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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-John C. Liu, Dem 10,522 - 55 percent
Ryan J. Walsh, Rep 6,296 - 33 percent
Paul D. Graziano, Grn 1,258 - 7 percent
Martha Flores-Vazquez, Ind 1,032 - 5 percent
John C. Liu 2,759
Ethel Chen 2,557
Terence Y. Park 1,854
Richard Jannaccio 1,758
Evergreen Chou 18
Paul Graziano 19
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: Julia Harrison (can't
run in 2001)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to Ethel Chen
to Evergreen Chou
to Martha Flores-Vazquez
to Paul Graziano
to Richard Jannaccio
to John Liu
to Terence Park
to Ryan Walsh
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
District 20 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org
The legal battles over candidate's petition signatures are underway in
district 20. Candidates Linda Mandell, Martha Flores-Vazquez, and Adrian
Joyce have reportedly been knocked off of the ballot. (See Campaign Update
Turning "Invaders" Into Neighbors
After Councilmember Julia Harrison remarked in 1996 that the
wave of Asian immigrants into her district was "an invasion, not
assimilation" three Asian American candidates challenged her for
her seat in the 1997 election. She won anyway, with 61 percent
of the vote, very few of them Asian voters. But as Harrison is
being forced out of office by term limits, one of those earlier
candidates, John Liu, has decided to run again this year. Many
say he is likely to become the first Asian-American ever elected
to the City Council.
The prospect reflects the changing face of District 20, which
covers the northern end of Flushing and now has the second highest
number in the city of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan.
So it should be no surprise that only one of the four candidates
was born an American citizen. John Liu was born in Taiwan, Ethel
Chen in China, and Terence Park in Korea. Martha Flores-Vazquez
was born in Puerto Rico.
The upside to this immigration is that Flushing, which goes back
to 1654 and was the site of two World's Fair's, has become a village
of many nations, with a bustling working class economy, and a
constantly congested Main Street -- which is to Flushing what
Broadway is to Manhattan -- lined with hundreds of crowded restaurants,
banks and stores, most of them with signs in at least two languages.
Few of these business, which are largely owned by Korean, Taiwanese,
and Chinese, are chain stores or franchises -- though the best-known
lately was the local Wendy's restaurant where five people were
murdered. Despite the attention drawn to the Wendy's massacre,
none of the candidates said that crime was a major issue in the
On the other hand, the presence both of newcomers and long-time
residents have led to ethnic tension, which was reflected by Harrison's
comment and the arrest last year of a member of the white supremacist
group National Alliance, whose Flushing home hid an arsenal that
included 8,000 rounds of ammunition.
"There is tension between immigrants and long-time residents,"
John Liu said. "We need to bring people together and find out
what people are thinking. People focus too much on differences,
we have more in common and we need to bring that out."
To do this, Liu would bring together community leaders and focus
groups representing the various ethnic groups.
Ethel Chen said she would create a division to help the new immigrants
assimilate, and offer more classes that teach English.
"The new immigrants don't know how to complain about their problems‰ÛÓor
find jobs," Chen said.
The candidates also agree that education needs to be addressed
John Liu will look for more creative ways to fight overcrowding,
including increasing school hours and staggering student schedules,
and "building temporary class space until real schools are built."
Martha Flores-Vazquez believes that the City University of New
York should roll back tuition and that New York City "should give
enough money to guarantee education for all qualified." She also
said that education will also help economic development. Ethel
Chen believes that beautifying the areas with flowers and gardens
around Northern Boulevard and the number 7 subway stop on Main
street will attract more people to Flushing's business section.
"It doesn't cost money to clean it up and keep it up," John Liu
added. "If it's clean, people will invest and we'll get the money
back in tax revenues."
The media has given Liu the advantage in this race, and with
good reason. He had already raised the maximum amount of money
allowed for primaries under the campaign finance law ($137,000)
by February. Ethel Chen and Martha Flores-Vazquez, have only raised
$49,675 and $9,970 respectively. In addition to an immense financial
advantage, John Liu also has the support of the borough's democratic
political machine and has received attention from newspapers all
over the country, including the Los Angeles Times.
