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Gioia courts voters - Queens councilman looks to be public advocate

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A Queens City Council member running for public advocate next year crossed over the borough line recently to make his case before the Midwood Civic Action Council.

Councilmember Eric Gioia, who represents Ridgewood, came to the meeting at the Mirage Diner, on Kings Highway and East 8th Street, to introduce himself to the council, which is made up mainly of seniors.

“A lot of people in this city need someone on their side such as the 450,000 people in public housing,” said Gioia.

“We also need an independent voice for the middle class. Someone who can change the expectations of what government can be,” he added.

Gioia related his story of how he grew up around his family-run flower business that spanned several generations in Ridgewood, but that he was always interested in public service.

This public life started for Gioia in the fifth grade at P.S. P.S. 11 where the principal drafted him to speak about overcrowding in the schools before City Hall bigwigs and other officials.

Later, Gioia worked his way through New York University before going to Georgetown Law School, and ultimately serving a stint in the Clinton White House as a law clerk.

With the advent of term limits for city elected officials in 2001, Gioia seized upon the opportunity to run for the City Council seat, which he won while still in his late twenties.

Now after two terms of seasoning and at 34, Gioia said he wanted to continue a grassroots effort throughout the city to make his case for replacing the term-limited Betsey Gotbaum for public advocate.

“The country used to dream big,” said Gioia, adding that he wants to complete the work of those who have gone before him and keep New York City great where the middle class can continue to thrive.

After speaking about his life and ambitions, Gioia took questions where he was asked about the state of the city’s senior centers.

Gioia said he was against the Bloomberg administra­tion’s cuts to senior centers, and in fact favors turning the senior centers into all-purpose facilities that also offer health care and other services.

This is especially important because there will be even more seniors with the graying of the baby-boom generation, he said.

Gioia also said he didn’t like a recent initiative where frozen meals would be delivered as part of the city’s Meals-On-Wheels program.

“This is not politics to me, this is personal,” said Gioia, adding that part of the Meals-On-Wheels has to do with the social aspect of a human being visiting and talking to seniors that are homebound.

Midwood Civic Action Council President Sandy Aboulafia said she met Gioia at Borough President Marty Markowitz’s recent State-of-the-Borough address, where he introduced himself as a public advocate candidate.

It was the first time that somebody from another borough that isn’t a citywide officer holder came to speak at one of the council’s meetings, she said.

“I liked Eric and not only that, my whole group liked him and everybody had a very positive outlook about him. He seemed down to earth and untainted,” said Aboulafia.

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