District 43 City Council Candidates Justin Brannan (D) and John Quaglione (R) faced off last night in a Dyker Heights Civic Association (DHCA) forum, in which the floor was opened up to nearly 50 constituents to ask the candidates their thoughts on issues plaguing the community.
Sen. Marty Golden and Councilmember Vincent Gentile were also in attendance at the St. Philips Episcopal Church, 1072 80 Street in Dyker Heights, to support their respective candidates, both of which up until recently served as long time staffers.
But before the event began, Bob Capano, the Reform line ticket holder began a round of tweets accusing the DHCA of purposely excluding him from the debate. Capano went further to blame Brooklyn’s Conservative Party for suppressing his candidacy.
“Because the Bklyn Conservative Party leaders run the Dyker Civic and don’t wan’t voters to hear from me and have a choice!” said Capano in response to a tweet asking why the candidate was not invited.
Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marone denied Capano’s accusations and told KCP she was not aware that Capano was still running on the Reform Party line. Vella-Marone said Capano’s resolute backing of the Republican candidate gave her no indication that he would continue to seek the council seat.
“I know Bob. I would never do that to a candidate,” said Vella-Marone.
The candidates in attendance were given five minutes for opening remarks of which Quaglione keyed in on the problems plaguing the district –– illegal home conversions, an increasing number of unemployed constituents, an increase in petty thefts and his most notable charge to change the state initiated bottle bill law.
In a move to align Brannan with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Quaglione cited his opponent’s mayoral hiring to the Department of Education (DOE) back in May of 2012.
During a break as Gentile’s spokesperson, Brannan was appointed to an intergovernmental affairs position at the DOE.
Brannan, on the other hand, took his 5-minutes to point out his accomplishments, touting his role in getting the city to build more speed bumps, locating resources for parents with children of special needs and helping local businesses navigate the city’s Consumer Affairs services. The candidate also promised to build a new middle school in the district.
Despite his happier approach, Brannan too chose to call out his opponent..
“Unlike my opponent, I have real world experience, said Brannan. “Public service is a most noble profession but I’m proud to say I haven’t spent my entire career on a government paycheck.”
The rest of the evening moved quickly with very little questions from the audience. The first query surrounded illegal home conversions, which Brannan answered first.
The candidate reminded the audience that the Aggrevated Illegal Conversion Bill, which Gentile sponsored, went into effect less than two weeks ago. However, Brannan said he would expand on the bill to include regulating banks that finance overseas investors, pushing policy that would allow the Department of Buildings to use circumstantial evidence to gain access, and to collaborate with utility companies who provide extra services to homes without considering the structure’s occupant regulations.
The next question involved Hizzoner’s policy on sanctuary cities and whether or not the candidates would support the plan. Quaglione responded with a resounding, “I will not.” While Brannan took a less transparent approach by noting the policy was in fact supported by every mayor since former Mayor Koch.
The next question surrounded the recent debate to remove Confederate and Christopher Columbus symbols throughout the city of which Brannan responded that he supported the Columbus statue but was against Confederate symbols.
“I think it’s two different issues,” said Brannan to one attendee who shouted that he saw Brannan protesting in the Park across the street from Ft. Hamilton Base.
Quaglione listed three Columbus related activities that he recently participated in and said, “I believe you don’t erase history, you learn from history.”
Both candidates agreed on being fiscally conservative but Quaglione used the city’s budget increase to call out the current administration again make the connection to Brannan.
“If you think you are $4 billion better since Bill de Blasio took office, my opponent is your choice. If this city is going in the wrong direction then I’m your choice.”
Surprisingly, there were no questions on transportations, opioids or garbage –– all issues of large concern in the district, which includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach.
The general election is slated for Tuesday, Nov. 7.