Council member Koo, Mitte, a.o. (Photo: John McCarten / City Council)
In central Queens Borough of 20, which stretches across Flushing, Murray Hill and Queensboro Hill, there is a crowded and competitive Democratic primary this month onslaught on controversial issues such as anti-Asian hate crime, rededication of the Flushing waterfront, a busway on Main Street in downtown flushing and fighting for small businesses.
Hailing Chen, an Uber driver and gig worker activist, hopes to replace outgoing Councilor Peter Koo, known as the "Mayor of Flushing"; John Choe, community organizer and professor of public policy; Anthony Miranda, a retired NYPD sergeant; Sandra Ung, lawyer and congress assistant; Neng Wang, a director of the Sino-American Planning Council; Dao Yiin, general secretary of the Shanghai Association of America; Ellen Young, a former state senator; and Ming-Kang Low, who doesn't seem to be running a major campaign.
The race put the Queens Democratic establishment on trial. City & State reports that a coalition of seven Democratic candidates (Chen, Choe, Low, Miranda, Wang, Yin, and Young) has formed against the Democratic Party-backed Ung to strategically use the ranked election to win the party-backed pick, which is supported by Koo, among others.
The coalition wants a "change in leadership" as concerns about the party's lack of accountability and transparency. Miranda and Choe say they were excluded from the Democrats' decision to support Ung, claiming that the party internally pretended the nominees with no public input. Meanwhile, Choe, an outspoken local activist who speaks out against the development of the private market, faces his own opposition as he is targeted by his community council members.
The candidates are fighting to represent a district that, according to 2010 census data, has seen massive influx of Asian-American residents since 2000, up 37% from 2000 to 2010. The district's 160,913 residents were in 2010 64.1% Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), 15.6% Hispanic American, 15.4% White, and 2.7% Black.
The racist response to the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have sparked a wave of hate crimes against the city's AAPI population, which Koo has spoken out to fight, calling on Congress and the President to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crime Act issued to investigate the pandemic -related hate crimes against Americans of Asian descent. Koo announced his support for mayoral candidate Eric Adams in part because of his tough stance on crime, but also in connection with Adams & # 39; Positions in education, including maintaining the entrance exam to specialized high schools (a position Adams assumed after turning himself over). .
A recent report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that New York City saw hate crimes against AAPI residents increase by 223% between the first quarter of 2020 and 2021. It has become a key issue in the race to replace Koo.
Health infrastructure in Queens, especially after the pandemic, is another pressing problem in the county and beyond. In a June 1 letter to the State Department of Health, 51 candidates and elected Queens officials, including Ung and Hailing in that race, called for expanded hospital capacity in the district, which it says currently has the fewest hospital beds per capita in the city Bloomberg report.
The long dispute over the busway project on Main Street in Flushing for a largely car-free zone for the 19 bus routes that run through the lively industrial park is also driving the race on. Despite a 2018 DOT report showing the busway's worth, a consortium of flushing companies, including the Flushing Chinese Business Association, says it hurts their profits, despite the report finding 79% of shoppers walk or use public transport to get to a store. Proponents of the plan, such as Mayor de Blasio, point out that it "will serve 150,000 New Yorkers every day."
Koo was against the bus and led a suppressed “Business Lives Matter” chant at a press conference held by the Ministry of Transport last July. With Koo's support, the business consortium sued the city for not having properly consulted the public before changing the streetscape and obtained an injunction before finally losing the case in early January.
Even mayoral candidate Andrew Yang spoke out on the bus, saying he was "open to re-examining" the new project, which was finally implemented on January 19 and which quickly increased bus efficiency. Candidates in the district will have to decide whether to sponsor the emerging project or fight to make it go back, especially if the next mayor looks less cheap on the bus route.
