Five Candidates Face Off For Astoria's City Council Seat
ASTORIA — Voters in Astoria will hit the polls Tuesday to choose between five City Council candidates vying to represent the neighborhood for the next four years.
Costa Constantinides, Lynne Serpe, Daniel Peterson, Danielle De Stefano and Gerald Kann are all in the running to replace term-limited Peter Vallone, Jr., who has represented the 22nd District for the past 12 years.
Here is a look at the five candidates who will appear on the District 22 ballot on Tuesday.
Costa Constantinides, Democrat/Working Families Party
Constantinides, 38, took the Democratic nomination in the September primary after earning a slew of endorsements from unions and elected officials.
A Democratic District Leader for the 36th Assembly District, Constantinides is a life-long Astoria resident who currently serves as deputy chief of staff to City Councilman James Gennaro, and says his experience with city government is what sets him apart from his competitors.
"I feel I have the experience and the vision that makes me unique — I have a unique skill set, I've worked in the City Council, I've helped write laws," he said. "I know how government works and I know how government doesn't work."
If elected, Constantinides said he would "hit the ground running with a concrete plan" to tackle issues like public safety, access to health care, schools, combating litter and other environmental issues.
Serpe moved to Astoria 1994, and ran against Vallone, Jr., for City Council in 2009, when she scored 24 percent of votes.
"I think it's important for people to understand that if you really want an independent voice for change, sometimes you have to go outside the two-party system," said Serpe, a longtime member of the Green Party.
This campaign, she's been talking to voters about her 22 Ideas for District 22, a list of local issues that she would tackle if elected, including things like seven-day library service, more frequent service on local bus lines, an affordable supermarket for Hallets Point and increased amenities for Astoria Park, like permanent ping pong tables.
"The main idea was to try to talk about very local issues," said Serpe. "As a local elected official you really have to stay in touch with the needs of your local residents."
Daniel Peterson, Republican
Peterson, 42, grew up in Douglaston, Queens, and said he first got involved in politics when he was living in the East Village about a decade ago, prompted by his disagreement with the city's decision to pass an 18.5 percent property tax hike, and other issues.
He joined the New York Young Republican Club in 2004, where he would later serve as president for three years, and moved to Astoria in 2010. Peterson works in the private sector for a real estate management company.
"I'm not a politician, I'm not attorney like my opponents — I'm just your common New Yorker who lives in the district," he said. "Just your regular New Yorker who finds that it's just getting out of hand with costs, and there are definitely ways we can cut back and really consolidate the government."
His ideas, he said, include eliminating redundancies in local government, instituting a pro-business tax system, shifting control of city schools to the local communities and working with local police to expand community public safety programs like neighborhood watches.
Danielle De Stefano, Independence/Conservative Party
A lifelong Astoria resident whose family has long roots in the neighborhood, De Stefano, 37, says she wants to represent the neighborhood in the City Council because she has a vested interest in the community.
"I'm out in the community every single day — I live here, I work here, my kids are raised here," said De Stefano, a mother of three children in public school. "I utilize this neighborhood to its fullest, and I see what we need."
A longtime youth sports couch, De Stefano currently works as the head of the volleyball program at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmhurst.
She said she has worked closely with Vallone, Jr.'s office on several community issues in the past, including advocating for Omar Audi, a young Queens boy whose family was facing deportation as he was being treated for a life-threatening illness in 2011.
If elected, De Stefano said her top priorities would be public safety, clean streets, expanding senior housing, expanding after school programs and lowering real estate taxes.
"I have a lot of personal relationships all around this neighborhood, so I can relate to a lot of people on different levels," she said.
Gerald "Jerry" Kann, Populist Party
This election is Kann's fifth time running for Astoria's City Council seat since 2001, and and he says his main priority, if elected, would be representing the interests of the people instead of the city's top-tier residents.
"I think that basically, rich people have too much power in New York City — in the whole country, really," said Kann, 52, a freelance proofreader and editor who also works as a courier, and spends weekends directing tourists for the Downtown Alliance.
If he were elected to the City Council, his main priorities would be to raise taxes for the city's wealthiest residents, increase the representation of tenants on the city's Rent Guildlines Board, and do away with the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practice, he said.
He would hold monthly public meetings so Astoria residents could weigh in on what's happening in the neighborhood, and said he would also advocate for more transparency and greater community input in major real estate developments.
"They're typically decided without any consultation with people who live in the district," he said.