Kew Gardens Hills has been in the limelight of the political arena ever since it was declared a red zone at the height of the pandemic. More interest followed, with national attention surrounding the James Gennaro’s successful City Council race against an antisemitic opponent, where the City’s Ranked-Choice voting methodology was first put to the test. Since then, Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal has been credited with keeping the focus on Central Queens.
Mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia took notice of the tremendous voter turnout in the highly Orthodox region and joined a contingent of influential Queens voices at the home of Meshulem and Tova Lisker this past Sunday morning.
Garcia, 51, a Brooklyn native, is widely recognized for keeping city clean during her reign as commissioner for the NYC Sanitation Department. Later, she served as the interim chair and CEO of the NYC Housing Authority, and during the City’s COVID-19 emergency response was appointed “food czar” for New York’s emergency food program.
Garcia heard the concerns of constituents and did not skirt away from the issues that matter most. To Nechemia Hoch’s fight for the needs of yeshivas, Garcia replied, “I will do what is best for children and work with the community.” In calling Garcia “the ultimate insider,” Rabbi Daniel Pollack asked the candidate how she would reform “the system of getting work done.” Garcia was quick to reply that she knows which agency can offer the best help in each situation and would always treat others like they are the customer. Garcia followed with calls to be more proactive and hold people accountable for producing, and theorized that a solitary city permit should be instituted for small businesses. Garcia seemed unabashed to take on unions and called for a major shakeup in city government.
District Leader Shimi Pelman praised Queens voters for often electing strong female voices and noted, “We look at quality,” in referencing Garcia, calling her “a moderate.” Pelman then discussed the devastating consequences of bail reform in our neighborhoods, referencing the rise in antisemitic behavior and a recent stabbing at the Shabbos Park on 137th Street, to which Garcia spoke of giving additional funding to the Hate Crimes Unit and noted that judges should have discretion, but that bail reform and its no cash bail policy was necessary for low level crimes. Host Meshulem Lisker called for action against repeat crime offenders.
Jennifer Martin mentioned that her family once found walking their dog to be a deterrent to others approaching them, but observed we currently live in a “changed environment.” Sorolle Idels mentioned the hot-button issue of adults carrying pepper spray, which concerned Garcia, who does not want New Yorkers worrying about the need to fight off attackers.
“I’m not trying to take away all the cars,” said Garcia, a supporter of bike lanes, in response to Alan Sherman requesting an explanation of the candidate’s stance. “I know that out here and Staten Island aren’t like Manhattan,” stated Garcia. “We need to have balance between cars and bikes.”
Rabbi Chaim Schwartz spoke of widespread support for Trump in the Jewish community and how the BLM movement is ripping down our institutions. Schwartz asked Garcia to consider how the progressive measures have taken over, changing from a period when Mayor de Blasio once understood our concerns.
On trash collection, Garcia expressed disappointment in the city’s choice to cut sanitation at the height of the pandemic, calling it “a wrong decision.” Garcia chalked clean streets up to a “funding issue,” and the need to get more people commercially licensed and hired as sanitation workers, adding, “When garbage collection is missed, all notice.”
Garcia summed up her pitch for votes: “We all want same thing: to live in a safe city without government interfering.”
By Shabsie Saphirstein