Flushing waterfront rezoning is another major theme shaping the primary race, though the project continues after the city council, at Koo's urging, approved a private zoning plan in December 2020 that Koo said would be "an isolated and polluted fallow land in an active community on the water with open spaces and promenade for the public. "
The plan for the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD), proposed to the city council by a group of three developers – the F&T Group, the United Construction & Development Group, and the Young Nian Group – was sharply criticized by some and supported by others , a lightning rod similar to many other major development projects in the city, in this case about whether high-end condominiums and a new hotel for the area would be bad for the cost of living or whether the project would be beneficial given the economic activity and new amenities such as parking spaces.
Chen immigrated to New York from southeast China's Fujian Province at the age of 14 and worked in restaurants and as an Uber driver to support his family and pay for college. Chen is organizing with the Independent Drivers Guild and a member of the Machinists Union to fight for gig workers' rights after successfully getting a 44% raise and better performance for the city's loaner drivers, he claims on his campaign website.
According to the NYC Campaign Finance Board (CFB) website on June 8, Chen hopes to head this battle for gig workers' rights with his arsenal of $ 43,220 in privately raised funds and $ 160,443 in public matching funds Bringing the City Council was introduced in the city council to deal with the categorization of gig workers as salaried employees, Chen told the Queens Chronicle that the council must guarantee gig workers a "viable wage" as well.
On his website, Chen's platform is relatively sparse, with only one sentence per campaign goal outlining a community solution.
On housing construction, Chen said he will work to ensure that all New Yorkers have the ability to own their own homes, build 500,000 new affordable units, and look to Koo's pro-basement position to help tackle overcrowding. Chen signed the open letter calling for Koo's opposition to the SFWD waterfront development project.
While driving for Uber, Chen told Documented NY that he had witnessed firsthand the discrimination Chinese motorists faced without protesting due to inappropriate customer complaints and anti-Chinese rhetoric. Although he has not proposed specific solutions to combat the rise in discrimination against AAPI communities, Chen said public relations should be a starting point to fight for vulnerable populations.
Less clearly than some of his opponents, Chen says that while the Main Street Busway is important to efficiently dividing up the street, he wants to see more parking and is open to changes in design, although he doesn't go into any specifics.
Chen, proponent of a universal basic income of $ 1,000, wants a larger social safety net that includes urban food hubs to provide free and reduced access to quality food to those in need, as well as an urban universal health system with no deductibles or co-payments.
Choe emigrated from South Korea to New York as a teenager, where his family opened a grocery store. He is a graduate of SUNY and the University of Chicago and has continued his work in public affairs and politics as an adjunct professor at Queens College. Choe worked for the current State Senator, John Liu, beginning his tenure on the City Council in the 1990s and eventually becoming his State Senate Chief of Staff. He ran for the seat in 2009 when Liu was elected auditor, but lost in the primary. Choe founded numerous community groups like the Flushing Interfaith Council to promote religious tolerance and the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce to support Flushing's small business community.
Choe, an active player in the SFWD dispute as the leader of one of the organizations that sued the city and a signatory to the open letter to Koo, told The City that his campaign was "insurgent … opposition to the development community." which he claims has "their tentacles in our democracy". Choe is a member of Queens Community Board 7, which approved SFWD Plan 30-8 in February 2020. Choe, an outspoken critic of the project during the hearings, said he would only support the plan if it included 500 units of affordable housing.
On his website, Choe says he will fight to ban luxury developments until more affordable housing units are built, the ULURP land use process is reformed, and more community contributions are taken into account. In addition, Choe hopes to reform the region's median income to better reflect residents' ability to pay the rent and ensure tenants can stay in their homes despite the pandemic calamity.
Choe's vocal criticism of development has made him some enemies on the more development-oriented CB 7 he sits on. In an unprecedented move just days before the early voting began, CB 7 notified Choe of numerous allegations they had made against him of ethics violations that threatened his board membership, the Queens Daily Eagle reported.
