Leavitt, who is running against Marshall in the Democratic primary for borough president, has a long history of community activism he says has prepared him to lead Queens in the years ahead.
Perhaps taking a page from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s playbook, Leavitt said he plans to put his borough on the city, national, and international map in a big way.
“I think that Queens is the heart of the greatest city in the world and we don’t get enough credit for it,” Leavitt said. “The borough president’s role is to promote the whole borough.”
Leavitt has lived in Sunnyside for the past 34 years, where for almost all of that time he has practiced at the law firm Leavitt, Kerson and Duane. A specialist in elder law, Leavitt lectures for the Alzheimer’s Association, the Queens Civic Association, and is a member (and former president) of the Sunnyside Kiwanis Club.
Though he hasn’t served in elected office since the early 1980’s, when he won a seat on a community school board, Leavitt said he decided now was the time to step up once again.
“We need a leader who ensures good things happen, job-wise and education-wise,” Leavitt said. To boost the borough economy, Leavitt plans to start by working with small businesses in communities across Queens.
He proposed pouring resources into a kind of Main Street program that would bring financial assistance and attention to prominent commercial corridors from Bell Boulevard to Steinway Street.
Eventually, said Leavitt, the Main Street program could be extended to cover every neighborhood in the borough, highlighting every one’s unique cultural attributes. “We need to blend the ethnic strengths of our different communities with their economic strengths,” Leavitt said.
Other ideas include a Brooklyn-style book fair and the creation of sister communities to strengthen the bonds between communities within Queens, Leavitt said.
He acknowledged running against an incumbent is a challenge, but said a “perfect storm is brewing” due to frustration on the part of Queens residents looking for a break from the status quo. “It’s definitely going to be an uphill struggle,” said Leavitt, “but in the age of Obama, people want change.”