A western Queens tech entrepreneur has joined an already crowded field of candidates vying to replace Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who will be term-limited out of office in 2021.
Ben Guttmann, a 31-year-old Long Island City resident, is the co-founder of Digital Natives and a Community Board 2 member. He launched his campaign for City Council in District 26 which represents Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and parts of Astoria.
“This is a unique moment in New York City history where it feels like the promise we’ve experienced in the last several years is now slipping away from us,” Guttmann said. “One out of five of us is jobless and one in three of our small businesses may never open their doors again and we have the greatest homeless problem since the Great Depression. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed what is broken in this city but it didn’t cause everything that is wrong, it just pulled back the curtain. I realized it was time to get off the sideline and help because this is a time that requires a greater commitment.”
In addition to co-owning his Long Island City-based award-winning digital marketing firm, Guttmann sits on the Board of Directors at the Long Island Partnership, the Queens Economic Development Corporation and Friends of the QNS Rail. He is also an adjunct lecturer teaching digital marketing at Baruch College.
“Baruch is my alma mater where I met my future wife,” Guttmann said. “My students are just getting started with their careers and I wonder what the city will be like for them. I realized I can no longer sit quietly and watch it all fall further apart.”
During his five years as a member of Community Board 2, Guttmann has immersed himself in the issues facing western Queens.
“It’s a fascinating district, the fastest growing in the USA,” Guttmann said. “Every issue the city is faced with happens right here. It acts as a crucible for how we can save the city. We have an affordability and housing crisis, crumbling transit and dangerous streets, sea level rising flooding our waterfront, packed schools, injustice and inequality and squeezed out artists. These and every other challenge facing our city, all of them play out here, western Queens is the whole ballgame.”
The progressive Democrat is well aware that the neighborhoods in western Queens are the political epicenter of the “far left.”
“I like to compare my philosophy with somebody like Elizabeth Warren, looking for structural change and developing progressive solutions to big challenges,” Guttmann said. “I’m encouraged by all of the progressive energy in our city, though ultimately I want to see smart, hard-working people working to solve problems more than anything else.”
Guttmann is also aware that there are nearly a dozen of his neighbors running for Van Bramer’s seat.
“I’m happy to see that there are this many people interested in making this district better,” Guttmann said. “I know several of them and I’m looking forward to joining the conversation with them.”