Choe denies violating codes of ethics, calling the investigation a "witch hunt against me" full of "reflections" of his anti-development stance, which often clashes with the leadership of the board. In a statement to QNS, Choe said he believed the move was an attempt to "suppress contradictions and cement the power of the board of directors who rammed the rezoning."
Choe's loud disagreement during the SFWD approval process was interpreted by counterparts as an unnecessary level of defiance. Koo, who did not nominate Choe to the board earlier this year despite being eventually appointed by Donovan Richards, the president of the Queens borough, told the Eagle that Choe always posed an obstacle to moving the board's agenda forward rather than "( Kelty, Chair of CB 7, echoed Koo's complaint, saying she was "tired" of Choe's repeated failure to follow board procedures and that he even "got up and left" in between.
Choe believes the investigation is politically motivated to quell resistance to development. It sends "a message that you should not attend, speak out and attend such public hearings and meetings," he told the eagle.
Despite the investigation and controversy, Choe calls for a lot of support for his city council with the support of the Working Families Party, health workers (1199 SEIU), school administrations (CSA), the immigration justice group Make the Road Action, the racial justice group Community Voices Heard, tenant rights group tenants PAC, road safety group StreetsPAC, National Association of Social Workers, Environmental Justice Group Resilience PAC, AOC's Courage to Change PAC, State Senators John Liu, Robert Jackson and James Sanders Jr., Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Brad Lander, and Congregation member Ron Kim. According to CFB, on June 8, Choe raised $ 54,629 in private donations and $ 160,444 in public matching funds.
Choe has been a strong supporter of the Flushing Main Street busway and hopes to expand open roads and add protected bike lanes, according to his website.
In an interview, Choe said the police "are not always there" and "cannot be relied on" to fight anti-Asian hate crimes. Instead, he argued, we must rely on the people in "our neighborhoods" to "stand up, protect and intervene".
Miranda, who lost to Richards in the Queens borough presidential race last year, is a retired NYPD sergeant who now chairs the National Latino Officers Association, which he helped found after seeing discrimination in law enforcement.
Miranda claims to have been elected "Democratic Coalition Chairman for Council District 20," the group of seven candidates who oppose Ung. He is openly against the democratic establishment, whose “machine policy” does not serve the community, he argued in a recent press release.
No recommendations are posted on Miranda's website, despite the fact that the NYPD Sheriffs Association endorsed him during his campaign for the district president. He raised $ 25,695, of which the CFB said on Jan.
While not signing the open letter against the SFWD development plan, Miranda told the Queens Daily Eagle that he was opposed to the plan because of the lack of affordable housing units and the likelihood of increases in rents for Flushing residents. Instead, Miranda wants "a moratorium on luxury development" to change zones to revitalize less populated areas of Queens and "lift all public housing construction caps," he explains on his website.
On its website, Miranda also promises to develop pedestrian and bike-friendly areas, but made it clear that "these additions will not come at the expense of small businesses."
In an interview with QNS, Miranda said that defusing the NYPD would only serve to undermine the diversity, accountability and transparency of the department. However, he said funding social and community services should be a priority, but the money can come from "more than one institution".
Miranda's website provides a detailed political platform on public safety with accountability, ending mass incarceration, decriminalizing poverty, ending racialism and ending the drug war as primary goals. He wants to strengthen oversight of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, appoint a permanent independent special prosecutor to investigate police misconduct, promote the recruitment of officials from the local community and those detained for crimes related to "poverty, mental illness", Provide addiction treatment and other support, (or) addiction. "
A lack of diversity and equal opportunities in the city's technical schools are a problem in Miranda's eyes. He hopes to make funding more equitable in all schools and expand the admissions process to include qualities beyond testing, such as extracurricular activities. Making CUNY free is another, longer-term, educational goal for Miranda.
Ung has an extensive career in public service and community advocacy and has extensive support from elected officials including Koo and Rep. Grace Meng. Ung has lived in Flushing since she was 10, immigrated from Taiwan, and attended New York public schools her entire life before graduating from Columbia Law School with a law degree. She is now Meng's Special Assistant and has served in the State Parks Department, the City Auditor’s Bureau, and the State Assembly.
