City Councilmember Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) announced last October that he would not seek re-election for his District 23 seat. He is not term-limited, but opted to step down rather than seek a third term after stating that the all-encompassing job was taking a toll on his personal and family life.
With the incumbent not seeking to hold his seat, nine candidates — seven Democrats and two Republicans — are jumping for the chance to replace him:
Steve Behar (D)
Steve Behar is counsel to Grodenchik, as well as counsel to state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park), a corporate finance attorney, former corporate executive, small business owner, community activist and professor. Behar calls himself “pragmatic progressive with an MBA,” whose his family has lived in Bayside for over 50 years. His priority is helping New York City recover from the economic and fiscal crises caused by the pandemic. Behar’s other most pressing issues are investing in and improving the district’s already outstanding schools, lowering property taxes for homeowners including co-op and condo owners, improving the quality of life in the district and ensuring that streets are safe.
“Steve’s motivation to run is simply that he wants to help people,” his office told the Chronicle.
Sanjeev Jindal (D)
Sanjeev Jindal is a small businessman in the insurance industry and leader of South Asians for Empowerment. He trained as an engineer in India but made ends meet by working as a cashier and taxi driver after immigrating to the U.S. and landing in Glen Oaks. Although he doesn’t believe in focusing on labels, Jindal would identify as a moderate. His No. 1 priority is public safety, which would be achieved by funding police to keep streets and neighborhoods safe, while also holding them to the highest standard, as well as taking action against anti-Asian and anti-Semitic hate. He also plans to focus on starting technology and technical education in elementary school, fighting for healthcare for all and reviving small businesses.
“I have had firsthand experience of the pains and struggles faced by a common man and have emerged from them to find my American Dream. Now, I want to empower everyone in our community to achieve success.”
Jaslin Kaur (D)
Jaslin Kaur, a lifelong Glen Oaks resident and Working Families candidate, is an organizer who has led fights for education equity in public schools, supported families facing struggles on their pathway to citizenship and spent many hours registering her neighbors for the census. She believes that, by working together across differences, the city can win lasting economic stability for the workers, homeowners and small businesses who keep communities running. Other priority issues include abundant senior services, fully funded K-12 public schools and tuition-free CUNY, and securing a healthy environment through world-class public transit.
“I am running to represent the same communities that raised me, because I know how it feels when those in power treat us like we don’t matter. When wealthy financial interests crashed the taxi medallion market in 2014, the bottom fell out from under me and my family. Like too many neighbors, we got locked into a punishing cycle of debt that forced me out of college after just one year, onto food stamps for two years, and leaves me still struggling to catch up on bills and taxes. Some had it even worse, losing their homes, or even taking their own lives. It doesn’t have to be this way: If we work together, the Queens we deserve is possible.”
Linda Lee (D)
Linda Lee is the president and CEO of Korean Community Services, a citywide nonprofit that serves thousands of New Yorkers across six locations daily and became one of the first permanent Covid-19 vaccination sites in Eastern Queens. The Oakland Gardens resident calls herself a “New York moderate,” who wants to improve the services available to residents and improve their quality of life. Eastern Queens needs an advocate who knows how to deliver results, she said, whether it’s homebound meal delivery, Covid vaccines, senior care or a great education for kids.
“I’m running for City Council because we’ve all seen during the pandemic that politics-as-usual has failed us, and that we can do so much better. As someone who’s had to take City policies and implement them on the ground, I’ve seen how what’s thought up in City Hall often doesn’t measure up in terms of bettering our lives. We deserve someone who knows what it takes to bring real change, whether that’s keeping our schools open safely, making our streets safe, or making Eastern Queens more affordable for all of its residents.”
Debra Markell (D)
Community Board 2 District Manager and 26th Assembly District Democratic State Committee Member Debra Markell was raised in Mitchell-Linden and now lives in North Shore Towers. The moderate’s campaign focuses on helping District 23 recover from Covid-19 by supporting small businesses, senior healthcare and housing. Markell also aims to improve transportation services in the district, champion co-op and condo owners’ rights and enhance public safety that protects all residents.
“I am running because after this pandemic, we need an experienced city councilwoman with sensible leadership that can get our city back on track.”
Koshy Thomas (D)
Community activist Koshy Thomas has lived in the district for 27 years. He identifies as a moderate whose No. 1 priority is providing a tax rebate for five-borough shoppers, whether they are residents or tourists. He also plans to initiate a property tax rebate for homeowners and an income tax rebate for small business owners for at least two years in order to stimulate the city’s economy. In addition to restoring the economy, Koshy wants to work to increase job opportunities and reform policing for a safer neighborhood.
“To bring an equal share of NYC’s financial and essential services to the district 23,” he said on why he’s running for City Council.”
Harpreet Singh Toor (D)
Since moving to Queens from India more than 30 years ago, Harpreet Singh Toor has been a champion for human rights. He said he is “a moderate who redefines the meaning of what it means to be progressive,” whose core belief is that “to serve is to be human, and to be human is to serve.” Toor is focused on ensuring that all aspects of life — small businesses, food distribution centers, schools, senior centers, healthcare providers — in the district get their fair share of funding. His campaign focuses on addressing food insecurity, strengthening the small businesses that are the foundation of communities and supporting seniors, and the families struggling to provide for them.
“As a City Council representative I will make certain that our community gets its fair share of these new funding streams. Securing this funding did not come easily. But rather is the result of many years of community advocacy. This has been a fight for our lives, after decades of Eastern Queens being ignored by City Hall. I will make certain that all the people of District 23 reap the full impact of these benefits.”
Alex Amoroso (R)
Alex Amoroso is a high school senior, set to graduate next month. The Queens Village native plans to study economics in the next few years during his time at university. Though a Republican, Amoroso said he is “a mixed bag when it comes to issues” — he wants to cut income and property taxes, as well as push for more rezoning, but wants to expand free public universities to all New Yorkers. Amoroso is supportive of charter schools, but wants to elevate the quality of public schools to the same stature as charter and private institutions. His No. 1 priority is reducing crime, which he’s seen increase firsthand. To accomplish this, Amoroso supports hiring more NYPD officers and reversing cuts to their budget. He also plans to dramatically expand the efficiency of mass transit.
“Being assaulted twice in the subway is what prompted me to run for office. Grodenchik voted to defund our police. De Blasio gave cover to riotous criminals. Lunatics are running New York, which is devolving into an 19th century insane asylum. We need change.”
James Reilly (R)
James Reilly is a conservative republican. According to his campaign website, education and putting children first is a top priority. He hopes to reduce class sizes and overcrowding, while raising and maintaining academic standards, such as in specialized high schools. Additionally, he states that standard services for all children in city schools must include, internet access, mental and health services and after school education and sports programs. He also believes that the increase in citywide crime in a result of devaluing the police’s role in the pursuit of criminal justice and reform of law enforcement. Reilly supports a robust police department and expanded community patrol programs working in conjunction with police programs.
“We are all better off when we reject social and racial division and come together as a community. Change is within our reach. It’s clearly time for change. It’s time for a better way forward,” Reilly’s campaign website says.