By Mark Hallum
Suraj Patel, an attorney and professor, is challenging 25-year incumbent U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) in Tuesday’s Democratic primary and hopes to protect immigrants from the policies of the Trump administration and uplift the science community to take on climate change.
Maloney is currently running on her record of bringing $10 billion in federal funds to her district, spanning the east side of Manhattan, western Queens and parts of Brooklyn, that went toward the construction of the 2nd Avenue Subway and the Kosciuszko Bridge linking Long Island City to Greenpoint.
But Patel is also tackling issues of more localized interest in the district, such as problems experienced by those in NYCHA’s Queensbridge housing involving mold and lead, which came up at a town hall June 18 in Long Island City.
“Not a single member of Congress from the city of New York sits on the housing, transportation and infrastructure committee,” Patel said. “You choose your committees when you go to Congress, and none of them, including Carolyn Maloney, who has the largest public housing project in the country, has decided to prioritize fighting for that housing.”
NYCHA has seen a $3 billion cut in its operating budget from the federal government since 2001, according to the city agency.
About 2,500 of Patel’s 6,000 petition signature were collected from Queensbridge Houses.
While Patel, a first-generation American, in a NY1 televised debate advocated for the defunding of ICE to protect the immigrant communities from widespread deportation, Maloney responded to the this view by saying the energy and authority of ICE should be overhauled.
“ We [The Women’s Caucus] have a bill in to reorganize ICE and redirect it to helping people, not deporting people,” Maloney said. “But you do need a Border Patrol and ICE does combat sex trafficking, drugs and guns at the border, which are important things to do. But we need comprehensive immigration reform.”
Maloney is looking to help pass a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals measure in the House. More than 700,000 young people remain in the country under DACA, a program introduced by former President Barack Obama which allowed them to go to college and apply for work permits after having been brought here illegally as children.
The congresswoman is also involved in putting together a hearing about the separation of children from families while crossing the Mexican border into the United States.
Patel attended Stanford University, Cambridge University and NYU, and represented immigrants as an attorney with ACLU after President Donald Trump issued a ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries by executive order.
Patel wants to set a different tone for scientific knowledge than his opponent who for some time questioned whether or not vaccines could cause autism, which he believes lent credence to the same kind of science denial which has led some of the public to disregard climate change science.
The Democratic primary is June 26.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall