STATE RACES
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 22
ABOUT EYE ON ALBANY

Queens.

GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS
Take a look at all the latest results for the November 5, 2002 general election.

x-Barry S. Grodenchik (Dem) 5,593 - 45 percent
Jimmy Meng (Ind) 3,782 - 31 percent
Meilin Tan (Rep) 2,447 - 20 percent
Ethel T. Chen (Lib) 242 - 2 percent
Evergreen C. Chou (Gre) 158 - 1 percent
John P. Albert (Wor) 110 - 1 percent

Candidates:

  • John Albert (Wor)
  • Ethel Chen (Lib)
  • Evergreen Chou (Gre)
  • Barry Grodenchik (Dem)
  • Jimmy Meng (Ind/Con)
  • Meilin Tan (Rep)


BIOGRAPHIES

John Albert (Dem/Wor) is a graduate of the State University at Albany and Albany Law School, most recently worked as director of government affairs with Safe Horizon, which is actively involved in the Sept. 11 recovery efforts. Albert who hails from Chennai, is on the board of directors of St. Paul's Multi-cultural Center in Queens and of the Brooklyn Technical High School Alumni Association, and is a member of the Saul Weprin Democratic Club.

Ethel Chen (Dem/Lib), a librarian, has worked in the New York Public Library system for 30 years. She is a graduate of the National Taiwan University School of Law and the University of Pittsburgh. A former candidate for the New York City Council who ran in District 20, Chen now serves as the district leader for the Asian American Democratic Association and is the president of the American Chinese Women's Association. Chen, a long time resident of Flushing, Queens, was a member of Community Board 6 for 10 years.

Evergreen Chou (Gre) is a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer at the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn who received his B.A. at the Downstate Medical Center. He is a member of the Queens Network for Peace and Justice.

Barry Grodenchik (Dem), who served as the chief administrative officer for former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, also worked as a legislative aide for Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn and was the Queens Regional Representative under former Governor Cuomo. Although now a contender for New York State Assembly, last November, Grodenchik was a candidate for the New York City Council in District 24. He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Binghamton and is involved in a number of organizations, including the Bnos Malka Academy, the Southeast Queens Community Partnership, and the Stevenson Regular Democratic Club.

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Richard Jannaccio (Dem) is president of West Flushing Civic Association, vice president of the Democratic Club of Flushing, vice chair of Fort Totten Restoration Advisory Board and has worked with Community Board 7. Jannaccio is a New York State certified science teacher, former research scientist and editor. He earned his undergraduate degree at Hunter College and his graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jimmy Meng (Dem/Ind/Con) is the owner and operator of the Queens Lumber Company in Flushing, NY. Meng was also formerly the president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association.


7 BILLS IMPORTANT TO NEW YORK CITY RESIDENTS THAT YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE IS LIKELY TO VOTE ON IN THE NEXT TERM:

1. Rent Regulation: The current rent regulation laws expire in June 2003. Supporters of rent regulation hope that the current provisions will be extended for another five years and that the legislature will repeal the provision which deregulates apartments that rent for $2,000 or more a month. The State Assembly passed such a bill this year, but it died in the Senate in the face of opposition from Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. If the Legislature does not take concerted action in June, rent regulation in New York City will end.

2. Commuter Tax: In 1999, when the State Legislature repealed the Commuter Tax, the city's economy was good. Reinstatement of the Commuter Tax is likely to come up again this Spring as the City's economy takes a turn for the worse.

3. School Funding: Even with mayoral control of the school system, more than 40 percent of New York City's school funding comes from Albany. Next year's budget will determine how much money New York City's schools will get from the state.

4. Rockefeller drug laws: New York's drug laws, passed in 1973 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, are among the harshest in the nation. The Democratic-controlled Assembly, Republican-controlled Senate, and the Governor have not been able to agree on how to reform these laws, look for renewed negotiations and new legislation in the next term.

5. Minimum Wage: Currently set at $5.15 an hour, Democrats will likely propose raising the minimum wage to $6.75 an hour, a proposal that failed last year.

6. Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act: This has been floating around the New York State Legislature for 30 years, with the Governor's support, it is likely to come up for a vote again next Spring.

7. Campaign Finance Reform: Some 80 organizations have proposed a "Clean Money, Clean Elections" bill for the New York State Legislature. Like the New York City law, it would establish a system under which candidates who comply with limits on campaign spending and contributions would receive public funds for their political campaigns.


