The Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association hosted a candidate’s night at the First Lutheran Church of Throggs Neck for those seeking the 13th Councilmatic seat and were greeted by an unexpected bombshell announcement.
Six of eight candidates in the race to replace term-limited Councilman James Vacca were present on Tuesday, May 30.
One of the candidates, John Marano, prior to the start of the forum, announced his decision to withdraw from the race, thanking supporters, while not ruling out a future run.
Marano said that he was concerned about the influx of inexperienced candidates into the race, and said that he would support the candidate that he felt would be best for the district.
“I have what it takes to represent our district fairly, effectively and passionately,” said Marano. “But at this juncture, I want to make sure the more qualified candidates do not cancel each out, which could bring a less experienced candidate into office.”
He did not say who he would endorse at the time, but later shared with the Bronx Times that he was supporting Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj.
“I am going to endorse Mark Gjonaj. I think he has a good relationship with the elected officials and he is already involved in the process. He brings a lot to the table, including the knowledge of how to work with the other elected officials. I feel that he has a good reputation in the Assembly. I feel that he can get more results for our community,” Marano said.
At the forum, candidates took questions, including those submitted from the WLCA and two from the audience.
Taking part were Republican candidate John Cerini and Democratic candidates Gjonaj, John Doyle, Alex Gomez and Victor Ortiz.
One candidate, Mohammad Abuhaikal, could not participate because he was celebrating Ramadan, but another, Marjorie Velasquez-Lynch, who had committed to the forum, was an unexpected no-show.
Mary Jane Musano, WLCA co-president, said that the forum was a chance to hear from candidates in a way she hoped was more about issues and less about politics.
“I think this is a time for our residents to be educated,” said Musano. “I want them to have the chance to meet the candidates in person.”
The most pressing community issues are overdevelopment and the expansion of P.S. 14 that most of the community thought was excessive, said Scott Barnard, WLCA board member.
“I hope that the people (at the forum) are able to decide on a viable candidate,” he said.
Andrew Chircio, WLCA co-president, urged potential voters to chose the person they feel would best represent their interests regardless of party affiliation.
The WLCA board submitted their members’ questions concerning zoning abuses that they believe leads to overdevelopment; methods to obtain more police officers for the 45th Precinct; and the construction of a new Pelham Bay school.
There were additional questions about the Small Business Survival Act, proposed legislation that would curb abuses on small business leases, and about creating a borough animal shelter.
Cerini expressed his disappointment in Marano’s departure from the race.
“There was a time when I thought it was going to be (John Marano) against me in the general election…and it would come down to a good community-minded person winning the election,” said Cerini.
The candidates gave Marano a standing ovation before he departed
A spokesman for Velazquez-Lynch said the candidate shrugged off the forum to attend another meeting.