Queens Borough Pres Candidates Spar Over Criminal Justice Reform, Amazon


Former Queens Assistant District Attorney James Quinn came under fire last night during the Queens Borough President forum hosted by the Sunnyside Post at Sunnyside Community Services. 

Six of the candidates vying to replace Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz as the Queens Borough President debated over hot-button issues affecting Queens, including the closing of Rikers Island.

After a challenge by Council Member Donovan Richards (D-Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens) on calling the inmates at Rikers Island “prisoners” was met with applause, Quinn shot back with controversial claims.

“We did a study with the people who have come to be released on bail bonds in my office, and we found that they have an average of 15 prior arrests with 8 prior misdemeanor convictions, 2 felony convictions,” said Quinn. 

The newest candidate amongst his rivals in the forum, Quinn distinguished himself through a rigid tough-on-crime stance. One of his campaign’s main platforms is to keep Rikers Island open and prevent a new jail from being built in Kew Gardens to relocate the inmates. Richards voted to close down Rikers last October.

City Council Member and Borough President Candidate Donovan Richard. Photo by Sergio Albarracin

“Under no condition are we going to say that every, each and every one of those black and brown men have 15 convictions under their belt,” said Richards. “That is a lie.”

Quinns message resonated with neither the audience nor the other candidates.

“Boy, we can do better than Mr.Quinn’s vision of Queens,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, Dutch Kills).

Setting up the conditions for a clash, one segment of the forum had candidates ask a single question to the candidate they chose from a jar. Asked by retired NYPD sergeant Anthony Miranda how he would protect immigrant communities from ICE entering courtrooms and public facilities, Quinn said he would not.

“I know that the city does not want ICE on court property. I disagree with that,” said Quinn. “I think that’s ridiculous because it endangers the ICE officers who then have to go and apprehend these people on the streets.”

During a lightning round in which candidates had to either agree or disagree with statements, Quinn and Richards strayed from the pack when asked whether they support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act by answering no.

Asked whether they would support a waterfront BQX connection between Queens and Brooklyn, Quinn, Bramer, and Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) said no.

Constantinides remained above the fray, focusing mostly on his signature climate change messaging. Miranda tried to portray himself as a political outsider who would work in the interest of Queens.

“Every politician here has gone against Queens for special interests,” said Miranda.

Bramer sparred with Richards over his support for the now-scuttled Amazon HQ2 deal.

“You sent two letters of support for Amazon,” said Richards.

“Donovan was at an anti-Amazon rally before he became a pro-Amazon Council Member,” said Bramer. “The truth is now all the Amazon lobbyists and the billionaires are funding your campaign for Borough President.”

Asked how much money their campaigns have taken from the real estate industry, Richards said “Thirty percent of my money comes from the real estate industry, seventy percent comes from the community.”

The special election will take place on March 24.