2003-10-31 / Community

A Wave Election Special

A Wave Election Special: Councilmanic District 31 Candidates Sanders Laughs At ‘Desperate’ Challenger

A Wave Election Special:
Councilmanic District 31 Candidates
Sanders Laughs At ‘Desperate’ Challenger

Wave: You have already beaten Everly Brown once this year, in the primary. How has this made your campaign for reelection easier?

Sanders: I’m grateful that the people saw through this stealth republican’s attempt to steal the democratic mantle, and dealt him a three-to-one loss – the second highest margin of victory in New York City. But complacency is my real adversary. People may believe this is over, that the battle has been won. I’m urging people to come out five-to-one. I’m looking for a mandate to get back into City Hall: a mandate for change.

Wave: How do you answer Brown’s argument that you are holding the Independence Party line, while the head of that party, Lenora Fulani, is considered by most voters to be both anti-white and anti-Semitic?

Sanders: (laughs) He’s utterly desperate! (laughs) They’re another party…I wanted to close the chance of anyone running against us. My record is as an anti-racist…I’ve denounced racism, anti-Semitism, gender discrimination. As a Marine Corps veteran, a disabled veteran I might add, I take special offense to those accusations. I will take my record of service to my country against Brown’s record of service to this country. A lot of "sunshine patriots" nowadays!

Wave: Your success in the 2001 election was partly attributed to the support you received from the Orthodox community. Do you expect that you will benefit from the same support again?

Sanders: Absolutely. I think it will be larger than before.

Wave: Everly Brown and one of his coordinators, Rey Clarke, reported to police that they found some pro-Nazi literature at 711 Hartman Lane, which houses a Jewish girl’s school. Some have speculated that someone from Brown’s campaign could have planted the materials so that Brown would be hailed a hero. What do you think about all this?

Sanders: Well, if he thinks the Jewish community is stupid enough to fall for something that shabby he needs to go back and read Mein Kampf again.

Wave: How has your campaign been progressing in these last few weeks?

Sanders: This election is going exceptionally well, but it’s not over. Brown has to create issues. We expect to see more poison pen letters – some of them unsigned.

Wave: Everly Brown has accused you of being "Missing in Action on key council votes," how have you responded to that?

Sanders: Let me remind Mr. Brown that that was the time when my mother was dying. He should be ashamed of himself for raising that issue…the people of the 31st will agree with my family values. If he wants to be a champion of family values than surely he would understand that a man wants to be close to his mother when she is dying.

Wave: Everly Brown has also raised the issue of the 18 percent property tax increase. City Councilman Joe Addabbo, Jr. told us last week that every incumbent’s challenger is doing this. What is your response?

Sanders: I voted to save the quality of life in New York City. We need to preserve fire, police and library services. I had a conversation with my constituents… they said they would tolerate the tax increase in order to maintain services. I voted to keep senior centers and libraries open. I voted to keep the things that make New York, New York.

Wave: How do you feel about the absentee landlord surcharge?

Sanders: There’s talk of putting it off. There is a real issue of people who are using a home as an investment getting the same tax break as people living there… it’s unfair. The should not get the same tax breaks as people living in the homes. We need a way to fairly tax people who purchase homes for investment purposes.

Wave: What are your thoughts on the possible MTA takeover of the private busses?

Sanders: The MTA must take over, they absolutely must take it over. I’ m sympathetic to the people at Green Line… but as a resident and someone who takes public transportation I see how the service is declining.

Wave: What if the MTA determined that the service should be cut back? Do you think that could happen?

Sanders: I think in our area the [amount] of service is justified… I think we could see more service. There’s no danger here. Service will likely improve.

Wave: What about the rumor that the express busses could be on the chopping block?

Sanders: My office will fight it tooth and nail.

Wave: What do you think of Con­gressman Gregory Meeks’ push to expand JFK Airport?

