Beep Candidates Debate in Jackson Heights

Candidates for Queens Borough President debate in Jackson Heights.

Candidates for Queens Borough President debate in Jackson Heights.


By Luis Gronda


Tensions ran high during a Queens Borough President forum in Jackson Heights Monday night, as one candidate accused another of receiving answers via cell phone.


State Senator Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said that Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) was getting answers sent to him from a group of supporters who petitioned for the Councilman outside of the Community Methodist Church, where the debate was held.


“Don’t look around the room, I see you doing it,” Avella said.


Vallone vehemently denied his accusation, saying that they are only a group of college volunteers. Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) supported Vallone saying that he was looking at his Twitter feed on his phone. They continued the argument after the next question was asked.


“Let me wait for an answer to come through on my phone,” Vallone said sarcastically. “Please send me a text to answer that because there’s no way I would possibly know.”


Avella said that he was not being fair to the other candidates.


Monday night’s debate was aimed at discussing environmental and sustainability issues the Borough may face in the future.


It was co-hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and the Jackson Heights Beautification Group. It featured the majority of the candidates vying to replace Helen Marshall: Melinda Katz, Vallone, Comrie, Avella and the Republican candidate Tony Arcabascio. Everly Brown was also invited but did not attend.


Three of the candidates, Avella, Arcabascio and Vallone, gave a brief opening statement about why they are running for Borough President.


Arcabascio, who has been a technology professional for the past 32 years, said that he brings a different perspective to the race because he has been a businessman and has never held elected office. Avella said one reason he is running for QBP is how shocked he was at the response Queens got in the days following Superstorm Sandy and he wants to make sure Queens gets its fair share of resources. Vallone touted the various environment-related work he has done while in the City Council, including writing the plastic bag recycling act and writing a bill banning trans fat in New York City. Katz and Comrie did not give opening statements as they arrived late to the debate.


Following their statements, each of the candidates answered questions, first from a representative from each of the debate’s hosts, then the audience, who lined up to ask questions addressed to a specific candidate.


When asked about what can be done to make Queens Boulevard safer, Katz said that she would support a federal study to figure out how to make the boulevard safer and easier to access. She also said that she would have concerns about installing bike lanes on that thoroughfare because of how dangerous it is.


Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127,, or @Luisgronda.