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Green Party of Queens grows to 1,000 members

It was not very long ago that the Green Party’s only New York City chapter was in Queens. Except for a show on community access television, it had not done much in the way of reaching out to the community, party leaders say.

But today, the Green Party of Queens has more than 1,000 members, making up nearly 13 percent of its citywide enrollment, with clubs in Flushing, western and central Queens, said Craig Seeman, chairman of the state’s Green Party.

In Queens, there are at least seven candidates running for the City Council on the Green Party line, he said, a number that may fluctuate depending on whether some candidates are thrown off the ballot because of petition challenges. And in Flushing, the race for the seat held by incumbent Councilwoman Julia Harrison, a Democrat, has sparked a primary between the two Green Party candidates, Paul Graziano and Evergreen Chou.

“The common misconception in the city is that you must win as a Democrat,” said Seeman, 43, a free-lance video editor who lives in Brooklyn. “What they don’t understand is that it’s not so much that you can only win as a Democrat, but it’s that the Democratic machine picks the winners.”

The Green Party, with a citywide enrollment of more than 8,000, does not have the wherewithal to stand up against mammoths like the Democratic machine, Seeman said. But what it does have is meticulous organization, he said, and that goes a long way when it comes to filing valid petitions that are required to get candidates onto the ballot.

Conceived in 1984, the Green Party was the brainchild of a student named Petra Kelly, a native of Germany who attended college in the United States. At that time, she met with activists in Minnesota, developing the tenets of the organization, including grass-roots democracy and decentralization of government entities, among other things. But the movement did not gain currency in New York or on the national level at least until the 1990s, Seeman said.

To compensate for what they lack in funding, members of the Green Party like Seeman and David Levner, the Queens County chairman, are self-taught in the nuances of election law. For instance, they do not have the luxury of attorneys who are typically hired on behalf of candidates endorsed by major political parties to challenge competitors’ petitions, Seeman said. Many times, collecting 2,000 signatures is a one-person endeavor.

In recent years, the Green Party has attracted a combination of disenchanted Democrats and others who simply subscribe to its core principles, Seeman said, which revolve around solving problems systemically. And it has grown exponentially, he said, after Ralph Nader ran for president in 2000, capturing a solid 3 percent of the nation’s vote.

Seeman, a contender himself for a council seat in Brooklyn, said the party’s candidates this year are very strong, although it was too early to forecast whether a Green Party candidate would be elected. This is the first council election in which the party has its own ballot line, having garnered enough votes in the 1998 gubernatorial race.

“In the early days, the Greens were viewed as a little on the fringe or fanatical,” he said. “But I don’t think that perception is there anymore.”

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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