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Only Ober, Ognibene show for debate in Council race

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Two City Council District 30 hopefuls told Juniper Park Civic Association members at a candidates' night debate Tuesday that they would focus on quality-of-life issues and better police enforcement if chosen to represent the district at a special election on June 3.

Republican Thomas Ognibene and Democrat Charles Ober fielded questions from the civic's executive board before more than 150 members at Middle Village's Our Lady of Hope.

But civic leaders blasted District 30 candidates Anthony Como, a Republican, and Elizabeth Crowley, a Democrat, who they said dropped out of the debate at the last minute.

"Please remember the candidates who insulted you tonight and did not want to answer tough questions," civic president Robert Holden told members.

The election will be held to replace former Councilman Dennis Gallagher, who stepped down from office in April as part of a plea deal to keep him out of prison following his arrest last year for sexually abusing a 52-year-old woman at his Middle Village district office.

The district covers Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood.

Ognibene, who held the Council seat before Gallagher, told civic members that he fought for the neighborhood's quality of life during his previous tenure in office. He said he believed the other candidates would not fare as well as he would with balancing Council work with running for office in the three upcoming elections for the office in June, November 2008 and November 2009.

"I feel I have the hands-on knowledge to begin serving on day one," he said.

Ober said he would continue work in the Council seat that he began as vice president for the Ridgewood Property Owners Association, such as calling for more police on neighborhood streets and taking up preservation causes.

"As a civic leader and member of a number of organizations, I've worked on quality-of-life issues, from graffiti to overdevelopment," he said. "We need new leadership in this community."

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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