Candidates get the floor to themselves

The Dyker Heights Civic Association hosted a debate for candidates seeking office on October 9, where two incumbents got the floor all to themselves because their opponents did not attend.

Assemblymember Peter Abbate, who is a Democrat, and Congressmember Michael Grimm, who is a Republican, got a golden opportunity to lay out their platform and answer questions.

Abbate’s opponent, Conservative Party candidate Vincent Katinas, a third party candidate, did not attend. Grimm’s Democratic challenger, Mark Murphy, told moderator and DHCA President Fran Vella-Marrone that he had three other engagements that night and was not able to be there.

For Abbate, this was his 26th debate. He opened the evening, saying that the reason he was seeking office again was, “three-fold,” to continue to fulfill his constitutional responsibility, participating in Albany and bringing funding back to the community, especially for senior centers, hospitals and schools.

“There is not a community group in the area that has not received funding,” Abbate contended.

He added that having two district offices – one on 18th Avenue and one on 11th Avenue – helps him better serve the public. “[People] come in with problems that don’t even pertain to the government,” Abbate said. “When you help a senior or family with a problem, that’s what it’s all about.”

Abbate promised that he would try to raise the minimum wage, reminiscing that his mom worked at long-gone department store E.J. Korvette’s for minimum wage. He added that equal pay for women is also something he will work for. “In this community, everyone deserves their fair share,” Abbate said.

He also contended that in order for the economy to be fixed, the government sector needs to create more jobs, like the private sector is. “We should be putting people back to work,” Abbate contended, adding that fixing the city’s infrastructure is a good place to start.

Grimm was the last candidate to speak that night. Since his district encompasses parts of both Staten Island and Brooklyn, he said that he has made an effort to spend as much time in this borough as he does with his constituents across the Narrows.

“I got involved with local issues,” Grimm contended, adding that he was instrumental in keeping the Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Hamilton and getting the McKinley Park bathrooms fixed after being broken for three years.

Grimm said he had opened a 13th Avenue office “to show that I am a part of this community.” His immediate predecessors both had offices in Bay Ridge.

Grimm stated that he was not a fan of the president’s budget. “We have to get what we need but no more than we can afford,” he said.

Grimm also said he was opposed to the president’s health care plan as well as his foreign policies, which he said, “embolden terrorists.” He also supports simplifying the tax code.

“Even though we have polarizing differences, I pride myself in being a leader, bringing us together,” he said. “We need to be able to find common ground. With the right leader, we can come together as a nation.”

Grimm said he supports the safe return of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, but that the country should stand firm in its views. “We’ve gone astray by having a policy of apologizing and appeasing,” he contended. “It’s about keeping a strong military period, so that we can have a stance of strength.”

Asked about the recent allegations that some of Grimm’s associates were involved with illegal operations, the congressmember abruptly brushed them off as “silliness.”

“The vast majority of people I know are FBI agents, cops, firefighters and military types,” Grimm said.

Election Day is November 6.

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