Joseph Crowley (D-NY)
Hellenic and Orthodox Champions in the US Congress
District: New York’s 14th which includes parts of Flushing, Whitestone, Woodside, Elmhurst, Pelham Bay in the Bronx etc.
Committee/Leadership Assignments: Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus (the 5th highest position in House Democratic Leadership); Ways and Means Committee (Subcommittee on oversight and Subcommittee on Human Resources).
Contact: (202) 225-3965, (718) 931-1400, (718) 779-1400
Regarding the state of the US economy, what are the prospects for recovery, and how soon?
I’m working hard to ensure New York, and our entire country, emerges stronger and better from this economic downturn. While we are seeing progress and growth in our economy, the fact is, there is much more still to be done. Our focus in Congress should be on creating jobs, boosting our economy, and creating a country where everyone has a chance to succeed – not just a select few. I believe the federal government has a role to play in laying the groundwork for small businesses and other employers to grow and create jobs. Whether it is ensuring the Small Business Administration is making loans to start-up companies or financing bonds to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, we need to make sure the government is doing the right things to spur economic growth. Putting Americans back to work should absolutely be our top priority in Congress. There is no question that the careless and devastating across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration will stifle our recovery. We absolutely need to address our nation’s deficit, but we shouldn’t do it at the expense of American jobs, our children or taking care of our veterans. Our country can’t lead the way if we aren’t making the investments that matter now. That’s why I opposed sequestration from the start, and will continue to press for ending it once and for all.
What are some of the particular challenges that you are facing in your district?
The economy certainly remains a challenge in my district. Too many families are still struggling to get by, let alone save for retirement. That’s why our focus must be on job creation, but also establishing economic certainty that will help give people peace of mind when it comes to investing in the future.I know New Yorkers are working every day to build a better life for their family, and I’m working hard for them in Congress and in our community. In my district, I’ve focused my energies on efforts that will help our small businesses grow and thrive, and have encouraged investments in our community that will help create the jobs of the future. Take the growing tech industry in Queens, for example. I’ve been a proponent of efforts to build up the tech industry in Queens as it will create opportunities for the local economy, and attract new, good-paying jobs that will stay in the community for years to come. This is exactly the kind of investment we should be making now so that we can build a stronger economy for the future. There is no question that Hurricane Sandy left a lasting impact on the economy of our entire region. Many people and business owners in my district are still trying to pick up the pieces from this devastating storm. The road to recovery will be long and not without challenges, but I have no doubt we will get through it as a community.
What would you say is the state of our democracy in these challenging and unusually polarized times?
The American people have made it clear that they want a Congress that works together, and that’s what we should give them. Unfortunately, all partisan games do is hinder our ability to find real solutions to the challenges ahead of us. Since coming to Congress, I’ve tried to find opportunities to work with my colleagues across the aisle, whether it’s legislation to address the looming doctor shortage or assistance for Hurricane Sandy victims. The fact is, the majority of issues don’t just affect one party or another – they affect all Americans. I’m hopeful that same camaraderie I’ve been able to establish with some of my colleagues can be achieved on a larger scale to tackle critical issues like the budget, immigration, and responsible gun violence prevention. There is a time and place for politics, but right now, when we have so many important issues on our plate, we need to work together. That’s what the American people are asking for, and that’s what they deserve.
In various polls conducted throughout the U.S. Congress hasn’t fared well with the American people. Why is that, in your opinion, and how do you address this issue as Congressman?
I understand why people are frustrated because I share their frustration. We’re over 100 days into this new Congress and nothing of substance has been accomplished. We have many challenges ahead of us – job creation, comprehensive immigration reform, responsible gun violence prevention – but the American people aren’t seeing action and they aren’t seeing solutions. My focus is on turning that frustration into being constructive, so we can tackle the issues that matter and get the job done for the American people. They deserve a Congress that works for them, and that’s what we should give them.
Would you encourage more active voter participation in your decision making as Congressman, using the advances of technology, like the Internet and other forms of communication?
