By Gina Martinez
Hiram Monserrate is hoping to make an unlikely comeback.
The former councilman and state senator is running against Assemblyman Francisco Moya to represent District 21 in the City Council. Monserrate was expelled by the Senate in 2010 for assaulting his girlfriend, which was a misdemeanor, and then served two years in prison after being convicted of a felony for conspiracy and mail fraud for misusing $100,000 in City Council grants to fund a political campaign for the Senate.
Monserrate, who was a Councilman in District 21, said he has lived in Corona and has seen the neighborhood decline, and that Moya, who he claims lives in a penthouse in Long Island City, not his parents’ home in Corona, has no idea how to fix the neighborhood because he does not live there.
“This is my borough and someone has to be a voice piece for the community,” Monserrate said. “Moya is not a voice piece, he’s a tool for corporate interests. Supporting him will just get more of the same, nothing changes and they’ll build another stadium. There won’t be any affordable housing and people will be displaced.”
Monserrate first came back into the spotlight because of the Willets Point plan. Monserrate said when he was in the City Council in 2008, he negotiated a deal whereby 64 acres of city-owned land would be transformed into 5,500 units of housing, with 35 percent of it affordable, along with a school, hotel, and retail shops to support the new community. He said in the years after he left the Council, the deal was renegotiated several times and scrapped any hope of affordable housing.
“What occurred was a prime example of what’s wrong with politics, particularly in the borough of Queens,” he said in an interview at the TimesLedger offices. “I took a major role in negotiating the original deal. This project went to a vote, and the Council voted and the mayor approved, There was a process, a long fight to ensure that the community benefited. So to me this was the biggest crime perpetuated on the people of Queens — the renegotiated deal. Everybody was in on it: City Council, Assembly members, the borough president. It almost seemed like no one was even challenging it, no one, so a few months ago I went out publicly and started talking about it.”
Monserrate said he never expected Councilman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland to resign and he saw the vacant seat as an opportunity to run. It was soon after that Moya decided to run as well. Monserrate’s main criticism of Moya is his lack of action in the Assembly. He said Moya has done nothing to benefit the community and has passed no legislation. Monserrate said he wants to improve quality-of-life issues in the area, continue fighting for a Willets Point plan that benefits the community and helps small businesses grow.
Monserrate said he acknowledges his checkered past, but he served his time and is ready to come back to public office.
“I want to bring all of this knowledge, experience and life lesson to build the next generation of people in our community and let them learn from my mistakes,” he said. “You’re better off voting for the guy who had a couple downfalls along the way, but wiped off his pants, got up, and said ‘I’m going to press on. I’m going to keep fighting for you,’ and even though its not popular, I’m going to talk about the fact that the billionaires are taking over our property, pushing us out. I’m going to talk about the fact that were not getting services, our schools are the most overcrowded in the city, our transit is falling apart, and drugs and prostitution are rampant on Roosevelt Ave. I’m going to continue beating the drum.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart