With 16 candidates currently running, it is an understatement to call the field of Democratic nominees for the District 26 City Council seat crowded.
However, district native Denise Keehan-Smith is hitting the campaign trail running with plans for public safety, affordable housing, and green space that she hopes can win her a seat representing Long Island City, Woodside, Sunnyside, Dutch Kills and parts of Astoria.
“There is no frontrunner, but I think I have my own lane,” Keehan-Smith explained in an interview last week.
As the only candidate running who is originally from the district, Keehan-Smith believes that she has the community background necessary for the job.
“I still have childhood friends in the district,” she explained. “People will show up that I haven’t seen since 8th grade.”
A self-labeled moderate, Keehan-Smith also believes that her professional business background will give her an edge over the competition. She worked in the computer division of an airline company for over 30 years, but got the bug for public service while serving on the board of the Big Six Towers in Woodside, where she lives with her husband.
After working with former congressman Joe Crowley to resolve multiple issues at the Towers, Keehan-Smith continued her political career by joining Community Board 2 and eventually becoming its chair.
The role allowed her to focus on issues such as affordable housing, development, and green space.
Most notably, Keehan-Smith served on the advisory council to determine whether Amazon should come to Long Island City. She was in favor of their arrival and continues to be.
“I thought that it was a good opportunity and I think we could have worked something out,” she said. “In Virginia, they have created a whole bunch of affordable housing units, which is what we need.
“The majority of the people I talked to were in favor of it, but I got beat up just for sitting at the table with Amazon,” she added.
Keehan-Smith is in favor of new developments as long as they offer true affordable housing and bring green space to the area.
“People like that I’m from the district and that I’ve lived in the same place for 20 years,” she said. “The City Council is not just a stepping stone to higher political office.”