From term-limited members of the City Council to business leaders and a former prosecutor, the candidates varied in experience, views and visions for how the borough should grow in the next decade.
The race eventually winnowed to just half a dozen candidates, each of whom have different priorities and plans for capital budget spending, transportation, housing, homeless shelters, economic development, education, criminal justice and a range of other important issues.
This paper sat down with the candidates in the special election to better understand their purpose for running for borough president, what they would do on day one in office, and how they would go about implementing their campaign promises.
Although this paper’s editorial board is only endorsing one candidate, there are various reasons why readers might favor one candidate over another. One thing is for sure: Katz only won the district attorney’s primary race by 55 votes, so every vote counts.
Jim Quinn, an assistant district attorney in Queens for 42 years, has run his campaign almost entirely on a position against the closing of Rikers Island and the state’s recent bail reform laws.
He was the spokesperson for the DA’s Office against the city’s borough-based jail plan, which would see a 19-story detention facility built in Kew Gardens. Quinn hopes to use the borough presidency as a bully pulpit on this “irresponsible” project and others like it.
For Quinn, what is happening on Rikers Island is a symbol of everything that he wants to change in the borough: decisions that are harmful for residents being made based on biased evidence from all sides of the argument. As Queens borough president, Quinn says he will foster more substantive debates to inform the direction the county is headed.
In terms of the tens-of-millions the office receives in discretionary funding, Quinn says he will make budget information more transparent and accessible, publishing it prominently on the borough president’s website.
Though much of his focus is seemingly on issues that fall out of the Queens borough president’s jurisdiction, Quinn possesses intelligence and expertise that are valuable to the city’s future in criminal justice.
Another strong candidate in this race is former councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who represented District 30 in the City Council from 2009 to 2017. District 30 includes the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Ridgewood and parts of Woodside and Woodhaven.
Crowley has an extensive track record of being a champion for labor unions, funding capital projects equitably in her community, and advocating for more mass transit options, like her proposed QNS Rail from Jamaica to Long Island City.
She’s being backed by major unions like TWU Local 100, IBEW Local 3, the PBA and the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
Though she lost her re-election bid to Councilman Robert Holden three years ago in a bitter contest, she has emerged as one of the frontrunners in this race by fashioning herself as an independent voice and a reformer.
She has the advantage of name recognition, and has been leading all the candidates in fundraising. That has allowed her to run television ads, making her even more familiar with Queens voters.
From promoting the borough’s diversity to advocating against overdevelopment and focusing on combating hate crimes, Crowley has certainly run a smart and impressive campaign, one that deserves to be commended. She has put forward smart ideas that warrant closer consideration.
The only candidate from southeast Queens in this special election is Councilman Donovan Richards, who has been in office since 2013 representing District 31.
Richards, who previously led committees on environmental protection and zoning and franchise in the City Council, truly found his role in the City Council as chair of the Public Safety Committee, becoming a crucial voice on policing in the city.
He has racked up an impressive list of endorsements, including the backing of the Queens County Democratic Party, top unions like 32BJ, 1199 SEIU and the UFT, and a diverse group of Queens lawmakers.
His accomplishments are notable: $288 million in investment for a transformed Downtown Far Rockaway, a new police precinct, new affordable housing units and school seats.
Richards is unquestionably pro-growth. He supports building more housing to get out of our current affordability crisis. He backs transportation projects like the BQX, the LaGuardia AirTrain and a reactivated Rockaway Beach rail line. If elected, he pledges to ramp up the office’s land use division.
He would also open an immigrant welcome center at Queens Borough Hall, which would be a one-stop shop for access to housing, legal and employment services.
Ideas like those make Richards not only a formidable candidate, but a frontrunner in this race. At 36 years old, he has a bright future in the borough, regardless of the outcome of this election.
The founder of The National Latino Officers Association and retired NYPD sergeant Anthony Miranda is another candidate who offers a perspective from outside the political arena. Marking the top three concerns of his campaign as social justice, inclusion and diversity, Miranda is seeking to transform the office into one where the voices of residents hold greater influence.
That begins, he says, with building a more effective communications staff and holding frequent public hearings on important issues, such as land use. He also advocates for major reform to community boards, including centralizing the application process and mandating the public speak first at all meetings.
Miranda also wants to galvanize the borough’s county committee seats, the most local level of party governance in the city, as well as ensure the representation of borough presidents on the MTA Board to combat lack of city input in projects like the ongoing Queens Bus Redesign.
His commitment to energizing the role of constituents in government make Miranda a refreshing prospect in the borough president’s race and in Queens politics.
The final candidate we interviewed was Councilman Costa Constantinides, who has represented Astoria and parts of Woodside and East Elmhurst in the City Council since 2014.
As chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, Constantinides shepherded New York City’s version of the Green New Deal through the City Council. The package of nine bills fights climate change by mandating that buildings reduce their carbon footprint, promoting green roofs and requiring the studying of closing power plants.
Constantinides would continue his focus on sustainability as borough president. On day one, he would immediately appoint a deputy borough president for sustainability. He also plans to invest a considerable amount of capital dollars to install hydroponic science labs in every school.
But turning Queens more green isn’t the western Queens lawmaker’s only plan. Constantinides wants to open a new office of diversity and outreach, and create satellite offices so residents don’t have to travel to Borough Hall to get services, including one in southeast Queens.
He would use the land use role of the office as a way to guide the conversation on development projects and defend city-owned property. He would focus on getting students out of trailers like he has done in his own district.
On transportation, Constantinides wants the borough to have its own appointee on the MTA board. He is supportive of building out a robust protected bike lane network so cyclists can more safely get where they need to go.
If he is elected borough president, Constantinides will continue to advocate for turning Rikers Island into a hub for renewable energy generation, for which he is already a leading voice in the City Council.
Although every candidate in the race has put forward good ideas and bold visions for the borough, one candidate stands above the rest: Costa Constantinides.
Constantinides has demonstrated that he is a dedicated public servant with an eye toward the future, especially combating climate change. His plans to transform the borough through the lens of sustainability are achievable and significant.
The Astoria lawmaker also understands that the borough president’s office has tremendous impact for driving conversations around housing, transportation and a host of other issues. He wants to expand the reach of the office, not minimize it, by partnering with institutions across the borough.
Constantinides strikes the right balance as a progressive lawmaker who has passed significant legislation while funding parks, libraries and schools in his district. He’s not afraid of shaking up Borough Hall, reforming community boards or having tough conversations about the future.
On March 24, we say vote for Costa Constantinides for Queens borough president.