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Gennaro, Padavan trade jabs at forum

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) and City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) traded harsh words with each other over their stances on the environment and immigration reform at a special candidates forum in Flushing last weekend.

The candidates for the 11th Senate District were joined by state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone) and her Republican challenger Peter Koo at the Sunday event at Dae Dong Manor’s auditorium to talk openly with several Asian community groups about a variety of issues that concerned them.

When moderator Steven Choi of the Korean youth group YKASEC brought up the topic of helping the city’s environment, Padavan noted that he was listed as one of the top 10 senators by the non−profit group Environmental Advocates and has had the backing of the Sierra Club and League of Conservation voters.

Gennaro, who is chairman of the Council’s Environmental Committee and was endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters, challenged the senator’s green stance in Albany by claiming that Environmental Advocates has given Padavan an overall “D” rating in its report card. He also pointed out that Padavan supported natural gas drilling upstate.

“No one has had an environmental record like I have,” the councilman said.

A spokesman for Environmental Advocates said its 2008 voters guide they gave Padavan a score of 87. He had a rating of 90 last year.

Although the candidates were not allowed to make rebuttals, Padavan blasted Gennaro for his accusations and noted his recent endorsement from the non−partisan group Citizens Union for “a wealth of support from organizations ranging from environmental groups to health care unions.”

“That’s a lie,” he shouted at Gennaro when he made his accusation.

The 11th Senate District includes Queens Village, Flushing, Whitestone, Douglaston, Little Neck, Bellerose, Bayside, Jamaica Estates, Floral Park and Glen Oaks.

The councilman also criticized Padavan on two bills he created that limited services to undocumented immigrants. Bill S82, prohibits illegal immigrants from attending public colleges and S73 prohibits them from receiving public health services with the exception of an emergency room.

“These bills are an attack on immigrant communities,” Gennaro said.

The senator defended his bills, saying the state has a tight budget for both education and health and the resources should go first to legal residents.

“We cannot prohibit a child from entering a school,” Padavan said, “but when we’re talking about college education subsidized by you, the taxpayer, there is a limit.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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