Cohen faces conservative in Assembly seat election

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The two candidates scheduled to duke it out in the race for the state assembly seat in District 28 could not be much further apart in their views on improving Queens.

Todd Bank, a little-known Kew Gardens Republican, is challenging the incumbent, Michael Cohen (D-Forest Hills), in the November election and he is running on a conservative platform that calls for abolishing rent controls and the minimum wage, and creating a school voucher program, among other stands.

Cohen, who is backed by the Democratic, Liberal and Working Families parties, is a long-time liberal who hopes to find more space for new schools and to amend laws dealing with jaywalking and the punishment of drug users and child abusers.

Although Bank, a consumer litigation lawyer, admits many of his conservative views may be unpopular in the district, which includes parts of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, Glendale and Middle Village, he said if the constituents had a better understanding of his ideas, they would take to them.

“I think (rent controls and the minimum wage) are bad and they should be done away with,” Bank said. “If the constituents had a better understanding of supply and demand and a better understanding of the capitalist system,” their beliefs might change, he added.

Bank said rents and wages should be dictated only by the laws of supply and demand. Any controls on rents and wages violate the principles of a healthy free market economy, he said.

The Republican, who has not raised any money for his campaign, also called the city’s school system “deplorable” and said he would work to start a school voucher program to offer money to children who wish to attend private schools.

Bank also plans to highlight quality-of-life issues in his campaign. He hopes to enact legislation that will put decibel restrictions on car alarms that he said blare day and night in Queens. He also wants to allow homeowners to get on a “Do Not Knock” list that will prevent door-to-door salespeople from coming to their residences.

The Kew Gardens resident also said a one-strike law should be written to put some violent criminals in prison for life. He said he is in favor of giving judges the option of locking offenders away for life for extremely violent crimes such as rape, armed robbery and shootings.

Cohen, who according to the state Board of Elections has raised about $38,000 since last year for the campaign, also is in favor of a one-strike law, but said it would be appropriate for sexual predators who prey on children. He said such criminals have been running rampant across the country recently.

At the same time, the assemblyman, who has been in the office for the past four years, said he hopes to soften other laws such as the Rockefeller drug legislation, which calls for stiff punishments for illegal substance users. Instead, Cohen favors forcing addicts into mandatory drug treatment centers.

“The Rockefeller drug laws’ mandatory 15-year sentence is not serving any purpose,” he said, adding that about 70 percent of drug users who receive treatment stay out of trouble. For violent drug users and dealers, Cohen said more severe punishments are necessary.

Cohen, who lives in Forest Hills, also said laws that require jaywalkers to appear in court are too harsh. Jaywalkers should be allowed to pay a fine through the mail, he said. Police often catch pedestrians scurrying across Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills and Rego Park and a court appearance causes great inconvenience for them, he said.

On Queens Boulevard and other roadways in Queens, Cohen hopes to install speed radar devices that would send fines to the owners of vehicles caught breaking the speed limit. No points would be added to their licenses, but a fine would be assessed.

In addressing school issues, Cohen said he is working to find more space and means of constructing new educational facilities to relieve overcrowding in the city’s schools. He said an empty lot at the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park could be cleaned up where, he said, a private developer is willing to put up an elementary, middle and high school.

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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