Former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley doesn’t mind that the Queens County Democratic Party didn’t support her in her bid for borough president. In fact, she said she wasn’t interested in the party’s backing months before its endorsement of Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) in the race was made.
Crowley pointed to leaked emails showing favoritism toward Hillary Clinton over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) in the 2016 presidential primary as evidence of party support gone wrong.
“They knew that was wrong then,” Crowley said in a sitdown interview with the Chronicle editorial staff Monday. “Why Queens doesn’t get it now. The Democratic organization should help Democrats once they win a primary.”
She also believes Melinda Katz’s district attorney primary election last year over Tiffany Cabán would have been decided by a wider margin had the county party not thrown its support behind Katz.
The nonpartisan special election for borough president will be on Mar. 24.
On the issues, Crowley, who has often talked of the need to get Queens its “fair share” compared to other boroughs, has been involved in ideas for transportation improvement, such as using the Long Island Rail Road’s Lower Montauk tracks between Long Island City and Jamaica for passenger service. She has an idea to improve the buses: “Our bus system should be free.”
The idea has been implemented in some European cities.
“If we have free buses would two friends decide to not share the cost of an Uber and jump on the bus because it’s free?” Crowley said.
Because of how much is subsidized, going to the no-fare model wouldn’t cost the city money, according to Crowley, who added that people became residents of cities to get the free transit. That, she said, would lead to more business and more people working.
“We will proposer not only as a borough but if the city was to implement it as well,” Crowley said.
The former lawmaker also noted that her school district was the most overcrowded in the borough when she took office but was no longer overcrowded when she left office.
“It wasn’t because we had an exodus of people,” Crowley said. “It’s because we created over 6,000 new classroom seats.”
Does she have confidence in Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza?
“No, I don’t,” Crowley said. “We’re counting down in Queens, many of us, how many days we have Mayor de Blasio. He kind of has a lot of the same characteristics. He takes things personal. It’s not personal. You’ve decided to take this job. You need to stand there and take the attacks when they’re thrown at you.”
In January, Carranza walked out of a CEC meeting in Bayside after angry parents screamed at him. Video of a 13-year-old girl being attacked by another student had upset the crowd and raised safety concerns.
“You need to not walk out of a meeting when you have parents whose children have been victimized,” Crowley said.
She also discussed the plan to desegregate middle schools in District 28, which includes Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and Jamaica. Parents and critics have said they don’t want children traveling across the borough to attend school.
Crowley said new schools should be opened in South Jamaica near transit hubs, making it easy to access them.
“If we need to have diversity quotas on schools it should be the new schools not the zoned schools that are making our parents very concerned,” she said.
Crowley doesn’t support the bail reform laws that took effect at the beginning of the year. She believes the change is correlated to a citywide increase in crime so far this year.
“I think that our judges need to have the ability to implement a cash bail system and I think that while there needs to be reform that they’ve gone too far,” Crowley said.
The first thing she would do if elected would be to create an anti-hate crimes task force. AntiSemitic crimes were up last year and Crowley said Islamophobia is a problem as well.
Crowley studied urban planning, was a member of the painters union and became the first Democrat, and woman, to hold the City Council seat for the 30th District when she took office in 2009. She lost a close race to a registered Democrat, Bob Holden in 2017, who ran on the Republican line in the general election.
In a crowded field in the race for borough president, Crowley is the only woman, which she believes gives her an advantage. She said female politicians are more approachable.
Crowley said she entered politics to make a difference though there are people who say elected officials are power-hungry.
“I think women leaders are less likely to be in it for that reason and more just to, in a maternal way, come in and help and work together,” Crowley said.
She said the issue of female leadership needs to be confronted at a young age.
“We need to help encourage our women leaders at a young age to become leaders, to not be afraid to fail and to try,” Crowley said.
A proposed homeless shelter in her old district on Cooper Avenue in Glendale, which has been fought against by the community for years, is in the works. “We should have a mayor that works with the borough president to keep communities close to home for the support services,” Crowley said.
It is part of the city’s Turn the Tide against homelessness initiative. “This is just another example of Mayor de Blasio’s failed homeless policies,” Crowley said.