Still, in spite of John Liu's apparent lead, Martha Flores-Vazquez
believes that her ethnic background gives her an advantage over
the other three candidates.
"The media is focused on who raised the most money," Flores-Vazquez
said. "They are forgetting the large population of Hispanics.
Hispanics are the second highest voting block in the district."
Regardless of which candidate wins, there will be a new ethnic
representative in the Queens delegation of the city council. Even
though it has become the most ethnically diverse borough, Queens
currently has no Asian nor Hispanic city council members.
While most of the press coverage of the district 20 race has focused on John Liu and his bid to become the first Asian American in city council, there is also a first in this district for the Green party -- the first Green Party primary for city council in the city.
Two candidates, who only had to get five signatures to get on the ballot, are vying for the majority of the 80 registered Green voters in the district. Green party candidate Paul Graziano is banking on his local connections with block associations, the community board, and city planning organizations. "Flushing has a long history of voting for non-machine candidates, so I'm confident I have a shot," said Graziano.
Graziano sees rezoning as one of the most important issues for Flushing residents and wants to concentrate new development in certain areas in order to preserve the suburban feel of the neighborhood streets. "We need to stop big apartment buildings and market-rate, ugly housing," said Graziano. "There is enough development space in new areas to accommodate growth."
"I want to be remembered as the ox for the people," said Evergreen Chou, the other Green candidate. Chou is Taiwanese and was born in the Year of the Ox, which is the symbol of an honest politician.
An active union member, Chou vows to fight for stricter rent control and greater equality for workers. "I want to do for my community what Nader wanted to do for the country," said Chou. "There are clothing factories with sweat shop conditions right here in Flushing."
Democratic candidate Terence Park, who was recently endorsed by Council Speaker Peter Vallone, wants to target the small merchants and business owners to try to unite the different ethnic groups in the area.
"To start, we need to have bilingual signage," said Park. "There are too many signs people can't understand along Union street. We need to educate the venders and the people who live here that want to share the amenities of our very diverse community."
Park said he is the only candidate who has both an educational and a professional background in city politics. Having worked as a project planner for the Times Square area, Park hopes to use his experience to restore the Flushing business area.
Meanwhile, John Liu continues to gather the attention of national media attention for his well funded campaign. The latest of his many endorsements was by mayoral candidate Alan Hevesi.
Ethel Chen, the district leader of the Asian American Democratic Association and the president of the American Chinese Women's Association, has worked in the New York Public Library system for 30 years. She was also a member of Community Board 6 for ten years. Chen attended the National Taiwan University and received her Masters in Library Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh. Chen ran for City Council in district 20 in 1997, but was removed from the ballot after her petitions were challenged.
Evergreen C. Chou, an ultrasound technician, is a member of the West Flushing Civic Association and also the 1199 National Health & Human Service Employees Union. He received his Bachelor's degree from City College.
Richard Jannaccio was managing editor of the Queens Tribune and columnist for the Flushing Times. He is a member of the Queens County Democratic Committee, president of the West Flushing Civic Association and vice chairman of the Fort Trotten Restoration Advisory Board. He graduated from Hunter College and earned a Masters in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin.
Adrian Joyce, chairman of Community Board 7 since 1996, is a member of the Fort Totten Restoration Advisory Board and is on the Board of Directors at the Queens Botanical Garden. He graduated from the New York City Police Academy and is a veteran of the United States Military.
Martha Flores-Vazquez is the chair for the Graduate Student Council at City University and the vice-chairman for the Student Services Corporation. She founded the Queens Women's 2001 Conference and the Martha's Flushing Block Association. She received her Bachelors and Masters degree in psychology at City University.
Paul Graziano, a consultant with an architectural and planning firm, is the founder of the North Flushing Civic and Waldheim Neighborhood Associations. He is also the chair of the Central Queens Green Party chapter. Graziano designed an exhibition called "350 Years of Flushing: The Changing Dynamic" and is active in community preservation committees. He has a Masters of Science in Urban Affairs from Hunter College.
John Liu currently works as a consultant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP, is president of the North Flushing Civic Association and vice-president of the New Century Democratic Association. He is a member of Community Board 7 and also serves on the board of the Queens Symphony Orchestra, the NAACP-Flushing Chapter, and the Chinese American Voters Association. He graduated from the State University of New York at Binghamton with a Bachelor's in mathematical physics.
