In a short period of time, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) went from a relative political novice to a seasoned veteran of municipal races.
Crowley, 31, first ran for the office in 2001, losing to Dennis Gallagher. But when Gallagher resigned from the Council in 2008 after pleading guilty in connection to a sexual assault charge, Crowley had another chance.
She ran in a special election for the seat in June, losing by 38 votes to Anthony Como, a former aide to former state Sen. Serphin Maltese.
Crowley then returned to the ring that November when the seat was next up for grabs. With what Crowley admits was a boost from enthusiasm over the presidential race, she cruised to victory over Como.
But after the 2008 win, the seat was up for grabs again in the citywide elections the following year.
Crowley grew up in Middle Village and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology. She received a master’s in city planning from Pratt Institute.
She started work repairing and refurbishing historic buildings, where she became involved in a construction union. She said the union encouraged her to run for office in 2001.
“I didn’t have the public’s support that time,” she said, noting departing Councilman Tom Ognibene, who is facing her Tuesday, threw his weight behind Gallagher that time. “Gallagher had shored that up before I even thought about running.”
Crowley said that after the tough defeat, she focused on community work like helping set up worker training classes in all five boroughs through her union. She chalks up her special election loss in 2008 to low voter turnout.
But she is also loath to credit President Barack Obama’s popularity for carrying her on the ballot.
“There were places [in the district] where Barack Obama didn’t get 40 percent of the vote and I got nearly 60 percent of the vote,” she said.
Now Crowley believes she will once again face an unmotivated voting public, estimating 30 percent lower turnout than last year.
“As much as I try to convince and get my message across as a Council member, at the end of the day … it’s usually the top of the ticket that brings the vast majority out,” she said, referring to mayoral contenders Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city Comptroller William Thompson. “Right now I think that people are not happy with either of the candidates.”
In her 10 months in office, Crowley said she is most proud of fast-tracking the rezoning of 300 blocks of Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village.
“It moved along faster than any other zoning resolution in the history of the City Council of New York,” she said. “And that’s an accomplishment I can take credit for.”
If re-elected, Crowley said she would focus on building more community centers for after-school programs and working to ensure the now-closed St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst is replaced by another hospital.
The hospital property recently sold at auction to a large realty firm in Brooklyn, and Crowley foresees development rebounding.
“The free market … is coming back up to speed where we could see a project that would be over half a billion dollars,” she said. “Something over $700 million is what would take to build a new hospital.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.