By Kathianne Boniello

Douglaston lawyer Dennis Saffran officially joined the crowd of candidates running for City Councilman Mike Abel’s (R-Bayside) 19th Councilmanic District seat Friday, announcing his bid for the office at a College Point news conference.

Despite the rain pelting the well-wishers and friends who gathered around Saffran, the Republican candidate was all smiles in front of what used to be Gallagher’s, at 123-05 28th Ave. in College Point. Saffran said Gallagher’s was a sex shop closed under the city’s 1995 sex shop zoning law.

Saffran, the former head of the Center for Community Interest who once worked as the chief lawyer for the state Division of Housing, is the seventh official candidate for Abel’s seat.

Abel, one of three Queens Republicans in the City Council, has been in office for nearly 10 years and is prohibited from seeking a third term under the city’s 1993 term limits law. Abel announced his candidacy in the borough president’s race in November 1999 but dropped out last month, citing a lack of funding for the race.

The 19th Councilmanic District covers most of northeast Queens and includes the communities of Bayside, Bay Terrace, Whitestone, College Point, Malba, Douglas Manor, Beechhurst, and parts of Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Linden Hill, and Murray Hill.

Saffran is one of three possible Republican candidates for Abel’s seat running in a heavily Democratic borough. At least five Democratic candidates so far have announced their intentions of running for the seat.

Of the Republican hopefuls joining Saffran in the 19th CD, city employee Greg Miley of Bayside was nominated by Conservative Party northeast Queens party leaders in February as their candidate for the post. Chris Butler, a Bayside native, announced his candidacy on the Republican ticket in 2000.

Democratic candidates in race are: Tony Avella, Democratic district leader of Whitestone; Community Board 7 member and labor leader Arthur Cheliotes of Bay Terrace; John Frank of Whitestone, who now works as state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza’s treasurer; civic leader Jerry Iannece of Bayside Hills; and civic activist Joyce Shepard of Bay Terrace.

The Douglaston father of two said he would be a champion of the Giuliani administration’s reform efforts if elected to the City Council, and pointed to his work in helping pass Kendra’s Law in 1999, Megan’s Law, anti-child abuse legislation and parole reform.

“It was the kind of work I did as head of the Center for Community Interest,” Saffran said.

Joined by his family as well as Kim Webdale, whose sister Kendra was killed after being pushed in front of a subway in the late 1990 by a mentally disturbed man, Saffran listed reducing crime, protecting the environment, zoning issues, improving services for seniors and education reform as some of the top issues in the district.

Webdale called Saffran “a constant source of support” for her family after her sister’s death and in the resulting fight to get Kendra’s Law, which required mentally disturbed people to take their medication or face jail time.

“Dennis Saffran was a key champion to having Kendra’s Law passed,” she said.

In a statement, Ellen Levin, mother of the Central Park preppy murder victim Jennifer Levin, said she was also supporting Saffran’s campaign.

“Dennis has been a great champion of the rights of crime victims and their families,” she said.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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