43rd District City Council Race: Three GOP Candidates Debate Issues

Bob Capano, Liam McCabe and John Quaglione, the three Republican candidates running for a seat in the 43rd Council District (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst-Bath Beach), came together last night to debate the issues of the district.

Brooklyn GOP Chair Ted Ghorra and Vice Chair Brian Doherty as well as the Brooklyn Teen Republican Club were the sponsors and organizers of the verbal battle, in which the three candidates are going to head-to-head for Democrat Vincent Gentile’s term-limited 43rd District City Council Seat.

Brooklyn Republican Party Chair Teddy Ghorra introduces the candidates.

The oratory began with a 2-minute opening statement from each candidate. McCabe, former aide to Congressman Dan Donovan, devoted his time to expressing his concerns about the shrinking middle class and the high cost of living in the district.

Capano, a political science professor at John Jay College, stressed the importance of candidates being involved in their communities. He endorsed Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge, Staten Island) for mayor, calling for an end to progressive policies. “Progressive policies are progressively bad for New York City,” said Capano.  

John Quaglione reassured his supporters of his devotion to public service and promised to put forth a results-driven message. “You have to make a difference. At the end of the day, you have to be confident that you changed something, that you made something better,” said Quaglione.

Moderator John Alexander, Senior Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, asked the first question: Where has Gentile been lacking in his work as councilman?

Quaglione responded that Gentile never addressed the need for more police officers in the 62nd and 68th precinct, directing the audience to the petition on his website. He also proposed bringing back night court for parking violations.

Capano accused Gentile of having poor leadership skills, citing a 2016 lawsuit alleging that Gentile created a hostile work environment for an autistic aide. He spoke out against the councilman’s decision to support funding to the Arab-American Association led by Linda Sarsour. Capano accused Sarsour of “spewing violence.”

McCabe had some harsh words for the incumbent, referring to Gentile as a “photo-op councilman,” and calling him out for taking pictures with the MTA while his district was overlooked for weekday shuttle service after the R train stop on Bay Ridge Avenue was closed for renovations. McCabe says he got in his car and drove as many people as he could, emphasizing his hands-on approach to problem solving.

Question two addressed the city budget and how it affects the cost of living in the district. Capano discussed his experience in private sector and addressed the effects of regulations on small businesses. Capano is a manager of a Gristedes. McCabe and Quaglione both called for lowering the property tax. McCabe emphasized the importance of finding a middle ground between the right wing, who wants to lower property taxes, and the left wing, who wants to freeze rents. Quaglione called for an end to the commercial rent tax, which he says is driving up the property taxes for homeowners.

The debate held at the Bay Ridge Manor, 476, 76th Street, drew a packed house.

The third question of the night addressed the 20 percent increase in the city budget. Last month, Mayor Bill De Blasio proposed an $84.9 billion budget, an increase of approximately $14 billion since De Blasio took office. For scale, that’s equivalent to the entire budget of the state of Florida and half the budget of the state of California, according to the debate moderator.

McCabe placed some of the blame on De Blasio ‘s stance on sanctuary cities. By making New York City a sanctuary city, it would no longer be eligible for federal funding. According to an executive order signed in January, cities that do not cooperate with the federal government’s efforts to deport undocumented immigrants will not be eligible for federal funds.

Capano suggested “expanding the tax base” as a way to lower taxes while still increasing revenue.

“The city is on a runaway train heading for a fiscal crisis,” said Quaglione. The candidate disagreed with several policies proposed by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito including bail funding and deportation funding. Capano referred to the speaker as a “radical leftist hellbent on ruining this nation.”

Question four addressed the issue of homelessness in the borough. Quaglione suggested retrofitting NYCHA housing to accommodate the growing number of homeless individuals while McCabe emphasized a compassionate approach, calling for access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Illegal conversions  were the topic of question five. Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights have seen an increased number of illegal housing conversions. Since 2014, there has been a 300 percent increase in vacate orders, according to the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance. All three candidates brought up their concerns about the safety of these converted houses. McCabe linked the conversions to overcrowded schools in the district.

Question six addressed the proposed taxes, including the plastic bag tax.

“They want to tax everything that moves, including plastic bags,” said Capano.

Quaglione used his time to express his strong dislike of Speaker Mark-Viverito and the legislation that she has endorsed. He stated that her lie-in demonstration after the death of Eric Garner was an affront to the NYPD. Quaglione boasted that the Speaker has blocked him on Twitter due to his comments on her tweets.

Candidates Capano and McCabe spoke out against tax dollars going toward CitiBike. The bike-sharing program began as a public-private partnership that would require no public funding. However, as the program expands, the City will need to provide funding. There are currently no CitiBike stations in District 43.

The topic of sanctuary cities reemerged in question seven and the candidates were asked about their stances on immigration. McCabe and Quaglione both spoke about their experience in helping immigrants through the immigration process. McCabe stated that illegal immigration can be detrimental to existing immigrant groups in the community. Quaglione suggested lessening the requirements to move more people onto the path of legal immigration.

Question eight addressed the growing drug problem in the district. All three candidates took on a somber tone as they discussed the effects of drug use in Brooklyn and nearby Staten Island.

“Our kids are dying in crazy numbers,” said McCabe, who promised to push for long-term therapy instead of outpatient rehabilitation clinics.

Quaglione said that the recent ease of restrictions on marijuana has been a contributing factor to the heroin epidemic by introducing more people to a gateway drug.

The ninth question of the night raised the topic of education and charter schools. McCabe called for raising the cap on charter schools and advocated for providing families with a choice. Capano echoed that sentiment, blaming the lack of choice on DeBlasio’s connection to the teacher’s union. Quaglione is opposed to the idea of co-location, which puts charter schools inside of existing public schools. He stated that the public schools are overcrowded as it is.

Batya Goldberg, President of the Brooklyn Teen Republican Club, proposed the last question of the night, asking the candidates if they would support winning candidate after their own loss. Each candidate replied that they would and said they planned to meet up after the election.

The candidates then gave their closing remarks. McCabe and Quagliano reiterated their commitment to the community. Capano pointed out that he was the only lifelong Republican in the race and called out McCabe for recently switching from a Conservative to a Republican in order to run in this district. His statement was met with several jeers from the back of the room.

The Democratic candidates include Justin Brannan, Councilman Gentile’s chief of staff, as well as Kevin-Peter Carroll, who works in City Councilman Stephen Levin’s office, Rev. Khader El-Yateem of Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, and Nancy Tong, who works in Assemblyman Bill Colton‘s office.

Both Party Primaries are slated for Sept. 12 with the winners meeting in the November general election.

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