When it was finally over – it wasn't. As the winners of the contests for this past November's elections were being announced the following morning on local TV and radio, the City Council race for the 30th District between civic leader Bob Holden and incumbent Elizabeth Crowley was still undecided with Holden holding a slight 133 vote lead.
The winner wouldn't be revealed for a week after the polls had closed and it would be the only race where a challenger would beat an incumbent.
Since the early 1990s, Juniper Park Civic Association's president, Bob Holden, has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as a person who has taken on significant challenges and someone able to beat long odds to get things done for his community. It was April 27th when Holden decided to switch gears and move from community activism to politics by tossing his hat into the ring to challenge Queens Council Member incumbent, Elizabeth Crowley.
Although well known mostly in the areas influenced by the JPCA's quarterly publication, the Juniper Berry magazine, where he was the Managing Editor, many residents speculated that the long-time Community Board 5 member did not have the exposure needed to extend his reach beyond the boundaries of Middle Village and Maspeth.
There was little room for error during the primary, but Holden would suffer a concussion and two broken ribs in a July accident where he slipped while moving some furniture. That along with the “Queens Democratic Machine”, a term Holden liked to use to describe the political forces he said he was up against, put a primary victory out of reach.
Having a family history in politics, with both her parents serving as Council Members and Democratic district leaders and her cousin being the Congress Member Joseph Crowley, Elizabeth Crowley looked every bit the favorite to win re-election to the seat she had held since 2008.
After she secured an endorsement from Governor Andrew Cuomo, she went on to handily defeat Holden in the Democratic primary in September. However, many residents still seemed split regarding Crowley’s overall performance as their Council Member.
Aside from his solid record of winning battles for his community, how did Holden manage to come back from a concussion in July and a primary defeat in September to go on to become the next City Council Member in November?
Running on the Republican Party line and having an infusion of voters from the JPCA which totals 1700 families didn't hurt his cause, but that alone could not be relied upon to tip the scales in Holden's favor.
It was after he recovered from his summer injuries that Holden said he started to “campaign as a civic leader rather than a politician.”
Holden would increase his effort in the Crowley strongholds of Ridgewood, Glendale, Woodside and Woodhaven as well as become more vocal regarding the main ideological differences between him and Crowley. One of Holden's strategies centered on what prompted him to enter the race in the first place – Crowley's announcement to close Rikers Island. “That sealed it,” said Holden.
There was also the fact that Holden vociferously opposed 2 proposed homeless shelters in Maspeth and on Cooper Avenue in Glendale that Crowley didn’t do much to stop.
“Crowley was too political during her nine years in office and did not try to mend fences,” Holden said, adding that he was also against her stand on protecting incarcerated immigrants in the country illegally, a favorite cause of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Crowley’s team seemed like they were looking to go deep into the playoffs but forgot to prepare for the game right in front of them. In 2012, she spent much of her resources in a failed bid for higher office and routinely sided with Mayor de Blasio on citywide issues that alienated residents in her district.
In the end, concerned residents responded more to the community activist leader Holden who was seen as deeply involved in local issues and who hit the streets to back up his promises. That added the extra specks of sand to his side of the scale to tip it in his favor by a final total of 137 votes.
If Holden brings the same level of energy to the Council seat as he has to his position as president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, residents will happily experience a very different kind of representation than they have in the past.