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Abel looks for work after being ousted by term limits

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Although former northeast Queens City Councilman Mike Abel (R-Bayside) has been unemployed in the seven weeks since his 10-year term in office ended, he said he has been surveying the job market but has not found anything yet.

“I guess it’s just too soon,” said the Baysider, who was forced out of office by term limits. “I’m looking still in government, in different levels of it, or in the private sector.”

A job with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s new administration has seemed uncertain, said Abel, 51, who said he was waiting for a response after sending in a resumé. And running for higher office is a possibility, he said, but nothing more at this point.

“I’m not looking at anything specific,” said Abel, who said he has had a difficult time convincing people of that.

Abel, who ran a Midas Muffler shop in the western section of Bayside before his election to the City Council in 1991, was the first person to represent Council District 19 when it was created in the early 1990s. In an interview last week Abel said his main goal while in office was to treat every corner of the district equally.

“The legacy is in the libraries, the schools and the parks,” said Abel. “People here just want to live quietly and get their fair share. They’re not looking for miracles to fall out of the sky.”

The district covers most of northeast Queens, including 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.

Prior to a 1991 redistricting that created Abel’s seat, the 19th Council District was split between three other council members, Abel said, including former City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) and Julia Harrison (D-Flushing).

He is most proud of his ability to bring money into the district, including funds for school computers in School Districts 25 and 26, for the refurbishing of dozens of park, the purchase of parklands for environmental protection and for libraries.

“Every one of my libraries” was renovated, he said. “Every school got at least one round of computer funding.”

Working on quality-of-life issues was also a priority for Abel, who remembered one of his first accomplishments just after his election.

“The biggest thing in my mind is the crackdown on drag racing on Francis Lewis Boulevard,” he said. “It was a joint effort with the Police Department and the district attorney — it worked, and they kept it up.”

But for Abel, a Republican in a heavily Democratic borough, just getting elected was an adventure.

A businessman who was active in the Bayside Republican Club, Abel worked for then state Assemblyman Doug Prescott (R-Bayside) and eventually ran the first mayoral campaign of GOP hopeful Rudolph Giuliani in 1989.

“I ran the Giuliani campaign in Queens,” Abel said. “We lost everything else, but we won Queens.”

Caught up in the excitement of politics and the new council seat created by the expansion of the City Council in the early 1990s, Abel said running his own campaign was “a circus.”

“There were 10 Democrats and two Republicans,” said Abel, who credited his victorious Republican primary with giving him enough public exposure to triumph in the general election.

“It was a mid-life career change,” he said, looking back on his decade in office. “I enjoyed what I was doing and I seemed to be getting better at it.”

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

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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