard Beach last Thursday during a forum hosted by the South Queens Democratic Club, to outline their visions for Queens in the first public forum for beep candidates in South Queens so far.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), former Councilwoman Melinda Katz and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik were all present at various times at the forum. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Astoria), the other two Democratic hopefuls, are expected to appear at the club's May meeting.
Peralta, who has lived in Queens for 35 years, was the first to take the microphone telling the audience that he is running because he wants to make sure that Queens not only becomes a desired destination, but also a better place to live and raise a family.
He wants to eliminate that concept that people have that Queens is an outer borough.
“It's not an outer borough, we have it all here,” said Peralta. “We have the two airports, we have the best parks, we have the best museums, we have great schools, and we have the best restaurants.”
He said Queens’ recovery from Hurricane Sandy “is going to be the borough president's full time job for the next 10, 15, 20 years.”
On education, Peralta said he is focused on school overcrowding.
“We need to invest in capital dollars to build more schools,” he suggested, adding, “It's about working with educators and creating a curriculum to prepare our kids for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Katz, a resident of Forest Hills, spoke to the audience about her lifelong ties to Queens and her 20 years of service in the City Council, the State Assembly and as director of community boards under former Borough President Claire Shulman.
She believes in fighting for the government resources to come into Queens for schools, senior centers, little leagues and the after-school programs. Katz also noted that there are only nine hospitals in the borough with three that have closed down a few years ago.
“One of the things that Queens desperately needs is primary care facilities throughout the borough,” said Katz.
Grodenchik, a borough native and Flushing resident, is a former assemblyman and deputy borough president.
He said that if elected the first thing that he would do is form a task force to deal with the remaining issues from Hurricane Sandy.
“There are a lot of problems that remain that need to be resolved,” he said.
Grodenchik also said he would also focus on issued related to co-ops and condos.
“We need a co-op and condo task force to insure that the rights of the homeowners who own their own apartments are not trampled upon by the city government,” he explained.
Stating that there is not enough mass transit to the community, Grodenchik told the audience that he supports the study to look at the reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Line,
“[Reactivation] would create a tremendous opportunity for the people in Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach to get into the city much faster and increase everybody's property values,” he said.
Comrie touted his record in the City Council and head of the Queens delegation. He said he and the other members of the delegation had worked to deliver services and to bring back benefits to the community.
“We've been able to get the most funding to fix all of the major cultural institutions in the borough,” Comrie said. “We've been able to fix the schools in the borough and create new high schools working together in a collaborative effort.”
Avella, Comrie, Grodenchik, Katz, Peralta and Vallone will face off in the Democratic primary in September. Currently, no GOP candidate has officially jumped into the race.