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Former CB2 Chair Announces Run for Council Seat, Says She is the ‘Common Sense Candidate’

Denise Keehan-Smith kicks off her campaign for the 26th Council District. The primary is schedule to take place in June (Photo: QueensPost)

Oct. 27, 2020 By Christian Murray

Denise Keehan-Smith, the former chairperson of Queens Community Board 2, held a press conference in Woodside Saturday and announced that she is running to be the next council member for the 26th council district.

The life-long Woodsider, who was joined by about 40 people by the Big Six Towers on Queens Boulevard, said that she is “the common sense candidate.”

Keehan-Smith is one of 17 candidates vying for the seat that is currently held by Jimmy Van Bramer, who is unable to run again due to term limits.

“I have decided that we need to take our neighborhood in a new direction,” Keehan-Smith said. “We need to get back to basics.”

Keehan-Smith said that most residents across the council district want the same thing.

“They want decent jobs, a thriving small business community and clean streets. We don’t want to pass rats when we are walking through the neighborhood…and we want to be safe.”

She said senior citizens should be able to walk to church and not get assaulted, referencing an incident where an 84-year-old man was robbed in August on his way to St. Sebastian’s in Woodside.

Keehan-Smith said that she would work to save small businesses, create a plan to address homelessness and would work with the NYPD to make the district safe. She also wants to tackle climate change and advocate for fixing what she says is a decaying transit system.

She said that she has a deep knowledge of Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside that she learned while being on Community Board 2 for eight years, with four of those as chair. She also has deep ties to the community, she said, having attended P.S. 11 on Skillman Avenue and St. Sebastian’s Catholic school.

The Woodsider reiterated the need for safety and noted that residents have no other option but to support the police.

“We have to work with the NYPD. There is no other way,” Keehan-Smith said. “We are [a city] of 8 ½ million people. How can anyone think we can survive without some sort of police force.”

She said she is running a grass-roots campaign and is not being supported by lobbyists or REBNY. “I am on my own, created my own website.”

Denise Keehan-Smith announces run for Council Seat 26 in Woodside Saturday (Photo: QueensPost)

Keehan-Smith lost her position as the chair of CB2 in April after not being reappointed to the board by Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee in consultation with Van Bramer. The board, which elected her chair by a unanimous vote, was stunned by her non reappointment and no specific reason has been provided for her departure.

She noted that she was chair of Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee in 2015 and voted in favor of protected bicycle lanes on Queens Boulevard. She said she advocated for a separate bicycle lane on the Queensboro Bridge—an initiative that still has yet to be done.

She said that she voted against the DOT changes to Skillman Avenue.

“I got a lot of flak over the Skillman Avenue [protected] bike lanes because I voted against them,” she said. “I just responded to the community. We had multiple and multiple community meetings and people said over and over again they didn’t want them. I took a stand for my community and I continue to get attacked for it.”

Former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, as well as Dan Connor the owner of Donovan’s Pub located on Roosevelt Avenue, also spoke on her behalf at the press conference.

Crowley said that the city faces a massive deficit and that it needs people who can provide strong, sensible leadership.

“We will need leaders who can make tough decisions and have the type of leadership Denise has.”

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8 Comments

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Denise Keehan-Smith

Your comments are false. I have never been under investigation, nor was I removed from the CB2 board. My term expired and I was not re-app0inted.

I first reported CB2 District Manager, Debra Markell-Kleinhert and Queens Borough Hall Leadership to the NYC Department of Investigations in January, 2020.

I could not account for Debra’s hours and refused to sign her time sheets beginning in June, 2019. For a six month period, I asked QBH to intervene, but they refused. In January, 2020, I reported the issue to the DOI. In February, 2020, DOI forwarded the matter to QBH. In March, 2020, unbeknownst to me, Debra filed false EEOC claims against me based on age, disability and religion. To this day, her claims have not been substantiated. I have never been advised of any scenarios in which the alleged discrimination occurred.

On May 25, 2020 an article appeared in a local newspaper stating Debra filed EEOC discrimination charges against me. I knew the claims were false. I immediately called Acting Borough President Sharon Lee to ask why I wasn’t informed about the charges in March. She advised she didn’t know about it and couldn’t talk at the moment. Later that night, I received an email from the QBH EEOC representatives advising charges were filed against me. I called to ask why I wasn’t informed about the false claims within 48 hours as required by law. Two months had passed and I had no knowledge about the charges. They couldn’t answer me either. On May 27th, I called Sharon Lee again to complain that this whole matter was handled poorly and she should have taken action sooner about Markell-Kleinhert time sheets and false claims. She again said she couldn’t speak. I complained about the claims and asked the status because this was an attack on my character. She said they were ‘dismissed’. I didn’t know what she meant and wanted my name cleared. I told her I would be away for several days and we were scheduled to speak the following week on June 2nd.

On Sunday, May 31st, at 10:30pm, Sharon Lee called to advise I would not be re-appointed to CB2.

In June, 2020, Coucilmember Robert Holden called to ask what had happened. I explained everything to him and sent him copies of the email correspondance I had with QBH and DOI. Councilmember Holden sent a letter to Sharon Lee requesting an explanation. He also sent a letter to the DOI requesting an investigation as to why I wasn’t re-appointed to CB2. In September, 2020, I called the DOI to request an update. DOI advised they could not confirm that Acting Borough President Sharon Lee was legally allowed to make a determination against a board member. The NYC Charter is silent on the matter. I believe I should have been protected by the ‘Whistleblower Law’ but because I was a volunteer, the law didn’t apply to me. If I was a city em ployee, the outcome would have been very different.

