District 26 Western Queens

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002

General Election Results

x-Eric N. Gioia, Dem 12,469 - 93 percent
Ann Eagan, Grn 885 - 7 percent

Primary Election Results

Eric N. Gioia 4,928
Matthew J. Farrell 2,083
Joseph T. Conley 2,013
Patrick O'Malley 1,541
Michael G. Kearney 840
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Walter L. McCaffrey (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:

  • Ann Eagan (Gre)
  • Eric Gioia (Dem/Wor)

For who has donated to these candidates see the Campaign Finance Board:

Contributors to Joseph Conley
Contributors to Ann Eagan
Contributors to Matt Farrell
Contributors to Eric Gioia
Contributors to Michael Kearney
Contributors to Patrick O'Malley

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 26

Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

Riverside Revival

Lately passengers on the 7 train that runs through the heart of district 26 have noticed some changes to the area. For one, a nostalgic sign for the Eagle Electric Manufacturing Plant with its neon flashing sparkplugs and the slogan "Perfection Is Not An Accident" is gone. In its place, is a black-and-white painted billboard promoting technology job development in Queens.

The sign marks a long overdue revival for the neighborhoods of the district, particularly those on the waterfront that would like to make the transition from industrial towns to modern business districts. But it is a transition that is not easy to make.

This has been most evident in the Long Island City and Hunters Point area. While much has been made recently of the New York Power Authority's plans to build two power generators in the area, more general issues of waterfront development have been on the minds of western Queens residents for some time.

Area Profile
For a detailed profile of this district from City Project, click here.


  • 41% White, non-Hispanic
  • 9% Black, non-Hispanic
  • 32% Hispanic
  • 18% Asian

Median income: $50, 457 (ranks 18th out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 8%

For more information on this district -- its schools, its crime statistics and more -- click here.

In 1984, the Port Authority conceived of a massive redevelopment project to provide housing, office space, and 20 acres of parkland in Hunters Point. Nothing came of the project until 1994, when Queens West, a more ambitious follow-up plan, was formally launched. Yet even today, the only thing that has been built are a 42-story apartment building called Citylights and a small park. The rest of the development is still...in development.

Projects like Queens West will, some residents hope, move western Queens away from the manufacturing that once characterized the area.

"There is no such thing as manufacturing jobs in the city anymore," said Matthew Farrell, a candidate for City Council and current chief of staff for Councilmember Koslowitz. "We can't let these areas go to waste. You look at a city like Hoboken or even San Francisco, which have both really flourished as waterfront areas, and you wonder why we can't do it here."

But others are more wary. Local community board members express concerns that allowing development in the current manner could raise real estate prices and force out small manufacturers and working class residents. While Queens West has brought more housing to the area via Citylights, many are unconvinced that luxury high-rises overlooking the water are the way to solve the district's affordable housing problems.

"People are getting priced out of their neighborhoods around here as those who are priced out of Manhattan discover the attractiveness of this area," said Joe Heaphy, another candidate and the executive director of the New York State Tenant and Neighbors Coalition. "Rents are being driven up and it is a problem that seriously needs to be addressed. I believe that stable housing is the centerpiece of a stable community."

Overcrowding in the school districts is another problem that plagues the region and also divides the community.

According to the Board of Education, School District 24 is the most overcrowded district in the city, operating at 120 percent of its capacity, and District 30 is also one of the five most overcrowded districts in the city.

"When I attended P.S. 11 on Skillman Avenue, it was a great place to learn," said Eric Gioia, an attorney and Democratic Party activist. "I have a cousin attending the school today who is forced to take classes in what is essentially a trailer."

Though nearly every candidate running for any office this year has mentioned education as a priority, there has been neighborhood resistence to attempts to build new schools in western Queens.

Last year, some citizens favored construction of a PC Richards electronics store in Sunnyside and a Staples office supply outlet in Maspeth instead of new schools. In both instances, local residents said the schools would cause increased traffic and cited the proximity to dangerous major avenues as cause for concern. While the Board of Education did end up approving construction of a school on the Maspeth site, there remains much to be done to alleviate the overcrowding. And the process is slow.

