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Council hopefuls Sica, Weprin run calm race

In what has been one of the borough’s quietest council races, the son of the scion of a Queens political family faces his brother’s opponent in last year’s state Assembly race for the right to represent eastern Queens and succeed longtime City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis).

On Nov. 6, Democrat David Weprin, the son of the late state Assembly speaker Saul Weprin and brother of state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside), faces off against Republican Philip Sica to become the district’s first new council member in 24 years.

Both men are actively campaigning — on similar issues — for the job of running the diverse district, which includes South Asians, Jews, blacks, Italians, Hispanics and West Indians. It stretches from Jamaica Estates to Douglaston and Queens Village to Hollis Hills. Over the course of the race both men have touched on the issues important to their communities — education, public safety and illegal housing.

Sica, 66, a retired city marshal and minister who worked for the city for 24 years, wants to abolish the Board of Education. Weprin, 44, a lawyer for the law firm of Sierajzki, Ceccaralli and Weprin who was the deputy supervisor of banking under former Gov. Mario Cuomo during his first term, does not.

“I believe the Board of Education, the way it is presently situated, should be abolished,” Sica said. “I believe the head of the Board of Education should be held accountable if the system fails.”

He said there are a number of proposals to redesign the Board of Ed that have been mentioned but he thinks the best idea would be to put the leader of the city’s educational system under the mayor’s control. Sica said assistants in each borough should take care of that borough’s needs.

“I think there has to be a major change in the Board of Education, but I am not certain abolishing it and putting it under the mayor’s control is the way to go,” Weprin said. “I think it should be restructured and continue to get local community input.”

He proposed that each borough should have its own Board of Education because each has its own unique problems. A major concern for Weprin is allowing the mayor to appoint more members to the board because, he said, it makes the board position too political.

In terms of public safety, Sica called for improving the general quality of life for all New Yorkers, which he said can be accomplished by increasing the police force and adding more teachers to educate our children.

The city needs to pay police and firemen a decent wage that competes with the suburban wage scale, he said, and that would stop the migration of city employees to the outlying communities.

Weprin agreed with Sica on the topic of the police and fire departments. saying it was the No. 1 priority of city government since the attack on the World Trade Centers. He also called for pay raises to entice people to become city policemen and firemen, and not look for jobs on Long Island or in Westchester.

“Fear on the city streets is a topic that needs to be addressed,” Weprin said. “One way to address those fears would be to increase the police presence on the streets and bring the Fire Department back to Sept. 11 levels.”

One of the main quality-of-life issues affecting northeastern Queens is illegal housing. Sica wants to expand the force in the Buildings Department that inspects homes and answers complaints. Weprin agreed with Sica on this issue, but he wants the inspectors to be licensed.

“I would beef up the number of inspectors,” Sica said. “If you don’t have enough police officers, you hire more; if you don’t have enough firefighters, you hire more; and if you don’t have enough teachers, you hire more.”

The laws preventing the conversion of one-family homes to two- and three-family homes are on the books, Sica said, but nothing is being done. Sica said the conversions have to be stopped because they have been known to cause fires, affect parking by adding more cars to already overcrowded neighborhoods and raise the noise level in the community.

“Zoning violations are a major problem in northeast Queens,” Weprin said. “The problems can be traced back to the Building Department. I think they should be licensed professionals and have a regulatory structure.”

Weprin said under-the-table payments to building inspectors to allow illegal homes to be built have to be stopped. The multifamily dwellings in a single-family home present a danger to the public, he said.

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

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