PRIMARY ELECTION - SEPTEMBER 10, 2002

Candidates:
  • John Albert (Wor)
  • Ethel Chen (Lib)
  • Evergreen Chou (Gre)
  • Barry Grodenchik (Dem - Primary Winner)
  • Richard Jannaccio (Dem)
  • Jimmy Meng (Ind/Con)
  • Meilin Tan (Rep)

CAMPAIGN FEATURE

Unlike some of the other open state legislative seats representing New York City, the one in Flushing offers several familiar faces. Three of the five candidates running in the Democratic primary for Assembly district 22 -- Ethel Chen, Barry Grodenchik, and Richard Jannaccio -- ran for City Council last year. The remaining two, John Albert and Jimmy Meng, are relative newcomers to politics. But both have work experience -- Albert as a former lobbyist for victim's rights organization Safe Horizons and Meng as a well known businessman and civic activist -- that may make them attractive choices for the voters in the district.

In a district that includes downtown Flushing, home to hundreds of Asian-American businesses, the candidates' ethnicities may play a role in determining the winner. Critics and some candidates have complained publicly about the Queens County Democratic Party's endorsement of Barry Grodenchik, one of the two non-Asian American candidates in the race. Many feel that the party should have tapped one of the three Asian Americans running in the Democratic primary -- John Albert, Ethel Chen, or Jimmy Meng.

"Quality-of-Life"

The most pressing local problem and the first mentioned by all of the candidates, is the noticeable decline in the community's quality-of-life - from heavy traffic to increasingly poor waste disposal services. Downtown Flushing is congested every day of the week - delivery trucks, double-parked vehicles, and routine gridlock make driving in the community difficult. Diesel buses and commercial trucks clogging the streets also pollute the air. Richard Jannaccio claims that "I was the first person to make this an issue in Queens because I found out Brooklyn was getting these compressed air buses, and the politicians in Queens were asleep at the wheel." Meanwhile, John Albert would like to see diesel buses eliminated too, and if elected would try to "give incentives to people to buy clean-air low emission vehicles."

Jannaccio offered another solution to curbing downtown's traffic problem: convert the busiest streets into one-way streets. He also named another contributor to street congestion: lack of parking space. "Developers have found that Flushing is a place where they can get special permits and variances so that they can build huge developments without providing adequate parking," Jannaccio says.

But streets are not only clogged with traffic, they're filthy, too - in many parts of the district there is no weekend trash pick-up. To deal with the garbage problem, Jimmy Meng and Barry Grodenchik both suggest setting up a business improvement district in Downtown Flushing. Both hope this would influence area businesses to contribute to neighborhood clean up. A few years ago, Meng started a street-cleaning program run by businesses - but according to all of the candidates, including Meng, more needs to be done.

Trash and traffic aside, candidates claim that other pollutants are chipping away at the beauty of their neighborhoods. Albert is worried about power plants. "What I'm afraid of," says Albert, "is that there is going to be a call to put in more diesel power generators . they're the last things that we want - they're high polluting." Jannaccio, attuned to air traffic problems, says that Flushing is "in the landing path of LaGuardia Airport, so the noise pollution and the exhaust from jets is another problem ... And there aren't supposed to be flights coming in after 11 p.m." He claims that planes are heard as late as 2 a.m. Ultimately, it is up to the federal government to resolve this issue, says Jannaccio, but pressure by the state - through official recognition of the airport as a major polluter - would encourage state-sponsored studies of air quality, studies that, according to Jannaccio, would be helpful to the district.

Both Albert and Jannaccio also see the environment as an important statewide issue. "The Pataki administration has not put priority on the environment that it needs to have," said Jannaccio. He would like to see more funding "in two basic areas - for the environment it has to involve cleanup of existing pollution; it has to also involve enforcement to prevent ongoing pollution." Cleanup of toxic waste has come to a halt, says Jannaccio, because of a funding shortage. Albert agrees with Jannaccio that the state and district "need some kind of environmental justice."

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing is another big issue, John Albert described the cause of skyrocketing rent: "What's happening is that you'll have a developer buy a home - a large home, a single family home - and then destroy it and put up a five-unit apartment building ... if you don't have six units, it's not rent-controlled, and so you have very, very expensive housing stock."

Each candidate is aware of the housing problem and its ramifications. Two offered substantive remedies. Barry Grodenchik said he would encourage construction similar to the union housing built in past decades, like the Mitchell-Lama and Electchester houses. "Although the federal government's gotten out of the business of building housing," Grodenchick said, "it is nevertheless feasible for the private sector to create affordable homes." Meanwhile, for Richard Jannaccio, a proponent of rent control and a strong supporter of tenants' rights, the solution lies in properly managing new development by updating the area's lax zoning requirements, which have gone unchanged since the 1960s.

Education

With Albany allocating a disproportionate amount of money to upstate schools, each candidate talked at length about taking back the city's fair share of funding. "New York City gives more to the state than it gets back," argued Barry Grodenchik, "At the district level, Flushing's schools face plenty of difficulties. Large class sizes and inadequate facilities top the list." Grodenchik said that, if elected, he would visit every school in the district to assess teacher and student performances. John Albert wants to ensure that school facilities are equal throughout the district and the state. "There are [district] schools that don't have gymnasiums, don't have auditoriums, because they're looked upon as luxuries," said Albert. What troubles Ethel Chen, on the other hand, are the challenges facing immigrant students when learning to speak English in district schools. "Some of their teachers do not even speak proper English," Chen says.

