Community advocate Cristina Furlong announces run for Ferreras-Copeland Council seat

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Jackson Heights resident Cristina Furlong, the co-founder of transit advocacy group Make Queens Safer, has announced her bid for the City Council seat left vacant by Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Furlong, who has lived in Queens for 17 years, will be running against Assemblyman Franciso Moya and former politician Hiram Monserrate. Furlong said she decided to run after realizing that Ferreras-Copeland’s dropping out would mean there would be less women in office.

“I was disheartened to hear that the City Council would be down to only seven women out of 51 seats,” she said in a statement. “As a mother and parent on an extremely working-class income, I want to be able to support families in similar circumstances.”

She argued that because of the “current political climate,” the 21st Council District needs a candidate to add to the discussion about issues directly affecting constituents in Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and East Elmhurst.

“I couldn’t stand back and let the dialogue be between Assemblyman Moya and Mr. Monserrate,” she said.

Though Furlong’s background is in film and media production, she began advocating for school construction and safer streets after several personal experiences. Her son began attending a school that was over capacity by 145 percent, which led her to become Parent Teacher Association President and work with elected officials to start a school-citing committee.

“Julissa worked tirelessly on building new schools,” she said. “I hope to continue her progress. But I also hope to use the best of city resources our kids are entitled to, to give them more opportunity and exposure to what is great in our own community as well as NYC.”

She also added that she will focus on segregation and minority isolation in schools. City Council District 21 has a large immigrant population, with 64 percent of Jackson Heights residents identifying as Hispanic. In Corona and Elmhurst, 52 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic and 34 percent of residents identify as Asian.

“The schools are also a gateway to understanding the crisis of immigrant families,” she said. “Be it long working hours, lack of identification and fear of immigration status in relation to health care, crime reporting and economic status.”

In 2013, three children were killed in car crashes in Jackson Heights and, soon after, Furlong founded Make Queens Safer. The group works with schools and community groups to encourage street safety and advocate for safer streets and stronger enforcement of traffic laws. She currently works as a New York City tour guide and graduated from CUNY School of Journalism in 2015.

Furlong said that as a longtime resident, she will continue to “stay connected” to the neighborhood but her new position would allow her to be a stronger advocate for residents.

“I’ve had the opportunity over the years to see closely every neighborhood in every borough through the eyes of tourists,” she said. “Then I come back to Jackson Heights and wonder what keeps our culturally rich, and colorful neighborhood straggling behind others? A council member should be the district’s biggest promoter, and I intend to stay very connected to the district by doing what I’ve always done: shop in our markets, taking my kid to the library, parks and bigger institutions like the [Hall of Science]. Only now, I’ll have the resources to improve and promote them.”