District 30 Ridgewood, Middle Village, Glendale
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: DISTRICT 30

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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.

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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002

General Election Results

x-Dennis P. Gallagher, Rep 13,208 - 59 percent
Elizabeth S. Crowley, Dem 8,807 - 40 percent
Sharain Pereira, Gre 208 - 1 percent

Primary Election Results

Elizabeth S. Crowley 3,362
Linda Sansivieri 2,367
Robert Cermeli 1,589
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Thomas V. Ognibene (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:

  • Elizabeth Crowley (Dem/Wor)
  • Dennis Gallagher (Rep/Con/RTL)
  • Sharain Pereira (Gre)

General Election Update


Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign Finance Board:

Contributors to Bob Cermeli
Contributors to Elizabeth Crowley
Contributors to Dennis Gallagher
Sharain Pereira has not filed.
Contributors to Linda Sansivieri

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 30


Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

Too Much Green, And Not Enough

On a map of Queens, there is a high concentration of green in the southwestern portion of the borough. District 30 is home to beloved playgrounds and parks. Weekend duffers can tee off at the Forest Park golf course, and flower lovers can enjoy some of the two thousand rose bushes planted in Juniper Valley Park, miraculously created long ago out of swampland. But many of these green pastures are covered with tombstones. There are at least ten cemeteries, taking up about a quarter of the land in the district.

In a district where so many New Yorkers are resting in peace, this year's race for the City Council seat has been noisy enough to wake the dead.

The communities of Ridgewood, Middle Village and Glendale very well could be looking at three elections in the space of a little over four months. The district's current council member and minority leader, Republican Thomas Ognibene, will most likely be stepping down from office to accept a judgeship. If Ognibene resigns by June 11, a special election will be held about forty days after he vacates the seat.

This special election would be nonpartisan, so the three Democrats and the one Republican vying for the seat would all be running directly against each other. A special election would determine who holds the seat until the end of the year, and then a primary and a general election would take place in September and November.

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

Race:

  • 65% White
  • 24% Hispanic
  • 8% Asian
  • 3% Black

Median income:$51, 012 (Ranks 17th out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 8%

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

While a competitive campaign season unfolds, residents try to cope with a lack of services. With so much green park space throughout the district, a problem that has faced its citizens is the inability to come up with enough money from the city to take care of them. "We've got over 229 acres of parkland in this district," says Gary Giordano, district manager of community board 5, which overlaps most of city council district 30. "But on a year-round basis, we only have seven full-time park maintenance employees. Juniper Valley Park is 55 acres alone, and Forest Park is even bigger."

The shortage of resources does not end at the parks' edges. One of the biggest issues facing the community has been the lack of police coverage on the street. Response time has averaged around ten minutes, which is longer than the citywide average of 8.2 minutes, and has over the past few years averaged as high as fifteen minutes.

Many cite understaffing at the local police department as a serious concern. Under the Safe City, Safe Streets initiative of the Dinkins administration, the local precinct covering the majority of the City Council district was slated to receive 255 new officers. All these years later, there are only about 200, and in an area of coverage encompassing 7.6 square miles, the difference can be felt strongly. All four candidates agree that creating a police satellite station or substation would do a great deal for the community.

Geography also plays a part in delays. "We've got a lot of cemeteries, railroads, and parks in the neighborhood, and that makes it difficult for police to get around," says Bob Cermeli. Because of all the natural o bstacles, police officers are often restricted to one or two major roads.

Even though crime as a whole is down in the district, quality of life crimes occur on a regular basis, especially graffiti and trash dumping. Vandals recently defaced the Middle Village Roller Hockey rink in Juniper Valley Park, and a site slated for school construction on Weirfeld Street is now heaped with piles of trash.

As in the rest of the city, shortages of housing and overcrowding at schools are also on the minds of voters in the community. "There are a lot of illegal apartments in basements and attics around here," says Joan DeCamp, a committee chairperson on community board 9. "In some cases, the people don't mind living there, but it's definitely dangerous and can put a strain on city services." School boards 24 and 27, meanwhile, are some of the most overcrowded and underperforming school districts in the city.

Ognibene's decision to vacate his seat is not the only surprise thrown into this year's election mix. Thomas Manton and the Queens Democratic organization recently endorsed 23-year old Elizabeth Crowley. Crowley, a decorator who helps restore old buildings a and substitute teacher. Crowley had initially chosen to run in the 26th District, but decided to move her campaign to the 30th District so that Manton could endorse another candidate in the 26th District and still endorse Crowley. Once Crowley received the nomination, two other local community activists, Joan DeCamp and Erik DePaula, both of whom were banking on the support of the Democratic organization and the unions, dropped out of the race.

