The powerful Juniper Park Civic Association will have a new leader for the first time in more than 28 years since its president, Robert Holden, will have to resign before his Jan. 1 swearing-in as a city councilman.
Holden became the only challenger to defeat an incumbent Democrat in the city when he beat City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) on Election Day, but he had to wait eight days before the city Board of Elections counted all absentee and affidavit ballots on Nov. 15, when he was declared the winner by 137 votes.
“I actually have to give up the leadership of four non-profits I run,” Holden said. “I’m scrambling to get people to take over not just the Juniper Park Civic Association but the Juniper Valley Park Conservancy, St. Saviour’s Inc. and Citizens for a Better Maspeth.”
Holden, 66, found time for all four organization while serving as a member of Community Board 5 since 1988. Seven of those years he was the first chair and has been chairman of the board’s Public Safety Committee for 13 years. All of that experience gave Holden the confidence that he can represent District 30 well.
“I’ve attended several briefings at City Hall for the new Council members and I felt I knew a lot already like land use and public safety from my 30 years on CB 5,” Holden said. “I feel I’m better prepared with everything I’ve learned as a civic leader.”
During a low-point of his campaign against Crowley, Holden knew he had to work harder at winning over voters in Woodhaven where few knew of him.
“I started knocking on doors there and campaigning as a civic leader instead of a politician. It felt much more natural to me. I would ask what is the problem on your block and than I told them how we would fix them,” Holden said. “These people hadn’t been asked about problems in the neighborhoods before and they were very receptive. That really got me going again and that’s when I felt rejuvenated and began to feel like I could really do it. And it worked.”
Although Crowley had defeated Holden with nearly 64 percent of the vote in September’s Democratic primary, the Queens GOP gave him its Republican party line, which the registered Democrat for more than 44 years ran on along with the Conservative, Reform and Dump de Blasio lines. Holden captured more that 8,400 votes on the Republican line
In the past couple of weeks, Holden heard from many City Council members and their staffs offering congratulations and words of advice, although he would not get specific because the calls were personal. City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) was not one of them nor is Holden expecting to hear from Dromm after reading some of his quotes in last week’s Queens Chronicle.
Dromm said he would “fight against” Holden caucusing with the Democrats and that he had had issues over the years with Holden and his views that “border on racist and homophobic,” He went on to say the councilman-elect is a “total Republican” no matter what party he is affiliated with.
Holden was blindsided by the comments.
“I think it was disgraceful. It’s irresponsible and I’m surprised an elected official would talk like that especially in the city of New York,” Holden said “I’ve never even met the man and I don’t prejudge, but this is the perfect example of what’s wrong with this country, labeling me as a Republican. Crowley’s campaign put it out there that I’m anti-woman and a racist and when Danny calls me homophobic, I’d like him to point out how I might actually have more gay friends than him.”
Dromm could not be reached for comment.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr