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Retirees offer poolside perspective on politics

On a scorching hot Saturday, hot enough to melt the tar on the street, hundreds of Queens residents headed to the Seymour Perlmutter Community Center in Little Neck to escape the heat under an umbrella or in the pool.

At the crowded pool, three friends Louis Altabet from Flushing, Sol Golding from Queens Village and Hyman Horowitz from Astoria sat sunning, reading their papers and talking about what the loss of Queens entire council delegation to term limits will mean for the borough next year.

“It is taking a chance,” Altabet told his fellow retirees. “You have a good group now and you know what you got.”

But he later said “all in all I am probably in favor of having the slate wiped clean” as he used an imaginary broom to sweep the ground where he was standing.

His friend Golding said it was a real gamble to remove all of Queens council members because the new members might not be as effective as the group already in the Council.

But Altabet pointed out there was no way of telling what would happen once the new council members got elected. He said it was impossible to see the future and whether or not the borough would benefit from a new group of people in the government.

As the summer leads up to the primaries on Sept. 11 and the November elections, the politicians hoping to win a spot in the city government will be trying to solidify their base, raise money and convince people like Altabet, Golding and Horowitz to vote for them.

Queens is going to get 14 new city council members because none of the Queens city council delegation can seek re-election. In addition, two longtime Queens politicians, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) are vying for the Democratic nod to succeed Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

The two other Democrats hoping to move into Gracie Mansion are Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and Public Advocate Mark Green. On the GOP ticket, media mogul and billionaire Michael Bloomberg is facing former congressman and Bronx Borough President Herman Badillio.

Altabet said Bloomberg might make a good mayor because he is very intelligent.

“How do you know he is intelligent?” Golding asked in a somewhat confrontational tone, not really believing his friend knew what he was talking about.

Altabet defended his statement by saying since Bloomberg had made a ton of money over the years, he had to be intelligent.

“Myself, I would vote for Hevesi,” Horowitz said finally joining the conservation with his friends. “And I like Vallone. He has done some good things for the borough.”

Golding told his friends he likes Ferrer, but he was concerned that the Bronx Borough President might be too liberal for his liking. But he disagreed with Hevesi’s stand on reparations to African Americans. Hevesi has said he is in favor of making monetary reparations to black Americans to compensate for the country’s slavery practices.

All of the men agreed Green was the candidate who would hurt the city and their way of life the most. They all said he would not be tough on crime and more often than not he has been severely critical of the Police Department and how the department has handled itself over the years, a stance the men opposed.

As the men continued to debate the merits of one candidate over another, Joe Feldman of Douglaston sat about 15 feet away — separated by women playing mahjong and men playing gin rummy — quietly reading his paper.

“I am not fired up about the election yet or made a reasoned decision,” he said. “I want to wait till I know all of the people involved in all of the races.”

He said even though he was a Democrat, he could vote for Republican Bloomberg if he was good for the city. He said he goes back to Republican Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and thought he and Republican Mayor Robert Lindsay were both good mayors.

In terms of the loss of Queens’ council delegation, he said the “new people will learn the routine. The City Council was never a tremendous force. It was always subservient to the mayor or the Board of Estimate.”

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

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