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Queens Chronicle

QUEENS VOTES 2018 Ramos says it’s time for progressive change

Peralta’s primary opponent lays out the agenda she plans to push

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Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2018 10:30 am

It all started with a conversation between Jessica Ramos and her mother last year.

During her tenure as a Democratic district leader from 2010 to 2014, Ramos admitted in a sitdown interview with the Chronicle last Friday that running for office crossed her mind “a couple of times.”

But once the Jackson Heights mother of two joined the communications department of Mayor de Blasio’s administration, those thoughts subsided.

“I was very comfortable with my job. I was happy,” Ramos said. “I was not planning to run for office.”

But then came the chat with her politically active mother, who was angry with five-term state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) for joining the Independent Democratic Conference — the breakaway group of eight Democrats who maintained a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans.

“It was in talking to her about what Peralta had done, she told me to start thinking about it. I blew her off and thought she was nuts,” she said with a smirk. “My mom planted the seed in my head but it took me five or six months to come around to the idea.”

But in the eight months since she officially launched her challenge to Peralta, Ramos has relentlessly attacked the lawmaker over his membership in the now-defunct IDC ahead of the Democratic primary on Sept. 13.

Throughout her campaign, the electoral hopeful has said Peralta “betrayed” district Democrats by joining forces with Senate Republicans in the age of President Trump.

“I’m emblematic of the voter and resident who’s been hurt by the regressive budgets passed by the Republican state Senate over the last two years,” she told the Chronicle. “It’s always Albany that stands in the way of true progressive change.”

But outside of saying Peralta “needs to be held accountable” for his IDC membership, Ramos spent the vast majority of her interview with the paper laying out her platform, ranging from allocating state-owed money to city schools and eliminating the use of major capital improvements as a way for landlords to raise the rents of their tenants.

Bemoaning rent hikes her family has had to pay, Ramos said countless friends, neighbors and fellow district residents have been pushed out of the district in recent years as landlords — with help from unfocused lawmakers in Albany — find various ways to charge their tenants more.

If elected, she said she would specifically fight to repeal the Urstadt Law, which was passed in 1971 and took away the city’s power to approve its own rent regulations — Peralta has been supportive of repealing it in the past.

“It’s Albany that dictates what our rent regulations are, which is a big problem,” Ramos said. “That specific Senate committee is chaired by someone who isn’t from New York City, yet as we know, New York City has the highest cost of living and isn’t exactly comperable to Syracuse or Rochester or Buffalo.”

Furthermore, the Jackson Heights resident said she will champion an effort to abolish the ability of landlords to use MCI rent hikes as a way to pay for new infrastructure and permanently pass the cost onto tenants, as well as the “scams” of preferential rent and vacancy decontrol.

The use of MCI increases is prevalent in southern Jackson Heights and at LeFrak City, she said, adding it is fundamentally unfair for tenants to have to foot the bill for improvements the building owner should pay for.

“When you, as a tenant, leave an apartment you can’t take those bricks from the facade with you,” Ramos said. “When you’re making those improvements to the common area or the building’s structure itself, I don’t think tenants should be held responsible. And they certainly shouldn’t be paid in perpetuity.”

Asked if ending MCI increases would discourage landlords from upgrading their buildings, the candidate said no because they would foolishly be ignoring the structural and aesthetic integrity of their property.

The mother of two young boys, Ramos said her sons’ school, PS 69, is owed almost $2 million in state foundation aid under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision, while the district has been shorted $40 million.

If elected, she said fighting to send that money to its proper place would be a priority while pressing back against the notion that taxes would have to be raised to make up for the more than $4 billion the state needs to pay out to schools it is owed to.

“I don’t know if tax increases will be necessary,” she said. “By allocating that money, we would be improving our schools in a way to reduce class sizes. But there’s a lot of mismanagement of money in this state and we can begin with the money that gets diverted from the MTA to economic development projects upstate.”

Regarding the MTA, Ramos has repeatedly slammed the agency, most notably frequenting Twitter to blast it over frequent delays on the No. 7 line.

If elected, she pledged to introduce legislation fundamentally altering the MTA’s structure, transitioning it from an authority governed by a 17-member board to an actual state agency in order to increase accountability and oversight.

“I believe it’s part of the problem in us understanding, for example, how the contracting for the MTA works,” she said.

Other initiatives she would take up include introducing legislation that would “wipe clean” the records of bars and restaurants that are the subject of unfounded complaints, allowing them to get or renew their liquor licenses easier.

“It’s a huge problem in Jackson Heights and along Ditmars Boulevard,” she said.

Asked about her odds of winning, Ramos said she has a good feeling, citing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s improbable Democratic primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) in June.

“Our state Senate district is fully in that congressional district, so what a gift. It’s better than a poll — exactly where people are, where we need to work harder and where we’re stronger,” she said. “But at the same time, her win was most important for us in validating what our theory was, that people are really tired of the status quo and are ready to participate in the electoral process because they want change.”

In recent weeks, Ramos has been endorsed by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens), gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and others.

That’s because, she said, they see that her unseating Peralta is the kind of progressive change the state Senate needs.

“These are things that can’t be championed by someone who has proven to be a bare minimum elected official,” she said. “We’re living at a juncture where I don’t think that’s enough.”

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • pvrjr posted at 4:18 pm on Fri, Aug 17, 2018.

    pvrjr Posts: 315

    To care about your constituents first and everything else second: What a positive cliche. [wink]

  • livelyreggie posted at 12:27 pm on Mon, Aug 13, 2018.

    livelyreggie Posts: 58

    Ms. Ramos is correct in her viewpoint regarding the Democrats and the Republicans joining together in an unholy political alliance to grab more power than ever. I couldn't agree with her more, but by the same token exactly what have the Democrats down that is so wonderful while in power all these years? Isn't it their policies as well that have left the City bereft of affordable housing? So if she thinks that the Democrats prying themselves away from the Republicans is going to make much of difference she should think again. I have stated in my other comments that the NYS GOP is dysfunctional and corrupt. And let's not talk about Albany! Now there's the poster child for corruption - CUOMO. But getting back to Ms. Ramos, I think she's put way too much trust and faith in her party. And as far as her comments regarding passing off repairs to tenants, let's not think that all these tenants are stellar rentees. How about the severe damage they do to many apartments - who should pay for that? When I hear the word "progressive" I know it's time to run in the other direction. I wish her luck.