The Democratic candidates for the 13th State Senate district race discussed what needs to be done to pass the DREAM Act and how to fix Roosevelt Avenue in a bilingual Facebook Live candidate forum on Aug. 23 co-hosted by QNS, The Queens Courier and El Correo.
Senator Jose Peralta and Jessica Ramos visited the Schneps Communications office in Bayside for the online-broadcasted hour-long forum, which appeared on both the QNS and El Correo Facebook pages.
From the beginning of the conversation, Peralta hammered home the importance of numbers — as in the number of votes needed to pass legislation in the Senate. The incumbent senator said that the DREAM Act, among other laws, failed to pass due to a lack of votes.
“It’s simple math, you need 32 [votes]. We only have 31 Democrats,” Peralta said. “We were able to move it from 17 members who were cosponsors, to 31 members who are now cosponsors. But we need that 32nd vote.”
The senator mentioned that despite not being able to get 32 votes, Senate Democrats were able to secure $15 million in government funding to protect DREAMers from being deported.
But Ramos disagreed that numbers were the most important factor and argued that the senator had done little to pass the DREAM Act over the past eight years, despite the issue being a priority.
“We’ve seen very little done to actually create the public discourse or the political environment that is conducive to having it pass, which I think is most critical right now because of the times that we’re living in and because of the bigot we have in the White House,” Ramos said.
The Senate hopeful said that electing more Democrats to office as well as having conversations, “pushing the envelope,” and “using your bully pulpit” are the necessary courses of action to pass the DREAM Act.
Later on in the debate, the candidates talked about what needed to be done to improve the state of Roosevelt Avenue, which she said has been plagued with issues of sex workers, human trafficking and street vendors not following the laws.
“There’s just a lot of work to do on Roosevelt Avenue in many different ways that needs to actually engage the people who live on Roosevelt Avenue — because we forget there are houses there, there are people who live there — and also the people who work there to have actual conversations and figure out how we’re empowering them economically.
Senator Peralta called Roosevelt Avenue a “city issue” that he said he had to step in to fix due to the inaction of several mayors.
The senator added that despite having worked for Mayor Bill de Blasio in the past, Ramos was not vocal about the issues plaguing Roosevelt Avenue, while he sent letters to the mayor asking for investments and reform.
“That’s why I’ve talked about converting it into ‘restaurant row’ and getting rid of those $2 dance bars that leads to prostitution, that leads to human trafficking. I’ve been the one who has been pushing against that. I’ve been vocal,” said the senator, who said he has had conversations with entities like the state liquor authority, the NYPD and “multiple mayors.”
The Democratic primary is on Thursday, Sept 13. The winner between Peralta and Ramos will go on to represent NY-13 in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Watch the full debate below.