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Gresser, Thakral forge alliance at Hindu festival

On the day that the world’s Hindus celebrated Rakhi, a festival where brothers honor their sisters, city council candidate J.D. Thakral and borough president candidate Carol Gresser announced they were joining forces to help and support each other in their respective Democratic races.

During one Queens version of the festival, which renews the relationship between siblings, a sister ties a string bracelet on to her brother’s wrist and he vows to defend and protect her from all evils.

“You are now bound to me forever,” Gresser told Thakral as she tied a string around his wrist in honor of the festival as a group of more than 20 South Asian community leaders looked on. “I am so thrilled.”

Thakral and Gresser combined forces Saturday afternoon at Thakral’s Fresh Meadows home. At the meeting, both candidates said they decided to forge a coalition because their views on what is best for Queens and its 2.2 million residents are interchangeable.

Thakral faces an uphill battle against David Weprin, a longtime Democratic Party loyalist and son of the late state Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin for the right to compete against the Republican nominee, Philip Sica, for City Councilman Sheldon Leffler’s (D-Hollis) seat, which stretches from Hollis to Douglaston and Queens Village to Glen Oaks.

Gresser said that over the past couple of months she has run into Thakral at different campaign events and after hearing him speak, she realized what was important to him was equally important to her.

“We gave the same speech focusing on education, community, safety, quality of life, education and health care,” Gresser said. “We could change the face on the campaign literature because we want the same things for our borough.”

Gresser, the former Board of Education president and a Douglaston resident, is one of the four candidates hoping to succeed outgoing Borough President Claire Shulman, who cannot seek re-election due to term limits. She faces Democrats Leffler and City Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst) for the right to face off against Republican Alfonso Stabile (R-Ozone Park) in the November election.

Thakral, an accountant, served as the chief financial officer of Kings County Hospital — the city’s second largest hospital — until 1988 when he took early retirement to help his daughter set up her accounting practice. In 1990 he started working for the state as the chief financial officer for the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University. He is the first Indian candidate for Council District 23.

The support of Gresser helps his campaign, Thakral said, because of the clout and respect she carries with her.

He described the battle that each was waging as “not a political campaign, but a community empowerment campaign.” He said their common views on education, the community and family values have led them to having a vested interest in improving the borough and its many diverse communities.

“We need to see diversity at Borough Hall,” Gresser said. “We don’t see that now. People need to see a face that they can recognize.”

She said the coalition she is forging with the South Asian communities of Queens, which stretch from one end of the borough to the other, are vital to her campaign. These communities play a large role in the borough and in the country’s democratic process, she said.

‘This is a grassroots campaign,” Gresser said, “with a lot of talking and listening to the communities.”

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

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