Saying that it’s time the district had “a real Democrat,” Jessica Ramos, a Jackson Heights resident and former City Hall staffer, announced on Jan. 25 her candidacy for state Senator Jose Peralta’s seat.
Ramos held her press conference at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, where here two sons currently attend school. She decided to make her run official on Jan. 25 because it marks one year since incumbent Jose Peralta joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).
Though Democrats make up the majority of the state Senate — they have 32 members, while Republicans have 31 — the eight-member coalition and Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder, who is not part of the IDC but caucuses with Republicans, puts the number of mainline Democrats in the state Senate at 23.
“One year ago today, politics in our district changed forever,” Ramos said. “One year ago today, the bigot in the White House announced the travel ban on Muslim majority countries targeting our fellow Queens residents and making them feel unsafe. That same day, our state senator who calls himself a Democrat joined the conference that concedes control of our Senate to the Republicans.”
Peralta today released “A Year in Review” highlighting the more than $5 million he was able to secure for the district’s schools and local community organizations, including $100,000 for P.S. 69. In a mass email to constituents on Jan. 25, 2017, Peralta explained that “the IDC has demonstrated its ability to deliver real results for constituents” including passing legislation to provide paid parental leave and a minimum wage increase.
Ramos said as part of her campaign she will seek to educate constituents about what the IDC is and “that it’s not as progressive as they claim it to be.”
“There’s a reason that they vote to empower the Republicans and many of those are perks that they would actually probably get if they contributed to the democratic majority like we voted them in to do,” she said.
Those perks include bigger offices, larger staff and discretionary funding for constituents, she added. Last June, residents in Peralta’s district held a town hall titled “Where is Peralta?” after the senator declined to hold an additional meeting explaining his move to the IDC. Approximately 200 people showed up to learn about the eight-member coalition.
“That’s one of the reforms we need in Albany so desperately – making sure that funding is allocated to each district evenly and equitably regardless of who is in power,” she told QNS.
Ramos left her job as the director of Latino media at the mayor’s office in December and said her decision to run stems partly from realizing the limited power that the city has over big issues such as transportation, education and housing laws.
“It was a very personal decision for me,” she told QNS. “Working in City Hall, I understood the limitations that the city has over many of the things we depend on every day.”
In 2006, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v State of New York court ruling found that city public schools were underfunded and ruled that Albany pay $5.6 billion in operating aid or what is called Foundation Aid. The state currently owes P.S. 69 a total of $1.8 million and still owes a majority of the more than $5 billion citywide.
“I am proud of our amazing school, but I know they would do even better if it were properly funded,” she said. “But so far the state hasn’t paid up. As your state senator, I will fight for a school system that works for every child in every school in this district and across the state.”
She also said the subway system is “in crisis,” detailing her experience last summer when she was stuck on the 7 train for two hours.
“It was terrible and everyone around me was furious,” she said. “We need a voice in the state Senate fighting for a subway system that works for working people.”
She added that elevators should be installed at every station and that they “be built and maintained by people who are trained and licensed to do the work.”
Ramos also took a dig at her opponent, whose law to study the levels of lead paint around elevated train tracks passed the state Legislature recently.
“I don’t want a study about the level of lead paint,” she said. “I want the lead paint to be removed immediately.”
Ramos argued that the MTA spends too much money on cosmetic fixes and should instead invest in installing the new signal system called communications-based train control across the subway system.
One of her biggest priorities, she said, is making sure Queens residents, especially those who rent, can still afford to live in their neighborhoods.
“I’m part of that generation of professionals that has student debt,” she said. “So in spite of having a good job, instead of saving to buy a home, we’ve had to finish paying off my student debt so we are renters.”
Ramos and her husband currently pay preferential rent for their Jackson Heights apartment, a price lower than market rate.
“If he wanted to, he could bring my rent up to market rate [when my lease is up] and I have to tell you, I don’t know if I’d be able to afford to live here anymore.”
She proposes passing stronger tenant laws and repealing the Urstadt Law, which bars New York City from passing stricter rent regulations than the state.
Her platform also includes calling on Albany to make New York a sanctuary state and building “the right mechanisms to help our small business thrive in the face of chains that are sneaking into our economic corridors.”
“I’ve spent my entire career fighting for working people,” she said. “I’ve used my voice to empower immigrants and workers. I’ve ensured our communities are informed about city initiatives and services but the city can only do so much when Albany is systematically broken.”