Down to the wire in 29th CD primary 1

The long slog to the Democratic nomination for the 29th Council District reaches primary day in less than three weeks. The nine candidates still standing include, top row, David Aronov, left, Avi Cyperstein and Sheryl Fetick; middle row Aleda Gagarin, left, Eliseo Labayen and Lynn Schulman; and, bottom row, Douglas Shapiro, left, Edwin Wong and Donghui Zang.

Nine Democrats seeking to replace Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) have made it to the ballot for a primary in the 29th Council District on June 22.

Koslowitz is term-limited out of office effective Jan. 1.

David Aronov, former director of community relations for Koslowitz, drew the first line on the ballot. He would be the first member of the Bukharian community to represent the district.

On public safety, Aronov opposes the construction of a community jail, saying the city can “use existing facilities” to direct the city’s efforts on rehabilitation and re-entering the formerly incarcerated back into society.

Among his education priorities are expanding pre-K and 3-K; expanding gifted and talented programs and STEM education; more full-time counselors and social workers in schools; and increasing Summer Youth employment programs.

He also wants countdown clocks at all bus stops and subway stations, and city control of the Access-A-Ride program taken from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Aronov’s campaign website lists five endorsements from unions and community groups. He reported $128,986 cash on hand in his last report to the Campaign Finance Board.

Line two has been assigned to Lynn Schulman, making her third run for the seat. She has been pushing an aggressive healthcare agenda, including adding hospital space, investing in community healthcare centers as a way of advancing preventive and primary care for elderly and low-income residents.

Schulman also is calling for all land use decisions to include an assessment on healthcare and hospital service.

On transportation her website calls for a city takeover of buses and subways; expanded bus service and reduced Long Island Rail Road fares for city residents.

She, too, opposes the jail and supports “community-based restorative justice.”

On education Schulman wants to expand pre-K, gifted and talented programs and foreign language instruction. She also wants to invest in daily physical education programs.

Schulman has been endorsed by numerous Queens elected officials including Koslowitz; and nearly 40 unions, civic and community groups. She reported $146,727 in the bank.

Edwin Wong is a banker, a member of Community Board 6 and president emeritus of the Forest Hills Asian Association. He has the third line.

Wong would like to see rebuilding on Rikers Island and redirecting the money intended for community jails to things such as eduction, rent relief and mortgage assistance. He also wants the city to address burdensome regulations and unwarranted fines that he says hamper small businesses.

Wong also wants funding for numerous senior programs, such as universal home healthcare. He reported $92,194 in his campaign account.

Donghui Zang, a financial analyst, will occupy line 4. Originally from a small village in China, he first became drawn to area politics more than two years ago when Mayor de Blasio announced plans to eliminate the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test. He has two children in specialized high schools.

He opposes defunding the NYPD, and wants to rebuild Rikers Island jails in place rather than create a new jail.

His endorsements include Councilmen Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) and Peter Koo (D-Flushing), former Councilman and state Senator Tony Avella, and former Assistant District Attorney Jim Quinn. His campaign finance report came in at $110,023.

Line 5 went to Eliseo Labayen, who is a veteran in constituent services for a number of lawmakers.

Among his priorities for public safety are an increased NYPD presence and expanded use of Kendra’s Law, in which the courts can order someone who is mentally ill to enter treatment if that person is deemed a danger to the public.

Labayen on his website gives a detailed assessment of how he believes the process for locating the proposed community jails was fatally flawed from the beginning, from exclusion of the community to bypassing of routine land-use protocols.

He wants to spend more money on senior housing, and to create the equivalent of a Marshall Plan to match city and federal dollars to upgrade New York City Housing Authority properties. His website lists no endorsements. He did report $96,201 remaining in his campaign war chest.

Douglas Shapiro, a business finance advisor, has a healthcare platform that includes investigating the rehabilitation of the old Parkway Hospital site.

He too opposes the new jail, and was active in the effort to shut the Umbrella Hotel on Queens Boulevard.

Shapiro, on his website, said public safety and homelessness can be addressed simultaneously by having the public and private sectors commit to more affordable housing. He also wants the borough to have more input into MTA policies. Shapiro’s website does not list any endorsements. He reported $65,959 in the bank.

Avi Cyperstein, running on line 7, works in the healthcare field and is the founder of Chavrim of Queens, in which volunteers respond to stranded motorists and others who need help in nonmedical emergencies. He also is an EMT.

Cyperstein believes Rikers Island jails should be rebuilt where they are. He also said he would, if elected, push for more resources for low-income residents, particularly seniors. He also is calling for parking ticket reform, saying on his website that the city has “too many tickets being given out by too many ticket officers.” He calls it a hidden tax. His website lists endorsements from the Kissena Democratic Club, the Asian American Voters Alliance and numerous individuals. He reported $118,243 cash on hand.

Aleda Gagarin is running on line 8.

Her housing policies include legalizing accessory dwelling units such as basement apartments as an answer to the housing need and a revenue stream for property owners. She also wants senior citizens automatically enrolled in programs that freeze their rent level.

On public safety, Gagarin wants to shut Rikers Island and converting it to a green energy hub, while also stopping new jail construction. She would divert funding and things like dealing with the homeless and mentally ill from the NYPD, and is calling for freeze on all new police hires.

Gagarin would focus on trained crisis intervention teams and investment in mental health and substance abuse treatment; and summer youth employment programs.

Gagarin’s endorsements include Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), former gubernatorial candidates Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout; and nearly two dozen organizations including the Working Families Party, the Forest Hills Green Team and the Kew Gardens Preservation Alliance. She reported $104,763 in her last filing.

Rego Park resident Sheryl Fetik is running on line 9. A longtime Democratic activist from a family of longtime Democratic activists, Fetik is a member of the Queens County Democratic Committee. The Chronicle could not find a campaign website, but the certified public accountant told the Chronicle back in February that she will focus on elderly issues, having recently lost her mother at age 96.

She criticized Koslowitz for supporting the community jail program, and believes businesses were adversely affected by the installation of bike lanes. She reported $342 in her campaign account.


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