It’s also noteworthy that I was elected Chair of CB2 five times within a four year period. I volunteered tirelessly for my community and never received any compensation whatsoever.

There is a great deal more to add about Jimmy Van Bramer’s actions against me, but I will address that at a later time.

If you’d like further clarification, please contact me directly. Hiding behind a keyboard and making anonymous comments about my character is cowardly. I have nothing to hide, do you?

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The price is wrong

When we look back at the Queens Streets for All charade, it is easy to think of the ineptness of its progenitor: the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. However, as important as the ignorance of its creator was the confounding role of it’s biggest cheerleader/enabler: former CB2 board chair, Denise Keehan-Smith.

Queens Streets always saw influencing the board vote and stalling/undermining its process as their gambit to stop the bike lanes. Their biggest (or only) success was in fact to turn Denise Keehan-Smith from the person holding a press conference asking for protected bike lanes into someone repeating verbatim their non-sensical NIMBY arguments against the plan. By having a board chair weak enough to take them at their word, they no longer needed to undermine the board, they were now emboldened enough to ask Denise to host a CB2/Chamber meeting to discuss only alternatives to the bike lane. It was clear Denise was in their pocket and would do any unethical bidding, up to and including unilaterally reversing the 5-2 favorable committee vote.

This extraordinary turn of events should automatically disqualify Ms. Keehan-Smith from not only the community board, but from any kind of public service, much less as an elected representative of our neighborhood. Sunnysider’s should have a lot more common sense than voting for this candidate, or the other Queens Streets adherent, Brent O’Leary.

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Queens Streets for LOL

Denise, please draft a full board resolution to bypass the general election and have the board select the council member for the 26th district. We will definitely need to circumvent democracy to get you in so we can finally authoritatively get our way. LOL

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Not a good candidate

Reeks of back-room corruption and unethical conduct from her time at the community board. She wasn’t removed for “no specific reason,” she was under investigation for a litany of complaints…why not report on those? This candidacy is DOA.

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Denise Keehan-Smith

Your comments are false. I have never been under investigation, nor was I removed from the CB2 board. My term expired and I was not re-app0inted.

I first reported CB2 District Manager, Debra Markell-Kleinhert and Queens Borough Hall Leadership to the NYC Department of Investigations in January, 2020.

I could not account for Debra’s hours and refused to sign her time sheets beginning in June, 2019. For a six month period, I asked QBH to intervene, but they refused. In January, 2020, I reported the issue to the DOI. In February, 2020, DOI forwarded the matter to QBH. In March, 2020, unbeknownst to me, Debra filed false EEOC claims against me based on age, disability and religion. To this day, her claims have not been substantiated. I have never been advised of any scenarios in which the alleged discrimination occurred.

On May 25, 2020 an article appeared in a local newspaper stating Debra filed EEOC discrimination charges against me. I knew the claims were false. I immediately called Acting Borough President Sharon Lee to ask why I wasn’t informed about the charges in March. She advised she didn’t know about it and couldn’t talk at the moment. Later that night, I received an email from the QBH EEOC representatives advising charges were filed against me. I called to ask why I wasn’t informed about the false claims within 48 hours as required by law. Two months had passed and I had no knowledge about the charges. They couldn’t answer me either. On May 27th, I called Sharon Lee again to complain that this whole matter was handled poorly and she should have taken action sooner about Markell-Kleinhert time sheets and false claims. She again said she couldn’t speak. I complained about the claims and asked the status because this was an attack on my character. She said they were ‘dismissed’. I didn’t know what she meant and wanted my name cleared. I told her I would be away for several days and we were scheduled to speak the following week on June 2nd.

On Sunday, May 31st, at 10:30pm, Sharon Lee called to advise I would not be re-appointed to CB2.

In June, 2020, Coucilmember Robert Holden called to ask what had happened. I explained everything to him and sent him copies of the email correspondance I had with QBH and DOI. Councilmember Holden sent a letter to Sharon Lee requesting an explanation. He also sent a letter to the DOI requesting an investigation as to why I wasn’t re-appointed to CB2. In September, 2020, I called the DOI to request an update. DOI advised they could not confirm that Acting Borough President Sharon Lee was legally allowed to make a determination against a board member. The NYC Charter is silent on the matter. I believe I should have been protected by the ‘Whistleblower Law’ but because I was a volunteer, the law didn’t apply to me. If I was a city em ployee, the outcome would have been very different.

It’s also noteworthy that I was elected Chair of CB2 five times within a four year period. I volunteered tirelessly for my community and never received any compensation whatsoever.

There is a great deal more to add about Jimmy Van Bramer’s actions against me, but I will address that at a later time.

If you’d like further clarification, please contact me directly. Hiding behind a keyboard and making anonymous comments about my character is cowardly. I have nothing to hide, do you?

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David

Keegan Smith said that she is “the common sense candidate.” The rallying cry of people who like to manipulate gullible voters by over simplifying complex issues. What exactly does “We need to get back to basics.” mean? She said senior citizens should be able to walk to church and not get assaulted, referencing an incident where an 84-year-old man was robbed in August on his way to St. Sebastian’s in Woodside. This was one isolated incident. Thousands of senior citizens have made their way to and from St. Sebastians since this unfortunate incident. The perp was apprehended as well. It’s not common or recurring issue. No crime wave or something that is rampant in the area. She said “how can anyone think we can survive with some sort of police force.” Nobody has said this or even believes this. “Defunding” the police means redirecting resources and responsibilities. The mentally ill are a good example. Mentally ill and distressed individuals disproportionately bite into NYPD man hours and man power not to mention court awarded payouts from judgements. Pat Lynch pretends he is worried about public safety when his true concern are his union members overtime. This woman has offered nothing but solution free agitation.

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