The Crowley name is one familiar to Queens voters. Elizabeth's cousin, Joseph Crowley, is currently in Congress representing Queens constituents. Her parents have both been City Council members, and two of her sisters serve on local school boards and community boards.

Still, Crowley likes to say "I'm not the typical politician," by which she seems to mean that at 23, she is younger than the typical politician. "The City Council needs to have people of all ages. Fresh blood and new ideas are very important," she has said. "I may not be as old as some of the other people on the Council, but I have a lot of people I can turn to for help."

Though she talks of new ideas, she was not available to say what those ideas are. Her campaign manager, Peter Krokondelas, said that her jobs at various old houses or schools make it difficult to get in touch with her. Speaking on her behalf, he said that she would support the renovation of current schools and construction of new schools. She would also call for a satellite station for the 104th precinct to reduce police response time, and, he said, she pledges to senior citizens that the first staff member she hires would be a coordinator of senior issues.

In a district that has voted for Republicans Ognibene and Mayor Rudy Giuliani for two terms, voters may be swayed less by party affiliation than by the individual. Even though registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a two-to-one margin, Democratic victories are not a sure thing in this district. "I've been very fortunate to have Tom [Ognibene] as my mentor the past few years," says Dennis Gallagher, chief of staff to Ognibene and the only Republican candidate, who cites as his most important issues the same as Crowley -- education, crime, and seniors -- and adds "quality of life," specifying vandalism. If the Republican issues in district 30 do not seem to differ much from the Democrats, Gallagher sees a distinction in his party affiliation: "It is important that we have the perspective of another party in our city government."

posted 6/5/01

Campaign Update:

All three of the Democratic candidates are still on the ballot, and Dennis Gallagher, the only Republican candidate, will face the winner in the general election. "It's an advantage to know that I will be secure on the November ballot," says Gallagher.

But how secure is he? While many thought Gallagher was a shoo-in for the seat, recent allegations that Gallagher and his boss Councilmember Thomas Ognibene accepted gifts in return for political favors have raised questions about his campaign.

In June, the Village Voice published an article about wiretapped conversations between Gallagher, Ognibene, and Ron Lattanzio, a construction consultant who is at the center of a District Attorney investigation of the buildings department.

Lattanzio allegedly offered Ognibene and Gallagher trips to Vermont and Disney World, and they discussed how to get a friend of Lattanzio hired in a prominent position in the city's buildings department.

Even though Lattanzio testified in court that he did provide the gifts, the District Attorney's office was unable to indict Gallagher or Ognibene, citing a lack of evidence that the trips were ever taken or that there was a clear case of quid pro quo.

Asked to comment on the allegations, Gallagher says, "I don't feel that there is anything to comment on. People who know me and Tom in this community know what kind of people we are." Gallagher continues to campaign full-time, going door-to-door. "I'm ready to blast off, ready to go," says Gallagher.

How the allegations will affect Gallagher's campaign is yet to be seen, but they have already hurt Ognibene's future political aspirations. The Councilmember was up for a civil court judgeship, and many thought he would be appointed by June. Now the appointment is on hold.

So far, the Democratic candidates are not making the allegations against Gallagher a major part of their campaigns.

"Unless they are charged with something, I can't prejudge people personally," says Robert Cermeli. "From a practical matter, it's going to cause suspicion. The public will see smoke and think there's a fire."

"When I read that in the paper, I was upset because I have a lot of respect for Ognibene," says Elizabeth Crowley. "I'll leave it up to the District Attorney's office to complete their investigation."

Crowley has the endorsement of the Queen's Democratic organization and her family connections. Twenty of her family members (with the last name Crowley) have made donations to her campaign, according to information from the Campaign Finance Board.


Candidate Biographies

Robert Cermeli is head of the Community Board 5 health and human services committee and served three terms as president of School Board 24. Currently he works for the New York City Department of Design and Construction as a capital budget administrator.

Elizabeth Crowley is the cousin of Congressman Joe Crowley and the daughter of former Councilmembers Walter and Mary Crowley. She works as a decorative painter and home restorer, as well as doing some substitute teaching and being active as a member of DC 9, the building trades council.

Dennis Gallagher is chief of staff to Councilmember Thomas Ognibene. He is also active in a number of youth sports programs, including the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council.

Linda Sansivieri has been a member of School Board 24 for twelve years and has been very active in the local Democratic organizations in her district.


