Debra Markell, the current Community Board 2 District Manager, announced Wednesday that she is running to be the next city council member for the 23rd District.
Markell, a resident of Glen Oaks, is looking to fill the seat currently occupied by Council Member Barry Grodenchik, who will be stepping down at the end of 2021.
Grodenchik, who is not term limited, announced last month that he is not seeking a second term to represent the district, which covers a large swath of eastern Queens.
There are five other Democratic candidates vying for the seat with the primary scheduled to take place in June 2021. The new council member will take office on Jan. 1, 2022.
Markell said she plans to get the city “back on track” and cited her experience working in government and as a community leader as the cornerstone of her campaign.
“When I look ahead at the daunting challenges facing our city, it is evident that experience is crucial to getting our city back on track,” Markell said in a statement. “While COVID-19 changed our way of life on many levels, I know we can come back stronger.”
Markell’s career in civil service includes an eight-year stint as the Queens director on the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit, a job where she worked as a liaison between Queens residents and City Hall. She held that job during both the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations.
Denise Keehan-Smith, the former chairperson of Queens Community Board 2, held a press conference in Woodside Saturday and announced that she is running to be the next council member for the 26th council district.
The life-long Woodsider, who was joined by about 40 people by the Big Six Towers on Queens Boulevard, said that she is “the common sense candidate.”
Keehan-Smith is one of 17 candidates vying for the seat that is currently held by Jimmy Van Bramer, who is unable to run again due to term limits.
“I have decided that we need to take our neighborhood in a new direction,” Keehan-Smith said. “We need to get back to basics.”
Keehan-Smith said that most residents across the council district want the same thing.
“They want decent jobs, a thriving small business community and clean streets. We don’t want to pass rats when we are walking through the neighborhood…and we want to be safe.”
She said senior citizens should be able to walk to church and not get assaulted, referencing an incident where an 84-year-old man was robbed in August on his way to St. Sebastian’s in Woodside.
Keehan-Smith said that she would work to save small businesses, create a plan to address homelessness and would work with the NYPD to make the district safe. She also wants to tackle climate change and advocate for fixing what she says is a decaying transit system.
She said that she has a deep knowledge of Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside that she learned while being on Community Board 2 for eight years, with four of those as chair. She also has deep ties to the community, she said, having attended P.S. 11 on Skillman Avenue and St. Sebastian’s Catholic school.