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Nocerino leaves race for Katz’s Council seat

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The race for City Councilwoman Melinda Katz’s (D−Forest Hills) seat became a little less crowded last week, when Joseph “JR” Nocerino said he was leaving the race due to concerns about his health and work. Nocerino has thrown his support behind former rival and Democratic candidate Karen Koslowitz.

“I’ve been battling prostate cancer, and the last test didn’t come back spectacular,” Nocerino said Friday. “But my existence isn’t in jeopardy.”

Nocerino, a Forest Hills resident, also said he wants to focus on his job as a headhunter for Manhattan−based Access Staffing. The rocky economy had forced him to abandon the employment agency he ran, People Finders, and instead work only as a headhunter.

“You’ve got to make sure there’s food for the kids,” said Nocerino, who lives with his three children and wife, Sharon.

The former candidate is now working for Koslowitz, who held the District 29 seat prior to Katz. The district includes Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and parts of Richmond Hill, Maspeth and Elmhurst.

Katz is running for city comptroller.

With Nocerino’s exit, the remaining candidates are Heidi Harrison Chain, the 112th Precinct Community Council president; Michael Cohen, a former state Assemblyman; Mel Gagarin, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D−Forest Hills); Koslowitz, the director of community boards at Borough Hall; and Lynn Schulman, vice president of Community Board 6. All the candidates are Democrats.

“Looking at the slate of people running for our district, I had to support the person who most represented or acted within the community the way I do,” Nocerino said. “Karen is somebody who I feel has done so much for the community, whether it’s been her job or not. She’s gone above and beyond, and that’s what I felt I did.”

Nocerino, who has lived in Forest Hills for 25 years, had run once before in 2005 when he lost to Katz. Like the rest of those running for District 29, Nocerino said he had wanted to address overcrowded classrooms and ensuring the area’s large senior population has access to affordable resources.

Nocerino said he is now working on the campaigns of both Koslowitz and Katz.

“I’m putting an event together in the neighborhood for Melinda,” Nocerino said. “I’m doing petitioning for both. I’m trying to get out the message to my following that I’m supporting these candidates.”

Koslowitz said she was pleased with Nocerino’s support.

“I’m very excited about it,” she said. “He’s a prominent person in the community.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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