Beep hopefuls meet for the first time
by Andrew Shilling
Mar 20, 2013 | 3835 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Though it was their first “debate,” Democratic candidates competing for Helen Marshall’s seat as the next borough president of Queens rallied each other on rather than divulge in the harsh games of politics.

Six of the seven candidates met at the Greater Astoria Historical Society, located on the fourth floor of the Quinn building at 35-20 Broadway, for their first public debate.

State Senator Tony Avella, Councilman Leroy Comrie, director of Community Boards Barry Grodenchik, former Councilwoman Melinda Katz, State Senator Jose Peralta and Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. took questions from the press and audience members.

Aside from businessman Everly Brown, the only one not in attendance, candidates took five minutes each to introduce their platform and two minutes to answer questions from the audience.

While Avella and Vallone Jr. left early for prior obligations, the rest stayed behind to take on topics ranging from their positions on public transportation, immigration policy and the DREAM act, as well as business development.

Laurajean Hawkins, state committeewoman and member of the Powhatan Democratic Club, moderated the event.

"We're proud to host the first full debate of Queens Borough President candidates this cycle," said Costa Constantinides, Democratic district leader and candidate for City Council. "It's important to provide our community with a forum for discussion and a venue to get to know how the candidates feel about their issues.”

Shachar Sharon, a member of the Powhatan Democratic Club, was among the several audience members who presented questions for the candidates.

Sharon asked their position on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for using federal aid from Hurricane Sandy to buy out homes damaged by the storm, and their position on policy development regarding land use as the next borough president.

“I think it is a very important forum to have, to be able to listen to the candidates,” she said.

As the stage became a platform for stump speeches and political rhetoric, Sharon felt as though it was a good way to start, and develop an understanding for the candidate’s comprehension as well as see them all together tackling the issues.

“I think they were able to answer the first part of my question directly, the portion about the buyout proposal, and I know that the second part of the question was really complex,” she said. “I was not really expecting them to go that deep, but I’m happy that I started the conversation and got things going.”

The candidates are scheduled to meet again at the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club’s assembly at the Hollis Hills Jewish Center, 210-10 Union Turnpike, on March 21 at 8:15 p.m.

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