As a community advocate, Ung sits on the board of directors of Flushing's YMCA and is the executive director of At the Table PAC, a group that advocates expanding the representation of women and minorities in politics.
In May, Ung agreed with Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, who lauded her as an "aspiring AAPI leader" at a time when "greater representation of the AAPI in government will be critical to ensuring a fair recovery."
Ung had raised $ 109,504 in private funds and $ 160,444 in public matching funds by June 10, according to CFB, and she is backed by many Queens-elected Democrats beyond Koo and Meng and some from other counties: councilors Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera, Justin Brannan and Karen Koslowitz, State Senators Toby Stavisky and John Liu, and Congregation members Catalina Cruz, Nily Rozic, Dan Rosenthal and Ed Braunstein; as well as many unions: teachers and school overseers and administrators, real estate workers, civil servants, nurses, hotel workers, healthcare workers, communications workers, plumbing workers, firefighters, transportation workers, retail workers, and others. Ung is also supported by numerous community and interest groups: New American Voters Association, NY League of Conservation Voters, National Institute of Reproductive Health, NY Pan-Asian Democratic Club, Stonewall Democratic Club, Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club of Queens, Women in Political Group 21 in & # 39; 21 and Vote Pro Choice.
While her abundance of endorsements, lineage, and ample funding make her a clear front runner, Ung's website platform often resorts to fluffy rhetoric without giving details.
In an interview with QNS, Ung named restoring the pandemic as the top priority of their campaign. To help small businesses affected by the pandemic, she plans to end fines for minor mistakes, add voice connections to the Department of Small Business Services, and organize law and business seminars for small business owners.
Ung also hopes to expand the after-school program and bring more gifted and talented programs to schools in Flushing, she says on her website.
To combat anti-Asian hate crimes, Ung says she will fund the city's Human Rights Commission in full to investigate and prosecute discrimination and hate crimes, and promises to be a "staunch civil rights advocate for all New Yorkers" on her website. She told Jim Owles, an LGBTQ-focused club, that cops should be removed from schools, taken from mental health calls, and no longer routed through traffic enforcement.
In July 2020, the Queens Daily Eagle reported that Ung was skeptical of the “lack of parking” and the diversion of traffic to the nearby bus routes, arguing that small businesses should be consulted before “we make changes of this magnitude ".
Ung did not sign the open letter to indicate opposition to the SFWD project and told The City that it did not have to make a decision on the matter yet. She told Jim Owles that, in her opinion, "organized workers and community groups are too late to get involved in the (development) discussion".
Wang, the former director of the Nan Shan Senior Center of the Sino-American Planning Council, immigrated from Taiwan to New York City to study at St. John's University, and eventually earned a master's degree in social work from Hunter College. He is more likely to run as moderate or conservative than other candidates in the primary, aside from yin.
Wang's campaign focuses on a law-and-order platform that secures him the backing of the city's police unions: Police Benevolent Association (PBA), Detectives & # 39; Endowment Association (DEA), Lieutenants Benevolent Association (LBA), and the Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA). Wang said he will "make public safety (his) priority, which includes restoring the NYPD budget." (The PBA supported Wang and Dao Yin.)
He is also supported by the Asian American Voters Alliance, the NY Laundromat Business Association, the local political group Pillowa Democratic Club, a financial advisory group, and two law firms. According to the CFB website on June 10, his campaign had $ 140,348 from private donations and $ 99,775 from public matching funds.
Last November, Wang told The City that he had helped Koo support the SFWD plan as it would create "thousands of permanent jobs" and help the ailing economy. On his website, Wang promised to assist landlords by providing "reasonable property tax breaks, property tax freezes, and low-interest loans." He will also "stand up for tenants who have difficulty paying rent," although he does not say how.
