Economy tops issues in Maloney race

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U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) will face off against Manhattan’s Reshma Saujani next week to retain her seat in a race the congresswoman said has become dominated by one issue: “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Both Maloney, who was first elected in 1992 and serves as the House’s chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, and Saujani, a Manhattan attorney who previously worked on Wall Street and worked as deputy general counsel for Fortress Investment Group, have prioritized economic issues in their bids for the seat leading up to the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

The congresswoman, whose district covers Astoria, Long Island City and Manhattan’s Upper East Side, said getting residents in the neighborhoods she represents back to work was this year’s primary goal.

“I’d say the top concern in the district is jobs,” she said. “As chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, I’ve been working tirelessly to create jobs and get our economy back on track. I’ve secured funding for infrastructure jobs, such as the Queens-Manhattan connector. And because small businesses are the backbone of our community, we’ve worked on a small business tax credit that will allow businesses to hire unemployed workers.”

Saujani said she believes the district’s western Queens neighborhoods are currently suffering under the economic downturn.

“We’re bleeding jobs and not growing enough in the private sector,” she said. “People are unemployed and terrified. They can’t put food on the table.”

Both candidates said they believed improvements to Queens senior centers and schools were also top priorities.

“I can’t tell you how many seniors I’ve talked to who say they have lived in apartments for 30 years and rents are going up,” Saujani said. “I think we need an advocate who will push for renters’ rights. And we need to make sure we have resources for schools in Queens and that after-school programs are not getting cut.”

Maloney said she has helped to get senior housing built in Astoria, such as the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee’s George Douris tower along Hoyt Avenue, and allocated money to western Queens schools including LaGuardia Community College and Astoria’s Frank Sinatra School for the Arts.

The congresswoman and her challenger also believe western Queens is in dire need of more hospital space.

“Mt. Sinai needs to expand and I’m trying to work with them,” Maloney said. “The amount of demand is overflowing. They need more space and parking. They are bursting at the gills.”

Saujani said she wants more federal money to go toward funding hospitals in the district.

The Manhattan lawyer said she will also push for ethics and campaign finance reform for Congress.

“I think there is a leadership deficit in Washington right now,” she said. “I think we need to send a new crop of leaders to Albany and Washington. I talked to 100 voters a night and they all say they have lost faith in their politicians. There are too many special interests.”

Maloney said one of her goals would be to help pass a 9/11 health and compensation act for Ground Zero workers who were at the World Trade Center site after Sept. 11, 2001. She also wants to ensure that the creation of new development in Long Island City continues.

“I predict Queens will become the second most-important business district in the entire city,” she said. “The amount of activity and investment coming to Queens is really important.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 6:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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