The sound and the fury of a senatorial campaign
seemed to rumble through Queens this week as First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton made an
early morning campaign stop in Forest Hills followed by a quiet "listening tour"
stop in Flushing.
While the store gates were still down and the sidewalks of
Austin Street still empty, the movers and shakers of the Queens democratic party filed
into their headquarters with only select aids and relatives accompanying them. Over coffee
and danish, they bustled about the controversy of local civic meetings and council
hearings, while a lone NY1 television camera stared up at the window behind which the
"closed to press" event would take place. As the First Lady entered the
building, an expectant silence fell in the headquarters room were officials were already
lined up along the wall for the best spot to meet the woman who has not yet officially
declared that she is running for U.S. Senate.
Congressman Gary Ackerman and Queens Democratic Party Chief
Tom Manton led Clinton into the room to the sound of applause, and then reminded those
gathered of when Bill Clinton met with the party leaders of Queens in the same room to
begin his campaign for president.
The First Lady laughed and said that her husband had told
her these were powerful people she was meeting with. She praised the party leaders for
their work in the borough and spoke of work that still needs to be done. She added her
confidence that she would be a successful part of the team dedicated to make life better
for all Queens residents.
They were all applause (above) In the
upper room of Dem County headquarters with Congressman Gary Ackerman, Party Chief Tom
Manton and Council Speaker Peter Vallone.
Clinton then proceeded around the room to shake
hands, sign autographs, pause for photos, and listen to the issues facing the Queens
representatives. She spoke to school overcrowding concerns, funding for preservation of
Queens landmarks, and promised individual meetings to gather further information on just
what is needed to make change in the style typical of a political campaign rally.
Outside the headquarters, there was one brief stop to shake
hands and wave at the school children of Our Lady Queens of Martyrs, then Clinton was off
At the listening tour with panelists Carol
Levine and Veronique Le Melle.
First Lady Stops, Looks And Listens
At Flushings Joint Industries Building, reporters
and cameras from all over New York City and beyond were waiting for Clinton to hold what
will reportedly be her last stop this month in her "listening tour." The First
Lady that met them did just that she listened quietly and learned about the
"family" concerns of a five member all-female panel and a small, predominantly
female group of local guests who shared personal Queens stories of tragedy and triumph
with the crowded audience of over 200.
"For people who are not cured, the system falls apart.
Nobody wants to pay for care," an impassioned Carol Levine told Clinton as she
detailed her everyday struggle of caring for her husband who was injured in a car crash
nearly ten years ago.
Levine explained to the First Lady that she has found life
to be overwhelming at times, single-handedly caring for her husband who still suffers from
cognitive problems, while also looking after her 87-year-old mother who is also disabled.
"I just want to help a little," said Mercedes
Manne, a second panel member and life-long area resident.
(above) Toby Stavisky, Assemblyman Brian
McLaughlin and Queens Womens Centers Ann Jawin with Congressman Ackerman in
the audience. (below) CBS News Marsha Kramer with Phyllis Zucker.
Shortly after Mannes husband became sick, she
found herself always thinking of ways to become part of the work force but could never get
there because she couldnt afford child care. A mother of four, Manne has found it
virtually impossible to get the kind of care she feels her children deserve while being a
part of the working world.
"We must think of ways to provide more subsidized
child care," the First Lady replied.
The First Lady made little mention of her husband, other
than that she approved of his plan to veto what she called the "irresponsible
Republican tax cut." She also shied away from answering questions about New York
sports while visiting the home of the New York Mets. When asked who she would root for if
the Yankees and Mets competed in a "Subway Series" the First Lady replied,
" there are certain questions even I am not dumb enough to answer."
Though Clinton offered no rallying campaign speeches
or controversial platform statements at the public meeting in the Harry Van Arsdale Jr.
Ave. auditorium, the audience didnt seem to mind. Rovenia McGowan, a member of the
United Federation of Teachers who attended the listening tour meeting captured the spirit
of the Queens residents who took part. "Ive seen her many times," McGowan
said, "and Im a great fan."