Carol Gresser: For
All The People
real hard to remain objective when the courage, vision and dedication of the person
youre interviewing captured you long before she became a candidate. Its not
easy to interview a string of competent candidates when one has been a frequent lunch
companion for a number of years.
Gresser & Michael Schenkler
youve laughed at and with someone, suffered with their personal struggles and sat,
perhaps monthly, at the corner table by the window at Caffé on The Green, its tough
to put your head down and charge. But thats the job.
say Im not a gentle interviewer. And I knew it could be no different with Carol
Gresser just because she was my friend and I, hers.
the obligation to the reader change when a candidate youre interviewing has won you
over before she was a candidate?
obligation is clear to this writer. Disclose your friendship to the reader and ask the
tough questions. Then, call em like you see em.
Carol Gresser got the same questions and opportunity as her two Democratic opponents for
Borough President. No more, no less.
opened: Whats your relationship with Claire Shulman?
distant and cool towards me, Carol replied. Id like to be able to call
her but she wont really talk to me, Carol lamented over her run-in with the
Beep who appointed her to the Board of Education. Carol served with distinction
five years as president and the admiration of the borough and the borough president
until she took issue with Rudy Giulianis choice for chancellor. Then the Mayor took
after Carol and Claire Shulman turned her back on her former friend.
Carol, was not reappointed by Claire, she sought to broaden the dialogue on the City in
order to improve public education. Becoming director of the Institute for School Board
Leadership at Columbias Teachers College and an adjunct professor at St.
Johns, Carol continued to build a career of public service.
Ive never asked her age, it seems to this writer that she sees the borough
presidency as the culmination of a career of public service.
limits, she says, is a breath of fresh air that will inure to the benefit of the
City. With prior credentials as a civic leader (she served on the Boards of Visiting
Nurse Service, Queens Child Guidance Center, Walk the Walk, Citizens Union, FIT) she is
excited by the prospect of participating in the new and energized City government.
it is clear that her public break with Giuliani and Shulman was a pivotal moment in a
career, she is philosophical about its effect on her.
have a great deal of respect from the voters because I stood up to Rudy Giuliani,
Carol says, explaining her broad base support.
when asked if Rudy was a good mayor, she smiles, pauses and says thoughtfully, He
demonstrated that New York City was manageable.
Shulman, Carol reflects, Claire became borough president in a terrible time in
Queens history and brought everyone together.
she is saddened by what happened between her and the Beep, her integrity is her strength
and she was making no apologies.
she dismisses race as consideration in voting, she pledges, I will have a Borough
Hall that reflects the diversity of the borough.
surprised me when she said without hesitation that her years on the Board of Education
crystallized her decision that the Board of Education should be abolished.
has, like many others, mildly embraced five borough boards and says, I would like to
think theyre manageable. She demands a viable pre-K program as the first step
in fixing what is broken in the schools.
expected, this former teacher and PTA president places education atop her list of
priorities which also includes public safety and affordable housing.
compassion causes her to search out creative solutions for the boroughs housing
crises, involving community board input to modify zoning to insure safety, while the long
range problem of building affordable housing is addressed.
the boroughs resources must be distributed to provide for the neediest first.
Gresser is a consensus builder. However, she willingly accepts the tough tasks and
asserts, I will stand up for what is right, even if it means Im a one-term
know how to listen. I know how to make a decision, Carol spoke of her management
lively exchange brought out her creative side, and she related a Borough Hall Hotline
would be established to empower the little people and make government service
accessible to all.
must build, she said, a user-friendly government.
Gresser has a new vision for a new Queens a borough that is all-inclusive, one that
respects and embraces diversity and most importantly one that works for all the people.
real hard to remain objective when the courage, vision and dedication of the person
youre interviewing captured you long before she became a candidate.
hour and a half Carol spent answering my questions, responding to my challenges and
sharing her vision for our borough brought me right back to where I started.
clear to this writer why I was smitten with Carol Gresser.
you give her the chance, shell do it to you.
A Thoughtful Prospective
To Delivering City Services
Schenkler & Betsy Gotbaum
not sure where to start.
hate to be repetitive but . . .
quality of the candidates that stop by the Tribune office on their campaign quest
for the job of Public Advocate is just (to borrow my kids favorite word) awesome!
say with great comfort and assurance to my readers, that the class of candidates attracted
to the electoral process in our city is a tribute to those that created the process
in this case, the people.
limits and public finance will, in the long run, go down as the most refreshing and
effective change to come to government since the town hall meeting came to Athens.
groups of public advocate, comptroller and Council candidates, with real chances of
winning, are impressive commentaries that things are working in our city and our system.
Gotbaum was the fifth candidate for public advocate to sit down with me and share their
vision, respond to my challenges and just chat about the city past and future.
worst of the five is good; no, make that very good.
was better than that.
former David Dinkins Parks commissioner and head of the New York Historical Society
is seeking elective office for the first time even though she has been on the periphery of
the Citys institutional government for years.
has the collective knowledge of the experiences with her husband, former labor leader
Victor, as part of the Dinkins administration, and working with the multitude of agencies
and groups leading the NY Historical Societys impressive program.
she still seems to love the parks and wants to set aside one percent of the City budget
for them, she is ready to tackle the tough jobs.
knowledgeable about and well-versed in the affordable housing struggle in the City, she
offered statistics and suggestions with informed concern. She cited 10,000 city lots, tax
credits, building subsidies and an office to expedite the process as the beginning of the
long-term solution. In the short term, she would prioritize safety and emergency
complaints and utilize a public advocates satellite office in each borough to
deliver necessary service and monitoring.
delivery of City services and health joined housing on Betsys list of priorities.
reacted with outrage to the $2.8 billion dollar overrun at the School Construction
declared, without reserve, Any elected official that uses public money for campaign
purposes is wrong. She refused to name names, explaining that her objective was to
get elected, but assured us that she would be there shouting from her bully pulpit
pointing out wrongs once elected.
an outsider, she insisted.
limit every office, she responded to my question about the repeal of the commuter
tax. That act (the loss of $400-plus million annually) she said, reached a level of
damage, warranting people to punish elected officials. Betsy wants the commuter tax
going to be much better off with the new Council, she said, relishing the
opportunity to participate in the Citys new governance.
gracefully walked the fine line when asked to explain the incredible care and funding
afforded to Central Park while Flushing Meadows doesnt do nearly as well and some
neighborhood parks are shameful. She addressed raising private funds for the
outer-boroughs but defended the right of the wealthy contributors of the Central Park
Conservancy to contribute to their neighborhood park while poorer communities
is the rare politician who claims to enjoy raising money. She leads the public advocate
field, did it effectively for the Historical Society and will bring her skill to the
Koch, who has endorsed her, was an example of effective City management, but she noted it
was his second term that stands out. He didnt perform as well in his third, she says
in support of term limits.
has been very good for this City, says Betsy who supports the Taylor law but has no
backing from organized labor in spite (or because) of her family pedigree.
doesnt work for the people, asserts Betsy pointing to the biggest challenge to
her management expertise. Utilizing skills and contacts gained from both outside and
inside the system, she intends to seek solutions by involving people and business in
would prefer to work in partnership with the new Mayor to insure delivery of service to
the people, but she assured us that she also knows how to yell.
also knows how to think, study, build consensus, manage and provide for the needs of the
people of this City.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
Click Here For The Not 4 Publication Archives