Education is another important principle of Wang's platform to support education. Wang hopes to bring more gifted and talented middle school programs to the district and maintain the special high school entrance examination (SHSAT), he explains on his website.
He will also fight to "provide tax breaks, ease the burden of tickers and violations, and improve access to low-interest credit" to ensure that Flushing's once-wealthy small business community survives the pandemic.
Part of Wang's small business advancement platform is his rejection of the Main Street Busway, which he describes on his website as "a reflection of a long-standing institutional blind spot to the economic engine that has made Flushing a commercial and shopping destination." .
Yin, born and raised in China, immigrated to Queens in the late 1990s, where he became Secretary General of the Shanghai Association of America and is now Executive Vice President of the Queens Residents and Voters Coalition. After losing the Democratic primary to Donovan Richards in the Queens borough presidential election last summer, Yin hopes to represent that part of Queens on the city council.
Yin is supported by former MP Jimmy Meng, several other current and past candidates for local office, and former NYPD Hispanic Society President Louis Hernandez. Several local leaders from the Sikh, Muslim, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Nepalese communities have also expressed support for yin. In addition to PBA endorsement, he is also supported by the Asian Americans Alliance, the National Police and Veterans Foundations, and the Guang Dong Association of Americas.
According to the CFB website, on June 10, Yin had raised $ 26,748 in private funds and $ 160,444 in public matching funds.
Yin is focusing its platform on law and order, according to its website, and wants to increase NYPD funding – a point that differs significantly from most of the other candidates apart from Wang. After receiving PBA endorsement, Yin said that "we need to support the NYPD more than ever" to combat looting and anti-Asian discrimination.
Much like Wang, Yin is “totally against” the main street, despite claiming on his website that “unreliable” buses hurt Queens residents who have long commutes.
Regarding education, Yin says that according to his website, he would promote the visual arts, support charter schools, and maintain the special high school entrance examination (SHSAT).
Yin failed to sign the open letter urging Koo to oppose the SFDW rededication plan and said he could help recover from flushing from COVID-19 by creating job opportunities and affordable housing. During his candidacy for district president, Yin told QNS that he would fight to abolish luxury property tax credits and apply them to low- and middle-income homes.
Previously, Young was the first Asian American woman to be elected to the New York State Senate, where she served for a term prior to her loss in the 2008 primary to Grace Meng, and was also an NYPD auxiliary officer and small business owner.
As a state senator, Young fought for more middle-class and senior housing, among other things, and was the first Asian-American woman to pass New York state law, according to her website. In 2008, her main race against Meng was tense, with Meng Young criticizing her for being "a creation" of her former boss, then Councilor (now State Senator) John Liu, and Young's campaign manager calling Meng's self-portrayal as an American candidate "simply racist".
Young is backed by some of the city's most prominent Asian leaders, including her old boss, Senator Liu, and City Councilor Margaret Chin and MP Ron Kim – that kind of support is shared by Ung. Young is also supported by a number of community leaders.
According to the CFB website on June 10, Young raised $ 68,535 for private fundraising and $ 160,444 for public matching funds.
Young is perhaps the most vehement contestant against the Flushing Main Street-Busway after recently telling StreetsBlog that "the main reason (she) chose to run because the busway is a" penalty tax "that "Flushing Murdered". On her website, she explains the importance of “reliable and accessible means of transport” and the need for more community input and review on road image problems.
To combat anti-Asian hate crimes, Young suggests creating hate crime-focused police units and funding the NYPD's police programs.
Young doesn't have a housing construction platform on their website other than mentioning building affordable senior housing and has not commented on the Flushing District rededication debate. She did not sign the SFWD's opposition letter.
Like many of her opponents, Young wants fully-funded schools with expanded programs for giftedness and talent and the retention of the specialized high school entrance test, coupled with more prep resources.
Low doesn't have a campaign website or any other online campaign presence (aside from a sparse Facebook page) but has raised $ 13,945 in private donations with no public funding as of June 10, according to the CFB website.