A field of five Democratic and two Republican candidates have made it onto the ballot to try and succeed Queens’ sole Republican Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who will be term-limited out of office at the end of 2021.
The field for District 32, which stretches over the western part of the Rockaways up through Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and parts of Woodhaven and Richmond Hill, is a combination of both new and recurring political actors. The Chronicle has presented them in alphabetical order.
Kaled Alamarie (D)
Kaled Alamarie has worked as city planner with the Department of Environmental Protection for 20 years. Though he began his campaign pitching his scientific acumen as a means to serve the district’s stark resiliency issues, he found through canvassing that the effects of climate change were eclipsed by public safety and transportation concerns. His campaign prompted Alamarie to make public safety his “No. 1 priority,” citing his close relationship with his brother, a chief strategist in the NYPD, as his lifeline to the Police Department.
“When COVID hit, people locked down in their homes. Every Saturday and Sunday, I went out to Forest Park to hand out masks at a time when nobody could get them. People were afraid to go out, but I’m a civil servant and I felt a duty to serve. I am now running for City Council in this district. After more than 20 years serving the city of New York, it is time for me to give back to the place that raised me and my kids. I am the only candidate with the experience necessary to be ready on day one. Let’s get to work.”
Joann Ariola (R)
Joann Ariola, the chairwoman of the Queens County Republican Party, announced her candidacy after running against Donovan Richards for borough president last year, setting in motion a rare Queens Republican primary. In addition to her political role, Ariola also presides over the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association and is a member of Community Board 10. She has taken a tough-on-crime approach to the race, promising to “fund and respect the NYPD,” and restore cash bail for violent criminals, despite bail reform laws being a state issue. She has also pledged support for small businesses, and to act as a voice of opposition against the “radical” policies of City Hall.
“I know what our district needs and what matters most to my neighbors. I’m running because I’m not ready to give up. I’ve seen this city come back before and I know it can come back again. I have the local experience we need to find common-sense solutions to the problems our city is facing, fight for our fair share from City Hall and give all of us the quality of life we deserve, so our children and grandchildren can raise their families here, too.”
Bella Matias (D)
Bella Matias found herself doing community organizing starting in 2017, when she formed her own nonprofit, Rise Up NYC, which taught financial literacy and entrepreneurship. That organization lost its funding and ceased to exist after a year of operation, but she said that running the nonprofit taught her about how to invest city finances in the community in order to have impact. She began to work in politics through Brooklyn Councilwoman Darma Diaz’s campaign and later joined the staff as the community liaison. She told the Chronicle in January that her top campaign priorities are offering housing protection for homeowners and increased technology curriculums in public schools.
Matias did not provide a quote to the Chronicle.
Mike Scala (D)
Mike Scala, a Howard Beach attorney who ran unsuccessfully against Ulrich in 2017, is shooting for the moderate lane in the Democratic contest. In describing his candidacy, Scala has said that he puts “people over party” and transcends partisan lines. Over the years he has built up his civic credentials as attorney for several associations in Ozone Park including the Ozone Park Residents Block Association, the Lion’s Club and Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol. He also sued the de Blasio administration over the Rockaway homeless shelter on 101st Street. His platform priorities involve increasing education funding, a moratorium on small business fines and supporting emergency responders. Other ambitious projects include a municipal broadband plan and support for rehabilitating the abandoned Rockaway train line into a new rail route to serve the peninsula.
“I got into public service to help hardworking families like mine. I have both public and private-sector experience, so I understand how to get things done in government and also the challenges our small businesses are facing. As a Council Member, I’ll focus on improving public safety, bringing our infrastructure into the 21st century, and completing resiliency projects that will protect our neighborhoods from another Superstorm Sandy.”
Helal Sheikh (D)
Helal Sheikh, a Democratic former public school mathematics teacher who lives in Ozone Park, has said his understanding of the challenges of the education system undergirds his campaign. Sheikh, who immigrated to Queens from Bangladesh at 17 years old, also ran in 2017, losing the primary to Scala. When the pandemic struck, Sheikh said, he worked with his wife to provide free medical services to people in the community.
“Coming to New York allowed me to live the American Dream. Now, I want to make that same dream a reality for everybody in Queens.”
Felicia Singh (D)
Felicia Singh, a 10th-grade teacher and activist, is a lifelong resident of Ozone Park. The daughter of working-class immigrants, her efforts to fight for debt relief from the city’s taxi medallion crisis merged with her campaign when a bankruptcy court threatened to repossess her parents’ house over her father’s outstanding medallion payments. Singh’s platform focuses on boosting a Covid recovery through education reform, environmental resilience measures and cutting small business fees. She has received a number of high-profile endorsements from labor unions like 32BJ, climate organizations like the Sunrise Movement and political entities like the Working Families Party and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage to Change PAC.
“I have experienced systems that simply don’t work for the working-class and this is what pushed me to run for office. My life’s mission is serving and empowering those around me — identifying the structural barriers preventing communities like mine from thriving, and bringing people and resources together to create lasting change. As your Council member, trust that I’ll fight for you and your family in City Hall.”
Steve Sirgiovanni (R)
Steve Sirgiovanni said that he decided to run for the Council seat after Ariola said that she had no sights on it during her run for borough president, but stayed in the race after she changed her mind. Sirgiovanni has touted his blue-collar credentials as the owner of a food distribution route. He also won an election to be the governor of the New York State Kiwanis organization, a service organization with more than 6,000 members he presided over from 2016 to ’17. Like Ariola’s, his run was motivated to counter the city’s leftward shift, and he has promised to increase funding for the NYPD.
Sirgiovanni did not provide a quote to the Chronicle.
The primaries are June 22.