Kicking off the special City Council election season, the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens last Monday held a Candidate’s Night at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Jackson Heights.
The event spotlighted four candidates vying to succeed state Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s in the 21st City Council District.
Issues raised at the event ranged from the controversial Willets Point Redevelopment project to education and crime — and perhaps most importantly for the mostly LGBT crowd, same-sex marriage.
“I’ve always supported equal rights for domestic partners as well as being unopposed to same-sex marriage,” said City Council hopeful and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Eduardo Giraldo.
Giraldo also spoke of tackling persistent problems such as prostitution and traffic congestion along Roosevelt Avenue as critical to the success of the entire area. “I’ve heard business owners talk about these same problems on Roosevelt for the past 25 years,” he said. “Other politicians have passed the buck and it’s time we truly clean things up.”
Responding to an audience question on same-sex marriage, another candidate, 21st District Leader George Dixon, said he believed strongly in the separation of church and state. “The state shouldn’t tell people who they can marry … I favor legislation that’s inclusive of all gay issues.”
Dixon also advocated allocating more money for the public library system and stopping what he claimed was the practice of flooding the community with police. “If you improve the community, crime will take care of itself,” he said.
Julissa Ferreras, who was Hiram Monserrate’s chief of staff in the City Council, stressed her experience “understanding the needs” of the district’s diverse ethnic, social and religious communities.
“There is no time for a learning curve in this job,” said Ferreras, who told the audience she’s nabbed the endorsements of 14 City Council members. “I’m asking you to vote with your conscience and your heart and for the candidate with the best experience.”
Pointing out the need for affordable housing, Ferreras told the audience that Willets Point will provide more than 5,000 affordable housing units. She also noted the importance of preserving existing affordable housing, including efforts to stabilize rents and control predatory lenders who target immigrants.
Speaking about discrimination, Ferreras said there’s no room in the community for hate. “I will have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to any type of prejudice,” she said.“I’ve always supported openly gay issues and that will not change if I’m elected to the council.”
Health issues and hate crimes seemed the primary concern of community activist and Democratic District Leader at Large Francisco Moya.
A graduate of St. John’s University, Moya has worked for Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez and then-Senate Democratic Leader David Paterson.
Moya said that high rates of tuberculosis and HIV plague both the Latin and black communities and that health outreach initiatives need to improve throughout the district.
He also said that he will focus on hate crimes and push hard for an anti-hate crimes bill in the city, adding that incidents are often under-reported and incorrectly classified.
Citing the recent killing in Brooklyn of an Ecuadorian immigrant thought to be gay, Moya vowed to take action. “This was a tragic, tragic event and we need to stop these things from happening in our city, he said. “I will work hard to secure federal funding for a hate crimes bill”