With less than a month to go before the Nov. 5 general election, the race between Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and her Republican challenger Craig Caruana is intensifying as the two candidates vying to represent Council District 30 trade barbs – as well as criss-cross the area to garner support for their respective campaigns.
Caruana recently issued a press release questioning Crowley’s support of the Knockdown Center in Maspeth.
The councilwoman recently spoke in favor of a request from the Knockdown Center – an arts facility that has set up shop in an abandoned factory – for a liquor license from the state, saying the business has been a “good neighbor” who would be able to create jobs if they could expand because of the license. Other elected officials, however, including Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood), have aired concerns about the liquor license, saying it could draw hundreds of drunk patrons to an area with limited public transportation and near quiet residential streets.
“All the community leaders, civic associations and elected officials are opposed to it, except Council Member Liz Crowley,” Caruana said in a prepared statement. “Voters wonder why she’s not listening to the community and wants to give this club special treatment. Crowley wants families to pay extra at grocery stores because she says it will reduce plastic bag litter, but she doesn’t think 5,000 drinking clubbers from all over the city will make a terrible mess in our neighborhood?”
The grocery store fee that Caruana cites is in reference to a recently introduced City Council bill that would result in shoppers being charged 10 cents for each plastic or paper bag provided to them in stores in an effort to get individuals to bring reusable bags. The Republican candidate has slammed the fee as essentially a tax that will hurt middle-class families struggling to make it in the city, while Crowley has said she supports the measure because the city pays an estimated $10 million to dispose of 100,000 tons of plastic bags in landfills each year.
Crowley’s campaign manager, Joe O’Hern, panned Caruana’s statements, calling them “baseless attacks and unsubstantiated claims.”
“Instead of attempting to score cheap political points, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley is committed to creating good local jobs here in Queens and is willing to work with all interested parties to address any concerns,” O’Hern said.
In relation to the Knockdown Center itself, Crowley, speaking at a recent Community Board 5 meeting, called the business is an “innovative” place that could give the area’s economy a boost.
“They’re building good economic development and could generate jobs locally,” Crowley said at the meeting.
She also noted during the meeting that one of the investors in Knockdown, Gina Argento, owns Broadway Stages – a company that employs about 1,500 people at its spot in Brooklyn. Gina Argento has also supported Crowley, donating $2,500 to the councilwoman in March 2013, and another $2,000 in 2011. Her brother, Anthony Argento, also a founder of Broadway Stages, donated $2,000 to Crowley in 2011 as well.
In addition to trading barbs, Crowley and Caruana have been traversing the district to speak to a variety of residents before the general election. Crowley issued a press release this week filled with quotes from supporters who praised Crowley’s efforts to, among a variety of topics, fight the closure of Richmond Hill’s Engine Company 294 and work with residents on flooding issues. Residents in the release also said they were pleased with her support for infrastructure projects, parks, libraries and schools.
“I am honored to have the support of my neighbors in Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven and Woodside,” Crowley said in a prepared statement. “My first priority is, and always will be, improving the quality of life for families in this district and keeping them safe.”
Caruana recently issued a press release detailing a recent speech given at the Juniper Park Civic Association, at which he told residents he would “bring a lot more of your money back into our neighborhoods.”
“We rank 46 out of 51 in all of NYC for funding into the district,” Caruana said.
“I would participate in participatory budgeting,” Caruana continued. “The idea is that we get more transparency and everyone gets to see how government works and it gets the voters more involved.”
During the JPCA meeting, Caruana too said he supports the NYPD’s stop-question-frisk tactic – something which Crowley too has backed.
By Anna Gustafson