BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
“He is the kindest and most compassionate man. When you walk down the streets with him, he’s like a rock star,” said Councilman-elect Daneek Miller. “The community just appreciates him and loves him so much.”
In his 12 years serving District 27, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St.Albans) has established himself as a leader who fought for a community which he believes has often been swept under the rug.
Since he took office in 2002, the fruits of his labor have been visible – crime is down, the unemployment and foreclosure rates have dramatically decreased and parks have been restored to their original beauty. Under Comrie’s leadership, the economic conditions of his district have greatly improved and the opportunities for community residents have grown.
It has always been particularly important for Comrie, a Southeast Queens native and Jamaica High School alum, to ensure that the quality of life in his district is the best that it can be.
“There were definitely times I had to go bang on the table and let people know that I thought we weren’t getting our fair share,” Comrie said. “We still have deep pockets of poverty and major needs. People would see well-kept lawns and think that everything is okay, but it’s not so.”
Among his many accomplishments, Comrie secured millions of dollars in capital funding for schools in District 27. The funding went toward upgrading libraries, building computer and science labs, establishing Internet connectivity, building or upgrading playgrounds and upgrading gyms and auditoriums. In an effort to relieve overcrowding, Comrie also fought to bring a new school to his district, which is in the process of being built on 198th Street in St. Albans.
Under his guidance, the district has also seen an influx of new businesses and investment opportunities. In 2011, the City Council approved the rezoning of Downtown Jamaica, which rezoned 368 blocks in Community Board 12 and 8. Subsequently, affordable housing units, restaurants, stores, businesses and hotels have made their way to a community in need.
“I’m proud of being able to start an economic realm,” Comrie said. “We worked hard to create opportunities for businesses.”
Although the Councilman is proud of bringing several new resources into his community, he said that his biggest accomplishment can be seen right in his office.
“I think my greatest accomplishment was all of the people that have interned in this office and moved on to other opportunities,” Comrie said. “We were able to influence so many of them to be in government and to want to be participatory in government as well. We interned well over 500 people that had the opportunity to come into this office and understand how we service them.”
When walking the streets of District 27, many of Comrie’s constituents can point out the Councilman’s tangible accomplishments. But when asked what he hopes his lasting legacy will be after 12 years in office, Comrie believes it was opening a better line of communication between his residents and City government.
“[I hope my lasting legacy will be that] I focused on being responsive to people’s needs and that I helped people understand that government is something that is accessible to people – they should aspire to be more active to ensure things happen,” he said. “I think that my largest legacy is that we were able to show people how to get things done and show them how they can get things done as well.”
Those closest to him echoed similar sentiments.
“The 12 years of my dad being in City Council has been productive. He’s done an amazing job – not just as a City Council member, but as a father. He’s been in public service for as long as I can remember. It really speaks to his character. Not just what he does, but how he does it,” said his daughter, Liana Comrie. “There are so many things that my dad has done in such a short amount of time. Twelve years does sound like a long time, but it really just flew by. He’s done a lot not just for Queens, but the City in general and I think that’s something he is going to be remembered for.”
“Leroy Comrie has always served the truth and not opinion,” said Comrie’s former Chief of Staff, Joseph Goldbloom. “He always did what he thought was right—no matter the consequences. And he had the gift of making government altogether sincere in its contact with the people.”
“He’s done great work in the community and I just want to be able to enhance that in whatever what I can. Hopefully, I can be as successful as he was,” said Miller, his successor in City Council. “The people really recognize him as a really fantastic leader who has some really big shoes to be filled. I’ve had the honor and the privilege to work with him his entire 12 years in office. I’m privileged and proud to be his friend and to know him.”
Though Comrie knows there will be a lot that he will miss about being representing the 27th Council District, he said the thing he will miss most is debating and coming up with solutions with his fellow councilmembers.
“There’s a lot to miss. I think the thing that I will probably miss the most is working with my collegues at City Hall – arguing about issues and coming up with solutions,” he said. “As part of my time in City Council, I was able to impact a lot of major things.”
He enjoyed working on problems so much so that when asked what his most memorable moment in City Counil was, he said it was being able to pass the first budget.
“I think my most fondest memory is when we sat down as a group of legislators and had a four-hour argument about what the future of the City would be. But it was focused, deliberative [and] it was cordial,” he said. “It was loud and heated at times but we needed to come to an agreement on what we needed to do to move the City forward and we realized that the only way we could do it was raise the revenue base [by raising taxes].”
Looking back at his three terms in City Council, a term-limited Comrie said he does not wish he had done anything differently. While he has helped stimulate the economy, he admits that there is room for improvement in District 27.
“I’m never satisfied, but I’ve done a lot to make sure that opportunities are better. A lot of the things we wanted to achieve we did and there are other things that as you move forward, you still want to do,” he said. “My biggest thing that I would have liked to see done is to have another community center on the eastern end of my district.”
“[What] we need to do is continue to improve transportation for the area [and] improve opportunities for people to get housing,” he added. “We need to continue to work in keeping the community clean and finding ways to create more business opportunities to get people to invest directly into the community.”
His constituents need not worry, however. No matter what Comrie’s next move is, Southeast Queens residents can rest assured that he will continue to fight for the community that has embraced him for more than a decade.
“We have done a lot in my time just in City Council and being able to impact the City on a Citywide basis is something that I’ll definitely miss in an elected role, but I know whatever I do, I’ll make sure my opinions and opportunities to work on those issues still remains,” Comrie said.
“I’m not going to say goodbye because I’m not going away,” he added. “I will just say that it’s been and honor and a privilege for me to serve as a councilmember. I am going to stay committed in making sure that the 27th Council District is the best Council district in Queens and I will be working with people to do whatever I can do ensure that this district continues to get everything it needs and more.”
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.