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Crowley’s new Council post carries steep learning curve

At 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 4, Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village) was at a crossroads. After three months of campaigning and a full day of watching the numbers from the polls, she made the call to her campaign manager that would reveal whether she had won or lost the election to the 30th City Council District seat in her third bid for the office.

“It was that call where you don’t know what’s going to happen on the other end,” she said. “He said, ‘You won. You’re up by 2,000 votes.’ I said, ‘Don’t say it until it’s final.’ ”

Crowley’s campaign manager was right. Soon afterward, Councilman Anthony Como, who won the seat in a special election in June after disgraced Councilman Dennis Gallagher resigned, called to congratulate Crowley. It was a moment to savor after losing to Como three months earlier and being beaten by Gallagher in the 2001 elections, but Crowley said she did not slow down.

From there, she said, it was a whirlwind of meetings and preparations until her swearing−in on Jan. 7.

“There was no break,” she said. “The day before New Year’s, we were at Anthony Como’s office meeting with his staff. He didn’t show up. He went away his last week or two in office when I wanted a smooth transition, which was disappointing.”

Crowley is now in the process of moving into a new office space in Middle Village. She hopes to open it in the middle of this month.

The newly minted Council member already has a number of weighty issues to consider, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “doomsday” budget proposal, which calls for laying off 23,000 city employees, including as many as 14,000 teachers.

“I can’t see the layoffs of the teachers,” she said. “I can’t see it happening within our schools. There are situations where the DOE has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars. We need to investigate where wasteful spending is happening.”

She emphasized the importance of pressuring the state Legislature to release as much funding as possible for city schools.

Crowley is also focused on pushing forward with the rezoning of Glendale and Middle Village, a plan she said has been years in the making.

“It’s good. It’s almost there,” she said. “It’s just coming to the community for input before it’s certified.”

The Glendale Property Owners Association was scheduled to hold a meeting Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, while the Juniper Park Civic Association was to review the plan Feb. 12 at 7:45 p.m. at the Our Lady of Hope cafeteria.

“I’m pretty much told by the commissioner that it will be certified by April,” Crowley said. “This process, it’s only a matter of time.”

In addition, she inherits the office at a time when her district is facing the possible closure of St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst, a major health care provider.

“They’re filing bankruptcy,” she said. “It’s just part of the process of keeping it open.”

She noted that a proposal by another hospital corporation to buy St. John’s involved demolishing the old building before constructing a new one.

“I think it’s key to keep the hospital open and rebuild around it the way St. Vincent’s has done in Manhattan,” she said. “You can’t close a hospital and think you’re going to be able to provide the same level of service in the hospital nearby. You don’t have the amount of beds.”

Crowley was optimistic about the future of the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, which two French banks will take over from the Hemmerdinger family Feb. 19.

“It will continue to grow and has the ability to be a real economic engine,” the councilwoman said, but she suggested the new owners eliminate the parking fee.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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