Campaign Trail

9/5/01
Council district 30 candidate Elizabeth Crowley finally gets her matching funds. (Daily News)

6/22/01
Consultant Ron Lattanzio gave more testimony in court asserting that he had provided Councilmember Tom Ognibene and his staff with gifts, meals, and other presents in exchange for helping his firm out with job placements and city investigations. (Daily News)

6/21/01
A former consultant at the center of an investigation into corruption in the city Buildings Department testified yesterday that he had given gifts to and arranged trips for Thomas Ognibene so that the Republican City Councilmember would help an associate get an influential position in the Buildings Department. Ognibene denied the allegations. The councilman cannot run again because of term limits and had been hoping for a state judgeship. He has not been charged in the investigation, though eight other people have. (Newsday)

6/20/01
Until last week, Dennis Gallagher was a good pick to replace his term-limited boss, City Councilman Thomas Ognibene. But the campaign for the Middle Village seat has turned after revelations that the Manhattan district attorney's office is investigating Ognibene's and Gallagher's ties to a Buildings Department scandal. (Daily News) And after a week of media silence, Councilman Ognibene said yesterday that he did not accept free trips, money or gifts. (Daily News)

6/14/01
The best laid plans in City Council District 30 seem to have gone awry. Incumbent Republican City Councilman Thomas Ognibene was to have been named to a judgeship on the state Court of Claims and leave office early, paving the way for a nonpartisan special election this summer. The thinking was that, as the lone Republican, Ognibene aide Dennis Gallagher would have an easy time against a field of Democrats in the race, keeping the seat in GOP hands. Now, however, both Ognibene and Gallagher have been implicated, though not charged, in a criminal investigation alleging that the councilman received favors from a building consultant in return for exercising his political clout at the city Buildings Department on the consultant's behalf. An unnamed official says Governor Pataki is aware of the charges, originally reported in this week's Village Voice, and has no immediate plans to name Ognibene to the judgeship. Gallagher was not available for comment. (Newsday)

6/13/01
Wiretaps reportedly reveal that a consultant at the center of a probe into corruption at the Buildings Department regularly relied on Republican City Councilman Thomas Ognibene for political clout. The charges, which come out of a probe that resulted in indictments of four high level Buildings Department officials in September, were first reported in the current Village Voice. The Times said today that law enforcement officials confirm the Voice report. Detectives listening in in 1997 heard frequent conversations involving consultant Ron Lattanzio, Ognibene and Ognibene's chief of staff, Dennis Gallagher. Lattanzio reportedly arranged expense-paid trips for Ognibene and Gallagher. The councilman cannot run again because of term limits; Gallagher is a candidate for his seat. Neither man has been charged.

5/09/01
Elizabeth Crowley celebrates her endorsement with her family (picture also). (Western Queens Gazette)

5/03/01
Elizabeth Crowley, first cousin of U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, has entered the Democratic race for the District 30 City Council seat. And she joins the fray with the support of her cousin and Queens Democratic Party boss Tom Manton. The 23-year-old Elizabeth Crowley had originally planned on running in District 26, but was reportedly advised by Manton to switch. The party leader says he was eager to have the well-known Crowley name on the ballot to improve party chances in a possible special election. (Times Ledger)

4/30/01
Reports are circulating that Councilman Tom Ognibene could be approved for a Court of Claims judgeship and out of his council seat by June 11, clearing the way for a special council election. This has some Democratic worried. Special elections are nonpartisan and so would pit all Democratic and Republican comers against the entire field. Since four Democrats have declared for the seat, they could fracture the Democratic vote and give the lone Republican - Dennis Gallagher, Ognibene's chief of staff - a victory. Ognibene, a Republican, can't run again because of term limits. (Times Ledger)

03/08/01 Dennis Gallagher speaks at a Richmond Hill Block Association meeting to discuss his candidacy. (Times NewsWeekly)

03/01/01
Erik DePaula announces his candidacy for the 30th District seat. (Times Newsweekly)

01/07/01
Michael Schenkler looks at the City Council races throughout Queens, including District 30. (Queens Tribune)

8/9/2000
Dennis Gallagher, chief of staff to City Council Minority Leader Thomas Ognibene for the past nine years, has announced he will seek to succeed his boss as the Republican candidate in next year's election for 30th District councilmember. (Western 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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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
SavvyVoter.org
NYVote.com
Votesmart
NYPIRG
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

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

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart

E-Voting
Election.com

Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Media
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
Conservative
Democratic
Green
Independence
Liberal
Republican
Right to Life
Working Families
Communist
Libertarian
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Socialist
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
DL21C
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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