Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of profiles KCP is doing with each of the candidates for the 43rd District City Council Race. Our reporter has either reached out already or is in the process of reaching out to all the Democratic and Republican candidates.
In a nation riddled with partisan stalemates one might question how effective a Republican candidate can be amongst a sea of Democrats, but Republican candidate Liam McCabe believes he has the answer in his run for the open District 43 City Council Seat covering the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach.
The district’s demographics include a large Scandinavian, Irish and Italian white constituency as well as a prominent existing Arab-American community and a fast-growing Asian population.
“[Working in] a federal office, 80% – 90% of the work I did surrounded immigration,” said McCabe, who has had a seven-year stretch as director of community affairs and constituent services for U.S. Congressmen, Dan Donovan (R) and Michael Grimm (R). “I think I’ve helped more people become citizens in this country than anyone in this race and that includes my Republican and potential Democratic opponents.”
McCabe said this work in servicing the Russian-, Chinese- and Arab-American communities with green card, visa and naturalization matters has also created long-standing ties with these communities.
Patching party lines is precisely how McCabe plans to address illegal home conversions which he says is the primary contributor to excessive street garbage that has plagued the community lately. McCabe contends that the population density increases over 100% as a result of the creation of these illegal tenements, therefore creating a burden on the infrastructure.
The candidate promises to pick up the torch of the static legislation that advocates for deeper fines on those who violate illegal home conversions. In an effort to bridge party lines, McCabe proposes to appeal to homeowners concerned with the reduction of quality of life as well as those tenants who may be suffering from living harsh conditions to get the bill passed.
“This is not healthy for the tenants living in these conditions, this is not affordable housing,” said McCabe “Single and two-family homes are being bought and illegally reconverted into single-room-occupancies (SRO’s).”
McCabe condemned the current policies on affordable housing noting that with dramatic rent hikes and overcrowded SRO’s, the middle class has been pushed out making it impossible to live in the area.
McCabe is looking forward to tackling legislation that impacts District 43, but promises to commit himself to localized issues as well. The high-profiled Prince Hotel is one of those local Bay Ridge problems that has neighbors in an uproar. The hotel has been cited for hundreds of building violations and has served as a place where addicts congregate for decades. Since last year’s NYC Sheriff’s seizure, little has been done to close the community eyesore.
“I would like to absolutely close the Prince [Hotel] in its current capacity, I would love to see senior housing put in that space,” says McCabe, noting that the surrounding homeowners deserve a nice quiet residential street to themselves.
Unfortunately addiction within the community hasn’t been specific to the Prince Hotel. Like many regions throughout the country, the opioid epidemic has been hard-hitting throughout District 43. “Kids are dying at alarming rates,” said McCabe.
Keeping with the latest trend on how to address drug-related criminal activity, the GOP candidate advocates implementing alternative sentencing, but with the caveat that policy makers must “increase the severity of the treatment,” said McCabe. “Treatment isn’t tough enough, people need serious rehabilitation.”
In a gutsy declaration from a Republican, McCabe openly acknowledged drug companies have to be held accountable, “We’ve got to take on the pharmaceutical industry,” said McCabe.
McCabe’s final leg of a three-pronged solution to the opioid crisis involves engaging the youth. The candidate proposes community-based after-school and late-night programs that incorporate the youth. He recalls his involvement in Club 78, a community-based youth organization sponsored by Our Lady of Angels, the Catholic private school McCabe attended. “It was open to everyone in the neighborhood. They had a great sports program.” McCabe envisions opening up local Catholic school’s gymnasiums to youth activity programs with the hopes of inspiring community hopefulness amongst the youth.
“If I lead with energy and some excitement, maybe that’ll catch on.”
On the topic of schools, McCabe supports school choice 110%, but opposes co-locations in the area, citing that it adds to overcrowding. While School District 21 houses some of the best public schools in Brooklyn, the area’s growing population has contributed to school overcrowding, “Vouchers would reduce class size,” said McCabe.
Also running in the Sept. 12 Republican Primary are Bob Capano and John Quaglione.