Bayside attorney Steve Behar said he would focus on reforms in Albany’s dysfunctional state Legislature if elected this fall to replace state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside).
Behar, 46, who ran for former City Councilman Tony Avella’s seat last year, currently works as an attorney in Manhattan and serves on Community Board 11. He began his career working at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., before opening his own law office on Wall Street six years ago.
Behar said the key issue in his campaign is fighting to reform Albany.
“It’s a complete, utter disaster,” he said. “The leadership is a failure. The lobbyists and special interests have bought the Legislature. But Albany is ripe for change. I believe when people see an elected official who demands change, they’ll get behind that person.”
He said he would push for significant campaign finance reform, ethics reform and nonpartisan redistricting.
“There’s nobody that speaks for the average person in the street,” he said. “The lobbyists grab first and there is nothing left for our schools, parks, mass transit and the environment.”
Behar said redistricting in the state currently serves to “keep incumbents in office” and he wants Assembly and state Senate district lines to be drawn without any political affiliations. He believes authorities run by the state are another area for improvement.
“We have hundreds of authorities, such as the MTA, that are not audited by the government but borrow money from the government,” he said. “The MTA is poorly managed and provides poor service with no oversight.”
In September, Behar will face off against three Democrats in the primary election, including Edward Braunstein, who works as a legislative assistant for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan); John Duane, a former assemblyman in the district and brother of Sen. Tom Duane (D-Manhattan); and Whitestone attorney Elio Forcina.
Two Republicans are also vying for Carrozza’s seat: Vince Tabone, an attorney for John Catsimitidis’ Manhattan-based Red Apple Group, and Rob Speranza, a former city police officer who challenged the assemblywoman in 2008.
Carrozza announced earlier this year she would not run for re-election.
Behar said district schools and services for senior citizens were also high priorities. Northeast Queens School Districts 25 and 26 are often listed as the city’s best, but also among its most overcrowded.?
“The answer to fix our city’s school system is not to close schools that are below par, but to fix those schools and make them perform better,” he said. “Kids get sent out to our district, so the schools are overcrowded.”
He said Bayside, Francis Lewis and Benjamin N. Cardozo high schools are all operating over capacity.
The Assembly candidate vows to also prevent services for seniors from getting cut in his district. He said senior centers provide vital social functions for the elderly in northeast Queens.
The 26th Assembly district covers Bayside, Auburndale, Little Neck, Douglaston, Whitestone and College Point.