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Carol Gresser announces candidacy for boro prez

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In what might be considered a slight to Borough President Claire Shulman, Carol Gresser officially kicked off her campaign for the Democratic nomination to succeed the term-limited borough president Monday on the steps of Shulman’s headquarters at Borough Hall.

Gresser and Shulman were friends and longtime political allies until 1998 when a disagreement prompted the borough president not to reappoint Gresser to the Board of Education after she had served for eight years, including four years as its president.

“As I announce my candidacy today, I think of the diversity of the peoples and communities in Queens and the common needs that they share — good affordable homes in safe neighborhoods, first class schools and a chance to live out the American dream,” Gresser said.

“The people of Queens need a borough president who can effectively support education, enhance neighborhoods and promote the economy,” the Douglaston resident told a crowd of about 50 supporters.

Gresser and Shulman’s political relationship dates back to the reign of Queens Borough President Donald Manes, who led the borough until March 12, 1986. Shulman assumed the post of acting borough president after Manes killed himself in the midst of a Parking Violations Bureau corruption scandal.

The two women had a falling out after Gresser, who was then Board of Ed president, bucked Shulman and supported then Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew during Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s effort to remove him.

Gresser’s husband, Lawrence, was a deputy borough president under Manes and worked on Shulman’s previous campaigns for borough president. She must step down Jan. 1 because of the new term limits law that restricts her to serving no more than two consecutive terms.

Shulman told the TimesLedger in a recent meeting in her office that “I’m not publicly endorsing anyone for borough president, but I’m leaning toward Audrey Pheffer,” a state assemblywoman from Rockaway.

Also in the race for borough president are City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis), City Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst), Democratic community activist Haydee Zambrana and City Councilman Alfonso Stabile (R-Ozone Park).

Gresser, who has raised more then any other borough president candidate but trails Leffler in total funds due to expenses and matching funds, was the second contender to officially announce her candidacy. Zambrana launched her campaign last month.

Shulman spokesman Dan Andrews said Gresser’s decision to formally launch her candidacy on the steps of Borough Hall did not pose a problem because it is a public space.

“It is up to them,” he said. “If they want to do it there, it is fine.”

Lawrence Gresser said his wife was grateful to Shulman for appointing and reappointing her to the Board of Ed.

“Behind that politics is politics,” he said. “We’ve been friends for years and we will be friends down the line. We don’t take things like this seriously.”

Gresser said her training ground in politics was in the Parent Teacher Association, which she described as one of the “toughest political arenas.” On the PTA in District 26, she said, her time was spent fighting for her children’s education and on the Board of Ed she battled for all Queens’ children.

“I learned that if I wanted my children to grow up in a better community, I had to work to make it happen,” Gresser said. “I also learned that I couldn’t do it alone, so I learned to work with my neighbors and friends to make a difference. I learned how to listen, and I learned how to lead.”

In her speech she called for a better educational environment for Queens’ children, more cops on the neighborhood beat, better health and social services for seniors, better staffed libraries, peace from airplane noise and new zoning laws to attract and keep businesses.

“For too long, though, Queens has been thought of as a place that you drive through on your way to the airport or the Hamptons,” she said. “Queens is a borough of over 2 million people — larger than many major cities with many attractions — and I want to make Queens a destination, not a drive-through.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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