By Nathan Duke
Astoria Democrat Jeremiah Frei-Pearson said he has fought powerful interests and gotten results for the residents of his neighborhood and plans to do the same if chosen by voters as the replacement for state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) this fall.
Frei-Pearson, 32, who works as a civil and children’s rights attorney, is one of three Democrats running for Gianaris’ seat. He will face Aravella Simotas, an attorney and Community Board 1 member, and John Ciafone, who challenged City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) in 2001, in September’s Democratic primary.
“The system is just broken,” Frei-Pearson said. “I’m running because I think I can make a difference. We can’t afford not to change the system.”
Gianaris has announced his candidacy to replace state Sen. George Onorato (D-Astoria), who will retire at the end of the year.
Frei-Pearson said his priorities are to create additional health care options for his community, education, the environment, Albany reform and transportation.
“There are more hospital beds per person in South America than there are in western Queens,” he said. “This is a governmental failure.”
He is also concerned about the lack of after-school programs in the district following Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to shut down 17 sites in the five boroughs, several of which are in western Queens.
“I graduated from New York public schools, so I believe I have a moral obligation to give kids a chance to go to a good school,” he said.
Frei-Pearson said he sued Con Edison over the 10-day western Queens blackout in 2006 that left 174,000 residents in the dark and caused businesses to lose millions of dollars. He vowed to challenge corporations that threaten his community’s well-being and push for reform in Albany’s dysfunctional Legislature.
“I’ve spent my entire professional life fighting powerful interests on behalf of people,” he said. “We need to reform campaign finance. I could receive a donation almost twice as much as one for Barack Obama. When someone writes a check that big, they are buying something. It says that our government is for sale.”
He said he would propose legislation to introduce term limits in the Assembly and that he would not serve more than eight years.
Key issues in his campaign would also be the environment and improvements to the western Queens electrical system.
“Our neighborhood has too many power plants,” he said of Astoria, which generates 60 percent of the city’s electrical power. “We have to close the unsafe plants, invest in wind farms and upgrade our electrical grid. It’s not acceptable to have a blackout every few years.”
If elected, Frei-Pearson said he would also fight to bring back the W train, which soon will be cut by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, ensure that subway stations in western Queens are handicap accessible and initiate programs to decrease poverty in the district.
Frei-Pearson’s endorsements include Democracy for New York, the Stonewall Democrats and Marriage Equality for New York.
Simotas is being backed by a bevy of western Queens elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and Gianaris. Ciafone is also running on the Independence and Conservative party lines.
The district covers Astoria and a section of Long Island City.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.