Sanders: Kennedy Airport is putting pollution in the air and hurting our lungs… they haven’t been the best of neighbors. They should use quieter engines, and plant trees. I would not support expansion until they become better neighbors. That would also include employing local residents.

Wave: What was the biggest challenge of your first term?

Sanders: The Rockaways have been so neglected for so many years… the question was ‘where do I start?’ We started by creating an infrastructure of people who can help… we provided good service to our constituents…what we’ve been able to do is a blessing. When you’ve been abandoned for so long, it’s difficult to figure out where to start.

Wave: What do you consider your major successes your first term?

Sanders: We received more money from the mayor and City Council than any other councilman in my district’s history. But we’ve been bad at taking credit for it. We got some money for Bayswater Park, half a million for the Sorrentino Center, $260,000 for the Addabbo Center.

Wave: What would the priorities be for your second term?

Sanders: Economic development. The Thriftway Mall is an albatross…it can sink the community. You’ll never rebuild the Rockaways if that continues to look like a slum. My pledge is that I’m going to fix the Thriftway Mall with or without my colleagues. I studied under Floyd Flake. Politics is the art of bringing home the bacon for my constituents.

Brown: ‘Rockaway Is Hidden Secret Of Queens’

Wave: Tell us why you would like to represent Far Rockaway in the City Council.

Brown: I think Rockaway is the hidden secret of Queens. It has a lot
of opportunity.…vacant land….we need to have Rockaway developed. It should be like Jamaica Estates.

Wave: You have fought hard, and spent thousands of dollars to challenge Councilman Sanders in the primary and again, now. And you traded parties to do it. Tell us about your persistence.

Brown: I’m a democrat. I went through a process being a democrat in South East Queens – you become a target [of the party] when it comes to getting on the ballot. It wasn’t that I was a "republican" republican – I’m a person first. What the [democratic] party put me through was not correct.

Wave: Are you in favor of the housing development that is taking place in Rockaway right now?

Brown: From a builder’s point of view, yes, but people in Rockaway are not getting a fair shake. There should be more affordable housing.

Wave: What are your thoughts on the Arverne by the Sea project?

Brown: It think it’s the wrong way to go. Rockaway is being raped by these builders. Rockaway is not being represented – these people are from the outside.

Wave: Incumbents have many advantages over their opponents. They have name recognition, their staff and office. Why have you decided to challenge Councilman Sanders now?

Brown: I have the issues. He voted for a tax increase. 18 percent is a lot of money.

Wave: What would you have suggested as a way of bridging the gap, instead of raising taxes?

Brown: I would tax corporations. They haven’t been taxed correctly…Put a surcharge on stocks. Change the income tax so anyone making over $250,000 pays more.

Wave: At a recent NAACP meeting held in Far Rockaway you were prevented from speaking to the audience, because you are a candidate. How did you feel about that?

Brown: That was a political lynch. I wasn’t going to talk about political issues….It’s politics. It’s not fair, but it happens.

Wave: Your campaign has charged that Councilman Sanders was "Missing in Action on key council votes." Were you aware that the period of time during which he was absent coincides with the death of his mother?

Brown: I am sympathetic to that…but you’re part of the city. I knew his mother was sick…life goes on…you’re telling me that for three weeks you can’t be part of the city?

Wave: What are the other issues that you’ve been raising during your campaign?

Brown: Well, he’s (Sanders) always telling people that he’s part of the $110 Million sewer project in Springfield Gardens. They have no idea. It wasn’t Sanders or Bloomberg who accomplished that – it trickled down to them.

Wave: What have you been doing during the last week of your campaign?

Brown: I’m out here. I’m touching the people…telling people that after 25 years in business for myself I know how to make a deal.

Wave: What message are you trying to get out to the people, and what will you do if you aren’t successful?

Brown: Give me the opportunity to represent the 31st. I’ll represent everyone….

Wave: What would your priorities be if you were elected?

Brown: To start beautifying Rockaway.

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