Tomorrow is Election Day, and while many of the City Council elections were determined during September’s primary, Bensonhurst remains the scene of one of the most heated general elections in New York City.
Democratic incumbent Vincent Gentile has faced a fierce challenge from Republican John Quaglione in his reelection bid for the 43rd District of the City Council, which covers Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
Quaglione, an aide to State Senator Marty Golden, has spent months placing blame for the perceived decline in quality of life and funding shortfalls at the feet of Gentile, as well as hitting him for his former support of the Gravesend Bay waste transfer station.
Gentile, meanwhile, has fought back, depicting Quaglione as a Johnny-come-lately who, despite having the power to address some of these issues as a Golden aide, has only turned his attention to them to win votes. He has defended the slip in funding to the district by pointing out that, as someone who has criticized Council leadership on behalf of his constituents, he’s been penalized by seeing funding for the district withheld. He claims that if reelected, his position of seniority in the Council would herald a new era of increased resources to the neighborhoods he serves.
The duo took to NY1′s Road to City Hall for a very informative debate moderated by Errol Louis. Here’s the rundown, and you can watch the entire debate here:
- Increasing the purchase age of tobacco to 21: Gentile voted against increasing the age, noting that reducing smoking is important but that the bill would be ineffective and grow the black market at the expense of local businesses. He said he preferred investments into educating minors in the perils of smoking. Quaglione said he would have voted in favor of the bill in order to keep cigarettes out of the hands of minors. He said that cigarettes serve as a gateway to marijuana and prescription drug abuse. They both said they would like to see the legal age for hookah use to be raised.
- Superstorm Sandy: Quaglione said the storm wracked havoc on Ceasar’s Bay shopping center, a local economic and employment base in the district. He also noted that the seawall needs repairs and to be better protected. Gentile said he worked with the Parks Department to get FEMA funds for repairs to the seawall, but noted that it has taken too long. He also said that we need to look at everything that happens on the waterfront including the…
- Gravesend Bay Waste Transfer station: Although not a question in the debate, Gentile raised the issue to hit Quaglione and Golden for being “silent on the issue” until the campaign heated up. He admitted he supported the plan prior to 2006, when it was discovered that the City withheld information about toxins in the water that could be stirred up during dredging, at which point he sided with Assemblyman William Colton to fight the station’s placement. Quaglione hit back, saying that Gentile supported it when it wasn’t part of the district, and only changed his support when the area was added into his district.
- NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community: Gentile said that the NYPD must comply with standing laws regarding surveillance, but has noted that the NYPD did appear to violate those laws. He said he has worked with the local Arab-American community to try and bridge communication between the department and the community. Quaglione added that “there’s no room for racial profiling,” and “religious tolerance must be the priority.”
- Independence from their political party: In response to a question from Gentile about an example when Quaglione would have voted differently from his boss, Golden, Quaglione said he would have voted different on the smoking ban in restaurants. He also said there is legislation that he would have liked to put forward that Golden did not, but did not give an example.
- On flip-flopping: Quaglione said that Gentile has changed his position on term limits, the waste transfer station, and stipends for Council members serving on committees, and asked Gentile how he can prove he is a man of his word. Gentile responded that those were mischaracterizations of his positions on the issues, and said of term limits that he was opposed to the “legislative vote” on it, in contrast to a voter referendum. Having had it pass over his objections, he said he was “putting our community in a position of being served by the senior member of the City Council.”