Simotas eyes Gianaris’ seat

As Assemblymember Michael Gianaris prepares to make the jump from the Assembly to the State Senate this winter, a very close friend and protégé seems poised to fill his seat.
Aravella Simotas, a lifelong Astoria resident who currently works as an attorney at Bickel Brewer in Manhattan, will be the prohibitive favorite as she tries to become the next Assembly representative for the 36th District.
“The reasons is simply because I have been engaged in this community my entire life ever since I could really remember,” Simotas said, while having coffee at Igloo Café on 31st Street in Astoria before work recently. “I have been very active in civic associations; I’ve been very active on the community board; I’m a native Astorian, and I understand the problems my neighbors have.”
In addition to serving on Community Board 1 and the board of the United Communities Civic Association, Simotas is no stranger to the western Queens political scene. The 31-year-old previously worked for former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., and then later worked for his son, current City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.
“Peter Vallone Sr. is a lion in this community and working with him confirmed my desire to work in public service,” she said.
So, when Gianaris decided to run for the State Senate seat that George Onorato is retiring from, Simotas believed that her familiarity with the community, political experience and skill set she has developed during the last eight years working as an attorney, were all reasons she should enter the race.
The soft-spoken and articulate 31-year-old believes that one of the biggest issues facing the community is the overcrowding of Mt. Sinai Hospital.
“We have a growing population and don’t have a hospital facility that is large enough to service all of its residents,” said Simotas, who recounted a personal experience of having to bring her father there a few years ago after he suffered a heart attack. “We just need a bigger facility so that people aren’t waiting in the ER [emergency room] for two days to get a room.”
In addition to increased hospital access, Simotas listed securing more money for local public schools – including those who provide after school programs for youngsters – and making sure the community is not adversely affected by mass transit cuts as some of her top priorities.
While Simotas has already received the backing of both Vallones, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, she said he true political mentor was her lifelong friend, Gianaris.

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