By Bill Parry
As New Yorkers head to the polls Tuesday for a special election to fill 11 vacant seats in the state Legislature, only one office representing Queens is open. Corona resident Ari Espinal, 30, is running unopposed for the District 39 Assembly seat vacated by her old boss and mentor Francisco Moya when he won election to the City Council last year.
“As a lifelong resident of central Queens, I understand the challenges facing our diverse and growing community,” Espinal said. “I am the proud daughter of a union family, and I know that our communities thrive when there are good jobs with fair-paying wages. Now, more than ever before, our state leaders must be a bulwark against the hate and divisiveness coming from the Trump extremists in Washington. I am ready to continue making New York a progressive beacon for our nation. Closer to home, I will be an aggressive advocate to solve local neighborhood issues, making our corner of Queens a great place to live, raise a family and retire.”
Espinal is the daughter of Dominican immigrants and has been working since the age of 13 to improve the lives of her neighbors in Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights as a community organizer and later as Democratic District Leader. Espinal spent seven years as director of Constituent Services for then-Assemblyman Moya fighting for the rights of immigrants, women and union laborers. In that role she organized and ran a number of soup kitchens, coat drives, and mobile office events and established herself as a capable resource for assisting the community.
“I am proud to endorse Ari Espinal for state Assembly,” Moya said. “We need leaders like Ari to fight for us in Albany because she truly understands the issues facing Queens families and seniors. Ari will stand up for our values and work hard to deliver for us. She is a true champion for all working families, immigrants, and New Yorkers.”
Espinal also received endorsements from U.S Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), The United Federation of Teachers, the NYS AFL-CIO, the Working Families Party, the Women’s Equality Party and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
“1199SEIU has had a tremendous impact on my life,” Espinal said. “My mom, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, is an 1199 member. Her union job is what provided world-class health care for our family, a pension for a secure retirement, and a path to the middle class. To have the support of the more than 300,000 1199SEIU members in New York means so much to me, and I will fight hard to protect the health and well-being of those who work every day to keep our families healthy.”
Espinal will face a challenge in the September Democratic primary from Catalina Cruz, 35, a Dreamer who served as chief of staff to former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland whose retirement allowed Moya to run for her seat on the City Council.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr