2022 Election Profile: Andrew Hevesi runs for re-election in District 28

By Alicia Venter

[email protected]

Hevesi runs for re-election in District 28.

After 17 years in the New York State Assembly, Andrew Hevesi is vying to score his ninth victory in District 28.

His district, which he has held since 2005, encompasses parts of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Middle Village, Glendale, Maspeth and Kew Gardens, the latter of which he recently gained due to redistricting.

The boundaries of Assembly District 28. Photo: Redistricting and You: New York, Graduate Center of Cuny.

Hevesi, 48, sits as Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families.

In this role, Hevesi strives to target adolescent trauma through implementing support systems for both children and parents. 

“What I’ve been working on primarily, and we had great success last year, was in using as much state funding into any program that’s going to prevent or mitigate psychological trauma from adverse childhood experiences,” Hevesi said. “Everything you are seeing in the papers — from crime to rising homeless, to kids dropping out of high school, to higher rates of suicide, and all kinds of things — I think it’s all a function of unprecedented and unmitigated adverse childhood experiences and childhood trauma.”  

Hevesi and his office worked last year to coordinate a coalition of approximately 100 assembly members and 40 senators to attack this issue as effectively as possible.

“The rest was that in the budget this year was the largest single investment in children in New York State history,” Hevesi said.

This agreement was a $7 billion investment over four years that will raise the salary level of the childcare workforce, which Hevesi noted is primarily Black and Brown women, and to increase the number of childcare seats available throughout the city. 

From this investment, 400,000 new seats were made available for children up to the age of 13.

“Childcare is one of the best ways to prevent childhood trauma from when kids are home alone,” Hevesi said. “It’s socialization. It’s the protective factors that you need to offset this kind of trauma.”

Furthermore, $10 million was invested into YouthBuild, a program originally founded in the 1980s.

The program’s direction has shifted to directly target children who are 16 or 17 years old who are at risk of “picking up guns or becoming a part of gangs,” and instead encourages them to find a career.

“There are a variety of other wins for kids just by money in the budget,” Hevesi said.

To best serve his community while balancing his responsibilities in Albany, Hevesi delegates funding to organizations within his neighborhoods that serve “the most vulnerable people” — those facing food insecurity and who need services to serve their basic needs. 

Hevesi has recently been given approximately $1 million in capital appropriation, which he breaks into smaller pots for distribution. 

“I believe a good member of the assembly, or a good senator, should have an issue that they are expert on,” Hevesi said.

That issue was homelessness for years, as Hevesi was part of numerous efforts to reach an agreement in Albany and with then-Governor Andrew Cuomo on a rent supplement plan to prevent those who are struggling to pay for housing from being forced into shelters. After the plan failed for five years (“Try working on something for five years and then have to give it up!”), Hevesi was appointed the Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families. 

If re-elected, Hevesi exclusively told the Queens Ledger that he spoke to leadership, and informed them that he would like to chair the Health Committee in the upcoming term.

Hevesi is a Forest Hills native. Born and raised in the neighborhood, he now lives with his wife, daughter and dog, Lola. 

“I’m a Forest Hills guy completely,” Hevesi added. 

Forest Hills is set to become the home to QueensWay, a linear park along 3.5 miles of abandoned tracks that run through Central and Southern Queens. The plan has been met with controversy, particularly from those who supported QueensLink, a plan to turn the abandoned tracks into a railway. 

Hevesi supported the QueensWay when it was first conceived — “It must have been a decade ago,” he exclaimed — but he admittedly didn’t believe the plan would ever come to fruition.

He described arguments he used to have with Phil Goldfeder, the then-assemblyman of District 23, whose seat has since been filled by Stacy Pheffer-Amato. 

“He and I used to have arguments about it, and then we’d laugh because either one of the proposals cost billions. You’re going to get a rail, I’m going to get a park? Forget about it,” he said. “And then strangely, the QueensWay kept pushing. Adams bit, and put money behind it.” 

The QueensWay will cause trouble for Hevesi, he explained, because it runs behind the Forest Park Little League, so a plan must be made to work around this issue.

Although he supported turning the railroad into a park, Hevesi did sign on in support of a feasibility study for the QueensLink to see if there is a possibility of the park also serving as a transportation hub.

“I’ve been supportive of the QueensWay for a while,” he concluded. “It’s not my top issue, but I think it could be a very good thing for the community.”

To remain accessible to his constituents, Hevesi explained that the best way he can talk to the people in his community is by going door-to-door.