When it comes to school governance, Jimmy Meng opposes mayoral control and would instead advocate borough-wide school boards. Richard Jannaccio is also wary of giving one man control of the schools, and he emphasized the importance of making students part of any educational reforms stating "If they [students] feel like they are part of the process it will make them feel like they're doing something they want to do rather than something they're forced to do. " Ethel Chen approves of the new system, but was disappointed by the mayor's appointment of Joel Klein "without consultation." Barry Grodenchik also favors mayoral control of the schools stating that "My job now, if I am elected, is to make sure that the mayor's doing his job in governing the schools."

All Eyes On Albany

"Who controls Albany?" asked Ethel Chen rhetorically, "Two houses - three people." All of the candidates, like Chen, spoke up on Albany's dysfunctional legislative process. John Albert, who has spent the last four years lobbying in Albany on behalf of crime victims, is no stranger to the leadership in Albany. Although troubled by the leadership's power over the legislative process, Albert plans to work with the current system as best he can. "We just have to try our best," Chen said, agreeing with Albert's position and ruling out broader, structural changes. Grodenchik and Jannaccio offered ideas on how to open the process in Albany, without a complete overhaul of the legislature. Grodenchick would like to see the budget process, one of the Assembly's most important tasks, opened up, making budgetary deliberations more public and legislators more accountable. For Jannaccio, fixing Albany "ultimately has to be done through the New York State Constitution which is difficult since the Constitution itself allows the politicians to control the process.There are even a lot of Democrats who are hesitant to go with any kind of change in the constitution at this point, " he says, "because they think it might be controlled by the Republicans and might go in the wrong direction." And all candidates agree that, for the moment, the best hope for change in Albany lies in having some turnover in the legislature.

September 11, 2002

Queens voters all but elected the borough's first Hispanic state legislator yesterday, but two white males were winning in districts specifically drawn to benefit minority candidates. (Newsday)

August 21, 2002

Touting his connections to the Queens political establishment yesterday, Democratic Assembly hopeful Barry Grodenchik received a slew of endorsements from party bigwigs, including the borough president and her predecessor. (New York Daily News)

August 12, 2002

Flushing's new Assembly district was carefully crafted, state officials say, to boost the chances of an Asian American being sent to Albany. But now some community leaders, including two Asian-American candidates, are complaining that Democratic Party officials did not even consider an Asian for the seat before endorsing Barry Grodenchik, who lives outside the district and works as an aide to the Queens borough president. (Newsday)

August 10, 2002

Nearly a year ago John C. Liu made history when he won a City Council seat in Flushing, Queens, one of the city's major centers of Asian-American life, and became the first New Yorker of Asian descent to win elective office.Since then, courtesy of legislative redistricting, a new Assembly district has been created in central Queens. Anchored in Flushing and 53 percent Asian in population, it was designed to make the district ripe for the election of an Asian-American candidate. (New York Times)

May 23, 2002

Queens Democrats chose Barry Grodenchik for the new Flushing assembly seat. He is set to run against Democratic district leader Ethel Chen and businessman Jimmy Meng. The party organization had offered to support Chen for the seat on the condition that she convince her ally, former Councilwoman Julia Harrison, not to run against incumbent state Senator Toby Stavisky, which she refused to do. As a result, the party ended up backing two white candidates in communities where whites are a minority - Flushing and Jackson Heights. (Flushing Times)

May 22, 2002

The Queens Democrats voted today to back Barry Grodenchik, who faces a tough challenge from Ethel Chen and Jimmy Meng in the race to represent the newly created Assembly District 22. Chen is running on a ticket with former Councilmember Julia Harrison, who is opposing Senator Toby Ann Stavisky in the state Senate primary. In all other cases, the party organization decided to back Assembly and Senate incumbents for re-election. (Western Queens Gazette)

March 18, 2002

Ethel Chen was one of seventeen women honored for their service to their communities when Borough President Helen Marshall presented her with a Rosemary Gunning Award today at the "Outstanding Women of Queens" awards ceremony. (Office of the Queens Borough President)

March 13, 2002

The State of New York Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment held a hearing today concerning the redistricting of state senate and assembly districts within the borough of Queens. Representatives of various groups, including Latino and Asian-American community organizations, provided feedback on perceived impacts of the proposed district boundaries. (NY State - transcript of hearing)

February 21, 2002

Due to shifting demographics, two new Queens assembly districts have been proposed as part of general redistricting - one in downtown Flushing and one in Jackson Heights. They are expected to give Asians and Latinos greater political power in Albany. (Queens Tribune)

Eye On Albany 2002 is a guide to the races for the 91 seats of the New York State Legislature that represent residents of New York City.

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