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Candidates define issues in Monserrate Council seat race

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Rhetoric flew, but a few substantial differences were evident between four of the six candidates for Hiram Monserrate’s City Council seat at a meeting Monday of the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens.

The club held off on making any endorsement until Feb. 2 for the 21st Council District. A special election to replace Monserrate, who was elected to the state Senate, will take place Feb. 24.

“We leave a month in between to digest what people said,” said Daniel Dromm, a Democratic district leader and club founder.

Former Queens Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Eduardo Giraldo touted his four years as the head of that organization and emphasized his support for the Willets Point residential and commercial redevelopment project.

“I call this area a rough diamond,” he said of the Council district, which includes Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights. “It has so much potential.”

Giraldo said he would focus on making the Council district a player in the ongoing negotiations over the Willets Point project. He also suggested the Roosevelt Avenue corridor be designated the responsibility of either the 110th or 115th precincts. The crowded street is now split between the two precincts.

Democratic district leader George Dixon said he did not have the answers for all the district’s problems, but said no one else did either. He opposed the Willets Point redevelopment.

“I see Northern Boulevard being forced to accept a growth it’s not prepared for,” he said of the 5,128−unit residential component of the project. “I see an infrastructure crumbling.”

Dixon emphasized the need for library funding and senior center funding and suggested alternatives to increasing police patrols.

“I don’t want to bring more police into our community,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily get rid of crime.” Instead, he proposed employment programs for the district.

Julissa Ferreras, Monserrate’s former chief of staff, emphasized her experience with Monserrate’s office and noted she has the endorsement of 14 Council members.

“At the end of the day, we still have to pass a multibilli­on−dollar budget,” she said. “Someone has to go in there and get us our piece of the pie.”

But Ferreras, who left Monserrate’s staff last month to campaign for the seat, is still dogged by controversies surrounding her former boss. During the question­and−ans­wer session, Barbara Baruch, a staffer for Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing), took Ferreras to task for her role in the nonprofit LIBRE, which Monserrate sponsored and which now cannot account for hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding.

“If I had $250,000, I would have some idea what I did with that money,” Baruch said.

Ferreras disavowed any wrongdoing, saying that she was the chairwoman of LIBRE and had no involvement with its day−to−day operations.

“I have learned that startups are not really where I want to be,” she said, indicating she would support already−­established nonprofits if elected to the Council.

Community activist Francisco Moya touted his experience as a staffer in Washington for U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D−Ridgewood) and as a secretary in Albany for then−Senate Minority Leader David Paterson.

“We need people who understand what the issues are in our community,” Moya said, referring to the recent fatal beating of an Ecuadorian immigrant in Ridgewood by a group of men who allegedly mistook him for a gay man. Moya acted as liaison between the media and the slain man’s family.

Candidates Carlos Pena and Angel Del Villar did not attend the meeting.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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