We are now in the 9th year of Queen (Council Member) Elizabeth's Crowley reign. As she prepares to apparently run for an unprecedented 3rd term "plus", many are asking how did we wind up with an elected official who is so disconnected from her constituents? It's time for a recap.
For our young voters here it is: In 2008, the duplicitous Councilman Dennis Gallagher received a no jail time plea from District Attorney Brown with regard to his brutal sexual attack on one of his constituents. One of the requirements of the plea was the immediate resignation of his city council seat. How convenient. When a politician commits a crime all is forgiven if he resigns from office. Gallagher was facing serious jail time however it was more beneficial to the Democrats to grab the long-held Republican seat in our area. So apparently, D.A. Brown, a Democrat, listened to his party and offered Gallagher the deal. No jail time, just relinquish your council seat and go away.
That set the stage for Queens Democratic Party boss, Congressman Joe Crowley, to nominate and give 100% support to, of all people, his cousin, Elizabeth. What was her experience in politics? After filing for bankruptcy in 1999 she hung out with Assemblyman and union boss, Brian McLaughlin. The two had been an item since 2001 when McLaughlin helped the 23-year old Liz run an unsuccessful City Council campaign against Dennis Gallagher.
In March 2008 McLaughlin pled guilty to racketeering charges that included using embezzlement, fraud and bribes to take money from taxpayers, labor unions and contractors, even from a Little League team in Queens. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May 2009. This was Elizabeth Crowley's mentor.
In June 2008, Republican Anthony Como narrowly won a special election to fill the seat temporarily, and city rules required another election be held for the seat in November of that year. At the same time, Mayor Bloomberg wanting to serve an unprecedented 3rd term inexplicably introduced a bill to the city council to extend term limits.
She did a 180 on term limits
"New Yorkers went to the polls twice and said, 'We want term limits,'" then Councilman Tony Avella said, referring to a public vote in 1993 that imposed the two-term limit and another vote in 1996 that maintained it. "For us to overturn that legislatively is a disgrace."
Then-council members Bill de Blasio and Letitia James filed suit in a state court seeking to block the council's vote, arguing that it would be a conflict of interest for council members to vote on the bill.
But the city's Conflict of Interest Board disagreed and ruled that a council vote was just fine. Both de Blasio and James blasted the board's decision, saying it was "so rushed, so results-oriented, so poorly reasoned and so damaging to the high ethical standards the charter's framers intended."
Elizabeth Crowley, at the time running against Anthony Como in the November election, also was outraged by Bloomberg's and the city council's attempt to overturn term limits.
"No candidate in this race has any business supporting this undemocratic move by some city councilmembers to grant themselves an extra four years in office," said Crowley. "From where I stand, the prospect of being able to serve my community for eight years as a councilmember is privilege enough."
With Bloomberg money and influence, the NYC Council voted in favor of a bill that would extend term limits, allowing Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for a third term.
The vote was 29 in favor and 22 against.
Crowley was finally elected in November 2008 riding the Obama Democratic wave that promised "change" and in hypocritical fashion that has become her hallmark, is now running for a 3rd term.
A total Disaster
Since being elected Crowley has been a total disaster.
For instance, during her campaign she promised to help save St. Saviour's church, an historic Maspeth Carpenter Gothic-style structure sitting on Maspeth Hill since 1847.
That's a long sordid story which has been chronicled in past editions of the Juniper Berry, but the bottom line is that Crowley pulled a bait-and-switch on the Maspeth community by stating she was confident that the St. Saviour's site would become a park, then tried to substitute a much smaller plot of land owned by Martin Luther High School, whom she claimed was a willing seller. The school balked and refused to sell, and now Maspeth doesn't have a new park to boast of anywhere. An ugly warehouse sits on the once beautiful property and the church still remains disassembled in two storage containers.
Angered her own party's leadership so they took it out on the community
In 2010, the inexperience of Elizabeth Crowley showed up once again. She received the lowest amount of funding for her district out of all 51 council members. It seems she angered Council Speaker Christine Quinn by leaking confidential information to the press. Crowley was trying to take credit for saving certain firehouses from closing. The issue was being negotiated during city budget meetings between Bloomberg and Quinn.
An outraged Quinn punished Crowley and in-turn, the neighborhoods of the 30th District for Elizabeth's faux pas. Many community organizations and projects suffered little or no funding for their programs thanks to Elizabeth Crowley.
Failed congressional run
In 2012 her political aspirations and ego got the best of her. She owed her political life to her cousin and Queens Democratic Party boss, Congressman Joe Crowley, who continually supported her candidacies for council despite getting heat from fellow Democrats. This time, however, Joe Crowley and the Queens Democratic machine wanted Assemblywoman Grace Meng to take the congressional seat. They had to show diversity in an district with rapidly changing demographics. Once again Liz Crowley put her interests before the party's and bucked her cousin. She vowed to win the seat. She had nothing to lose by campaigning continuously for congress while collecting her $125,000 city council paychecks.
Predicting a big victory, Crowley went down in flames coming in 3rd with only 16% of the vote. Where does a political neophyte with no real record to stand on get the idea that she has what it takes to represent hundreds of thousands of Queens residents down in Washington?
Then there are the proposed homeless shelters on Cooper Avenue in Glendale and at the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express.
