Oct. 27, 2020 By Christian Murray
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.
The Woodsider reiterated the need for safety and noted that residents have no other option but to support the police.
“We have to work with the NYPD. There is no other way,” Keehan-Smith said. “We are [a city] of 8 ½ million people. How can anyone think we can survive without some sort of police force.”
She said she is running a grass-roots campaign and is not being supported by lobbyists or REBNY. “I am on my own, created my own website.”
Keehan-Smith lost her position as the chair of CB2 in April after not being reappointed to the board by Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee in consultation with Van Bramer. The board, which elected her chair by a unanimous vote, was stunned by her non reappointment and no specific reason has been provided for her departure.
She noted that she was chair of Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee in 2015 and voted in favor of protected bicycle lanes on Queens Boulevard. She said she advocated for a separate bicycle lane on the Queensboro Bridge—an initiative that still has yet to be done.
She said that she voted against the DOT changes to Skillman Avenue.
“I got a lot of flak over the Skillman Avenue [protected] bike lanes because I voted against them,” she said. “I just responded to the community. We had multiple and multiple community meetings and people said over and over again they didn’t want them. I took a stand for my community and I continue to get attacked for it.”
Former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, as well as Dan Connor the owner of Donovan’s Pub located on Roosevelt Avenue, also spoke on her behalf at the press conference.
Crowley said that the city faces a massive deficit and that it needs people who can provide strong, sensible leadership.
“We will need leaders who can make tough decisions and have the type of leadership Denise has.”