Rep. Gregory Meeks courts Nassau portion of remapped 5th District

Rep. Gregory Meeks shakes hands with Nicole Robinson,

Rep. Gregory Meeks shakes hands with Nicole Robinson, of Queens, at an event at the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center in St. Albans, Queens. (Oct. 15, 2012) (Credit: Steve Pfost)

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After seven terms in Congress and three in the State Assembly, Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks is a household name in southeast Queens.

But residents of far western Nassau County, where Meeks' 5th Congressional District has expanded, are just getting to know him.

The district, redrawn after the 2010 census, covers much of the territory of Queens' former 6th District, but also includes 50,000 voters in Elmont, North and South Valley Stream and Inwood. The district, which has more than 337,000 registered voters, is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Meeks, 58, a Democrat, will square off in the Nov. 6 election against GOP nominee Allan Jennings and Libertarian candidate Catherine Wark.

In recent months, Meeks has made frequent visits to the Nassau portion of the district, stressing his political experience and willingness to work across party lines. "The only way to represent people is to get to know them and to hear from them," he said.

Dr. Ernestine Sanders, chief executive of the Jamaica-based Clergy United for Community Empowerment, a consortium of churches citywide, said Meeks has been an advocate for district homeowners facing foreclosure.

"He has been a marvelous congressman," said Sanders, who has known Meeks for two decades. "He's very amicable and makes himself available to people in the community."

Marc Tenzer, president of the Mill Brook Civic Association in South Valley Stream, has worked closely with Meeks in a fight against new federal flood zone maps.

"He understands the issues," Tenzer said. "I trust him and consider him a friend."

But Philmon Kempadoo, a local volunteer firefighter who attended a recent campaign event, said Meeks will need to get up to speed on Nassau County issues. "He needs to prove himself to the people here," said Kempadoo, of Elmont. "You've got to start from the ground up in Elmont."

Meeks said that if re-elected, he'll move to increase development at Belmont Park and work to force the Federal Emergency Management Agency to redraw its flood map, which for the first time includes residents of Valley Stream. The map is used to identify neighborhoods at risk of flood damage. Properties that are included are subject to higher insurance rates.

"They would have to pay these huge amounts for flood insurance even though they have not had a flood in four decades," Meeks said. "It just doesn't make sense."

Meeks was raised in public housing in East Harlem and attended local public schools. His family had little money, and Meeks recalled that his parents worked long hours to help with his education.

After obtaining a bachelor's degree at Adelphi University in Garden City and a law degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., Meeks worked as an assistant district attorney and special narcotics prosecutor in Queens. He later became a supervising judge for the State Workers Compensation System. Meeks, of St. Albans, is married and has three daughters.

Meeks' first run for public office came in 1992, when he won his race for State Assembly by 300 votes. Six years later, Meeks was elected to Congress to fill the seat of Democratic Rep. Floyd Flake, who retired.

Meeks serves as ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia. As a senior member of the Financial Services Committee, Meeks helped draft and negotiate passage of the 2010 financial regulation reform bill.

In 2008, he revealed that he had received a $40,000 personal loan from Queens businessman Edul Ahmad without reporting it on his House financial disclosure forms, a violation of House Ethics rules. Meeks has called it an "oversight."

The House Ethics Committee said last year that it was investigating the 2007 loan, but that it had dismissed an allegation that Meeks in 2010 had received an improper commercial loan. The committee declined Newsday's request for comment on its investigation.

Meeks has denied all of the allegations and has not been charged with any criminal offense.

He said he'd eventually be vindicated. "The truth will come to light. It's a short-term pain for long-term gain."

REP. GREGORY MEEKS

Age 58

Home St. Albans

Education Bachelor's degree from Adelphi University; law degree from Howard University

Career Seven-term congressman; serves as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia; previously served three terms in New York State Assembly

Family Married with three daughters

CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING

Total campaign contributions* $657,909

Total Spent $571,362

Debt/loans $28,200

Cash on hand $71,957

Figures through Sept. 29

*Excludes refunded contributions

Source: Federal Election Commission

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