By Bill Parry
When City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) decided against seeking a third term so she could spend more time with her young family, it left Hiram Monserrate, the disgraced former councilman and state senator alone in the field after he announced his candidacy in May. That did not last long.
Within hours of reading of the Ferreras-Copeland decision in Politico, state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) announced he would run last Friday. The next day, street safety advocate Cristina Furlong announced her intention to enter the race.
Moya, who lives on the same block where he was born in Corona, thinks he can do a better job helping the community by being closer to home.
“Now is the time for a champion in the City Council to pass progressive legislation that protects the community, especially with the Trump administration out to punish cities like New York over the sanctuary movement and immigration,” Moya said. “In this community we need to elect the right type of individual, one with integrity. We know all too well how corruption and a lack of accountability can harm our community, and the last thing we need is to follow Ferreras-Copeland’s tenure with the kind of failed leadership of the past.”
Meanwhile, when Ferreras-Copeland made her surprise announcement, Furlong, a 17-year resident of Jackson Heights, knew she had to enter the race.
“With the current political climate nationally so critical to our quality of life here in our neighborhoods of the 21st District, I couldn’t stand back and let the dialogue be between Assemblyman Moya and Mr. Monserrate,” she said.
As a co-founder of Make Queens safer, Furlong found herself at odds with Moya in the three-year battle to make 111th Street safer for cyclists and pedestrians trying to cross into Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“I was disheartened to hear that the City Council would be down to only seven women out of 51 seats,” she said. “As a mother and parent on an extremely working-class income, I want to be able to support families in similar circumstances.”
When her son entered his zoned public school in one of the city’s most over-utilized buildings at 145 percent capacity, she became a strong advocate for both the schoolchildren and the committed teachers and administrators who mentor and empower them. As a PTA president and SLT member, she worked tirelessly to find solutions beyond the promise of new school construction that never keeps up with the growing population.
Furlong has spent nearly 10 years as a NYC tour guide taking cyclists from overseas around town.
“I’ve had the opportunity over the years to see closely every neighborhood in every borough through the eyes of tourists. Then I come back to Jackson Heights and wonder ‘what keeps our culturally rich, and colorful neighborhood straggling behind others?’ ” Furlong said. “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, take my kid to the library, parks and bigger institutions like NYSCI. Only now, I’ll have the resources to improve and promote them.”
As for Monserrate, his expulsion from the state Senate in 2010 after he was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, Karla Girado. was eventually followed by a 24-month prison sentence for mail fraud.
“Monserrate has tried his political comeback three times, and each time he was spurned by voters in these neighborhoods,” said Moya, who insisted he was not leaving the Assembly for the City Council because the salary is more than double.
“My motivation is never about money,” Moya said. “I was very successful in the private sector, I just believe in public service.”
Monserrate said the needs of the community have been ignored and voters are not interested in empty promises.
“Our community isn’t interested in elected officials who are more interested in a pay raise,” Monserrate said. “Our community is only interested in real leadership and real results.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr