Jamaica activist launches grassroots campaign for City Council seat

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Photo courtesy of Moumita Ahmed’s campaign

Grassroots organizer Moumita Ahmed of Jamaica is a community activist and civic leader running to represent Council District 24 in the Feb. 2, 2021, special election to fill the seat formerly occupied by Councilman Rory Lancman. 

Council District 24 includes the neighborhoods of Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Electchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills and Jamaica.

“The campaign is going great so far. We have been the first to submit 500 word signatures, collecting more to ensure a place on the ballot,” Ahmed said. “By our internal count, we have hit the matching funds threshold and we expect to run a strong campaign during the special election.” 

Before running for City Council, Ahmed founded multiple local grassroots movements such as the New Reformers PAC, the Bangladeshi Americans for Political Progress (BAPP), and the Queens Mutual Aid Network. 

She has also worked on the campaign for Bernie Sanders and helped bring Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into the grassroots movement. 

At the age of 8, Ahmed immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh and settled in Jamaica. She attended P.S. 131, JHS 216 and Bronx High School of Science. Growing up, she lived in a rent stabilized two-bedroom apartment with her family, who struggled with housing their entire lives, she said.  

“I’m the only one who understands what it’s like to face eviction and worry about paying rent,” Ahmed said. “Especially during the pandemic, it was evident that renters don’t have rights, are neglected and aren’t prioritized.”

Ahmed’s grassroots campaign is focusing on climate change, education, affordable housing and gentrification, healthcare, and fighting for immigrant families.

Having lived in low-income housing at an early age, Ahmed says she can relate to others who are struggling, and provide a unique perspective on what is needed in the district. 

“I see how seniors are stuck at home living in a one-bedroom apartment sharing it with their children and grandchildren,” Ahmed said. “Tenants are exploited by homeowners and landlords living in illegal basements. Developers are coming in and not providing any support or repairs to buildings, eventually forcing tenants out so they can bring in folks who can afford to pay $1,000 to $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.” 

As a climate change activist, Ahmed would like to see the passage of a Green New Deal to create more green spaces and build a sustainable resilient New York City, following the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 

“We have to do something about it and I think we have the ability to, we just need the will power,” Ahmed said. “I think the real estate developers are the biggest threat to climate change.” 

When it comes to the city’s public school system, Ahmed says a shift in funding from the NYPD to education can lead to the creation of youth programs and rebuild dilapidated buildings. 

“We don’t invest in funding for education, and we should be ashamed. We have an opportunity to educate the children, because the children of the world go to school here,” said Ahmed. “The specialized high schools need to be more diverse. I went to school with kids who are from the upper east side, and they can afford private schools. Instead, we’ve created a bureaucratic system that is unfair.”

This past summer, Ahmed ran a notable bid for District Leader that was decided by a handful of votes. She ran with the first slate of South Asian candidates attempting to upset the longstanding incumbent. 

Her campaign gained significant attention when the Queens Board of Elections (BOE) made an attempt to remove her, and another Muslim woman, Mary Jobaida, from the ballot due to differences between their legal and professional name. 

Ahmed’s legal name is Atqiya, while her personal and professional name is Moumita. 

“We set a precedent and it was historic,” Ahmed said. Democracy should be accessible. If something as a name change can make a huge difference, I was proud of that moment even though I lost the election. It changed lives forever.” 

Now that she’s running to represent her community, Ahmed says she’s excited and feels confident that people will see that she’s authentic, passionate and empathetic. 

“I’ve been doing the work for years, and not just for this community,” Ahmed said. “I don’t claim to have the perfect resume, but I know how to organize people and fight for what’s right. I’ve had over 2,000 votes in this district in June. We are committed to the voters and talking to residents about the issues.”  

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