Proposed Glendale Homeless Shelter
Her plan to fight the homeless shelter in Glendale was to collect signatures against it. The proposal continued to move forward until Bob Holden contacted Sal Crifasi and several other civic leaders to form the Glendale-Middle Village Coalition. The coalition raised over $100,000 holding several community fundraisers.
Crowley actually tried to undermine the efforts of the coalition by telling constituents not to give to the cause. While most politicians gave donations to the cause, Crowley gave nothing to the effort.
Even in City Hall she never even called for a hearing at the City Council's Committee on General Welfare, the body with oversight of DHS, even though concerned residents have received responses from Council Speaker Mark-Viverito indicating that this was the proper course of action.
In the press, of course, Crowley acted like she cared. She stated on camera: With every fabric [sic] of my being, I'm going to fight this, she said. Of course she meant fiber.
Crowley Botches Maspeth Shelter Fight
During a tense exchange between Crowley and the city's Human Resources commissioner, Steven Banks, Oct. 19 at Borough Hall, he mentioned a meeting he had with the councilwoman about the Maspeth shelter plan in June. Crowley has said she was informed of the Department of Homeless Services' plan to convert the Holiday Inn Express into a homeless shelter just days before an Aug. 3 meeting.
We met in May and we did not talk about this shelter proposal in general, we talked about the overall homeless crisis and it was a quick meeting, Crowley said at our City Hall after she was interrupted by Michael Conigliaro, a Republican candidate for state Senate, during a public demonstration against the Mayor Bill de Blasio's homeless policies.
To stand here and grandstand and then not be honest with the people they represent is wrong, he shouted. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services said Crowley did have prior knowledge of the plan.
Rikers Island currently has some serious management issues, but its location is ideal. You really don't want jailbirds housed in residential areas, so an island is perfect. Yet ultraliberal City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is leading the charge to close it down, an idea the mayor already rejected as too expensive. The following statement came from Elizabeth Crowley:
While closing Rikers lsland is not something that can be done overnight, I believe it is something that at the very least deserves more focus and attention. We have a responsibility to fix the significant issues that are deeply ingrained in Rikers' operations. I believe we should look to the future to alternatives sites for a portion of the future inmate population. The island's 400 acres could then be used for a more productive and meaningful use, and not just a space to house inmates. I applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for taking bold steps in new criminal justice reforms that seek to shrink the overall jail population and ultimately close Rikers lsland."
So reading between the lines, it appears this is a real estate deal. Moving the jail off the island frees it up for waterfront development, a more productive and meaningful use.
We can't wait to see in which communities Crowley proposes that the replacement jails be located for the benefit of her developer donors.
Also in 2015, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley pulled community board members into her office and asked them to support a plan to allow manufacturing zones abutting railroad property throughout her district to be converted into residential zones to accommodate the construction of low income housing. She has been pitching this as a way to spread affordable housing out across the district which she believes will eliminate the need for a homeless shelter. The homeless shelters are a lot closer to fruition than the building of low income housing at this point, and the two issues are apples and oranges anyway.
The city contracts with shelter owners to house homeless people. The building of housing is done lot by lot by private developers in return for a tax break. She must not realize that families in shelters are most likely where they are because they do not have a steady source of income, which is a requirement for the most basic affordable housing on the market. We don't know where Crowley comes up with her harebrained schemes but if she continues down this road, we will end up with both shelters and the loss of important manufacturing jobs that allow our own residents to pay for their homes.
Supporting jailed terrorists
In June 2015, the City Council, at the behest of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, passed a resolution calling on the Obama administration to release Oscar Lopez-Rivera, a terrorist serving a 55-year federal prison sentence for conspiring to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property and other crimes. Lopez-Rivera was involved with the FALN, which murdered 6 people in the 1970s, including NYC police officers. When offered clemency by the Clinton administration in 1999 on the condition that he renounce the use of terrorism to achieve Puerto Rico independence, he refused.
"The FALN Conducted over 115 bombings from 1974 -1983 including the January 24, 1975 lunchtime bombing of New York's historic Fraunces Tavern (the site of General George Washington's emotional farewell to his officers after the Revolutionary War) that killed four innocent people. Among those murdered at Fraunces was my 33 year old father, Frank Connor," said Joe O'Connor. President Obama shockingly signed the clemency order during his final days in office.
Protecting jailed illegal aliens from ICE
Crowley also voted in favor of 3 City Council bills that prohibit the NYPD and Department of Corrections from fully cooperating with the federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement authorities. This puts criminals back out on the street to further victimize those here legally.
Does she even know what the truth is?
There is a litany of broken promises ‒ Crowley pledged to open a new playground in Glendale which never happened. She held a press conference to announce that she planned to create a garden at Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue to make the area less of an eyesore as construction delays dragged on. She does have one horticultural achievement: She finally got a not-for-profit to plant flowers along the 65th Place step street. Not because of the years of begging that her constituents took part in for it to be cleaned up ‒ but because she was planning to rename it for an event that happened decades ago and an ocean away and needed it to look nice for the photo op.
She also is pitching a light rail line along the freight tracks through her district. This is pie-in-the-sky nonsense that may fool some voters but the reality is that it will not evict freight service and logistics and astronomical costs associated with the plan make it impossible.
Unfortunately, the press shows up to photograph her at all her public appearances, questions nothing she promises and fails to follow up when she doesn't deliver. We can only pray that a competitive candidate materializes to take her out this time. The district really can't afford another 4 years of such miserable representation.