“If people don’t want to talk to you, that’s fine,” he said. “But the fact that you’ve shown up and taken an interest, and they have the opportunity to tell you something about the neighborhood? I think knocking doors is the best way to do it.”

Furthermore, when a constituent writes a letter or email to the assemblyman, he writes a letter back “in substance,” providing a full answer for their concerns.

Hevesi faces Mike Conigliaro this election, a Republican candidate who serves as the president of the Community Education Council – District 24 school board. The election is on Nov. 8.

Raga claims Dems ticket in Assembly primary

On track to becoming first Filipino-American elected in New York

Steven Raga, a lifelong Woodside resident and former chief of staff for Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, declared victory in the Democratic Primary for Assembly District 30, based on the unofficial results from the State Board of Elections.

Raga won in a landslide with 71 percent of the vote—receiving 2,561 of the 3,618 locals who cast their ballots—over his opponent, Ramón Cando, in his bid to represent Elmhurst, Woodside, and Maspeth.

This means that should he defeat Republican challenger Sean Lally, a petition carrier for Andrew Giuliani’s gubernatorial campaign, in the general election this November, Raga will make history as the first Filipino-American person to hold office in New York State.

Cando, a Democratic district leader and proud member of Laborers Local 78, came up short in the polls with approximately 28 percent of the vote. Running as a “common sense” candidate, his campaign was focused predominantly on repealing bail reform and increasing NYPD resources and funding.

According to Raga, he and Cando were originally supposed to go head-to-head for the district leader position, but that changed in April, when Barnwell announced that he would not seek reelection.

Raga was unanimously selected by a committee on vacancies to fill his former boss’ spot on the ballot. He said it was a very sudden, and therefore difficult decision.

“I had a day or two to think about it… and I talked to some friends who said, ‘If you want to represent these communities and feel like you have the experience to fight for them now, sometimes the timing is not the way you want, but the opportunity is there,’” Raga said. “So I said, ‘sure.’”

Barnwell previously told The Queens Ledger that he bowed out of the race because despite his efforts to resolve various community issues, “people would rather play politics than solve the real problems [the district] is facing.”

With this knowledge, Raga said he will strive to make a difference in Albany by reaching out to more electeds to build coalitions surrounding certain issues, prioritize safety, and write legislation that people will support.

Raga has experience working with communities and making an impact, shown by his work with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, AARP, the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Queens Community Board 2, and Woodside on the Move.

He said that as the former executive director of Woodside on the Move, he was able to double its budget in the last quarter, which hasn’t increased in years.

“That was kind of a dream job, you get to work for the community, work on policies that are needed, and help vulnerable communities in the neighborhood,” Raga said. “I could really put my skill set into it. I also widened the scope of policies by doubling on housing and focusing on healthcare.”

In the Assembly, Raga would prioritize the issues of housing injustice, rent stabilization, public safety, infrastructure investments, education, climate, healthcare, LGBTQ+ resources, and workers’ rights.

Because of his ancestry, as the descendant of the Philippines, Raga said that public safety hits close to home, having seen friends and family targeted and harassed because of their race.

“I would take a comprehensive look at how to make city streets safer, but also address the root cause,” he said.

“That includes stable housing, so folks are not rendered homeless and in a more precarious position, more jobs to keep people stable, and mental health services and resources.”

While working as Barnwell’s former chief of staff, Raga helped set up a new constituent case system for his office, which allows residents of the district to direct their complaints or concerns directly to the Assemblyman and his staff.

Raga said he plans to continue to provide the same accessibility to his constituents.

“I want to prioritize helping constituents, which means picking up the call and making sure you get back to your constituents—whether or not they voted for you, whether or not they’re registered in a particular party. It doesn’t matter,” he said.

“You have to help the folks that live in the neighborhood, whether they hate on you or they go on social media,” he continued. “That’s part of what I learned from the current Assemblymember, and I would definitely re-emphasize that as a priority if I take the seat.”

Raga received a broad range of endorsements for the campaign, including organizations such as the Lesbian Gay Democratic Club of Queens, New York City Immigration Coalition Action Fund, New American Leaders Action Fund, and TenantsPAC. He also gained the support of Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson, Assemblyman Ron Kim, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Councilman Shekar Krishnan, and State Senator John Liu.

In response to his win, Meng took to Twitter to congratulate Raga, highlighting the importance of Asian representation in politics: “We did it! We helped elect the first Filipino American ever in the state of NY!!! ⁦@RagaForQueens #history!!!!”

She also responded to a tweet that pointed out how AAPI voters make up more than 40 percent of the vote in Assembly District 30, and how “representation matters now more than ever.”

