Baldeo skips over the learning curve

by Lisa Fogarty , Assistant Editor


Some political hopefuls never quite grasp the nuances involved in staging a campaign for public office. They refrain from elaborating on specific community issues, sidestep around hot-button topics, or fail to anticipate the inevitable onslaught of criticism and background drills common within the not-always simpatico sphere of electioneering.

Albert Baldeo is a member of the other camp, the one whose members are prepared for the hard blows, if only because he still has the callouses obtained from running for office three times within the last five years. The immigration lawyer and long-time community advocate is one of six candidates running for the 38th District Assembly seat, vacated a month ago by Anthony Seminerio. No stranger to politics, Baldeo, who is the president of the United Communities Alliance, ran for the 28th District City Council seat in 2005, but was defeated by Tom White.


The take-no-prisoners race, which will go down in the books as one marred by an exhaustive series of scandals, affected Baldeo, as well. One of his opponents, pediatrician Robby Mahadeo, accused him of pointing a gun at the doctor and his wife. Baldeo denied the charges and countered with accusations that Mahadeo stalked and harassed him, which his opponent denied. The charges against Baldeo were ultimately dropped and the Board of Elections removed Mahadeo from the ballot.

“Politics can be vicious —people try to assassinate your character,” Baldeo reflected. “I am not a professional politican. I am for the people. I’m an advocate of people, a father, a neighbor. I’m doing this for the common good of the community.”

The negative experience didn’t keep Baldeo from running twice for the 15th state Senate District against Republican incumbent Serphin Maltese. In 2006, Maltese defeated Baldeo by a sliver of a fraction and in 2008, Baldeo stepped down to help then-Councilman Joe Addabbo Jr. defeat Maltese.

Yet, even before the 2009 race heats up, City Hall News reported Tuesday that some Queens Democrats oppose the election of Baldeo and are calling for Gov. David Paterson to hold a special election in September, which would give party leaders the power to choose a candidate. Some say an earlier election would also prevent Baldeo from running because he has not met the State Constitution’s one-year residency requirement, an allegation he denies.

According to legal documents the candidate sent to the Chronicle, Baldeo has resided at the same Richmond Hill residence since 2006. He said he does not own another residence and that the accusations are political in nature — an attempt to call for a special election.

In a special election, you take it out of the hands of voters and put it in the hands of party district leaders,” he said.  Baldeo said he is most interested in focusing on the issues in his community. He has been working on helping Glendale get its own ZIP code, which he calls “a matter of life and death” because so many emergency response vehicles get lost and end up in Flushing or Ridgewood. The ZIP code would also ensure residents’ tax returns and important documents are not lost in the mail, he said.

One neighborhood over, Baldeo has been trying to preserve the Ridgewood Reservoir. “There are so many species of birds and animals there. It’s a jewel in our district,” he said. “It could be made into a tourist attraction and we should preserve it, not turn it into baseball fields.”

In Woodhaven, the candidate cites several infrastructure problems that he said must be addressed, including the possibly carcinogenic substance called creosote that continues to drip down from the J train elevated platform and the preservation and maintenance of bus routes.

Several schools in Richmond Hill, which possesses some of the most crowded elementary, middle and high schools in the borough, are depriving students of the American dream by forcing them to learn in off-site annexes, he said. Baldeo said he would work to get more funding, computers, certified teachers, libraries, afterschool programs and arts and science classes in local schools.

“We shouldn’t deprive our children of the tools they need to be successful,” he said.  Other topics of concern include making healthcare affordable for all residents, creating more jobs in the district and helping homeowners who have either lost their homes to foreclosure or are in danger of losing them. He has fought to protect Mitchell-Lama affordable housing and views this as one way to help tenants avoid supporting “greedy landlords” who create illegal and dangerous apartments in the district.

“We have to educate people that it is illegal and unsafe for them to live there,” he said. “They’re being exploited.”  Overall, Baldeo said he would make sure more funding goes to the district. “This district has been neglected and people have become smug,” he said. “We have to answer the call.”




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