Terence Park served as the Queens coordinator of the New York City Housing Authority and president of Citizens for a Better Flushing Advisory Board. He is also a member of Community Board 7. As project planner for the Koch and Dinkins Administrations, Park worked to revive Times Square. He received his Masters degree from SUNY Binghamton in Public Policy Analysis and Public Administration.
Flushing is a neighborhood on a crucial demographic cusp, a community where
old jostles with new and where this year's City Council contest is seen as a
bellwether of the city's ethnic politics. Almost half of Flushing residents
are Asian, though among registered voters, they are a smaller share -
roughly 20 percent, according to estimates based on surnames. And so the
race in the 20th Council District in Queens has come to stand for things
larger than itself. The next council member from here could be the first
Asian-American elected to city office in New York. Of the eight candidates
vying to succeed the longtime incumbent, Julia Harrison, four are of Asian
descent. At a forum last week attended by seven of the eight candidates,
they championed the same things: a tidier downtown, smaller classes in the
public schools, less expensive housing. They each said they were best
equipped to solve the ethnic tensions in Flushing. (NY Times)
Flushing City Councilwoman Julia Harrison, who held the council seat from the 20th District for 15 years, has endorsed Ethel Chen for the post. (Daily News)
Newsday announces its endorsements in a number of Queens City Council
District 19: Jerry Iannece's "legal experience and community activism make him qualified. Each of his opponents - particularly Arthur Cheliotes, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1180, and the party-backed Tony Avella. . . is a credible candidate. But Iannece has the most innovative ideas for addressing the district's needs."
District 20. "John Liu, the party designee, could have avoided some last-minute controversy had he used better judgment. As a member of Community Board 7 in Flushing, he voted last year with the majority to approve a variance for a development company whose partners include a campaign contributor. Liu, an actuary, should have recused himself. . . . We hope he has learned something about appearances. Still, his energy and impressive command of the issues make up for his lack of political acumen. And while his civic service isn't as long as that of opponent Ethel Chen, he seems better suited to alleviate the tensions between old-time residents and new immigrants.
District 21. "Despite the ethnic conflict dividing various Latino communities in the district, the four candidates - all Latinos - are evenly matched. . . .Luis Rosero is the most appealing. . . .His background gives him intimate knowledge of government and politics. His contacts at the federal level wouldn't hurt, either. He also understands the common concerns of a diverse population."
District 22. "As a member of Queens School Board 30, John Ciafone has worked diligently on behalf of school kids. . . . But Ciafone made a mistake that we cannot overlook: His ads in a local weekly newspaper boasted of endorsements by mayoral candidates Fernando Ferrer and Mark Green. Such endorsements never existed. Ciafone says the ads should have read "supported," not "endorsed" - a stretch, to say the least. . . . That leaves Peter Vallone Jr., the party's designee. Voters get more than a name with Vallone. He helped found a community group to fight power plants in western Queens. And he has learned something from watching his father's success as Council speaker. Newsday endorses Vallone."
District 23. "David Weprin is a Democratic district leader, his brother is a state assemblyman, and their late father was Assembly speaker. By contrast, Jairam Thakral immigrated from India 30 years ago, got an MBA from St. John's and recently retired as chief financial officer of the State Veterans Home on Long Island. Thakral emphasizes his financial experience in dealing with city, state and federal governments. . . . He contrasts his "diversity" with Weprin's "dynasty." Weprin, a lawyer, was the state's deputy superintendent of banks. . . . Thakral radiates eagerness to improve the city's quality of life, but Weprin has more experience and a deeper knowledge of the district. We endorse Weprin.
District 24. "The three candidates are already on the public payroll. Barry Grodenchik is Borough President Claire Shulman's chief administrative officer. He emphasizes the downside of the 2012 Olympics, which he says could freeze development in western Queens and shut down much of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for years. James Gennaro has been a policy analyst for the City Council since 1990, specializing in environmental issues. He's positive on the 2012 Olympics but negative on destroying Flushing Meadows wetlands to create a rowing course for the games. David Reich, chief of staff to a state senator from Brooklyn, cites his experience drafting bills in Albany . Gennaro offers greater familiarity with the council and broader concern for the environment. We endorse Gennaro."