“Thank you for entrusting me with your vote. It is an incredible honor to be your Democratic Nominee for Assembly District 30,” Raga said in an Instagram post.

“I love my community and know that it deserves so much more in attention, recognition, and resources. [This] victory proves that our neighbors agree and are ready to bring our fight to Albany,” he continued. “The work does not stop now. In November, we will be facing a Republican candidate. So, tonight we rest and tomorrow, we’ll get back to work.”

2022 Election Profile: Assembly Candidate Ramon Cando

Ramon Cando, a Democratic district leader and proud member of Laborers Local 78, is one of two candidates in the running for the New York State Assembly’s 30th District—representing parts of Elmhurst, Woodside, and Maspeth.

Cando, 50, champions his role as part of a 3,200-member labor union of asbestos abatement and hazardous waste handlers in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey.

He will be running a contested primary against Steven Raga in the upcoming June 28th Democratic primary to try and fill the seat of outgoing State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, who announced back in April that he would not seek re-election this year.

Public safety is a top priority for Cando, who said that the recent uptick of crime over the past two years has led him to run as a “common sense Democrat” with goals of repealing bail reform and granting judges the power to determine how dangerous defendants are. He also opposes the “defund the police” platform, insisting that the NYPD budget should be increased.

“Every single day there’s a shooting,” Cando told The Queens Ledger in a one-on-one exclusive. “I am really concerned that we’re getting used to it.”

Cando also carries the endorsements of City Councilman Robert Holden and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi.

Previously, as the District Leader for Assembly District 35, Cando earned 2,148 votes (58 percent) in the 2020 hyperlocal election, defeating James Fogle for the position.

In his capacity as a District Leader for the past two years, Cando says he helped distribute face masks, PPE equipment, and information about the vaccine in his Elmhurst community.

Cando, who immigrated from Ecuador in the 1990’s, points to his post-financial career in labor organizing as a factor into his decision to run for State Assembly.

“As a member of my union, I’ve learned how to organize my people,” Cando said.

While door-knocking within the district, he says he often meets constituents who are only interested in voting in the Presidential election. He stresses the importance of local races to residents in his district with the hope of earning their vote.

Cando’s pathway to Albany goes through new areas of the district that have been and are currently represented by other, more progressive, hispanic candidates, such as Catalina Cruz (AD39) and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas (AD34).

The political newcomer sees an opportunity to bring out a more traditional latino vote, focusing his campaign run on crime and homelessness throughout the district.

Cando argues that many progressive avenues of public safety reform, including investments in city schools, and social services, may need 20 years to see results.

He says the younger generation of latino progressives are very passionate, but aren’t learning from what happened to countries like Venezuela, which went from one of the wealthiest Latin American nations in the world to a majority of its population living in poverty.

“The younger people — the progressives — these are the new socialists,” Cando said. “Why take money from our police officers? New York City is already one of the most expensive cities in the world.”

2022 Election Profile: Assembly Candidate Juan Ardila

Juan Ardila, a Maspeth native and community advocate, announced his bid for the New York State Assembly’s 37th district, currently occupied by outgoing Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

Nolan, whose district whose district encompasses the Hunters Point, Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth, and Ridgewood communities in Western Queens, has held the position since 1984. Following the announcement of her retirement, four local candidates have opted to throw their hats into the ring.

Ardila, 28, is a program coordinator at The Legal Aid Society and has formerly worked as a staff member for then-City Councilmember Brad Lander. He has also worked as a consultant for the New York City Department of Education, where he helped oversee the expansion of pre-K, pre-K Dual Language, and 3-K for All.

He previously ran for the City Council’s 30th district and came up just short of unseating incumbent Robert Holden in last year’s Democratic Primary. Ardila garnered 45 percent of the vote, falling just 926 votes short of victory.

Upon announcing his candidacy for the 37th Assembly district in February, Ardila came out with endorsements from State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez. He has since earned the endorsement of Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, Councilmember Shekar Krishnan, Councilmember Tiffany Caban, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and most recently, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He is also the endorsed candidate for the Working Families Party.

The progressive democrat says he wants to be able to work with people on all sides of the political spectrum — both to his left and to his right — up in Albany.

“It’s a different league, a different ballpark,” Ardila said in a sit-down interview with The Queens Ledger. “You’re just going to have to be someone who can work with both ends of the party.”

Ardila, the youngest and perhaps more progressive candidate of the bunch, identifies the issues of housing, climate, and healthcare as key concerns for constituents within the district.

