Democratic District Leader Lew Simon is all in.
The Rockaway civic leader is running for the City Council against Republican incumbent Eric Ulrich in the 32nd Council District.
Simon, who ran for the same seat in the 2009 special election that Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) ultimately won, is campaigning in a district that includes most of the Rockaway Peninsula, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and parts of Woodhaven. Much of the area was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, including Simon’s own home and office in the Rockaways. He said the storm is what made him decide to run.
“I did not see leadership out there. No one was coordinating. We were out there on our own,” Simon said. “We need somebody who will stand up and lead and coordinate. I want to be that person and many people have said to me ‘it’s time for you to run.’”
Simon has gotten the support of the Queens Democratic Party, which supported fellow district leader Frank Gulluscio in the 2009 special election for the seat, vacated by state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach). Simon also ran for the seat in 2001, losing the Democratic primary to Addabbo.
Simon said the recovery from Sandy dominates the issues in the district. He said he wants to see Queens get the attention other boroughs have in recovery efforts.
“I’ve been sitting through the meetings and we’ve all discussed the need for barriers,” Simon said. “We have no boardwalk and seawalls. We asked for seawalls on the bay side. We asked for flood gates. But Mayor Bloomberg has answered ‘We’ll start in Brooklyn and Rockaway will be last.’ I’m going to work very closely with the new mayor to make sure we get the protection we need.”
Simon added that Queens needed more attention from City Hall across all issues.
Transportation is high among Simon’s other priorities. He supports reactivating the Rockaway Beach railroad line and proposes placing an high occupancy vehicle Lane on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards.
“It would help reduce traffic on that road,” he said. “Right now, Cross Bay Boulevard is congested and traffic is terrible.”
Simon also supports keeping the Rockaway ferry, which is scheduled to stop running at the end of the summer. He would like to add a stop in Howard Beach.
Simon said he would work to find the money in the budget for better transportation options.
“I’d have to look at the budget and see what’s there,” he said, noting there is money for other projects. “But look at the Second Avenue subway. We pay MTA surcharges and our money seems to go to Manhattan. We have to make sure Queens gets our fair share.”
Simon also wants to see another hospital open in the Rockaways, which is down to only one — St. John’s — since the closure of Peninsula Hospital in 2011.
“We need a state-of-the-art hospital in the Rockaways and, if possible, one in southern Queens,” he said.
He noted that the closure of Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica has also led to strain on healthcare in the district.
Simon also wants to see more money dedicate to Queens schools.
“They’re trying to cut the budget in many of our schools, which I find ridiculous,” he said. “Many of these schools still have issues from [Sandy].”
Simon said he isn’t concerned about the Working Families Party endorsing Ulrich. The labor-backed party gave the Republican its ballot line last week, one of the few times in which the WFP has endorsed a Republican.
“I was very surprised,” Simon said. “I would hope the Working Families voters will vote on the Democratic line because we’re together on the issues, and I think they will.”