It was my original intention to interview both Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Craig Caruana, her challenger in the upcoming election for the City Council, 30th District. I reached out to Crowley through her Media Consultant, Eric Yun, and I assured him that they could review the final draft after the interview and could delete anything they found to be objectionable. They never called back, in fact they ignored me, leading me to believe either Elizabeth Crowley is lacking in self-confidence and the ability to be interviewed impromptu without coaching or teleprompting, or that she just doesn’t care about her constituents. Either way, I am disappointed, but not terribly surprised, and hope she will consent to an interview in the future.
Craig Caruana, however, graciously agreed to be interviewed for this issue on short notice. The following is that interview, which was recently conducted in his Glendale campaign office.
Craig Caruana was born and raised in Middle Village. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Politics from The Catholic University of America and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Texas A & M University.
Mr. Caruana worked in the Pentagon serving as an aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and in the office of Naval Intelligence serving as an Intelligence Analyst. Until recently, he worked at the Fox News Channel, where he was an information specialist. He is the author of the book, American Power: Still the Best Hope for Peace.
Mr. Caruana is currently a community activist working with such organizations as the Knights of Columbus, the Kiwanis Club of Glendale, and the Juniper Park Civic Association. He also writes about neighborhood issues in the Juniper Berry. He announced his candidacy for the New York City Council, 3oth District, on April 24th, 2013.
Let’s start with the most obvious question. Why run for City Council? Why challenge Elizabeth Crowley and the Queens County Democratic machine led by her cousin, Representative Joe Crowley?
It’s because our neighborhood is getting shortchanged. Elizabeth Crowley did not make sure to get a good return on our investment, which are our taxes. She was very popular, she got elected, and then as she began her term of service we were shortchanged in the budget year after year. If you look at her four years in office and you look at the expense budget, vying with the capital budget, which basically shows new tax money coming back into the district for services, we were consistently at the bottom end of that budget year after year. So, the main reason that I’m running is to restore our neighborhood by getting our fair share of the tax money and to make sure that we get the return on our investment, which we deserve in order to maintain and improve the neighborhood overall.
What do you think your chances of winning are?
I think our chances are very good, based on the feedback we have received from the community, from the people who are involved in the community, and who have seen the deterioration of the representation we have had in the past four years. Just going door to door and talking to people at the Juniper Valley Park summer concerts, at the different community events, at the different civic associations that I’ve been a part of during the last 4 years, well, they all tell me the same thing: that they are getting poor representation from our current Councilmember and it’s time for a change. It’s not me telling them that they’re getting poor representation; it’s the people of our district telling me. And that’s what motivated me to run.
What do you think makes a good NYC Councilman? And do you have the qualifications to be one?
Well, I think it’s someone who puts the neighborhood’s interests ahead of their own. It’s one who takes a look at the problems of their neighborhood and addresses those problems without thinking about how the neighborhood can advance their career, and then get results. It’s all about getting results. What you say is meaningless if you don’t get results. And if you do that when elected, that makes you a good Councilmember.
Look, New York City is a big city and there is a lot to focus on. You can’t make everything a priority. You just can’t. So, when I say make the neighborhood a priority, I mean take the time out of your busy day to address those quality of life issues, like a pothole that needs to be fixed, or do something about a fallen electrical line. It’s not always about grandiose issues that will get you into The News or The Post.
It seems candidates for local public office will say and do anything to get elected, but once elected, they seem to ignore or take for granted the voters who elected them. Are all politicians the same? And if elected, why would you be any different?
I do put blame on Ms. Crowley for this. Two years into her first term of ever holding any public office whatsoever, she decided to run for Congress. That’s not what I consider putting your neighborhood first. That is a clear example of taking her constituents for granted and only caring about her career. I’ve already been to Washington. I’ve worked in the Pentagon, in Naval Intelligence and I had a great career, but I chose to come back to the neighborhood that I grew-up in, because Queens really is one of the greatest places you could live anywhere, and I think I can help our district prosper once again.
Where did you move back from?
I lived in Washington, D.C. for seven years, and then I was at Texas A & M for two years busy getting my Masters. I moved back to New York after that.
What local issues do you think members of the Juniper Park Civic Association care most about and how would you address them if elected?
