2009-08-21 / Top Stories

Dem. Candidates For 31st Council Seat Speak Out

By Miriam Rosenberg

Michael Duncan Michael Duncan With the primary for the November elections just weeks away - September 15 - the time is right to take a look at those competing for the Democratic nomination for the 31st Councilmanic District seat in the New York City Council, which includes the east end of Rockaway.

The incumbent, James Sanders Jr., has five men challenging him next month - Marquez Claxton, Michael Duncan, Lou Grays, Jacques Lendre, and Fred Lewis. This week andnext we will profile the challengers, in alphabetical order, and give you a chance to hear from the incumbent.

Marquez Claxton was born in Brooklyn and moved to Laurelton, Queens with his parents and sister in 1978. In 2005, he retired from the NYPD after serving 20 years and rising to the rank of detective.

He is a co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care and became involved in Rockaway issues when leaders from inside and outside Far Rockaway came together to develop strategies to stem the tide of violence during a rash of shootings at the end of 2006. Claxton lives in Laurelton with his two sons and wife, Yanet.

Marquez Claxton Marquez Claxton Among his many affiliations are the Public Safety Committee-Community Board 13 (Queens), 'Gangs, Guns & Gainful Employment' subcommittee of the New York State Democratic Conference - Operation S.N.U.G., and the N.A.A.C.P.

"The incumbent has not improved the quality of life throughout the district," said Claxton, who pointed to increased unemployment, foreclosures, and inadequate services for youth and mediocre accommodations for seniors.

In a statement, Claxton told The Wave, "[Sanders] hasn't improved transportation on the peninsula. The train stations aren't even accessible to our seniors and handicapped unless they are prepared to make a daunting climb.

There is no substantive business development or plan and he appears ill equipped to fight the reckless over-development that is plaguing our community. Finally, the current councilman showed disdain for the community by overturning the people's desire to have an 8-year term limit for him, his colleagues and the Mayor."

Lou Grays Lou Grays Claxton said, "I will establish a community priorities list and mobilize the entire district to achieve our goals of increased employment and opportunity - not just dead-end training, additional services for our youth and seniors, public/private partnerships in order to attract responsible businesses to parts of the district, legislation and advocacy to stem the tide of foreclosures, improved transportation services including added ferry service and equipment enhancements, enhanced environmental education so that we can capitalize on green job opportunities and protect our delicate eco-system, empowerment of parents in public education, additional respectful and responsive public safety service … [and] an increase in access to high quality health care with a focus on preventative services and edu- cation." More on Claxton's campaign can be found at http://p2.hostingprod.- com/ @MARQUEZCLAXTON.COM/- index.html.

Michael Duncan was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1963 and has lived in District 31 since 1995. In 1988, he graduated Baruch College with a B.A. in Business Administration. He served as chief of staff for Councilman Sanders from April 2007 to January 2009.

Duncan lists as some of his accomplishments - 15 years ago reviving the Rosedale Soccer Club for youngsters 5- to 19-years-of-age, serving as vice president for Education District 29 President's Council, acting as PTA president of four schools on the mainland, spearheading the efforts to block the construction of a short-stay motel across the street from Springfield Gardens High School complex and instituting the Each One Support One concept of economic independence.

Over the years, Duncan has been active in community activities in the Laurelton, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens sections of District 31, and lists the Federation of African, Caribbean and American Organization as an affiliation.

"I bring 15 years of volunteering and organizing to this district," said Duncan in a statement. "I am the only candidate who will not be solely dependent on the City Council budget to solve our problems. That is why I created the Each One Support One Concept plan, which was designed to solve the problems of fragmented communities.

In this plan relationships are developed among residents and businesses for the purpose of bringing additional financial resources to our communities, whereupon proceeds from local businesses will be used to fund programs."

He added, he would establish a community advisory board, made up of approximately 20 representatives from the district, which would hold monthly Town Hall meetings to inform residents and "where their voices will be heard on every given topic affecting the district."

Like Claxton, Duncan also believes in term limits.

For more on Duncan, his campaign website can be found at http://michaelrduncan. com/index.html.

Lou Grays, a resident of Springfield Gardens, was born in Harlem and is married with six children.

"I worked for over 26 years at the New York City Board of Education," Grays says on his website. "I was a high school teacher, a dean, a union delegate to the UFT, a school leadership team member, and a UFT chapter leader. I fought for students and teachers' services, materials and equipment to which our students and teachers were entitled but the principals and superintendents would or could not deliver. I was awarded the UFT medal for recognition of service for my work."

Grays says he is running for City Council because, "I want to protect our schools. I want to protect our children. I want to protect our neighborhoods." For him, it is personal.

"My son owned a small barbershop," Grays explains. "On October 3 of last year he was shot in the heart in an armed robbery in his barbershop. He died four days later on October 7, 2008."

Grays was a member of the Advisory committee for the Atlantic Avenue extension and station plaza Projects for Community Board 12 where their "objectives were to inform the community regarding projects and potential employment and construction opportunities."

He is also a member of the city board of A.C.O.R.N. and a state board member.

"We have rallied inside and outside the courthouse … [together] we have defended homes in Hollis and in Laurelton against foreclosure."

We were not able to contact Grays directly, but his website can be found at http://lougrays2009.org/.

District 31 includes Far Rockaway, Arverne, Bayswater, Edgemere, Rosedale, Laurelton, and Springfield Gardens.

Next The Wave will profile Leandre and Lewis, and hear from Sanders.

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