Longtime Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden is running for City Council.
The Middle Village resident exclusively told the Chronicle of his plans on Tuesday, two days ahead of what he says will be his official announcement of a Democratic primary challenge against Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) at Thursday’s Juniper Park Civic Association meeting.
The fiery Holden's biggest inspiration to run is simple, he said. District 30 desperately needs new leadership.
"We're at a point where we simply can't have Elizabeth Crowley for four more years," Holden said. "It it wasn't Crowley in charge, maybe I wouldn't run. But it's time the neighborhood had some leadership at City Hall and in the community."
The leader of his civic association for decades, Holden has long been a fierce critic of Crowley — a cousin of Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) — claiming she is ineffective and out-of-touch with neighborhood residents.
"I think it's my turn to step up," he said. "I know I'm going against the party machine and it's going to get nasty. But I know how to fight. I've demonstrated that."
Holden has built the Juniper Park Civic Association into one of the more powerful and influential neighborhood groups in the city. He said his track record should be more than enough to prove to fellow area residents that he will fight tooth and nail for his hometown.
"I've always put my community first," he said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Corresponding with his Council bid, the 65-year-old civic president and New York City College of Technology professor is retiring from teaching at the end of the semester, capping off a 40-year career.
In various conversations with the Chronicle in recent years, Holden has denied having much interest in running for public office. But three sources close to the civic president all confirmed to the Chronicle on Tuesday that he has been considering a City Council bid more and more in recent weeks.
"It's something that just came to me very recently," Holden said. "I said to myself, 'You know what, I'm retiring and I've got to try something else. Let me open a new door for myself and see what happens.'"
Crowley was first elected in 2008, becoming the first Democrat and first female ever to lead District 30, according to the City Council website. She won her first full term in 2009, topping Tom Ognibene.
After an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2012, Crowley won a second full City Council term in 2013, defeating Republican challenger Craig Caruana by 18 points. The lawmaker serves on five Council committees, including Fire and Criminal Justice Services, of which she has been the chairwoman since 2009.
Holden’s bid comes one year after Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) went from little-known attorney to lawmaker in his thrashing of longtime Assemblywoman Marge Markey.
Barnwell, a grassroots candidate, repeatedly slammed Markey as an out-of-touch lawmaker who took her job for granted, specifically highlighting her disinterest in attending area civic meetings and her less than forceful opposition to the city’s controversial plan to convert the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express as a homeless shelter.
The Woodside attorney blew out Markey by over 30 percentage points in last fall’s Democratic primary before going on to easily win the general election.
Barnwell, an ally and friend of Holden’s, told the Chronicle on Tuesday that he was unaware the civic president had made a final decision on a run, but it was something he had been pondering for a while.
“I had heard rumors,” Barnwell said. “I knew it was something he has been interested in.”
When asked whom he would be inclined to endorse, Barnwell said he had no plans to publicly choose between Holden and Crowley.
He did, however, say Holden would undoubtedly be a lawmaker who deeply cares about his home district.
“Love him or hate him, he works his butt off for the community. No one can deny that,” he said. “It will be a fun race, that’s for sure.”
Holden said he still had no plans to run following Barnwell's victory, but added the assemblyman's upset win has provided some inspiration.
"I knew it was possible to beat Markey," he said. "But it inspired everyone and it certainly inspired me."