Friday, December 7, 2007


Former Council Members Weighing Comeback Bids
by Matt Hampton, Assistant Editor
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As 2008 approaches, the number on many New York City politician’s minds is 2009, the year term limits will force several dozen city officials to find new jobs or retire. While current city council members scramble to find their next meal ticket, it’s possible that some familiar names may find their way back onto the ballots.

“It’s a real exciting time for our residents and our voters,” said Joseph Addabbo, Jr. current councilman from Howard Beach, “It does open the door (for former council members). They had their opportunity to come back four years ago, but they would have been running against an incumbent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few come back. Some have kept very active.” One busy former council member is Mike Abel, who currently works for the Department of Housing Preservation.

Abel was unwilling to commit to the prospect of re-running for his seat in Northeast Queens, but admitted that the topic had been on his mind. “I always think about it, I never say never, but right now it’s a year away.” Abel, a Republican, said that one advantage he would have would be the ability to “sit back and say I’ve been there already.” He also thought that while time has passed, concerns of residents in his district have likely remained more or less the same. “I think they’re basically the same problems that people have. They want the sewers cleaned and the trees trimmed and the garbage picked up,” he said.

Abel also was willing to point out that the desire to be an agent of city governance is an itch that stays with a person. “That probably never leaves. Yeah, there’s days I miss it like crazy, but there are days when you can keep it. It just depends on the issue. I don’t think that (desire) will ever go away.” “I really enjoyed it, and I may do it again, it’s just a little early for me to decide.” Rumors have swirled around the Borough President’s Office as well, as former Forest Hills councilwoman and current Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz is believed to be coveting her old city seat. She did not return calls seeking comment on a potential run.

In Flushing, though talk in the community may have established the possibility of a crowded field, octogenarian and former councilwoman Julia Harrison insists “I have not closed any doors and I’m in good health, of sound mind, and reserve the right to make my determination after the holiday.” Harrison was confident that she could address all of the challenges of her former Flushing district with just as much tenacity as she did in her previous 15 years on the council.

“Nothing has changed so radically that it would make a difference,” she added. “I’m involved (with the community) now without any benefit of recompense. I’ve never cut myself off and I don’t think I ever will.” Harrison, 86, added she was “born and raised to serve.” Another former council member who appears determined to serve is Tom Ognibene, the former Republican councilman from Middle Village.

Ognibene said he was “going down this week or next week to the campaign office to file my intention and my campaign committee,” as a way of announcing his intention to take back his seat once term limits bounce his one-time protege, Dennis Gallagher, out of office. When I drive through the community, I see things that I think ought to be changed, and when (I) realize I’m no longer in a position to change them it’s kind of sad.” Ognibene said his decision was based on a strong desire to serve his community, along with the realization that his former district is the only remaining Republican representation on the City Council in Queens.

“I definitely feel that the city has always worked well when you had some adversarial opinions, more diversity among the members of the council,” he said. “All of the Democratic (council members) are proud of the diversity in their districts, but they don’t feel that diversity extends to political thought.” Ognibene was also unafraid of the eight-year layoff between terms. “Nothing has changed that would change my ability to be effective,” he said.
©Queens Chronicle 2007