Leaders want South Asian in Albany – QNS.com

Leaders want South Asian in Albany

By Rich Bockmann

South Asian community leaders said this week they were ready to stand behind one of their own to take eastern Queens’ 24th state Assembly District this year.

The district, which has been represented by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) since 2010, was redrawn two years ago to stretch further west to include the neighborhoods of Jamaica Hills, Briarwood and Richmond Hill.

South Asians now make up about 39 percent of the district. Attorney and civic activist Ali Najmi is preparing to make a run at Weprin, and although he has not yet announced his candidacy, community leaders are ready to support him.

“Sure, I will endorse him if he announces. Of course, he’s one of the best candidates,” Muhammad Rashid, who runs the Smart Academia tutoring center on Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, said Monday as he and three other community members met with reporters to discuss the issues they would like to see their Assembly member tackle.

At the top of the community’s priorities list, Rashid said, are initiatives such as building a multicultural senior center, finding more space for students at the cramped Richmond Hill High School and addressing traffic safety concerns.

Rashid said Weprin has not been able to produce the desired results and dismissed the assemblyman’s plans to open a district office in Richmond Hill as election year posturing.

“Too little, too late,” he said.

Weprin told TimesLedger Newspapers he was proud of the work he has done so far representing the entirety of the diverse district.

“I’ve been a leader in Albany on issues important to the South Asian community, opening the first-ever district office on Atlantic Avenue in Richmond Hill. I’ve sponsored legislation to require schools to provide halal food for students, spoken out against hate crimes and bias and I’ve worked to make sure that no one faces workplace discrimination for wearing religious apparel, no matter what their faith,” he said.

“But I never rest on past work, so I’m really honored by the support and recognition I’ve received from so many South Asian leaders and I look forward to continuing my work to serve this community as we all move forward.”

Attorney Sharon KhunKhun is the cofounder of SEVA NY, a nonprofit that has worked on initiatives such as increasing the South Asian response to the 2010 census and advocating for the 2012 redistricting.

KhunKhun said leaders are working to sign up voters and push for a high turnout at this year’s election. There is no reason, she said, South Asians should not back one of their own.

“This really is about if a good South Asian candidate steps forward, why would we not?” she said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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