With over 30 years of civic experience, Joann Ariola is hoping to take her knowledge to City Hall next year and fight to keep residents in her district from moving out of state in what she called an “exodus.”
“I was raised in this district, I raised my children in this district and now my grandchildren are being raised in this district,” Ariola said in a sitdown interview this week with the Chronicle.
“What I’m seeing is an exodus within the community because they’re not seeing the public safety that they were accustomed to,” she said. “They’re not seeing the quality of life that they were accustomed to, and therefore they’re exiting.”
Ariola, a mother of three sons, does not want to visit her grandchildren in another state, she said.
Ariola is running in November’s City Council race for District 32, one of the most competitive races in the city this year. She is looking to maintain the Republican seat held by Councilman Eric Ulrich (Ozone Park), who is being term-limited out this year and who has endorsed Ariola. Outside of Staten Island, it is the last Republican-held City Council seat.
Ariola is the chairwoman of the Queens Republican Party, the president of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association and a member of Community Board 10. She founded the Lindenwood Alliance before it merged with the Howard Beach Civic Association.
Her opponent is progressive activist Felicia Singh.
On the doorsteps of constituents, Ariola said, she gives them her three top issues: public safety, quality of life and education of the children.
When asked about her opponent’s claims that she is a one-issue candidate, Ariola said it all begins with public safety.
“If you don’t have public safety, you don’t have anything,” she said. “You will not be able to enjoy your beautiful parks. You will not be able to feel safe when your child is at school or when you’re on your way to work and you get mugged or thrown on a train track.
“All of those wonderful things that we want to do, you have to be safe first,” Ariola said. Some of those wonderful things include renovating Charles Park and Hamilton Beach Park and preserving Spring Creek.
As for public safety, Ariola wants to see police funding restored, cultural sensitivity and diversity retraining and more neighborhood and youth coordination officers. “My opponent talks a lot about violence interrupters — I think that those are violence interrupters,” she said of the NCOs and YCOs.
“I think that if the community sees the face of the NYPD, better relationships can be had,” she said.
Ariola also would like to see a new and improved anti-crime unit, which was disbanded last year following protests. More patrols are the way to deter crime, she said, contrasting her opponent’s promises to divest and put funds toward community-based and public health organizations.
Ariola believes she and New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams have similar ideas about what elements of policing should come back and be revamped. “He was once a police officer and he knows the NYPD from the inside out,” she said. “I think that the more logical approach is coming from the Democratic candidate.”
Ariola is familiar with reaching across the aisle, she said, from her roles serving in the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations and also when she worked for Democratic City Councilman Noach Dear. Under Giuliani, she worked for NYCHA and the Department of Buildings, and for Bloomberg as a coordinator for Queens, assistant commissioner of the five boroughs and with the community assistance unit.
“Whatever job I’ve held, it has been about outreach to communities,” she said. “Whether it was for issues that were happening to them or healthcare issues, I was always on the outreach portion of it.” Today she is the director of intergovernmental affairs at the MediSys Health Network.
If elected, Ariola hopes to sit on the Parks and Recreation committee and the Transportation committee, covering two of the biggest issues in her district.
Ariola said she would like to see more express buses to address the transportation desert her district is in and she would love to see more ferry stops, including in the Jamaica Bay area. “If Staten Island can have a free ferry, why can’t we?” she asked.
To tackle the lack of parking in the neighborhood, she said she would like to see increased police enforcement of counterfeit paper license plates and the rules on commuters and travelers who park for extended periods in front of residents’ houses near JFK airport.
More enforcement could also aid in addressing illegal basement apartments. “I think that the Department of Buildings needs to be funded for more inspectors,” she said.
As for education, Ariola believes all schools should have a Gifted and Talented program as well as increased individualized education plans.
She cited her years of civic experience working on bus lanes, bikes lanes and resiliency projects in the flood-prone area, as well as alongside the MTA and the departments of Transportation, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, as further reasons she is the best candidate.
Ariola does not believe that holding a Republican seat in the City Council would hold her back.
“Look at what Ulrich has brought home as the same member of the same minority,” she said. “It’s how you work with your fellow elected officials.”
“[Councilman] Bob Holden is a very common-sense Democrat, and I don’t think he’s alone and I look forward to joining him in the Council and creating what we’re referring to as the Common Sense Caucus,” said Ariola.
Her endorsements include Holden (D-Middle Village), former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and law enforcement, first responder and labor unions.
Ariola said she believes this is probably the most important and competitive race and the most watched in Queens.
“You’re looking at common sense versus radicalism,” she said.