By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bill de Blasio and Ken Thompson weren’t in the room during the debate between Democratic Councilman Vincent Gentile and his Republican-Conservative opponent John Quaglione, but they might as well have been.
The names of the Democratic candidates for mayor and Brooklyn district attorney loomed large over the debate that was sponsored by the Dyker Heights Civic Association and in Saint Phillip’s Episcopal Church Hall Monday night.
“If we have Bill de Blasio as mayor and Ken Thompson as DA, we will be in for tough times in Brooklyn,” Quaglione said, adding he believes the two left-leaning candidates will usher in an era of rising crime rates and lowering standards of living for residents.
Both de Blasio and Thompson are calling for massive reforms of the Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk procedure.
Gentile, who is supporting de Blasio and Thompson, accused Quaglione of trying to scare voters in the Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst council district. “Fear-mongering is the worst kind of politics,” he said.
“It’s not fear-mongering. It’s reality!” Quaglione shot back.
Quaglione has endorsed Republican Joe Lhota for mayor and said he’s supporting Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes for re-election. Hynes, who was ousted in the Democratic Primary by Thompson on Sept. 10, initially announce that he would drop out of the race, but then changed his mind and is running in the Nov. 5 election on the Republican and Conservative party lines.
Gentile insisted that it was ridiculous to assume that de Blasio is soft on crime simply because of his liberal politics. “Bill de Blasio is determined to find a police commissioner who will bring crime down. That was his commitment to me,” he said.
As for Thompson, Gentile said the DA candidate, who beat Hynes by a mile, 55 percent to 45 percent in the primary, is a former federal prosecutor who will be tough on criminals. “He is tough and he has the record to prove it,” Gentile said. Besides, said the councilman, Thompson has more courtroom experience in recent years that Hynes does.
Gentile has represented the 43rd Council District for 10 years. Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn), is a first-time candidate.
Much of the debate consisted of the two candidates testing their respective campaign themes. Quaglione hammered away at what he said was the incumbent’s ineffectiveness. The challenger also said the district could do a lot better. Gentile touted what he said was a strong record of delivering for the district. The incumbent also boasted that of re-elected, his longevity would make him the most senior member of the council, a role that would put him in a position of power and influence.
Quaglione said that in 2003, before Gentile was elected, the 43rd Council District was at the top when it came to its city councilman bringing back tax dollars to the district for schools, libraries, parks, capital projects, and other items. But since Gentile has been in office, the district’s ranking has shrunk, according to Quaglione, who laid the blame at the councilman’s feet.
“Forty-nine other neighborhoods in the city of New York are getting more of your tax dollars than you are. You tell me why we are paying all this money to go to other neighborhoods. Where’s all that money going? It’s not going here,” he said, adding that crime and graffiti are on the rise and that “our streets are getting dirtier.”
Gentile said that during his time in the council, he has brought back more than $60 million to the district for schools, libraries, neighborhood cultural programs, NYPD security cameras and other things. “I’ve delivered in many significant ways,” he said.
Other neighborhoods get more money from the city, but that’s only because they need the funding for housing project and drug clinics, Gentile said. “I’m glad we don’t get that money!” he said.
Gentile also said he often voted against the wishes of the council leadership on issues such as putting a toll on the East River bridges and was punished for his independence. “I won’t sell out my district to get a few extra shekels from the (council) speaker,” he said.
Quaglione scoffed at that. He pointed out that Gentile’s predecessor in the council, Marty Golden, was a Republican who almost always voted against the leadership of the Democratic-dominated legislative body and yet always managed to bring home the bacon for the district. “We were number one,” he said.
Quaglione said he would work to bring funding back to the district, clean graffiti, improve parking, form a taskforce to investigate abandoned properties that fall into disrepair, and work to have more senior citizens become eligible for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program.
The Dyker Heights forum marked the third debate between the rivals. The two men squared off against each other twice last week, at a senior citizens center and then at a real estate board forum. Next up is a debate sponsored by the Bay Ridge Community Council on Oct. 22.