Hundreds of Maspeth and Middle Village residents packed the auditorium of Our Lady of Hope to ask questions and take in a debate between the four 6th District Democratic hopefuls.
Assemblymembers Grace Meng and Rory Lancman, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Dr. Robert Mittman took the stage at the Middle Village school to discuss both local concerns — stop and frisk and hospital closings — and national issues — Social Security and immigration reform.
Candidates answered questions from the audience, each other and a panel consisting of local reporters.
The areas of Maspeth and Middle Village will be in the newly-formed 6th District due to redistricting.
The four-round debate featured its share of contentious moments and an at-times restless audience.
Lancman and Crowley traded barbs throughout the night, with Lancman correcting the councilmember that the MTA is not a state agency, but an independent authority.
Crowley said her plan to fix the economy would not raise taxes on middle class families and businesses,
Meng largely avoided confrontations during the debate.
Citing the “career politicians” and “politics as usual” of the other candidates, Mittman at first drew cheers from the crowd.
The attendees gradually grew restless at the rhetoric, shouting “Answer the question” when they felt he avoided what was asked.
Lawrence Pliska, who attended the debate, said the anti-career politician rants were foolish.
“You do need somebody who understands what’s going on,” he said, before adding he believed Crowley won the debate.
Jeff Kaufman, a lifelong resident of Maspeth and Glendale, felt Lancman was the most polished debater of the candidates, though he was upset some of the more polarizing topics were avoided.
“[Lancman] was able to explain some of the more nuanced issues that either the other candidates didn’t understand or couldn’t explain.”