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Ferrer looks to capture Queens’ Hispanic vote

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Bronx Borough President and Democratic mayoral hopeful Fernando Ferrer described himself as a person who has certain views on how the city should be run and a stand-up leader who sticks to his guns while fighting for what he believes.

In a recent meeting with the TimesLedger, Ferrer discussed his plans for Queens, the city and why he is the best man to succeed Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in leading New York City’s more than 8 million residents over the next four years.

Ferrer spoke on a wide range of topics ranging from how the census undercount affects not only the borough but the city to his ability to squeeze votes out of Queens, where two favorite sons are running against him. He also touched on a few topics on the minds of Queens residents, such as transportation, housing and education.

“I am unafraid to take stands that I believe in,” Ferrer said. “The changes that I want to make, what my points of view are, what I believe, I campaign on those beliefs.”

Public Advocate Mark Green, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) are the three Democrats running against Ferrer for the right to face off against the Republican Party’s candidate, either media mogul and billionaire Michael Bloomberg or former Bronx Borough President and former U.S. Rep. Herman Badillo in the November election.

The undercount of Hispanics in the city during the 2000 Census will have a major effect on the borough, he said. It means fewer federal dollars for education, infrastructure, parks, seniors and a whole gamut of services, Ferrer said.

“That is why I was an early champion of the suit with respect to the undercount,” he said. “I still can’t understand why Mayor Giuliani has not joined. I spoke to (Borough President) Claire Shulman one night and she joined after I did. And she saw how it is going to prejudice Queens.”

If Ferrer wants to win the mayoral election, he is going to need a strong showing in the borough. Queens has a large Hispanic population and capturing its vote is vital in the race for Gracie Mansion.

Queens is home to 556,605 Hispanics, equal to about 25 percent of the borough’s population, based on the 2000 Census. The Queens’ Hispanic community is centered in Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Flushing.

Ferrer does not see any roadblocks standing in the way of his getting a big chunk of Queens’ Hispanics to support him. He said he is pretty well known in Latino communities.

“My reception in Queens has been nothing short of spectacular in Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside, Sunnyside and Astoria,” he said. “And not merely limited to the Latino communities, but I am pretty well-known throughout.”

Southeast Queens residents, he said, have also shown a lot of support for his candidacy and he will continue to strengthen his base there. A strong showing by Ferrer in southeast Queens and in the Hispanic communities will buoy his campaign, while hurting the campaigns of his two Queens opponents. Both Hevesi and Vallone are heavily courting the Hispanic and black votes in their mayoral bids.

But Ferrer said his campaign is not limited to western and southeastern parts of the borough because all of Queens “has to be paid attention to.”

Ferrer was critical of the proposed V train, a new line designed to relieve overcrowding on the E and F which he called a “strange plan.” He said he has worked with the Queens Civic Congress to come up with alternatives to the existing mass transit system, which many of the borough’s residents feel is inadequate.

The real failure has been to bring the community into the discussion about public transportation, he said. The Long Island Rail Road can be extended to Grand Central, the Second Avenue subway can provide direct access to the LIRR and a true one-seat ride to JFK Airport and more public buses can ease the extremely overtaxed system, he said. “The failure to add buses is beyond me,” he said.

Affordable housing “is an issue and a half for Queens,” Ferrer said. The emergence of illegal basement apartments and the conversion of one-family homes into two-family homes — two problems which plague Queens — stem from an inadequate supply of middle-income housing, he said.

Parts of Long Island City, College Point and the Rockaways could be used as or rezoned into residential neighborhoods. He said a solution can be found by working with the communities to come up with a plan to develop affordable housing.

He said in addition to building housing, Queens needs to build more schools to alleviate massive overcrowding. Ferrer also called for the Board of Education to be more accountable as he pointed to recent construction overruns.

“I am open to listening to and working with people, but at the end of the day if people disagree with me, they disagree,” Ferrer said. “They don’t become my lifetime enemy disagreeing with me. We move on to the next issue. I have a point of view, I have certain beliefs and I won’t temper them because someone tells me to.”

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

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