The City Council candidates for District 32 discussed their perspectives on climate change and environmental issues during a forum on Tuesday night, ahead of the November election.
Felicia Singh, the Democratic candidate, and Joann Ariola, the Republican candidate, participated in a virtual forum over Zoom hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, answering questions submitted by the public and predetermined questions.
“The 32nd City Council District is a coastal district and home to spectacular beaches and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. It is also a climate frontline community as it relates to sea level rise and the powerful storms caused by a changing climate,” said Karen Mintzer, NYLCV NYC Chapter board member, who moderated the discussion. “Coastal resiliency is a key concern as it impacts economic development, our quality of life and our natural environment,” she said.
“Other challenges facing the district include public transportation, solid waste management, parks funding, environmental justice,” said Mintzer.
Questions covered those issues as well as hybrid and electric vehicles, the role of schools in climate education, fracking and the QueensWay proposal to turn an abandoned railway into a linear park.
“From those folks who are the most vulnerable on the Rockaway Peninsula and Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach to folks who live in Woodhaven, the conversation on the climate crisis is one that impacts all of us no matter where you live,” said Singh, a teacher and lifelong resident of Ozone Park. She has run a campaign prioritizing environmental issues.
Singh emphasized the need for city agencies to communicate regarding natural disasters and receive input from the community. She would also support the creation of an office of resiliency in the City Council.
She pointed to green space, electric buses and protected bike lanes as ways to address transportation issues and congestion.
Ariola, also a lifelong resident and president of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association, touched on transportation alternatives as well and drew upon her experience, including during Hurricane Sandy. She has worked on several resiliency committees since then and promotes funding infrastructure solutions, including sewage and catch basin maintenance, which backed up during Hurricane Ida.
“While my opponent talks about climate change in very generic ways, I have actually done work,” she said.
She spoke of expanding the ferry service if elected, in order to lessen cars and emissions.
“I will always work towards reasonable development,” said Ariola. If elected, she said she hopes to be put on the City Council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation.
Mintzer asked both candidates about inequitable access to green space and climate injustice.
Ariola said that she believes there continues to be a lack of environmental justice in different portions of the district. “Some communities are a little more challenging than others,” she said. “I absolutely believe that people who live in any area should be able to live there without being flooded out.”
When asked about the MTA’s congestion pricing program, Ariola said she agreed with it “in concept” but feels that it would make traveling to the city unaffordable for her constituents and an additional burden for her district.
Singh supports the program but spoke of the burden for taxi drivers. “I’d like to see a space where we have congestion pricing but maybe taxi drivers are omitted,” she said.
Asked about fracking, Ariola cited the Jamaica Bay Wilson pipeline and said any project would “have to have community support.”
In a lightning round of questions, both candidates answered that they both compost, bring reusable bags to the grocery store and use a reusable water bottle.
The whole forum can be watched on the NYLCV’s YouTube channel.