Queens borough president candidate forums have developed a pattern.
They usually last for about an hour with Republican candidate Tony Arcabascio assuring the audience he’s a businessman not a politician with a humble, but intelligent air. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) talks about his hands-on approach with anecdotes about buying meals for seniors and using a chainsaw to cut fallen limbs in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Former Councilwoman Melinda Katz sticks to the facts and sturdy plans for the future drawing from her experience as former Borough President Claire Shulman’s director of community boards. Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) reiterates he’s best for the job because of his commitment to safety as the chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee and that he would be a strong, won’t-back-down voice for the borough.
There are also the persistent verbal jabs between Vallone and Avella, with Katz also taking her aim at the state senator from time to time for allegedly dodging questions.
Last Thursday’s debate at Sunnyside Community Services was no different.
The questions were about senior concerns — issues that are very relevant to the 200 elderly individuals there eating lunch and listening to the debate.
A Community Board 2 member outside the building said it was no coincidence the debate took place at noon in the center’s cafeteria space.
When the forum ended the predominantly female audience seemed to be mostly in the Katz camp.
“She seemed to know more,” said Julia Urgo. “She spoke as a strong woman.”
“I like how she talked about housing,” said Yvonne Rodriguez, adding she hopes whoever wins the election will continue Borough President Helen Marshall’s tradition of attending the many South and Central American parades and events.
“I wish I could take a little bit from everyone,” Mary Robinson said.
Marie Konecko said Vallone and Katz seem to be at the front, but “Tony [Avella] is fighting very hard.”
All candidates pledged to keep funding for senior programs and would plan to create a citywide registry of homebound seniors so the government would know where these individuals are during a natural disaster.
Katz pointed out that Marshall used $1.6 million in the 2013 budget to keep five senior centers from shutting down and four adult daycares up and running, to illuminate that the position, which is often considered just a show pony spot, has power and that she plans to continue this tradition.
Avella wants a senior center in every neighborhood. As city councilman he donated 5 percent of his salary to senior centers in his district.
Arcabascio wants to create public and private partnerships in which franchised companies such as Con Ed would give seniors a discount.
Vallone exemplified his strong advocacy by saying he would be in the Access-a-Ride office, which is in Borough Hall, asking about certain people and problems.
All candidates agreed the public bus service for seniors and those with disabilities has lots of kinks.
Katz said if elected she would have a monthly transportation meeting looking at which transit lines were packed, which were empty and at what intervals they run so “we can deal with the consistent problems.”
Avella would like to see the Metropolitan Transportation Authority split up so each borough could have more control over its buses and trains.
“It’s too big,” he said.