New head of Queens County Democrats facing his own challenge from the left

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Congressman Gregory Meeks, months after being appointed Queens County Democratic Party chair, now has a target on his back by a progressive group known as Roots Action.

Released almost exactly a year after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez routed high-ranking former Congressman Joe Crowley, the far left is now making the rounds to other congressional districts as denoted in the list of 15 who “deserve” to be unseated.

Roots Action alleged Meeks has long taken money from the real estate industry, claiming he had turned his back on the black community in during the Recession when black homeowners suffered from rampant foreclosures.

“In a borough that offered grassroots support to the strong insurgent campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress in 2018 and Tiffany Cabán for Queens District Attorney this year, experienced activists could fuel a challenge to Meeks. A former AOC campaign staffer, Shaniyat Chowdhury, has announced his candidacy,” the report stated.

Chowdhury not only worked with the Ocasio-Cortez campaign, but has much in common with the freshman congresswoman who swung a wrecking ball at the Queens Democratic “machine” last year.

At 27, Chowdhury is a bartender at a Latin club in Elmhurst and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Chowdhury has lived in Meeks’ district since 2007 in the South Jamaica Houses, a NYCHA complex, and served in the U.S. Marine Corp for six years.

The south Queens resident said the district could be one of the most progressive in the country, if only it could be taken back from Meeks who claimed in an interview with City&State is “a corporatist that hasn’t represented our interests in a very, very long time.”

Chowdhury looked to the fact that Meeks has been in office for over 20 years – since 1997 – and with the housing crisis, healthcare and the student loan crisis, it is now time for Millennials to take responsibility for imposing change.

“Even with Donald Trump in office, what it comes down to is our own party and what they’ve done. It’s not always about Republicans or Democrats,” Chowdhury told QNS.

Meeks’ district covers much of southeast Queens, the communities of which have yet to turn out for the June 25 Queens District Attorney race. But local organizations seem to be less in favor of mainstream Democrats than the county party would let on with the majority of grassroots organizations across the borough backing Tiffany Cabán.

Carl Stubbs, with VOCAL NY, told QNS they were supporting Tiffany Caban for DA in opposition to the Democrats currently representing their communities backing up the claim that leaders in southeast Queens no longer see eye-to-eye with constituents.

Stubbs claimed that community support, even in financial form, for the party has not paid off for residents.

Meeks as well as the party has back Melinda Katz for DA, a candidate who has been criticized for having the highest level of corporate and real estate contributions in the pack field of candidates.

With Tuesday’s primary just a day away, thousands of dollars continued to flow into the campaign coffers of Melinda Katz as of Monday.

Over $300,000 was contributed to her committee for district attorney, Katz NYS, from another committee listed with the state Board of Elections as Katz 2021 near the end of May.

In the race for District Attorney, Katz consolidated wide support including that of an opponent – Councilman Rory Lancman – who conceded to her four days before primary day with $1.3 million in contributions already raised.

Rumors of a political deal began to circulate, which Lancman denied, attributing his sudden backing of Katz to the numbers simply not being on his side. He will still be on the ballot alongside Cabán, Katz, Gregory Lasak, Mina Malik, Jose Nieves and Betty Lugo.

But Meeks is not the only Democrat facing a challenge.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney will go up against Erica Vladimer in 2020. As a former staffer for now-unseated State Senator Jeff Klein, Vladimer made headlines in 2015 speaking out against her boss on sexual assault allegations.

Klein lost his seat to state Senator Alessandra Biaggi in 2018 as part of a sweep of former Independent Democratic Conference members which also included former state Senator Tony Avella, replaced by John Liu, and the late state Senator Jose Peralta, who was defeated by Jessica Ramos just weeks before his sudden death.

After coming to terms with the trauma of her experiences working for Klein, Vladimer said she took a break from working in government until finding the right support groups.

“By not speaking out, I was not helping to find a solution to something that was so clearly pervasive and systemic in Albany and so many other work spaces,” Vladimer said.

Vladimer fell in love with government work and education policy reform early in her career, she told QNS, and after leaving Klein’s office switched over to the city Independent Budget Office.

Although Vladimer did not express a hard stance against Maloney, she echoed the views of many progressives of hoping to ensure housing as a human right and decriminalizing sex work.

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