With the special election to fill a vacant congressional seat over, Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden has found several things he would like to change about the electioneering process.
In an interview with The Forum, Holden said he was disgusted by reports of Democratic congressional candidate David Weprin “assaulting” residents at the Metropolitan Avenue train station in Middle Village.
“You want to get to work,” Holden said of commuters caught up in the campaigning. “You pay your money and all these elected officials and cameras are in your face.”
Last minute campaigning at high-volume areas like subway stations and polling places is a time-honored tradition during campaigns. In fact, under the MTA’s bylaws, a special exception is given for political electioneering and campaigning on station platforms. However, Holden said campaigns should show some class and restraint and give potential visitors an option to bypass the volunteers, instead of bombarding them once they enter the turnstiles.
Another issue for Holden was the abundance of elected officials and staff members helping the campaign. Holden said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) was a constant fixture at Weprin’s campaign events, when she should have focused on fixing problems in the district.
This isn’t just a Democratic issue. Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) also campaigned regularly on behalf of Republican Bob Turner, the eventual winner of the election.
However, Holden’s ire is directed at his local council member. In an editorial posted on the civic’s website, junipercivic.com, the JPCA blasts Crowley for wasting time campaigning.
“We at the Juniper Park Civic Association suggest that Council Member Elizabeth Crowley concentrate more of her time and efforts on trying to solve the many problems in our neighborhood rather than campaigning for her political cronies like Davie Weprin,” the statement said.
Another issue for Holden is that he saw staff members volunteering for the campaign. He questioned whether it was an appropriate practice. “City Council employees should not work on campaigns during business hours,” Holden said. He also wondered whether staff members were being paid by the city as they worked on the campaign.
He recounted that when he worked with former Republican Councilman Dennis Gallagher, his campaign office was located just above the district office; Holden said there wasn’t a clear division between the two.
Crowley said any suggestion that she or her staff did anything improper during the campaign was wrong.
“City Council staff, like other government employees, are allowed to do what they want on their own time, including working on political campaigns,” said Crowley. “Neither I nor my staff used any New York City Council resources to campaign and any accusation that we did is false.”
By Eric Yun