Aleda Gagarin and Donghui Zang are the latest candidates to enter the race for the City Council seat to be vacated when Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) is term-limited out at the end of 2021.
The packed field has 10 people running.
“It’s wild,” Gagarin told the Chronicle last Friday. “It’s a lot but I’m excited that so many people feel like they have solutions to bring to the table.”
Other candidates include David Aronov, Evan Boccardi, Eliseo Labayen, Marcelle Lashley-Kabore, Sharon Levy, Lynn Schulman, Douglas Shapiro and Edwin Wong.
Gagarin, senior director of development at Candid, a nonprofit that studies charitable giving and connects people with resources, said some residents urged her to run as she worked as campaign manager for her husband Mel’s campaign for Congress earlier this year.
“We have a unique opportunity to build an entirely new City Council and reshape New York City’s future,” she said.
Gagarin said she would support the city’s diversity plan for middle schools in the district, which would swap some students in Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens with some in Jamaica, if there is more input from parents.
“New York City has one of the most segregated school systems in the country and that needs to be addressed,” she said, adding “When all of our children can do well, our city benefits.”
The plan had been met with criticism from many parents in the area.
“I want to make sure that a child’s ZIP code does not determine the education they receive,” Gagarin said.
She said she would like to invest in schools and permanent affordable housing.
She is not in favor of the borough-based jail plan that would see one built in Kew Gardens, saying, “I will never support it.”
But Gagarin does want Rikers Island closed, preferring to invest in community health initiatives. She said many people there are awaiting trial, while many arrests are for crimes of poverty and mental health issues.
Phase IV of the Queens Boulevard bike lane project, east of Yellowstone Boulevard, has yet to be started. Gagarin wants to see the project completed.
“The reconstruction of Queens Boulevard will benefit everybody,” she said. “It makes Queens Boulevard safer for pedestrians, it makes it safer for drivers.”
Gagarin added that medians will be wider, and the Q60 will run faster, helping the environment and speeding up the commute for residents.
“I do want to remind people that it benefits the entire community beyond just the bike lanes,” she said.
Zang, who recently filed to enter the race, has some different views.
Zang does not want to see money directed away from the NYPD and is against the city’s school diversity proposal.
“We are already diverse,” he told the Chronicle last Thursday, adding that he does not believe the change would bring any improvement to academics and that there should have been more transparency from Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza about the plan.
“We don’t want the DOE to force the students to take a one-way, one-hour bus and add extra burden to the family,” Zang said.
The father of two sons who attend specialized high schools, Zang, who was a teacher in Shanghai, became interested in politics two years ago when Mayor de Blasio announced plans to scrap the Specialized High School Admissions Test. He helped form the New York Residents Alliance in opposition.
Regarding the bike lanes, Zang said he wants more feedback from the community before committing to a position.
He opposes the Kew Gardens jail, saying the city should rebuild Rikers Island instead. Zang acknowledged problems at the site.
“We all know that. But what does that have to do with the location?” he said, adding, “What difference does it make if you put them in Rikers or you put them in Kew Gardens?”
Zang, also voicing concern that someone could escape into the community, noted that Community Board 9 unanimously voted against the project.
“They don’t have a say,” he said.