Queens Beep and
If The Election Were Held Today?
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
This is not an endorsement column.
However, today, were taking a hard look at the candidate for
Queens Borough President and Mayor since those of us in the biz play, "who would you
vote for if the election were held tomorrow?" Also, the Democratic County
Organization will sit down next Monday morning, May 21st to pick their candidates.
Now strangely, the Democratic Party is not very democratic. The
official choices are made by the vote of the 64 elected Democratic District Leaders. There
is one County Chairman and he really makes the decisions all of them. Thats
the way it is. Thats the way it was. Thats the way it will likely be for a
long time. Now, thats not to say the District Leaders and his inner circle
dont influence him. But sometime between now and May 21st, Tom Manton will sit down
with his advisors partners in his law firm and make the big decisions.
As a newspaper publisher, I am not under the same time pressure. We
dont face the endorsement deadline until sometime around Labor Day. Nevertheless, we
thought it would be interesting to share our thoughts with Tom, the 64 District Leaders
and you, and play "What if the election were held tomorrow," out loud.
Who would we back if the Dem Primary were tomorrow?
(After this column was written but prior to publication, it became
clear that County Leader Tom Manton will support Alen Hevesi for mayor and Helen Marshall
for borough president. My thoughts are unchanged.)
Rule #1: These are not endorsements! Got that! Were allowed to
change our mind; meet with our editorial board; interview candidates; talk to the people;
evaluate the records and think lots more until our final voice is heard.
Rule #2: Well call it like we see it. No deals, jobs, business or
special interest will impact our choices.
Rule #3: We consider in order: a) the good of the people; b) the good
of Queens c) personal feelings, instinct and access; d) electability.
Rule #4: See Rule #1.
Queens Borough President
The Democratic field for Queens Beep includes term limited Council
members Sheldon Leffler, Karen Koslowitz, Helen Marshall, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and
former Board of Ed. President Carol Gresser. We know them all pretty well.
Sheldon Leffler is a well-meaning, socially-concerned intellectual who
lacks some of the people skills to build an effective coalition to manage the borough.
Hes bright, I like him. Id like to continue to consider him as my friend but
he is not my choice for Beep. He will however stay in this race until the end and lose.
I really like Karen Koslowitz. She is hard working and cares about her
constituents. Karen will be out of the race on May 21st when she does not receive
Countys designation. Chances are if Manton picks some winners and is owed favors,
Karen will be rewarded with a job for dropping out and supporting Countys choice
shell work hard and do that job well.
The winner will be one of the remaining three: Pheffer, Marshall or
Gresser. Pheffer and Marshall are both longtime Democratic District Leaders and therefore
have a large leg up for Mantons support. Manton wants a Borough President who will
"take orders" and provide him with greatly needed patronage by appointing his
people to the jobs at Borough Hall. Jobs provide the grease to keep political machines
Pheffer clearly will be the most subservient to Manton. She has
indicated that in her Borough Hall, the political grease is readily available. Shes
expressed intentions to "listen to" Manton, Claire Shulman and Assembly Speaker
Sheldon Silver. Her candidacy is a creation of term-limited Shulman who had expressed
concern about the jobs of her present staff. Pheffer, in a published interview, pledged,
"I wouldnt fire a single person that Claire appointed." In reference to
making major appointments she said: "I guess Ill get recommendations from
[County Leader] Tom Manton and [Assembly Speaker] Silver."
Pheffers key support seems to be all about patronage. She has
placed the integrity of Borough Hall in jeopardy. While her Assembly record is acceptable,
it not exceptional. She was one of the few senior Assembly members from the City who voted
to abolish the Citys Commuter Tax costing the City more than $400,000,000
(thats four hundred million) every year. That vote was part of a Sheldon Silver
political deal that got nothing for the City. Pheffer went along.
Audrey Pheffer is the nicest person youd ever want to meet. She
has our personal admiration and affection. We, however, need a strong leader and not a
follower as Borough President.
Helen Marshall or Carol Gresser?
Two wonderful candidates!
Queens would be well served with either of these two dynamic women.
They are both bright, hard working and committed to all of the people in Queens. The both
have shown independence but also have the ability to work with diverse groups and build
coalitions. The Democrats and Manton, the civic groups, the unions, the people and even
the Republicans could do business and get along with Marshall or Gresser. Id be
happy with either.
Marshall, who I have known for four decades really, she was
president of the Parents Association of PS 143 in Corona, when my father was the
schools principal in the 1960s would be the first African American Beep of
Queens. The positive self image that a black role model would provide for the children of
minority neighborhoods is immeasurable. Add that to her competence and you have a pretty
good argument on behalf of Helen Marshall.
Good, but not perfect. Race is not a good enough reason to support
someone. Race shouldnt be used when denying someone a vote, likewise, it should not
weigh too heavily in casting a vote for someone.
Though Marshall is a good candidate, we took serious issue with her
leadership role in the recent vile attempt to overturn term limits for Council members
which was passed by the people and voted on in two referendums. This self-serving
undemocratic move would have allowed Marshall and her cronies to run again. She
demonstrated a quality in that failed crusade which said that Helen might occasionally
ignore the will of the people.
Probably not perfect either, is my friend Carol Gresser. She is the
former Prez of the NYC Board of Education who stood up to Rudy Guilianis attempt to
ram a bad choice for Chancellor down the throats of the Board. Carol and the children of
the City won that fight but she lost the affection of her former friend Claire Shulman who
has repeatedly backed the Mayor on education right or wrong.
Carol is courageous. Shes bright, articulate and knowledgeable.
She has the ability to work with all groups and has always made herself available to those
in need. She has a true concern about this borough and its kids. Carol Gresser is clearly
the class of the field.
Tom Manton would be doing his party and the people of Queens well, by
showing the courage that Carol has shown and taking the best path instead of the most
If the election were today, Id be with Carol Gresser!
Mayor of New York City
Freddy Ferrer, Mark Green, Alan Hevesi and Peter Vallone: all competent
guys I looked for the difference.
Schenkler & Ferrer
Ive had the opportunity over
the past month to sit in my office and chat with three of the four Democratic candidates
for Mayor. I tried to ask some tough questions and get inside their heads to see what they
are truly made of. Ive yet to have the chance to meet with Comptroller Hevesi but I
did know him way back when. I hope to get the opportunity to meet with Alan before the
Im sorry, Mark Green leaves me cold.
He is the clear frontrunner. It would be expedient to jump aboard his bandwagon, but we
just dont get it. The arrogance of office seems to have tarnished the fair-haired
Great Neck liberal applauded for his experience with Ralph Nader and his reputation as a
Sorry, we spent just shy of an hour in a
one-to-one with Mark and we saw a politician who seemed to mirror Rudy Giulianis
attitude towards people only hes a Democrat.
Last October, Trib Associate
Publisher Mike Nussbaum hosted Hillary Clinton at Temple Israel in Hollis Hills. The
Temple decided that elected officials would not be introduced that evening and only the
temple president would be acknowledged from the pulpit. Mike was the emcee and suffered
the animus of Mark Green because of "How my wife and I were treated."
I asked Green, who was at my office
presumably seeking the friendship of the Trib to "forget about the past and
shake hands with Mike."
"Only if he apologizes to my wife
first," was Marks reply.
Would Green play such games with civic
activists, labor unions, or anyone that did something that he didnt like or
his wife didnt like. Would people who offended him have to grovel before he would
meet with them? Cmon Mark, its ridiculous!
Mark Green failed to act appropriately in a
little mini-drama that I witnessed. We cant afford to place him in charge of the big
Now, Im from Queens. This is my
borough. This is where I do business. Id love to support anything Queens.
I dont make political judgments based
on race, religion, sexual preference or national origin. Im not going to back
someone just because theyre from Queens.
The Hevesi jury is still out.
Peter Vallone is not my choice for Mayor.
This column documented his questionable
defense of using government staff for campaign purposes. We are not impressed with his
claims of experience "running the city." He is the consummate insider in a
government that must be opened up. Public airing of issues and not insider deals is in the
best interest of the people. Peter, although a dedicated public servant, is not my choice.
We spent an hour and a half with Freddy
Ferrer last Friday afternoon. It was his second visit to the Trib. He is a bright
visionary who loves the City and is greatful for the opportunity it afforded him. He,
however, is clearly focused on the New Yorkers who dont have a fair chance. Citing
affordable housing and quality education, Ferrer laid out his vision for New York. He was
thoughtful and knowledgeable.
His New York is my New York, and your New
York. His coalition is broader than the well-publicized black and Latino effort. He talked
of our diverse Queens communities and groups. He is acutely aware that New York today
doesnt include everyone. He sure will try to change that and include us all.
On the Board of Education: "There is
one thing I can tell you. There must be some sort of public board. A public airing of
education policy and issues including parents, teachers, unions and the media is
essential." Freddy wants to bring the light of day into government.
He applauds Rudys record on crime and
economic growth. However, "we can also provide quality schools and affordable housing
and we can keep crime down without sacrificing peoples rights."
I asked some tough questions. He was
thoughtful and deliberate and made no mistakes.
Would you support Al Sharpton for elective
office? I asked.
"He ran for Mayor and I didnt
vote for him then," Freddy responded.
Freddy Ferrer has grown since I last
chatted with him several years ago. Hes not from Queens. Hes not Jewish, but
has a lot more in common with this writer than the other guys Ive talked to.
I asked, "After eight years of being
Mayor, what would you like them to say about Freddy Ferrer?"
"He did the best he could and the city
is better off because of it," he responded.
Freddy Ferrer: my choice today.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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