The Astoria councilman and candidate for borough president unveiled his five-point diversity plan last Friday at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights. The new office would oversee the implementation of the plan.
“We have a federal government that seeks to attack our immigrant community, to divide us,” he said. “We must unite, more than ever before, and stand arm-in-arm with our immigrant brothers and sisters.”
The first part of the diversity plan is opening brick-and-mortar satellite offices in other parts of the borough. Constantinides noted that although Queens is the second-most populous borough in the city, residents have to travel to Kew Gardens to reach the borough president’s office.
He said in Manhattan, in addition to their main office in Lower Manhattan, Borough President Gale Brewer also has a satellite office in Harlem. Constantinides wants to implement a similar system in Queens.
“We definitely need to have a wider range of the borough covered,” he said.
In addition to opening another office, whether in Jackson Heights, Bayside, Jamaica or another neighborhood, Constantinides would also partner with local elected officials and the Queens Public Library to bring the office “to every neighborhood.”
The second part of the plan is to enhance access for the 190 different languages spoken in the borough. The Office of Diversity and Outreach would be in charge of giving out materials in different languages and coordinating outreach to immigrant communities.
“Whether it’s getting a pothole fixed or getting funding, our community in every language should be able to hear those calls and get what they need,” he said.
The office would also be tasked with ensuring an accurate count in the 2020 Census. Constantinides said in the 2010 Census, his council district, which includes Astoria and parts of Woodside and Jackson Heights, “lost 11,000 people” to a poor count.
As a result, the neighborhood lost a congressional seat and federal funding for schools, hospitals and other public institutions.
“In my district, there was a 36 to 51 percent return rate on the Census,” he said. “That is terrible and we have to do more.”
The fourth part of the plan is making sure community-based organizations that serve immigrants have adequate funding from the city.
According to Constantinides, those CBOs are underrepresented in funding from different government offices. The Office of Diversity and Outreach would host resource fairs and other events to make sure immigrant groups know how to apply for funding, the candidate said.
“We need to create a system that’s easier to access for those whom English isn’t their first language,” he said.
Lastly, the new office would focus on correcting environmental injustices in overburdened communities. It would work with sustainability experts to find solutions to problems like flooding in southeast Queens and pollution in western Queens.
“It could be a conversation in your own neighborhood,” Constantinides said, “in your own language to get the things that you need.”