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Dooley challenging Onorato for Senate

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State Sen. George Onorato (D−Astoria) will face off against Republican challenger Tom Dooley, a former city firefighter, in November, but both candidates agree that something must be done to aid small businesses in their district that are struggling amid a national economic slump.

Onorato, 79, said he will focus on a number of issues as the election approaches, including the state’s budget deficit, cleaning up toxic neighborhood sites and providing affordable housing for seniors in his district. The one issue on which he agreed with his opponent was that small businesses in his neighborhoods need a helping hand.

“A lot of businesses cannot make payroll,” he said. “So a lot of people are getting laid off and can’t find new jobs.”

Onorato, who lives in Astoria, said he thought the state’s Democrats should push for tax incentives that would create new jobs. He said that some companies that have received state incentives accepted money and then left the state without creating jobs.

Dooley, 53, a retired city firefighter, said small businesses in the district, which covers Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and a sliver of Maspeth, were suffering as a result of state taxes and high rents.

“The climate in New York has been really poor in the last few years,” said Dooley, who grew up in Astoria. “For the first time in my life, I’ve seen vacant storefronts on Steinway Street. Factories in Long Island City have abandoned New York and gone to Pennsylvania or Florida. I don’t think you have to own a business to understand what’s going on.”

Dooley would be Onorato’s first opponent since 2004. The senator was first elected in 1983.

The candidates took shots at one another, with Onorato accusing Dooley of not having a clear platform and Dooley contending that the senator does not have a presence in the community.

“He isn’t that clear on what the issues are,” Onorato said of his opponent. “I really don’t know what his priorities are.”

Dooley said that he would maintain a strong presence in the community if elected.

“Onorato doesn’t show up anywhere,” he said. “We see lip service, but he gets nothing done. He should resign and allow someone to stand up for the district.”

Onorato said his accomplishments in the district included securing $300,000 for the Manhattan−based Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee to create affordable housing and more than $300,000 for additions at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

He said other urgent issues in his district included the cleanup of the massive oil spill at Newtown Creek in Long Island City, the creation of more affordable housing and an increase in services for seniors.

Dooley, who has been endorsed by the borough Republican and Conservative parties, said he would focus on lowering taxes for homeowners and small businesses. He said he also opposed mayoral control of city schools and supports school boards regaining control.

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

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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