By Patrick Donachie
Anna Kaplan, one of the five candidates in the Democratic primary race to succeed U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) in representing northeast Queens, said her approaches to policy and her motivation for running were informed by her experience as an immigrant who left Iran in the midst of that country’s revolution.
“I truly believe I am living the American dream. I came to this country as a refugee, got asylum, got an education, gave my kids a great public education, and I’m putting my best foot forward in giving back,” she said during an interview with the TimesLedger staff. “I would like the opportunities that were available to me to be available to other people coming to this country.”
Kaplan was raised in Iran until she was 13, when she left with 40 other children who were fleeing the country. She eventually settled in Jamaica with her parents and now lives in Great Neck with her family. She was elected to the North Hempstead Town Council in 2011 and won re-election in 2015. Kaplan said she worked well with officials from different political parties and pointed out how she secured state funding to make improvements to Manhasset Valley Park, including athletic fields and a new comfort station that opened last October.
Kaplan said Queens residents in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Bay Terrace, Little Neck, Glen Oaks, Floral Park and Whitestone, have stressed to her that the community needed better transit options, including more express bus stops. Kaplan said she would fight to bring additional revenue back to the district.
“We need to put in more to our infrastructure,” she said. “We, as New Yorkers, send a lot of our federal tax dollars to Washington. As much as I believe we should help others, I think charity begins at home.”
She also noted that Queens suffered from undue aircraft noise, and that she would push to change the FAA standard from 65 to 55 decibels, which would mandate reduced aircraft noise levels in the area. She also wants to ensure that community input and environmental studies are conducted on new flight pathways before they are implemented.
During the interview, Kaplan denounced what she said was the ugly rhetoric from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Though she stressed that the comparisons were not exact, she said that his words evoked the Iranian regime that preyed on the fears of that country’s population during her childhood.
“I think this rhetoric is very hard to take, especially as an immigrant,” she said. “This is not the America that I know. We are a very inclusive country, and I hope it stays that way.”
She also expressed strong reservations over the Iranian nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration. Kaplan criticized the fact that the release of four American hostages in Iran were not included in negotiations and expressed concern that the deal granted legitimacy to the heads of government in that country.
“The majority of the Iranian people are good people and they love America, but it’s the regime that’s different and it’s a regime I don’t trust,” she said. “Legitimizing them, for me, is an issue.”
Finally, Kaplan noted that she had a decidedly different life experience than many current members of Congress and said many in Congress spoke about issues in the Middle East that she had actually lived.
“As a woman, I bring a different voice. As an immigrant coming from a different place, I bring a different voice,” she said. “I think we need more diverse representation in Congress.”
The primary will be held June 28.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona