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BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/ Photos by Jonathan Sperling
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/ Photos by Jonathan Sperling
Peter Killen, president of AARP Chapter 3630 in Bay Ridge, moderated the forum.

Seven candidates for the 43rd District of the New York City Council seat were given the opportunity to communicate their respective platforms to members of the district’s constituency during a candidate forum hosted on Tuesday, May 9.

The seat is currently occupied by Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who is term-limited, but announced last month that he would be running in the race for Brooklyn District Attorney.

The event, which was hosted at Shore Hill Housing (9000 Shore Road), was moderated by Peter Killen, president of the AARP Chapter 3630 in Bay Ridge. Each candidate was given approximately seven minutes to introduce themselves to the audience, while also detailing the key issues that they would tackle if elected.

Republican candidates present included Bob Capano, Liam McCabe and John Quaglione, while Democratic hopefuls on hand included Reverend Khader El-Yateem, Justin Brannan, Nancy Tong and Kevin Peter Carroll.

First to speak was Brannan, a Bay Ridge native and small business owner who has worked as chief of staff to Gentile. Brannan quickly summarized his involvement in the community, including his co-founding of the Bay Ridge Democrats and Bay Ridge Cares. He mentioned the importance of listening to and learning from the district’s senior citizens, going on to state that if elected, he would crack down on scams and fraud schemes against them, imposing stricter penalties for those who commit crimes against seniors.

Brannan cited his experiences growing up in the area as reasons for wanting to improve the constituency’s quality of life.

“Growing up here, I saw people struggling to get by, working multiple jobs trying to make ends meet,” said Brannan. “That really colored how I became and how I grew up, the things I saw in the world and the things I want to fix. Everyone deserves a good job, a roof over their heads and food on their table. People working 40 hours a week should not be living in poverty.”

Next to speak was Capano, a Bay Ridge native and graduate of Xaverian High School who worked as a senior aide to former Borough Presidents Marty Markowitz and Howard Golden. Capano has served as president of the 68th Precinct Youth Council, as well as vice president of Bay Ridge Consumer Federation. He is an advocate for charter schools, as well as reducing the burden on small businesses in the community. Rather than raising taxes and “strangling” small businesses, Capano wishes to expand the tax base in order to grow businesses.

Capano went on to call out Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito for what he believes to be improper spending.

“I firmly believe that Mayor [Bill] de Blasio’s progressive policies are progressively bad for New York City,” said Capano. “I believe that the City Council, especially the City Council speaker are so out of touch with what many of us believe. We need to do a much better job of guarding the tax payer funds.”

Third to speak was Carroll, a Brooklyn native and current district leader of the 64th Assembly District. Carroll mentioned his community activism experience, including his service on Community Board 10. Although he works for an elected official in North Brooklyn, Carroll stated that his, “commitment to the neighborhood is strong,” citing his work within the Bay Ridge Community Council and Shore Road Conservancy. Among the most important issues Carroll wishes to tackle in the community is a lack of affordable housing.

“People don’t want to leave Bay Ridge, they’re forced to leave Bay Ridge for a variety of reasons,” said Carroll. “As councilman, I’m going to make it a top priority of mine to find spots around Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, the whole district, for senior housing.”

Carroll also mentioned potential improvements to the education system, including the creation of a PTA council that would span the entire district.

He was followed by El-Yateem, who has served as the pastor of Bay Ridge’s Salam Arabic Lutheran Church (414 80th Street) for 22 years, as well as on Community Board 10 for 12 years. El-Yateem noted that Bay Ridge is a “civic-minded community” that likes to “be involved.” Following some community friction in 1998, El-Yateem co-founded the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force, which serves to bring together Christians, Muslims, Jews, elected officials and police in order to solve issues together. El-Yateem was eventually appointed as a clergy liaison to the 68th Precinct.

“I have seen the issues, I have heard the concerns, I’ve seen a lot of people in our community not heard or not recognized or engaged or involved,” said El-Yateem. “This is the time for me as a community leader to take these issues from the pulpit to City Hall.”

El-Yateem stated that, if elected, he would make keeping illegal drugs out of the community a priority, as well as retaining the community’s affordability and halting “greedy” developers. El-Yateem would be the first Arab-American elected to City Council.

Next to speak was McCabe, a Bay Ridge native who attended Our Lady of Angels Catholic school. McCabe has worked on several Republican campaigns, including that of Senator Marty Golden. He noted that a gap exists in affordable housing for the district’s constituency, a gap that he “would like to fill.” McCabe went on to state that New York State’s $84 billion budget does not allocate enough to help senior citizens.

If elected, McCabe looks to improve transportation options for seniors, by working closely with Access-A-Ride and Uber to bring faster and more efficient rides that can be hailed on a phone application. He also wishes to cut down on senior crime, as well as improve seniors’ quality of life by increasing funding to the Department of Aging and tapping into the younger generations.

“We have a continuously retiring community in this district, but we also have a lot of young people moving in. I would like to bridge the gap,” said McCabe. “I’d like to get some of our younger people to volunteer more here and at some of those programs so that we can connect the past with the future.”

Following McCabe was Quaglione, who currently serves as the deputy chief of staff to Senator Golden. Quaglione detailed his work with Golden, including cleaning up Shore Road Park and reinstituting weekend service on the x27 bus. Quaglione has worked with several community organizations, including the Guild for Exceptional Children and Saint Anselm Catholic Academy. Quaglione called the city budget a “runaway train” and called out Mayor De Blasio’s Pre-K for All program.

“There’s a point where parents have to take responsibility for their children and not the city,” said Quaglione.

If elected, Quaglione proposes to have more police assigned to 62nd and 68th Precincts to combat quality-of-life crimes, such as theft and graffiti. Quaglione would also like to increase penalties for crimes against seniors, noting his work on the “Granny’s Law” bill, which was enacted in 2008.

The final candidate to speak was Tong, the current district leader of the 47th Assembly District. Tong has been a consistent volunteer for schools and seniors, and has also worked as the community relations director within the district she currently serves.

“No matter where you live in Brooklyn, the issues are all going to be the same, one way or another,” said Tong. “You live in Bay Ridge, there’s train problems. You live in Bensonhurst, train problems … these are all the same issues no matter where you live. Unity is what we need.”

Tong also brought up the issue of a lack of housing and community centers for senior seniors in the community. She is a supporter of universal Pre-K, noting that “in order to success, you must have universal Pre-K. That’s the foundation in order to succeed, just like building a house. If the foundation is bad, the house is going to come down.” Tong would be the first woman elected to the 43rd District.

Those eligible to vote in the New York City Council primary can do so on September 12. Click here for information regarding voter registration.

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