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Ex-Weprin foes join up at Queens Village loan office

Who says election campaigns only create enemies?

After Jairam Thakral lost to David Weprin (D-Hollis) in the 2001 Democratic city council primary, he opened a mortgage bank on Jamaica Avenue in Queens Village.

Thakral hired as his senior loan officer Philip Sica, the Republican candidate who went on to lose to Weprin in the general election two months after Thakral did.

“Right after the primary, I drove by his house,” said Sica. “He said he would support me, and he did. We said ‘let’s keep in touch.’”

So when the 67-year-old Thakral decided to launch his own branch of American Capital Mortgage, a small mortgage provider based in Lake Success, he asked Sica to work for him.

Although the two represented different ends of the political spectrum, each recognized the other’s intelligence, experience and expertise in finance when they debated during the 2001 campaign. Thakral had been a financial officer for SUNY Stony Brook’s Long Island Veterans Home and Hospital and the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation. Sica, 68, is a lifelong New Yorker who served as a city marshal and accountant for the city’s Finance Department.

“I felt he had a lot of government experience,” Thakral said. “I could see that he knew finance.”

“Both of us believe in fiscal responsibility,” he said. “We see a lot of guys who like to tax, tax, tax and spend, spend, spend.”

The two men said despite their different party affiliations, political arguments in the office are nonexistent.

“Issues never come up,” Thakral said. “We are a very congenial community here.”

And they certainly do not keep a dart board of David Weprin’s picture in the back room. The councilman’s brother Mark (D-Bayside), a state senator, attended the bank’s opening in January, and Thakral and Sica said they are in regular friendly contact with the man who beat them.

Thakral, who lives in Fresh Meadows and Sica, a Bellerose resident, lost by wide margins to Weprin in a contest for the seat long held by Democrat Sheldon Leffler. The district stretches from Glen Oaks to Hollis and from Little Neck to Queens Village.

Neither man admitted to having plans to run for office again, but both said anything was possible.

“The door is not closed,” Thakral said.

But for the time being Thakral and Sica hope to carve out a niche providing mortgages to nonprofit organizations and revitalizing the neighborhood.

The two men work out of a small but newly-renovated and meticulously kept 3000-square-foot office at 216-26 Jamaica Ave.

“We call it Park Avenue on Jamaica Avenue,” Thakral said.

The polished look of the office, he added, was symbolic of the bank’s commitment to fostering prosperity in the neighborhood.

One way they hope to do that is by specializing in making loans to nonprofit organizations. Sica, an ordained Seventh-Day Adventist minister, said churches in particular often had trouble getting mortgages from large financial institutions. Big banks, he said, feared that chasing down congregations for money owed could provoke a negative public reaction.

Thakral said the mortgage bank would provide a level of service impossible for larger institutions.

“We provide personalized, customized service,” he said. “When you call here, you talk to a person.”

Thakral and Sica related an anecdote involving a woman who walked in off the street in despair because her sister’s house was on the verge of foreclosure. Thakral saw quickly that the woman needed a lawyer, not a banker.

“I told Mr. Sica to take the lady over to the law firm next door,” Thakral said.

The attorneys charged her only $100 for writing a letter and placing a phone call, services that could be much more expensive at a large firm.

“She left with tears in her eyes,” Thakral said.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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