Ardila is in favor of universal healthcare and a proponent of the New York Health Act, which would create a statewide single-payer health care system. He is also in favor of the “Green New Deal” and the closing of dirty power plants in the borough of Queens.

He is in favor of legalizing accessory dwelling units, which he says could bring an estimated 100,000 new homes into the city with correct compliance and safety standards, and providing real affordable housing for lower-income residents.

He’s also a supporter of the proposed “good cause eviction” bill, which would expand tenant protection rights against rent hikes in certain circumstances. He admits he’s “a little bit on the radical side” of the issue, maintaining his progressive stance that there is no good reason for an eviction of a tenant.

The first-generation American saw his mother, Lesly, be unjustly denied her residency when he was 17. When her Temporary Protected Status expired, Ardila recalled, she was at risk of being deported. When he came of age and met the criteria to become a sponsor for his mother, Ardila started the process of petitioning for her permanent residency.

It would be years later when both Ardila and his mother would find themselves at the Maspeth Post Office for monumental moments in both of their lives. As Ardila filed and finalized notarized paperwork with the Board of Elections for his first run at public office, his mother would receive her permanent residency in the mail during the same post office visit. Following the good news, the two went to the Georgia Diner on Queens Boulevard to celebrate with some hamburgers.

As the Maspeth native spoke about expanding tenant protections and true affordable housing in his sit down interview with The Queens Ledger, an unexpected visit and an exchange of keys from Ardila’s mother showed a glimpse into the reason why he got involved in politics.

“I think that’s the exciting part,” Ardila said. “We are now getting people from non-traditional backgrounds and people coming from the same life experiences as many immigrant and diverse populations are coming from, who are now getting into [politics]. I think that’s what excited people, even in the City Council race.”

Ardila said he consistently heard he had no shot at competing or winning last year’s City Council race, where he earned 45 percent of the vote. This time around, Ardila is prioritizing constituent accessibility in the leadup to the Tuesday, June 28 election. Ardila can be seen at the Sunnyside Farmers’ Market every Saturdary, making himself accessible to eligible voters and constituents.

It was ultimately some advice from former Councilmember and current President/CEO of the Variety Boys and Girls Club Costa Constantinides, that led Ardila to be even more within reach for constituents of the district.

“He told me just to be yourself, and even if you don’t agree with someone, always be accessible,” Ardila said. “If they want to email you, text you, DM you on social media, respond. There’s going to be a lot of people who don’t agree with you, but just be accessible.”

Ardila will appear first on the ballot against candidates Brent O’Leary, Johanna Carmona and Jim Magee in the Tuesday, June 28 Democratic Primary.. Stay tuned to The Queens Ledger for more election coverage.

2022 Election Profile: Assembly Candidate Brent O’Leary

Correction: Eugene Noh does not work as campaign advisor for O’Leary. O’Leary also did not hire Won’s team of field operators in his run for AD37.

Brent O’Leary, one of the founders of the Hunters Pont Civic Association and President of the nonprofit organization Woodside on the Move, announced his bid for the 37th Assembly district seat, currently occupied by outgoing Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

Nolan, whose district encompasses the Hunters Point, Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth, and Ridgewood communities in Western Queens, has held the position since 1984. Following the announcement of her retirement, four local candidates have opted to throw their hats into the ring.

O’Leary, 52, has been working as an attorney for over 25 years. He was formerly a senior associate at White & Case, one of America’s top law firms, where he specialized in business and financial law.

He previously ran for office in the 2021 Democratic primary election, finishing third among 15 candidates in the running for the New York City Council district seat formerly occupied by Jimmy Van Bramer, losing to political newcomer Julie Won.

“My campaign is going to be run much more professionally this time,” O’Leary said, highlighting what he plans on doing differently.

O’Leary said he considers himself to be an “old school” FDR democrat, running a more moderate-leaning campaign than some of his more progressive opponents like Juan Ardila.

“We have different views on how you get things done,” O’Leary said in an exclusive interview with The Queens Ledger, regarding the three other candidates vying for Nolan’s Assembly seat.

A major proponent of his campaign focuses on providing quality paying jobs, providing a safety net for those who cannot afford private health care, providing quality education for district students, and improving public safety within the community.

“I am capable, caring, and committed,” O’Leary said about representing his community in Albany if elected.

O’Leary says that if he is elected to office he would look to address bail reform, establishing criteria for judges to determine whether or not to keep violent criminals behind bars; housing affordability and rent, promoting homeownership as an investment in the community; and education, which he feels should be left up to the decisions of the Mayor and not Albany lawmakers.