One, I think is constituent services. There’s lots of events that are going to happen that you just can’t predict. You know, we had that big snowstorm two years ago, and some roads in our neighborhood were not plowed for two to three days, and that’s something a City Councilmember should be on top of. Another issue is protecting our parks. Very important to us all. And one of the biggest issues I would address is public safety; making sure that we have enough police to fight crime in our neighborhood. And another issue is the emergence of the homeless shelter in Glendale that everybody is concerned about. Certainly everyone has been talking about it. You know, Elizabeth Crowley knew about that homeless shelter a year ago and she made a big deal about it and she said all the right things about how she was going to fight it and prevent it from happening. Well, it went away for a while and we should applaud her efforts for that, but then lo and behold here we are a year later and now they just took the first formal steps to actually create the homeless shelter. If she had been doing her job and focused on the issue instead of spending the year focusing on her run for Congress, she could have stopped it from happening. And consider this: the shelter will be located right on the Glendale-Middle Village border, five blocks from where I live, and next to Atlas Park where they just spent God only knows how much money to redo. It will be right next to schools and homes, and we’re not talking blocks away but right next to it. This is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
You have been quoted as saying “we are lacking leadership in this district.” What would you do differently to provide the needed leadership? What makes a good leader?
You have to know the people and their concerns in the district that you are responsible for. If elected, the people of the 30th District would be my boss. So, you have to understand that as a Councilman, and you say okay, how do I best represent their views and work effectively to deliver results. As Councilman, I’ll focus on solutions and actually deliver results and not talk about delivering results. Councilmember Crowley will say all the right things at a photo op, but nothing ever happens. Look at the budget, for instance. If Ms. Crowley was an effective legislator and leader, our district would be getting more money and more discretionary money. But it’s not. That’s symbolic of her overall lack of leadership.
If you are elected, do you think we’ll have more of a police presence?
I think if we get more money into the district we will have more of a police presence. Even the 104th Precinct has said that they need more cops. And with more discretionary money, that is something I could deliver on. The discretionary money is a reflection of how the city sees this district. The city currently sees our district as a place that deserves lousy funding.
What is the number one reason that I should vote for you and not your opponent?
The number one reason is I will get results. Actions speak louder than words, and I’m going to deliver for this community I care about and not just talk about getting things done. And I certainly won’t run for Congress two years into my first term.
One person on a local blog called you “boring.” Do you consider yourself to be boring?
I think you can be flashy and act excited but most people don’t care about that. They want a no-nonsense guy to get the job done, and that’s what I’ll do.
How would you characterize yourself? What 3 adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
Goal–oriented. Hardworking. Dedicated
What 3 adjectives would you use to describe your opponent?
Ineffective. Inattentive. Unreliable. And hopefully after Nov. 5th, unemployed.
Do you think we have done enough to prevent the devastation from another Sandy-like hurricane from occurring? As a NYC Councilman, what would you propose?
People have been talking about a lot of things, but one thing I would like to see is some type of logistical emergency fuel program. A big problem after the storm was that we went weeks without gas. A lot of people are talking about a lot of things, but this is something I haven’t heard addressed.
Do you think that Stop and Frisk is an effective crime-fighting tool?
I am a supporter of Stop and Frisk. It’s a proven tactic that works, and we need to support the Police Department. At the end of the day, you can’t be putting the police in handcuffs.
Do you think Mayor Bloomberg has done a good job?
I think when it comes to fighting crime he has done a good job. The statistics don’t lie. Are there some things I don’t like that he did, of course. I think the cost of living for middle class New Yorkers skyrocketed and he really didn’t address that. And he really put the squeeze on small businesses. Just look at all stores that have closed on Woodhaven Blvd. and other places in Queens. He’s treated small businesses like an ATM machine, an easy revenue stream for the City.
What past accomplishment are you proudest of?
My work at the Pentagon from 2006 to 2007. It was a very challenging time. Excuses did not cut it. You had to deliver results. I could tell you the person that had my job before me was fired and the person who had my job after me was fired. I left on my own volition and I got to choose the job I wanted in the Navy. I was very proud of that.
Who would you consider to be your role models?
Winston Churchill is a favorite of mine. My Mom and Dad have been amazing. My grandfather, of course who came here from Malta in his thirties and became successful in this country through hard work.
If there was a American President alive or dead you could meet, who would it be?
What does Craig Caruana do for fun?
I love going to Italian Restaurants. I love eating chicken wings and watching football every Sunday. I’m a diehard New York Giants fan, and I honest to God get really upset when they lose.
What book has had the greatest influence on your life?
When Character Was King, by Peggy Noonan because it shows you that If you stick to your values you can go far in life.
Thank you, Craig