Queens councilmembers joined their primary challengers – at times eager to engage their incumbent foes – to discuss how rezoning, homelessness and access to transportation affect their districts during an annual candidate forum Thursday night at St. John’s University.
In total, fifteen Democrats and one Republican – Joe Concannon running in District 23 – attended the event, which split into two hour-long forums, each featuring eight candidates. Though opponents shared microphones, the gesture of cooperation failed to prevent some pointed back-and-forth, especially from District 20 Councilman Peter Koo and rival Alison Tan who traded barbs about personal cigarette smoking, luxury condo purchases and donations from developers.
In the first session, candidates addressed the theoretical threat of neighborhood upzonings—there are none on the table now in their districts—and more generally, high-density development. Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and challenger Bob Holden from District 30, Councilman Paul Vallone and challenger Paul Graziano from District 19, District 24 councilman Rory Lancman and Koo each said they opposed high-density development.
Crowley and Holden said existing traffic and transit congestion made upzoning to create more affordable housing impossible.
“The problem with Queens is the transportation infrastructure – we’re maxed out,” Crowley said. “Whether it’s our 7 train or our Queens Boulevard line, there’s no more room. There’s no capacity on these rails to help with overcrowding. We need to improve transportation if we’re going to develop affordable housing.”
Tan – who said she supports upzoning outside Downtown Flushing – criticized Koo for opposing the Flushing West rezoning plan, which she said would have increased the affordable housing stock.
“People who have lived in the district for a long time are being priced out and yet there’s a…