Jan. 12, 2020 By Allie Griffin
A former Assistant District Attorney has entered the Queens Borough President race, running as the tough-on-crime candidate among a group of left-leaning opponents.
Jim Quinn kicked off his campaign at a reception at Villa Erasmo in Middle Village Wednesday night, with a special election for the position to be held March 24.
Quinn, a lifelong Queens resident who lives in Richmond Hill with his wife, is aiming to make the switch to Borough Hall after working in the Queens District Attorney’s Office for 42 years.
He resigned from his position as Executive Assistant District Attorney of the Trial Division in December — just prior to Melinda Katz taking over the position as top prosecutor and installing a new executive team.
He is running on a campaign to “Keep Queens Safe,” positioning himself as a crime fighter who will protect Queens residents.
Quinn said he decided to run for Queens Borough President to use the position as a bully pulpit to speak out against the closure of Rikers Island as well as the new state bail laws, which ended pretrial detention and cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.
“When I decided to leave the DA’s Office in early December, I wanted to have a platform to talk about these two issues and to bring certain things to the attention of the public and politicians,” Quinn said.
Quinn has been an outspoken critic for some time against the closure of the Rikers Island prison facility, which the city plans to replace with four borough-based jails including one in Kew Gardens.
“I’ve been opposed to the closing of Rikers for the longest time — I’ve studied it, I’ve looked at it and I think it’s irresponsible on part of the city,” he said.
He also says that the new state bail laws need to be changed, arguing that the city will see more dangerous criminals on the streets. Advocates for these reforms, however, argue that cash bail criminalizes poverty and keeps poor New Yorkers incarcerated for minor offenses, while the wealthy walk free.
However, as borough president Quinn would have no authority to stop Rikers from closing or repeal state laws. While he acknowledges that fact, he said a Quinn victory would send a message to politicians that Queens is against the closing of Rikers Island and the bail law changes.
He also plans to host public hearings on these issues — an option within a borough president’s purview.
“I would hold legitimate public hearings about the effect that closing Rikers and releasing all these inmates will have on the community,” Quinn said. “I would do everything in my power to stop the city’s plan to spend approximately $10 billion to build [four community-based jails].”
Instead, he wants the city to rebuild the existing Rikers facilities. The city, however, has already begun the land use process to prevent future jails from being built on the island.
Quinn said he considered running for Queens District Attorney, but ultimately decided against it. He said he was concerned with how it would affect the office while he was campaigning, since he was on the executive team.
The former Assistant DA grew up in Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City and lived there until he was married. He attended public school in the area and graduated from Columbia University and later Fordham Law School.
Quinn joins a crowded field of candidates including Council Members Donovan Richards, Jimmy Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides; former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley; and police reform advocate Anthony Miranda.
He said he stands out from the other candidates because he’s not a politician “looking to move up on the political food chain” and isn’t beholden to any groups.
“I am trying to appeal to responsible people throughout Queens County,” he said. “I’m appealing to people who will look at the issues not passionately, but rationally and look at these things as to what effect they’re actually going to have on the lives of the people of this county.”