Education advocate takes aim at the only Queens City Council seat currently held by a Republican

Photo courtesy of Felicia Singh

Felicia Singh, a 10th grade teacher and activist, will run in the 2021 election for the City Council seat currently occupied by Councilman Eric Ulrich, which includes the western half of the Rockaway peninsula, Ozone Park and Richmond Hill. 

As daughter of a Punjabi taxi cab driver and a Guyanese bus worker, Singh said she has an acute understanding of how working class, immigrant communities in southeast Queens have been squeezed by the economy. To address these issues, she will focus on education, small business protections, environmental justice, community engagement and transportation. 

Driven by her family’s experience growing up and her professional background as an educator, Singh is making a pitch that school reform is central to her platform aimed at lifting up the working class in her district.

“I’ve learned a great deal about the lack of resources that we provide students at the city level and what that could potentially look like, which is a huge part of what I want to change and make sure that I implement once in office. For me it’s making sure our students have pre-college resources and also for technical and vocational training,” Singh said.

Like its neighboring school District 28, which is in the middle of drafting a contentious diversity plan, District 27 was also flagged as a potential recipient of the desegregation process in 2017. But Singh said that integration needs to beyond shifting students between schools. She would only be in favor of such a plan under the condition that the DOE implement an anti-racist school curriculum to go with it.

“When we use the word diversity, it’s talking tokenism,” said Singh. “That is just like a very shallow level of school integration and it cannot, and it will not work without anti-racist curriculum. It cannot, and it will not work unless we have resources to support students in that transition of integration.”

For Singh, the racial fault lines running through the district don’t just impact her education platform, they affect her reasons for running. Though the seat is currently held by the term-limited, republican Eric Ulrich, Singh said she sees a way to win back the district for the Democrats by activating the Indo-Caribbean, Latino and Punjabi communities that live there. 

“My lived experience in our district is one that will engage people who aren’t asked to be a part of the political process ever. Their doors aren’t knocked on to go out and vote. I’m re-engaging that population that has been disengaged for so long,” she said.

Ulrich was re-elected to a third term with 66 percent of the 22,577 votes in 2017. His most recent Democratic opponent Mike Scala led in three of the four assembly districts that the council district overlaps with, but Ulrich ultimately clinched it by winning big with voters in Assembly District 23, which spans the western half of the peninsula up through Howard Beach. 

Many of the ethnic communities that Singh hopes to capitalize on are most dense in the northern half of the district extending into Ozone Park and Woodhaven. 

Beyond her teaching experience, Singh has done campaign work as Amplify Her Queens director, where she supported the Tiffany Cabán campaign for district attorney. Singh is also vice president of of Our Neighbors Civic Association and a County Committee representative.

She argues that many of the small businesses in the community would be in better shape if they were getting more of a share city capital. Her policies involve getting those businesses increased access to grants and small loans.

Singh also made the link between job access and transportation. Her transportation plan calls for more express buses to and from the Peninsula, and more reliable train service–a necessary step to giving residents more access jobs across the borough and city. 

“Just imagine traveling from Breezy Point or Bell Harbor and trying to get up to all the other parts to get on a or get up to the Northern part of the Rockaway to get on a train and then come into Manhattan. That’s a long trip,” Singh said.