Hearing from the people I serve is one of the most important and most enjoyable parts of my job. Whether it is over Twitter, Facebook, or in-person, I enjoy the opportunity to share my positions and the work I’m doing, and listen to my constituents’ concerns and questions. And, never has communicating been so easy. On my website (www.Crowley.House.Gov) constituents can email me to share their thoughts or ask a question. I often get messages over Facebook (www.facebook.com/RepJoeCrowley) from constituents in need of help with a federal agency, such as Social Security or Veterans Affairs, and I’ve been able to share the work I’m doing in real-time and interact with my constituents through Twitter (@RepJoeCrowley). While these tools will never replace face-to-face interaction, I hope they serve as a valuable resource to my constituents to learn more about the work I’m doing in Congress and in the community on their behalf.
How did you become interested in the Greek-American community, and who introduced you to them?
I first learned about Greek-American issues through the late Pete Chahales, a renowned community leader and small business owner in Queens. Pete owned and operated a very well-regarded restaurant in Maspeth called the Spartan. He was a friend of my uncle, who was a member of the State Assembly, and it was through that connection that I first became introduced to the Greek-American community. My involvement deepened after I began to learn more from Philip Christopher and traveled to the region. I continue to learn and work with members of the community to this day, including State Senator Mike Gianaris and State Assembly member Aravella Simotas.
What are your thoughts on the Cyprus issue and what are some of the things you’ve done to support settlement efforts?
This is a divide that has gone on for too long. When I traveled to Cyprus with Philip Christopher and PSEKA I saw how the ongoing division and occupation had wasted political, economic, and military resources that could have gone toward economic and commercial development and increased the standard of living for those on the Island and throughout the region. There have been some moves in the right direction, and those should be applauded. In fact, by some estimates there have been 17 million crossings over the past several years – those crossings have been peaceful and show that residents of the Island will live in peace under unified governance, if given the chance. I have been active on this issue over the years, co-sponsoring measures supporting Cyprus’ integration into the region and opposing efforts to interfere in its right to develop its energy resources. I believe that a just and viable solution is possible – the international community must intensify international efforts to make that a possibility and end the perpetuation of a divided island. I firmly believe that is in the best interests of the people of Cyprus.
Do you consider Turkish provocations in the Aegean a threat to regional stability and international peace? Also, what actions have you taken or do you plan to take to encourage the US to take a stronger stance against this kind of irresponsible behavior?
Certain moves in the Aegean have heightened tensions and made it more difficult to constructively settle problems. The unilateral imposition of conditions is not in the interests of peace and regional stability, and provocations have the potential to lead to serious regional conflict. Whether it is concerns relating to security, energy or defense, problems should be resolved through dialogue and legal mechanisms rather than threats. I want to see healthy, functioning relations in the region, not more uncertainty and instability. I do think this is an area where the United States can play a greater role and I will continue to raise the issue with the State Department.
Are you aware of the state persecution against the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey and what have you done to address this issue in Congress?
Religious persecution that targets anyone, especially minority groups, is not something that should be tolerated in the 21st century. In fact, one of the major factors attracting immigrants to the United States throughout our history has been our Constitutional guarantee of religious liberty. While we each may have our own deeply-held beliefs, respect for religious pluralism paves the way for greater understanding and reconciliation. With respect to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I have followed this issue closely over the years, including in reference to the potential re-opening of the Halki seminary. I have co-sponsored resolutions in Congress calling for the re-opening of the seminary, and spoken out on several occasions. President Obama indicated that Turkey will re-open the seminary, and my understanding is that Secretary Kerry pressed for action on this issue during his recent trip to Turkey in which he met with His All Holiness, Bartholomew.
Since the Bush Administration recognized FYROM as “Macedonia”, the country has become more intransigent when it comes to territorial and cultural irredentism against Greece who is a major financial supporter in the region. What kind of action on the part of the US would you promote in order for a mutually acceptable solution to be facilitated?
The naming issue is one that has been allowed to fester for too long. It would have been best if that name wasn’t chosen in the first place, but in light of current circumstances I very much urge Skopje to work within the United Nations structure to find a settlement acceptable to Athens. No one wants to see this problem lasting another decade, and we need to make sure we put full efforts into finding a solution. I believe a solution will benefit Skopje as well as Athens.
[sws_blue_box box_size=”610″] Neo Magazine and the public policy/lobbying firm of Manatos & Manatos in Washington, DC have come together to present a monthly profile of “Hellenic and Orthodox Champions in the US Congress.” [/sws_blue_box]