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Crowded field heads to Katz seat primary

The six Democrats vying for City Councilwoman Melinda Katz’s (D-Forest Hills) seat have been trying to engage voters for months, spending many hours knocking on doors and campaigning on the street, and they will soon see the fruits of their labor as residents head to the polls for the Sept. 15 primary.

District 29 candidates Heidi Harrison Chain, Albert Cohen, Michael Cohen, Mel Gagarin, Karen Koslowitz and Lynn Schulman will face off in the Democratic primary that will determine who will represent the area that includes Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and parts of Richmond Hill, Maspeth and Elmhurst.

Katz could have made a third bid for her seat but is instead running for city comptroller.

Each of the candidates have, among a range of issues, focused on health care during their campaigns, saying more health services are needed in a borough that recently lost Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica.

They also have said school districts in the district are too overcrowded and called for additional classrooms to be brought to the area. All have said flooding problems need to be better dealt with.

Chain is the president of the 112th Precinct Community Council, a member of Community Board 6 and a director in the city Finance Department’s Office of Legal Affairs. She said she would work with the NYPD to reduce crime and improve services for seniors, such as the Meals on Wheels program. She has called for no increase in real estate taxes, would establish a 24-hour hotline for constituents and would streamline city services by using the Internet to file official forms when possible.

Albert Cohen, a Forest Hills-based attorney, is the first Bukharian to run for the Council and has stressed he wants to facilitate dialogue between the Bukharian and non-Bukharian communities. He said he wants to funnel more resources into services for the elderly, including nursing homes and day care centers.

Michael Cohen is a former state assemblyman representing Forest Hills, Rego Park, Middle Village and Glendale and worked in the health care industry until he recently quit to run his campaign full time. He said if elected he would focus on restoring the stock transfer tax to help mitigate the city’s financial woes.

The former assemblyman has said he would install speed photo radar on area roads, especially Queens Boulevard, to mitigate speeding and like to ensure the Council has the final say on all taxes, fees and charges levied against residents and businesses.

Gagarin works in media relations for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was the community representative for U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and served as the community liaison to state Sen. Jose M. Serrano (D-Manhattan). Gagarin emphasized the need for more communication between developers and residents, wants to bring green jobs to the borough and city and has said he hopes to work with seniors and small business owners.

Koslowitz is the director of constituent services and community boards at Queens Borough Hall and former deputy borough president and has represented the 29th District from 1991-2001. She could not run again in 2001 because of term limits.

Koslowitz said she is especially focusing on quality of life issues, such as mitigating traffic and working to fill empty storefronts along such shopping hubs as Austin Street. She has emphasized bringing newer and better technology to the district’s police precincts.

Schulman is a senior associate executive director of business affairs at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, a member of CB 6 and has served two terms on the 112th Precinct Community Council. She has said she would create a 24-hour constituent service line and said she would work to increase affordable housing, particularly for seniors, in the district.

Additionally, Schulman said she would like to extend her office hours and create a “junior corps” that would consist of students with whom Schulman would discuss district issues.

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

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