It wasn’t just about Anthony Weiner. More than two hundred people filled the Knights of Columbus on Beach 90th Street as candidates for elected office from mayor to public advocate to city council to borough president addressed Rockaway and Broad Channel residents and answered questions on the issues.
A dozen candidates from an assortment of races came after being invited by the Friends of Rockaway Beach, whose John Cori and Eddie Pastore hosted the forum.
Starting at 7 p.m. the meeting, originally scheduled to end at 9 p.m. ran well past 10 p.m.
With primary elections coming up on September 10th, each candidate is hoping to be voted in as their party’s choice to run in the November 5th General Election.
Audience members, who sat, stood and even spilled out into the hallway, were able to directly put questions to each of the office seekers. The candidates were directed to offer some information about themselves and then take questions.
Weiner was first up and quickly showed off his knowledge of Rockaway, giving The Wave compliments along the way. Once finished, he left through a side door taking some of the crowd and energy with him.
Although some in the crowd expressed annoyance that a good portion of the media and some other audience members left with Weiner, many remained, eager to hear the other candidates.
Throughout the evening each candidate addressed their background, qualifications for office, and their plans if elected. Some tried emphasizing their connection to the Rockaways.
District 32 City Council candidate Lew Simon shouted out a list of areas in which he feels the Rockaways have been dangerously ignored or disregarded.
High among his priorities, he stated, was immediately directing resources not to what he viewed as non-essentials, such as concession stands, but desperately needed beach protection measures.
“We were promised sand,” he said, “we don’t have sand. They haven’t even started replenishment yet. We’ve got nothing!”
His rival in the race, current City Councilman Eric Ulrich, spoke of his list of current and previous initiatives on Rockaway’s behalf, including his commitment to bring vastly improved transportation options to the area.
He cited his work on successfully getting the MTA to now run the vital Q53 bus 24 hours a day, starting in September and detailed his ongoing work to establish more express routes and implement what is known as Select Bus Service (SBS) along the main Rockaway/Broad Channel artery of Cross Bay Boulevard.
Another candidate for city council and a possible challenger to Lew Simon in a primary, William Ruiz, introduced himself as a community leader in Ozone Park.
Mayoral candidate Sal Albanese was on hand and had to marvel about the effect Weiner’s appearance had on the meeting. “Even the BBC was here to find out about Rockaway!”
Speaking about New York’s economy, he said, “Although things are going well for some, many are still suffering.”
Albanese said, “I want to be a mayor who thinks about New York for the next 100 years... and not have projects rammed down our throats, like ‘those bathrooms in the sky’.”
He also stated, “One of the things I am buoyed by is the great people I’ve met who are leading the Rockaways.” He also gave a strong nod to The Wave newspaper.
John Liu, the third of the five mayoral candidates to appear, said part of his economic recovery plan involves overhauling the City’s tax code.
“Instead of a flat-tax,” Liu explained, “I propose taxing on a curve, a curve that intersects at $500,000.” Those who make “more than a half a million a year would pay an increase of 1 to 1 1/4 percent more. Those who make less would pay less. More money in the pockets of working men and women, that regenerates in spending in our economy.”
He also admonished the Bloomberg Administration for “caving in” and giving hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to companies that conveniently threaten to leave New York City.
Businessman John Catsimatidis, campaigning for mayor on the Republican ticket, firmly stated that “we should have a (NYC) Small Business Department to protect and encourage small businesses,” to support and nurture the City’s economy.
Referencing a New York Times article published shortly after Hurricane Sandy, one resident challenged Catsimatidis on his remark that “people should not live in shacks along the water.”
Catsimatidis explained, “What I meant was that I don’t want you or your family or my family to live in buildings that are not safe.”
Although he was the first of the candidate to arrive, former MTA chairman Joe Lhota, was given the last slot to speak. Asked about how he would bring businesses back to the Rockaways, Broad Channel and parts of Howard Beach along Cross Bay Boulevard, he commented, “I believe we should have gotten a lot more (federal) money right after Sandy.
“When that doesn’t happen, that’s when the City needs to step in. The mayor wields a lot of power.”
“I want to talk about quality of life,” Lhota told the audience. “We need to rebuild our communities. We need to increase our communications with our communities. As Mayor I will re-initiate (monthly) community meetings. I will come down and bring my deputy mayors and follow ups will happen.”
When asked specifically why “Lefferts Boulevard has its own A train and Rockaway does not and has shuttle instead,” Lhota stated “I’ll be honest with you; I don’t know why you don’t have trains.”
Tony Avella and Melinda Katz vying for Queens Borough President were on hand and took turns addressing the crowd, as did Public Advocate hopefuls Leticia James and Cathy Guerriero both of whom showed great energy despite the late hour.