Thursday, June 25, 2009

Filling the Vacancy: Who Will Replace Seminerio?

By Patricia Adams

The vacancy created by the resignation of Tony Seminerio from his seat in the 38th Assembly District has left obvious concerns about who will fill the seat and answer the concerns of constituents in the district largely comprised of Richmond Hill and Glendale.

According to New York State law a vacancy in a state position filled through the election process which occurs before September 20th would normally be filled in the general election which follows the vacancy. Morgan Hook, a spokesperson for Governor Paterson, said that there has been no decision yet as to whether the governor will issue a proclamation ordering a special election as of yet.

“We are still checking with local government and the Board of Elections in an evaluation of the situation,” said Hook. “If the governor decides that the seat will be filled in a special election, once a proclamation is ordered, it [the special election] would have to be held no sooner that 30 days and no more than 40 days following the issuance of the proclamation.”

Donna Marie Catalbiano, executive director of the Forest Park Senior Citizens Center founded by Tony Seminerio is among those who will seek to replace him. “For thirty years Tony Seminerio did great things for the community. He was the founder of the Forest Park Senior Citizens Center and he continued to fund it for many years. He always did good things for the community and despite these allegations he will be missed as a friend to the community.

Catalbiano has recorded many civic and community credits in addition to her work over the last 14 years at the senior center. In 1985 she organized a group of parents to expand PS 64 and get a gymnasium and auditorium built at the school. The structures were officially added in 1990-1991. Catalbiano also found a way to open the senior center for one additional day a week at the same level of funding it was taking to open 3 days a week. “I think the community needs a person like me,” said Catalbiano. “Over the years I have many accomplishments.”

In preparation to make her run for the seat Catalbiano formed a committee several months ago. “We have not done any fundraising and actually kept the news pretty quiet out of respect for Tony Seminerio. Now, we’ll begin the campaign for the seat.” And Catalbiano says that she will seek the seat with the backing of the Queens County Republicans.

As for the seniors she may have to leave behind, Catalbiano says she will never abandon them. Joe Palladino, the president of the senior center says he has known her for over fourteen years. “I am the one who hired Donna,” Palladino says. “I’m like gum under her shoe and she’ll never get rid of me or any of us here. But,” he says, “When Donna goes to Albany, she’ll be even more of a help to us here and for many other seniors. She’s a hard worker and a fighter. The best thing about her—she’s honest and she doesn’t take any bull. We all need that.”

Other potential challengers for the seat include Nick Comaianni and Albert Baldeo. Comaianni is the president of District 24’s Community Education Council and a life-long resident of the 38th District. He has served as a member of Community Board 9 and Chairman of the Community Board’s Education Committee. Albert Baldeo is an attorney who has run against former senator Serf Maltese and who most recently bowed out of the Democratic primary race against now Senator Joe Addabbo.

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