Apart from his work with local nonprofit organizations and civic groups, O’Leary has pitched in by coordinating with community churches to organize emergency food pantries and is working closely with the Hour Children program, dedicated to helping children of those incarcerated at Riker’s Island.

In preparation for the upcoming Democratic primary election on June 28th, O’Leary is canvassing door-to-door across the district, sharing his campaign message and speaking with potential constituents about the issues that matter most to their community.

O’Leary will appear on the ballot against candidates Juan Ardila, Johanna Carmona, and Jim McGee. Stay tuned to The Queens Ledger for election coverage and more to come.

Assemblyman Barnwell will not see re-election

New York State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell recently announced that he does not intend to seek re-election next term.

“It has been a true honor to serve and I will never forget that I owe everything to the kindness of the people who allowed me to serve as their representative,” Barnwell announced on Twitter. “Just like any other job, you deal with various things you do not like and then one thing is the final straw that makes you decide to move on.”

The Queens Ledger recently caught up with Barnwell, whose district includes Maspeth, Middle Villiage, Woodside, Sunnyside, and parts of Elmhurst and Astoria, to help shed some light on his recent decision.

“What it boils down to is that people would rather play politics than solve the real problems we are facing,” Barnwell said in a message. “The recent budget was the final straw for me. We see all the gun problems and innocent people being killed around the city and the country. We need to be strong on that issue.”

Barnwell indicated that one of his biggest efforts as a state legislator was the ability to have illegal possession of a firearm, in its own right, be considered for bail.

“It doesn’t mean that bail would be set, but the Judge should have that option,” Barnwell continued. “It was denied and I found that unacceptable.”

He also expressed his frustration with city agencies, which he said: “do not want to do their job.”

“The number of no heat and no hot water complaints at NYCHA that went ignored time and time again was another truly unacceptable thing,” Barnwell said. “It is just a whole host of various issues with the government. I did my best to solve these problems during my time in the Assembly.”

In regards to plans following his tenure in politics, Barnwell said he doesn’t have any as of right now, except to finish the term.

According to City & State the local Democratic committee selected Steven Raga, executive director of Woodside on the Move and Barnwell’s former chief of staff, to run for open seat. He will square off against Ramon Cando, a Democratic district leader from Elmhurst and business manager of Laborers Local 78.

Ardila to make bid for vacant Assembly seat

Nolan retiring after serving for the last 38 years

BY EVAN TRIANTAFILIDIS

Juan Ardila is running for State Assembly.

The Maspeth native will enter the June 28th Democratic Primary to replace Cathy Nolan, who is retiring after 38 years of service. The 37th District includes the neighborhoods of Long Island City, Maspeth, Ridgewood, and Sunnyside

“Queens residents deserve affordable housing, improved public transit, and a plan to combat climate change,” said Ardila. “Growing up in an immigrant family, I have experienced how important it is to have representation that understands how government can impact our lives.

“In Albany, I will be a champion for our seniors, our workers, and our tenants,” he added. “I am excited for a better future for all New Yorkers.”

Ardila is a first-generation American, the son of a Columbian father and Honduran-Cuban mother. After seeing his mother nearly deported and watching other family members face persecution from gang violence in Honduras, Ardila began his journey to public service.

He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Fordham University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from NYU. He attended St. Adalbert Catholic Academy in Elmhurst before going to high school in Briarwood at Archbishop Molloy High School.

Ardila previously served as a staffer in the office of Brad Lander when he was in the City Council. He also worked at the International Rescue Committee in Manhattan and as a consultant at the city’s Department of Education.

He currently works at the Legal Aid Society.

Last year, Ardila challenged Councilman Robert Holden in the Democratic Primary. He fell 926 votes short of defeating the incumbent, garnering 45 percent of the vote.

Ardila’s Assembly bid has already earned the endorsements of State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, and Councilwoman Jennifer Gutierrez.

“Juan draws on his experience in providing legal representation for all New Yorkers, and will bring his unwavering dedication to listen to working families,” said Ramos, “to organize his community around key priorities such as housing infrastructure, increased access to public transportation, and a more inclusive public education system.”

Ardila’s also has the backing of Make the Road Action and Churches United for Fair Housing Action.

“Juan Ardila is a fighter for his community who has stood with immigrant, LatinX, Black, and working-class members of his community in the fight for respect and dignity,” said Theo Oshiro, co-executive director of Make the Road Action. “We were proud to support him before, and we’re proud to support him again.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing