Bay Ridge

Brooklyn Republican Party holds first City Council debate

May 8, 2017 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: City Council candidates Bob Capano, Liam McCabe and John Quaglione at the first GOP City Council debate. Photo by Amanda Alexander

Bob Capano, Liam McCabe and John Quaglione Address the Issues in Bay Ridge

The Brooklyn Republican Party hosted the first Republican City Council debate spotlighting the three GOP candidates running for the City Council seat on Thursday. The event organizers were Brooklyn GOP Executive Chairman Ted Ghorra, Vice Chairman Brian Doherty and the Brooklyn Teen Republican Club and its president, Batya Goldberg. They welcomed a packed house of attendees to the Bay Ridge Manor at 476 76th St.

Bob Capano, Liam McCabe and John Quaglione are the Republicans running for the seat in the 43rd Council District (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) to succeed Vincent Gentile, a Democrat who has held the council seat since 2003 but who is term-limited and cannot run for re-election this year.

The Democrats running in the Democratic primary, also set for Sept. 12, are Justin Brannan, Kevin Peter Carroll, Rev. Khader El-Yateem and Nancy Tong.

All three Republican candidates are community leaders in their own right. Quaglione serves as deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), McCabe is a former aide to U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) and Capano is an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and manages a Gristedes supermarket in Manhattan.

The Brooklyn Eagle served as moderator for the debate that allowed each candidate to deliver an opening statement, two minutes to answer each of the 10 questions posed and an opportunity for a closing statement. The questions covered a wide range of topics from New York City’s budgetary concerns to the plight of the homeless in Brooklyn.

During his opening statement, McCabe said that he would not waste the same amount of money as the current City Council. He would not be a “photo op” councilmember, but would “get his hands dirty and do what it takes to get the job done.”

Capano chastised Gentile for “not having stood up against Mayor Bill de Blasio” and what he termed “the far-left City Council.” He said Gentile was wrong for not standing up for his community “when de Blasio proposes things like the bag tax and heroin injection facilities.”

Quaglione received applause when he said he preferred not to compare himself to Gentile, but rather address issues he would concentrate on in the future, including petitioning Mayor de Blasio to get more police officers on the street and implementing a video surveillance crime database that would help residents “take back their community and their quality of life.”

NYC’s Budget

“The budget is out of control and I think one of the things a Republican City Council person can do is be a voice against the insanity from City Hall,” McCabe said, regarding the city’s budget. He said he believed the mayor and the City Council were playing politics by refusing to take in funds from the federal government because of politics.

Capano said a solution would be to have a greater tax base. “When you let businesses grow and expand it allows taxes to be lower,” he said. In this way, he added, more revenue would come in without having to raise taxes. He said the current administration has misplaced priorities, and that “better priorities lead to a better budget.”

“Every night you watch the news and you hear about a proposal that we’re paying for that either doesn’t work, bottoms out or should not be paid for by taxpayers,” said Quaglione. He argued that de Blasio is spending $15 billion more than former Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent, and that it is “a runaway train.” “We are going into the reserves, and we are headed into a fiscal crisis,” he added.

Housing and Illegal Conversions

When asked what can be done to ensure and prevent landlords from having the ability to divide single family apartments into multifamily units, McCabe said that fighting illegal home conversions would be a top priority: “[It is a] core effort of my time in the City Council and I will do whatever it takes to get that legislation passed.” He vowed to meet with a task force on his first day in office to address this issue and push legislation through to remedy it.

Capano said this was an issue that has been brewing for a long time and while he was glad that Gentile has finally decided to propose some legislation, he said what we really need is action, not just proposals.  He said these homes have been turned into death traps, where basements are being excavated when three family homes end up having 20 families in them.

“We need to get more building inspectors, put more teeth in the law that allows them to gain access to these buildings and apartments,” Quaglione said. He added that as long as homeowners know that the inspectors won’t come back, they will continue to get away with it.

“We can make a difference. We can protect firefighters, protect the impact of overcrowding in schools and the overcrowding in our hospital system.”

Goldberg posed the final question of the evening, asking if each candidate would pledge to support the winner of the September primary. Quaglione said that he wanted to make a deal with the other candidates that a day or two after the primary they would all agree to meet and join together in solidarity behind the winning candidate. McCabe and Capano agreed and Ghorra said that the GOP Executive Committee “would make the arrangements.”

The only dissention occurred during the closing statements, when Capano pointed out that he was “the only life-long Republican in the race,” explaining that McCabe switched parties last year and that Quaglione changed parties in 2012. His comment was met with an audible groan from the audience.

Ghorra thanked everyone for attending and he praised the panel and the City Council candidates for participating. He also reminded everyone that there will be future debates prior to the Sept. 12 primary.