Lancman, Taylor Vying For Council Seat
By ROSS BARKAN
Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) announced this week that he is running for the City Council in 2013, joining Democratic District Leader Martha Taylor in a race for the new 24th District.
Lancman, 43, lost a four-way Congressional primary earlier this year to Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing). Political insiders long believed Lancman would seek the 24th District seat, now occupied by term-limited Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).
Lancman will be one of at least two candidates running for Gennaro’s seat, which includes neighborhoods like Fresh Meadows, Kew Gardens Hills, Hillcrest and Jamaica Estates, as well as the sprawling Pomonok Houses, a public housing development. The decision to run, Lancman said, crystallized around late September.
“This isn’t the course I had planned,” Lancman said. “When I lost the Congressional race, I really explored different things I could do in different phases of my life. I thought about practicing law full-time and I looked at things in the nonprofit world. At the end of the day, this is the thing that was most interesting and exciting.”
An economic progressive with ties to the more religiously conservative Jewish residents of the district, Lancman was optimistic that he would receive the backing of the Queens Democratic Party. Labor groups and the Working Families Party are likely to throw their support behind Lancman like they did in his Congressional race.
During that race, he bucked the party by challenging their chosen candidate, Meng. Lancman’s kick-off event has been advertised with U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, as a special guest.
Lancman, if elected, said he would like to focus on “bread-and-butter” economic and education issues in New York City. Though he said he enjoyed aspects of the State Assembly, he praised the campaign finance laws and enforcement of term limits on the City level, calling New York City “a national leader in terms of transparency.”
“I want to focus my campaign on how expensive it is in New York City and how hard it can be to get ahead. Housing and transportation are taking a much bigger bite out of people’s income over the last few years,” he said.
Lancman said he would focus on limiting class sizes in K-12 education and ensuring that more incoming freshmen at the City’s colleges are ready for college-level work.
Taylor, 72, echoed many of Lancman’s concerns, emphasizing local issues like limiting development that compromises the “character” of more suburban communities. In addition to being an election lawyer, Taylor is the second vice chair of Community Board 8, the same board Lancman was a member of for 16 years.
“If elected, my priorities will be affordable and quality education, improving the quality of life in Queens and ensuring there is responsible development in residential communities,” Taylor said.
Taylor worked for former Comptroller Bill Thompson as the director of affirmative claims and is passionate about Queens’ parkland, founding the park advocacy organization Friends of Cunningham Park. Like Lancman, she sees education as a central issue and has said that she is particularly concerned about special education. One of her grandchildren is autistic.
Taylor said she has some misgivings about the policy of placing developmentally disabled children in classrooms with students without disabilities and teachers not necessarily equipped to handle the mixture.
“It’s a great idea, but I don’t think they did enough research,” Taylor said. “They have to figure out the right way.”
Reach Reporter Ross Barkan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127.