District 25. "The organization person in this multi-candidate race is Helen Sears, a longtime district leader and community affairs director at Elmhurst Hospital Center. . . . Louisa Chan, a nurse and three-term secretary of School Board 24, wants community school boards to have more power and the central board to be elected. Magdalena Schultheis, vice president of an international hospitality consulting firm, would like to cut back bureaucracy to produce more affordable housing. James Van Bramer, community affairs manager for the Queensborough Public Library, has been an activist for campaign finance reform as well as gay and lesbian rights. . . .Finally, Rudolph Greco is a lawyer, civic enthusiast and author of a children's history of Jackson Heights. Along with a dedicated tax to provide higher teacher pay and smaller classes, he would encourage corporate partnerships to improve schools. Greco is a convivial, seasoned, one-of-a-kind candidate with a shrewd grasp of the district's needs and possibilities. Newsday endorses Greco. (Newsday)
A candidate for City Council district 20 from Flushing
is being accused of an ethical violation for voting to support
a project proposed by a developer who contributed to his campaign.
Councilwoman Julia Harrison's chief of staff charged that John
Liu, a member of Community Board 7, violated conflict of interest
laws when he voted on a Flushing mall proposal last year. Liu
received $7,000 in campaign contributions from the developers
of the mall, known as Prince Center. (Daily
The New York Times today endorsed a candidate in this race.
District 20 (Central Queens-Flushing North area): The two strongest
candidates in this race are Ethel Chen, a retired library supervisor,
and John Liu, a financial analyst and civic leader. Mr. Liu is
an energetic, articulate contender. But his campaign finances
raise questions about his connections to developers in the area
and to his father's bank; the elder Mr. Liu and other bank officials
were convicted of bank fraud earlier this year. We recommend Ethel
Chen, who has a longer and more impressive record in community
Alan Hevesi, the city comptroller and mayoral candidate who has the backing
of the Queens Democratic Party, endorsed 34-year-old John Liu for City
Council on Friday in a speech outside of the Flushing City Hall. Hevesi
focused much of his remarks Friday on how Liu, who was born in Taiwan and
moved to Flushing as a child, is the best candidate to bridge the many ethnic
groups that have moved to Flushing in the last 10 years.
Terence Park received the endorsement of Peter Vallone, the council speaker
and mayoral candidate. (Bayside Times)
The City Council candidate John Liu is profiled as possibly the first Asian
American to be elected to office in New York City.
For the first time in the Green Party's brief history as a bona fide party in
New York, there will be a primary election in September for the city council
seat in Flushing, a race between an ultrasound technician and an urban
The New York City Central Labor Council, a labor group with 1.5 million
members in some 450 local unions, gave its backing to John Liu for City
Paul Graziano, who is fighting for Waldheim's preservation, complains that
the city favors Brooklyn and Manhattan for landmarks but neglects Queens.
Waldheim is home to Queen's oldest estates and is continually being
encroached upon by the residential and business developers. Councilwoman
Julia Harrison doesn't support the area's preservation because of the
restrictions that come with landmark status. (The Los Angeles Times)
During a city council hearing on whether to repeal the term limits law, City
Councilwoman Julia Harrison attacked Asian-Americans who are seeking her
council seat. Harrison, who cannot seek reelection because of term limits,
claimed Asian candidates are trying to "buy the council seat with the money
they have to spend." Three of the seven candidates trying to replace her are
Asian-Americans. (NY Post)
Observers are wondering whether council candidate John Liu's campaign will
survive the fraud conviction of his father, Joseph Liu, who now faces up to
30 years in prison. Liu's father was the head of Flushing's Great Eastern
Bank. Officers in Great Eastern Bank have contributed to John Liu, who has
raised more money than any other council candidate. (Queens Courier)
John Liu has the best shot of being the First Asian American in City Council
The race for Flushing's Council seat raises strong questions on building
interethnic coalitions in immigrant communities. (NPR Online)
Candidate Liu hopes to become first Asian New York City Council Member