Wednesday, October 19

City Councilman James Gennaro

                                              (Photo Credit: Weissman for NY Daily News)

A famous, Hollywood-embraced environmental politician with an endorsement from Senator Hilary Clinton. It is not Al Gore, but rather, 24th Council District representative James Gennaro(D). Gennaro holds the distinction of being perhaps one of the most environmentally progressive politicians in the history of New York state: Currently the Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, Gennaro has attained a stature as that extends beyond the borders of New York, appearing at the Sundance Film Festival twice (he was involved in the documentary 'FUEL', a winner of the Best Documentary Audience Award). Like the most famous environmentally friendly politician, Gennaro is undeniably earnest: He speaks in a energetic, sometimes rambling voice, a voice known to be amusing even in disagreement (In a YouTube video, he calls the Environmental Control Board a ‘real kangaroo court’.) Capital New York writes: “He also gives the impression of being genuinely enthusiastic about rock formations.”

James Gennaro (preferring to go by ‘Jim’) took office in 2002 as a geologist turned politician. Gennaro has used his extensive background to promote ‘green’ buildings, protect and restore Jamaica Bay, regulate water and sewer rates, and reduce pesticides, to offer a few. Gennaro has also been apart of numerous other initiatives, including delivering (in 2006) one million dollars in technology for children, and funding over 100 senior and youth based initiatives. The New York City Council website emphasizes Genarro’s broad work, calling him a “one-stop shop” for thousand of constituents. 

While some have praised Gennaro’s wide-ranging activity, others have questioned his means of gaining public support, sometimes at the detriment of other city projects. In 2007, it was revealed that James Genarro accepted donations from the Kamali Developers, an organization that sought to build St. Johns dorms Genaaro was openly opposed to (Gennaro identified himself as a “ardent opponent to the dorm project and advocate for what is best in the community”). In a September 2007 article, The Queens Courier reported that, when asked about the donations from the Kamali Campaign, Gennaro replied: “We all have to raise campaign funds”.

In 2008, Gennaro ran for senate against republican senator Frank Padavan, a District 11 representative. A longtime member of the Queens community, Padavan was a long time fix in the community, generating goodwill despite a favored Democrat community make-up. After 3 months of recounted ballots (at one point Padavan challenged the legitimacy of some St. Johns students who had voted), Padavan was announced the winner. Gennaro’s YouTube page contains numerous campaign videos, and the account was last updated in 2009. A visit to is met with a white screen and small text reading “Coming soon........Under construction”.

In 2009, Gennaro was re-elected for a third term as 24th Council District representative (a term that will last until December 31st, 2013).  For the last three and a half years, Gennaro has focused on generating opposition to the draft guidelines for “fracking”: The extracting of gas from untapped natural gas reserves (also known as the “Haliburton Loophole”, because Halliburton is a main player in fracking and exempt from the Clean Water Act). Gennaro is considered a leader in the “the biggest environmental issue almost no one in New York City is paying attention to.” Gennaro concedes, ”I’m a local legislator. I don’t control what the state does. But I’m trying to do the best I can trying to get people to understand what’s at stake”. “

Gennaro has called for a moratorium on all activity until the science is done, but the goal remains distant. Gennaro seems an ideal candidate for an environmental issue still barely pulsating in the hearts of New Yorkers: An unassuming, dedicated-almost-to-a-fault environmentalist, James Gennaro continues to believe that the spring will not be silenced.

                                                (A breakdown of the 24th District)

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