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Photo courtesy Yungman Lee
Photo courtesy Yungman Lee
Yungman Lee is preparing to challenge Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez for her Congressional District 7 seat.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez has served Congressional District 7 for 12 consecutive terms, but this year she faces a new challenger from her own party.

Yungman Lee, a 63-year-old immigrant who came to the United States from Hong Kong, China, at the age of 16, and the president and CEO of Global Bank, will campaign to become the new leader of District 7 — which includes parts of Ridgewood and Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Cypress Hills, Bushwick and several other parts of Brooklyn as well as sections of Manhattan.

Lee, a Democrat, comes from a working-class family and understands the value of hard work and the importance of community service. This, combined with what he described as the district’s need for someone to represent them, inspired his candidacy.

“[Velazquez’s] 13th term would be the district’s bad luck,” Lee said.

Lee attended Columbia University in the early 1970s and was active in both the anti-Vietnam War movement and in civil rights marches on campus, and throughout New York City. He was also a part of the Asian-American Movement, which helped give Asian-Americans a political identity in America and shaped Lee’s own views on politics and community.

“When I was a sophomore, I began to come down to Chinatown, a community I identified with even though I didn’t live there at the time,” Lee said. “So I volunteered as a translator for elderly people in the community. I volunteered at free health clinics, I volunteered at social agencies. That’s how I began my involvement with communities.”

After graduating from Columbia University, Lee began working in Chinatown at a Community Food Co-op, and at the Chinatown Health Clinic. Under Lee’s leadership the Chinatown Health Clinic grew from a storefront walk-in clinic to a model of providing primary medical care, and remains a vital part of Lower Manhattan’s civic infrastructure, now named the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center.

Lee first entered the world of politics in 1991 when he was appointed first deputy superintendent of the New York State Banking Department by former Governor Mario Cuomo, a position he held until December 1994. In the years since, Lee practiced law and became the president and CEO of Global Bank.

“I have been emphasizing a lot about the Chinese community, and that’s because that’s where I grew up,” Lee said. “But as an immigrant, I have the ability to represent all of the communities in the district. I have a strong sense of the spirit of service … even as a banker I’m serving the community in a really concrete sense.”

Lee wanted all members of District 7 to know, “we will be engaged, we will be present,” he said. “We will be everywhere in every community in the district.”

The Congressional primaries will take place on June 28.

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