If the candidates have different visions of what would be best for their neighborhood, so too do they differ as to what would be the best qualifications to be the area's represenative on the City Council.

Candidates Gioia and Farrell enjoy the endorsement and the backing of the Democratic leaders in the area. "It's a critical time for experience in a period of transition," said Farrell. "I can come into the City Council already knowing the budget process and how to bring back necessary resources to support our community centers."

Candidates Kearney and Heaphy, however, are operating from outside the system, a condition they say is not only to their benefit, but good for the city. "I feel like my independence from the existing power structures coupled with my experience organizing citizens to work together will be good for the community," said Heaphy.

Whatever the result, the winner of this race will have to decide exactly what path will lead to future prosperity for its residents. And he can expect plenty of arguments on the details along the way.

Posted 2/19/01

Campaign Update:

Two candidates in district 26 have dropped out of the race. Joe Heaphy, who had been endorsed by the Working Families Party, quit in July, saying he wanted to focus on his work at the New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition. "The best way for me to continue serving the needs of the community and the city is to focus my energy on my work to preserve affordable housing for those who need it most," Heaphy said.

James Dillon also dropped out and is now putting his efforts into creating a new Democratic club in western Queens called the Justice William Brennan Democratic Club.

Democratic candidate Patrick O'Malley said the major focus of his campaign is improving city services. He wants to adapt a police computer system that tracks trends in crime to look at things like sanitation, fire, and transportation. "By applying the compstat approach of the New York Police Department to all other city services, our neighborhood can get improved government action," he said.

Joe Conley entered the race later than most other candidates. "I wanted to respect our current Councilmember Walter McCaffrey and see what was going to happen with term limits before throwing my hat into the race," he said.

Conley touts his experience as chair of Community Board 2 where he has served 12 consecutive terms. Conley has been critical of the Queens West development in Long Island City, claiming that the community was not involved in the process. He also wants to invite a new kind of development in the area. "Right now economic development is geared to the commercial spectrum with no incentives for people to build housing," Conley said.

Ann Eagan, another new entrant, represents the Green party and is running on a platform of worker's rights and environmental protection.

The Queens Democratic organization has endorsed Matt Farrell, but Gioia and Conley have raised nearly equal amounts of money to Farrell. The Working Families Party has now endorsed Gioia, and outgoing Councilmember Walter McCaffrey has endorsed Conley.

Posted 8/09/01

Candidate Biographies

Joe Conley has worked for Mac Properties for the past 18 years. He is also a senior vice president for Modell's Sporting Goods. He serves as chairperson for Community Board 2, as a national delegate for American Cancer Society and as advisor to LaGuardia Community College. He founded the Long Island City Patricia Manning Memorial Fund for Childhood Cancer.

Ann Eagan is a self-employed yoga teacher. She is active in the Queens Environment Campaign and the Queens Peace and Solidarity Counsel, as well as the West Queens Greens.

Matt Farrell currently serves as the chief of staff to Council Member Karen Koslowitz, with whom he has worked since1994. He also worked for former Manhattan Borough President Andrew Stein.

Eric Gioia is an attorney from Woodside who coordinated Al Gore's campaign in New York during this past election. He also worked for three years in the White House Office of the Deputy Counsel and most recently was an attorney at the firm of Milbank Tweed.

Michael Kearney is the chairman and former president of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. He runs a company in the health care field and is a member of the United Forties Civic Association.

Patrick O'Malley ran last year against Catherine Nolan for her seat on the State Assembly with the backing of Ed Koch and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He has been a former Queens County Assistant District Attorney and is the brother of the mayor of Baltimore.

Campaign Trail

The five Democratic candidates running in district 26 talk about the need for more cops or affordable housing, but darker issues lurk just below the surface: Revenge, payback and political power. Or, as one candidate put it, lots of "petty personal politics and intramural squabbling." (Daily News)

The New York Times today endorsed a candidate in this race. District 26 (Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth): There is almost total agreement among several very strong candidates on the major issues facing this district, including overcrowded schools and more affordable housing, especially for the elderly. Eric Gioia, who helped manage Al Gore's campaign in New York and worked in the White House, is the youngest and most energetic of the group, and has promise as a leader both in the district and in the Council. We endorse Eric Gioia.

In the waterfront neighborhoods of district 26, something interesting is happening in this season's City Council race. While candidate Matthew Farrell, of Woodside, has received the endorsement of the Queens Democratic Party and local party politicians such as Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and City Councilwoman Helen Marshall, pop-up candidate Eric Gioia may give him a race to the finish line. Gioia, who has raised more money than anyone in the race - nearly $130,000, including the city's matching funds - has been endorsed by almost every major union in the city, including the United Federation of Teachers. Joe Conley, of Woodside, the president of Outlet City and Med-mac Properties and a consultant to Modell's Sporting Goods. Conley, also the chairman of Community Board 12, has won the endorsement of the incumbent Councilman Walter McCaffrey (D-Woodside) and has raised around $112,000, including matching funds. (Newsday)

The New York Times called this one of the ten races to watch. Matthew Farrell, an aide to Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, is the choice of the Democratic organization to succeed Walter L. McCaffrey. But Eric Gioia, a lawyer who worked in the Clinton White House, has raised more money and gathered more labor support. Patrick O'Malley, the brother of the mayor of Baltimore, is one of three others running. This race places the prestige of the party organization on the line in Woodside and Sunnyside. (New York Times)

Matt Farrell joined residents and local community leaders today in calling for a traffic light to be placed at 65th Place and 53rd Avenue. (Queens Gazette)

Joe Heaphy, executive director of the New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition, has ended his campaign for the City Council seat from the 26th District. "I have decided that the best way for me to continue serving the needs of the community and the city is to focus my energy on my work to preserve affordable housing for those who need it most," Heaphy said. . (Daily News)

Thomas Manton gives Matt Farrell his endorsement. (Queens Gazette)

Today Joe Conley attended the groundbreaking of a new park, the Doughboy Memorial Park. (Queens Gazette)

Night after night in New York City, fundraising events take place, in people's apartments or slightly garish catering halls. And whether the affairs are standard or eclectic, they are all driven by the same desire: campaign cash. And they are taking place with a frequency that politicians and donors alike say is unprecedented in modern city politics.

Some candidates, particularly younger ones, have made an effort to hold events that attract voters of their generation, for whom political involvement is new. Eric Gioia, who is a candidate for a Council seat in Long Island City, Queens, has sought to reach young, professional voters.

With a collection of more than 6,000 e-mail addresses, Mr. Gioia, who once was a law clerk in the Clinton White House, said he had been able to invite a large number of new voters, professionals with backgrounds in finance, law and the arts, to his fund-raising events. Mr. Gioia recently had several hundred guests at a fund-raiser at a bar in the Upper West Side of Manhattan to celebrate his 28th birthday, for a $40 minimum contribution. (It was $15 for students and previous contributors.)

"We have been able to get a large number of volunteers from these events and by keeping up with people by using e-mail," Mr. Gioia said. "This way, we're able to mobilize an army of smart, energetic young people, most of whom are getting involved in the political process for the first time." (New York Times)

James Dillon has quit the race for the City Council seat in the 26th District (Queens Gazette)

Kearney holds a fundraiser (Queens Gazette)

In Woodside: Of the five candidates running, the two leading in money and endorsements are Eric Gioia, who ran Al Gore's New York campaign, and Matt Farrell, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz's chief of staff. (Daily News)

Sunnyside tenant and community activist Joe Heaphy threw his hat into the ring last week for the 26th Council District seat being vacated by City Councilmember Walter McCaffrey. (Queens Gazette)

Another candidate in the 26th Council District race, Matthew J. Farrell of Woodside, announced that he has hired Laurence Lauffer, the former counsel to the City's Campaign Finance Board, to assist him with campaign finance law compliance. (Queens Gazette)

Michael Schenkler runs down the district races throughout Queens. (Queens Tribune)

Michael Kearney, one of the Democratic candidate-hopefuls seeking to succeed Councilmember Walter McCaffrey in the Sunnyside/Woodside 26th district, drew some interesting guests at his first fundraiser on Nov. 29th at Dazie's Restaurant in Sunnyside. (Queens Gazette)

McCaffrey's successors announce campaign. (Queens Gazette)



Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

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Board of Elections
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New York, NY

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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