Fireworks at 43rd Council District debate as candidates spar

The sparks were flying as incumbent City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, a Democrat, and his Republican-Conservative opponent John Quaglione faced off during a heated debate in Dyker Heights on Tuesday, October 8.

At the forum hosted by the Dyker Heights Civic Association, the two candidates exchanged barbs as each strove to make the case that he was the better choice to represent the 43rd Council District, that includes Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst.

Gentile, who has been in the Council since 2002 – when he won a special election to replace Quaglione’s current boss, State Senator Marty Golden, who had replaced Gentile in the State Senate – is running for his final term in the City Council.

Should he win re-election, he would be the most senior member of the group, a point Gentile was quick to make in his address to the SRO crowd, as he recited a long list of achievements, from negotiating to bring back ferry service, at least temporarily, at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, to securing funding for NYPD security cameras in key locations, to getting the city’s first EcoDock, to getting a second corner trash can pick-up on area shopping strips, as well as getting his law passed to eliminate Sunday parking meters and “lead(ing) the successful efforts to close down bad night spots like the 93 Lounge and Nouveau.”

Increasing his seniority will only make him more effective, Gentile contended. “That will enable me to bring back even more resources to the district,” he remarked, stressing, “I’m the only one at this debate that can say that,” and later noting, “As that senior member, I will have that experience, clout and leadership that go- with the seniority and I intend to use it for your benefit.”

But, Quaglione contends that the 43rd C.D. is getting shorted of city resources, pointing out that the district is 50th out of 51 citywide in terms of allocated funds.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he asserted, “49 neighborhoods are getting more of our taxes than we are. Every other neighborhood in the city of New York, except one in Queens, gets more money from the City Council than we do.”

At the same time, Quaglione said, taxes have risen since Golden left office. “Property taxes and water bills have increased between 200 and 300 percent. So, if in 2003, you were paying $2,500 in property taxes, it is very possible that now, in 2013, you are paying almost $6,000 or even more. For what, folks? What are we paying for if every other neighborhood is getting more money?”

But, said Gentile, Quaglione’s comparison does not take into account the reality of allocations: many districts get additional funding because they have numerous facilities – such as homeless shelters and halfway houses – that are generally unwanted in communities but that drive up the amount of total allocations to the area. “If my opponent envisions getting money from that,” Gentile went on, “the rest of us are glad we’re not getting that kind of funding.”

Quaglione also asserted that the quality of life in the area had gone down over the past decade. Citing a woman he had recently spoken to who said she is leaving town because “she doesn’t feel safe,” Quaglione said, “We need to increase the number of police officers on the streets,” and “We need to get the graffiti off the walls, and mailboxes, and lampposts.”

Those are presumably areas where the two opponents are in agreement. Gentile said he had “put in funding for graffiti removal,” and also noted that, in the face of significant reductions in the size of the police force under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “I want to see 3,000 more cops on the street so that we can see real significant additions sent out to patrol the streets right here.”

However, Quaglione hit Gentile hard over his support of Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio and Democratic D.A. candidate Ken Thompson, contending that the policies they espouse – including opposition to stop and frisk – will lead to a return of the bad old days.

“If we have Bill de Blasio elected mayor or Ken Thompson elected D.A., we are going to be in very bad times,” Quaglione contended. “We are going to go back to the 1980s. I won’t be able to take my daughter on the train.”

In response, Gentile – who reminded his listeners that he had served for years as a prosecutor before running for public office, and who has been endorsed by the Detectives’ Endowment Association, the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, and the Lieutenants’ Benevolent Association – accused Quaglione of “fear mongering.

“That’s probably the worst kind of politics,” he charged. “Ken Thompson is a former federal prosecutor so there is no reason to believe he would not be a tough, strong D.A.” As for de Blasio, “from my discussions with him,” Gentile said, “he is determined to get a police commissioner who will bring the crime rate down even further.”

But, said Quaglione, he isn’t “fear mongering.

“Crime is already going up,” he told his listeners. “With stop and frisk being ended, it’s reality.”

Election Day is November 5.

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