Candidates Meet In First State Senate Forum
By ROSS BARKAN
| State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. and Councilman Eric Ulrich met at a candidate forum Tuesday night, sponsored by the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp.
Tribune Photo by Ross Barkan.
Lacking much of the sniping that has characterized their recent campaigns, State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) collided Tuesday night at their first candidate forum since Ulrich triumphed in a Sept. 13 primary.
Ulrich is hoping to unseat Addabbo this fall and has received tens of thousands of dollars from Senate Republicans to win the redrawn 15th Senate District, which appears more conservative than its predecessor. Speaking at the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp.’s September meeting, the two candidates fielded questions from the GWDC and audience members on issues like Resorts World Casino’s impact on Queens, rising crime, unpaved roads and ongoing home foreclosures.
Though the Ulrich campaign has slammed Addabbo for voting to raise taxes and supporting President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul and the Addabbo campaign has portrayed Ulrich as too right-wing for Queens voters, the candidates, who worship at the same parish, acted more cordial in person. Both opted not to directly attack the other, but drew distinctions on certain local and economic issues.
“I will introduce another piece of legislation in January about foreclosures,” Addabbo said, emphasizing that abandoned homes in Woodhaven are vexing issues for the community. “A moratorium on foreclosures, a one year moratorium where there will be no foreclosures throughout the state.”
Ulrich focused more on maintaining property values and keeping people from leaving Queens. Like Addabbo, he said the declining number of police officers in the borough is a troubling trend. Though local police issues would be beyond his purview if he is elected to the State Senate, Ulrich argued that as a Republican in a likely Republican State Senate majority, he could deliver more services for his district than the Democratic Addabbo.
Resorts World Casino, New York City’s first racetrack casino, served as a way to distinguish the two candidates who did not diverge ideologically on too many issues. Addabbo, in response to a question, praised the “potential that lies ahead” for the racino and said that “1,500 or so union construction jobs” and “1,200 to 1,300 post-construction jobs” had already been created by Resorts World. Though Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to build a convention center at the South Ozone Park racino appears dead, Addabbo believes there will be some sort of hotel or entertainment center on the site.
Since education cuts statewide have been temporarily halted, Addabbo called the tens of millions that Resorts World has generated for New York’s education fund “a win-win for our children” and said he meets with Resorts World monthly to make sure “they do the right thing.” Resorts World has also donated more than $10,000 to Addabbo’s campaign.
Ulrich called for an education fund “lock box,” audited by the state comptroller, to ensure the education money would not be used to close future budget deficits.
“I’m eagerly awaiting when they [Resorts World] are going to share some of that net profit…with the community,” Ulrich said. “I want to see how they define community because I want to make sure out of all the money they’re making at the casino, they’re sharing some of that with the children of this community, the senior population of this community and with some of the small business community.”
Arguing that “much of the money sent to Albany” would “never be seen by the community,” Ulrich said he wanted to see Resorts World make more direct contributions to nearby neighborhoods like Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Woodhaven. He promised “to hold Resorts World’s feet to the fire.”
Like all state legislators, Addabbo’s discretionary funds are frozen, so he proposed that nonprofits like the GWDC should be able to directly apply for funding from the state. Both candidates were optimistic about Woodhaven’s economic prospects, but said more jobs are desperately needed in the community.
Residents stood up to complain of trees in need of pruning and unpaved roads, including a rocky service road on Woodhaven Boulevard between Jamaica and Atlantic Avenue. Ulrich blasted the City DOT for having misplaced priorities — he took a moment to ridicule their bike lane initiatives — while Addabbo drew laughter for saying, as a state senator who does not typically handle City-specific street problems, he would work with the “local councilman” on those issues.
Ulrich, of course is that councilman.
Reach Reporter Ross Barkan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127.