Public service

Elizabeth Crowley continues the family tradition of public service

Elizabeth Crowley at a Citywide Night Out Against Crime event in August 2022. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/elizcrowleyny

Crowley family portrait. Elizabeth Crowley sits on her father’s lap. Photo: Wikipedia

Elizabeth Crowley has spent this week knocking on doors and shaking hands at subway stations in the New York boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens – where she was born into an Irish Catholic family of 15 children.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t have the love and support of my great Irish family,” says Crowley, a former New York City Councilman, who is now running for a -disputed seat in the New York State Senate.

“You’re never alone in a big family,” Crowley adds. “They taught me to fight for what is right.”

Irish America magazine caught up with Crowley on Friday afternoon, after a morning spent in Astoria talking to commuters, followed by a lunch break at the Queensbridge Houses.

“We are there every day, meeting voters. Every night we knock on doors,” says Crowley, whose cousin, Joe Crowley, was a long-time congressman and Democratic Party broker.

Elizabeth Crowley’s father, Walter, was also a council member, as well as a Democratic district leader. When he died in 1985, his wife, Mary – who had previously served on the local school board – completed her husband’s term.

When Crowley was elected in 2008 to represent part of Queens on the council, she became the third member of her family to serve.

Elizabeth Crowley. Photo: facebook.com/elizcrowleyny

Now Crowley is seeking to represent a newly drawn district for the upper house of the state legislature, which meets in Albany.

Thus, voters in New York will go to the polls on Tuesday, August 23, as part of a special electoral process. Crowley is running against several opponents to be the Democratic Party’s nominee in November to represent this new state Senate district, which covers swaths of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

A few weeks ago, New York 1 reported that Crowley’s race was one of “a handful of competitive primaries for the state Senate.” The station also characterized this run for a “newly formed neighborhood along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront” as “tightly guarded,” adding that Crowley has “received approval from key city leaders, Mayor Eric Adams and City Council President Adrienne Adams.”

Crowley also received a slew of endorsements from organized labor, which has long been the backbone of Crowley’s family’s political support.

Crowley herself is a member of District 9 Council, which represents “Painters and Allied Trades”.

Prior to being elected, Crowley worked on historic preservation projects at Radio City Music Hall as well as St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The Crowley neighborhood now seeks to represent neighborhoods such as the East Side of Manhattan, Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, as well as Astoria in Queens.

Each of these areas historically had distinct enclaves of Irish, Polish, Greek, and Jewish immigrants.

In recent years, neighborhoods have become trendier — and expensive, leading to a much higher cost of living for residents.

And that was before COVID and the surge in inflation that followed.

“Affordability,” Crowley says when asked about an issue that has dominated the campaign trail.

Elizabeth Crowley with her two sons, Owen and Dennis.

“We heard a lot from residents talking about housing and the high cost of living. It got out of hand for way too many people,” adds Crowley, herself a single mother of two children, Owen and Dennis.

Crowley says she’s also heard concerns from residents about rising crime rates and the need for better transportation and infrastructure.

Crowley tried to impress on voters that she had the experience to do the job.

“I’m the only one who was elected before,” she said.

Observers said turnout in Tuesday’s election could be low, meaning the final results could be close, and it could even take some time to finalize the vote count and determine an official winner.

That’s why Crowley is making sure she uses the last few days before the election to keep criss-crossing the district and pounding the pavement.

Whenever she is able to take a break on the road, she says she hopes to visit the Donegal Hills, one of her favorite places in Ireland.

She last visited Ireland in 2019, for the opening of the James Connolly Library in Belfast.

“It was an amazing experience,” Crowley says. ♦

To learn more about Elizabeth Crowley, visit her website.