Challenging Crowley for 30th District Seat
By Conor Greene
Middle Village attorney Thomas Ognibene kicked off his City Council campaign last week with a fundraiser featuring Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and wasted little time in recent days criticizing his opponent’s performance during her first nine months in office.
Ognibene, who represented the 30th District from 1991 until term limits forced him from office in 2001, is challenging Democrat incumbent Elizabeth Crowley this November for a four-year term representing parts of Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Glendale, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven. Crowley won the right to serve the final year of former Councilman Dennis Gallagher’s term when she defeated Anthony Como last year.
In an interview Wednesday morning with The Forum, Ognibene said his fundraiser last Thursday in Middle Village “was very successful.” He was particularly pleased that “even though there is some friction within the Republican party, both factions showed up to support me.” He has also been quick to tout the benefits his connections to Mayor Bloomberg would bring to the district.
Ognibene, who unsuccessfully ran in last summer’s special election won by Como to replace Gallagher, said he was prompted to give it another shot because of the direction the district is headed in. “When I pick up the newspaper now it seems that the problems are growing and are not being addressed. We do not have aggressive leadership in this community, especially from our elected officials,” he said, adding that Crowley is “content to just give lip service and send out press releases.”
In contrast, Ognibene said his philosophy when dealing with constituents was to “look at what the problem was, what the law was and what all our options politically and legally were” before deciding on a course of action. “It was a very proactive service. The current councilmember, I have to be honest, talks about a lot of things she did, but I don’t see it reflected in the council finance records or capital budget. I’m worried that what she says and what she does are two different things.”
One example of this, according to Ognibene, is when Crowley took credit for pushing through the downzoning of parts of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale. “She took credit for the whole thing, which is disgraceful,” he said. “When I confronted her on it, she said she sped it up by making a phone call. You and I know that’s nonsense and that people worked for four years to get this done but she wants to believe that as a councilmember elect she made a phone call and things happened.
“It doesn’t seem like anyone is doing anything aggressively,” added Ognibene. “The philosophy of my opponent is that if something good happens you take credit for it and if something bad happens you blame someone else, and you can’t lead that way.”
Ognibene acknowledged that his campaign’s relationship with the mayor has its benefits but could also turn off voters who aren’t supporting Bloomberg’s bid for a third term. “My feeling is, in the past I’ve argued with the mayor on issues I thought were of importance,” he said. “I think Michael Bloomberg and his record is head and shoulders above anything offered by the Democratic party. People can make the same value judgments as I have, but I hope that people go beyond just the mayoral race and look at my record, and whether they feel this community is going in the right direction.”
In Ognibene’s opinion, “ninety-eight percent of things that affect people’s everyday lives are in the control of the City Council, so you better have somebody that has the experience and willingness to defend the community. Otherwise, we will face some serious setbacks over the next four years. I live here, so I don’t want to see that happen.”