Uniformed Firefighters Association endorses Ariola for southern Queens City Council race

City Council candidate Joann Ariola speaks following the endorsement of the Uniformed Firefighters Association outside Engine Co. 268 / Ladder Co. 137 on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

The Uniformed Fire Officers Association endorsed Joann Ariola in the hotly contested race for the District 32 City Council seat.

Ariola was met by three of the union’s leadership outside Engine Co. 268/Ladder Co.137 on Beach 116th Street on Monday, Oct. 11, to receive their support in the contest to replace term-limited Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich, who has also endorsed her.

“We want to get behind candidates that take public safety seriously,” Uniformed Firefighters Association Vice President Robert Eustace said. “It seems that public safety has been taken for granted by some or it gets explained away, and she’s someone who doesn’t take us for granted. She understands us. She gets us. She understands the importance of public safety. This is the kind of person who will support our men and women.”

Ariola, the Queens GOP chairwoman and Howard Beach civic leader, has already received endorsements from the Police Benevolent Association, Detectives Endowment Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association and the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, among other uniformed officers unions.

“We chose this spot for this particular endorsement because so many of the members of this house died on 9/11 and only recently a member died from 9/11-related sickness,” Ariola said before pausing for a moment of silence.

City Council Candidate Joann Ariola speaks following the endorsement of the Uniformed Firefighters Association outside Engine Co. 268 / Ladder Co. 137 on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

“The 32nd Council District is comprised of many first responders, and I will make this commitment to you now. When I get to City Hall, and we will be in a battle over the budgets that have to be cut, I will never vote to close one of our fire houses,” Ariola said. “We need to support our first responders and I make the commitment to all of you that as the City Council member, if elected, that I will always support our first responders.”

The firehouse became nationally known when Sandy ravaged the Rockaway Peninsula in 2012. First responders rescued dozens from the flooding from the 10-foot storm surge and the fires that engulfed the business corridor.

“Living in a community that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, we relied on our firefighters and our first responders, some of which saved us from our homes, some of which saved our family members and without the support they need, they won’t be able to do their job effectively,” Ariola said. “I want to be their voice at City Hall. I want to be a voice of common sense for them at City Hall. I will always support our first responders. They are what stands between us and chaos. When our home is burning and we want to run out, firefighters are the ones who are running in to make sure they can save our belongings, our home and, a lot of times, our lives. And they lose their lives while doing so.”

Standing in Ariola’s way is Democratic candidate Felicia Singh, a lifelong resident of Ozone Park. The 10th-grade teacher and community activist has become a focal point for the progressive movement in Queens, as waves of supporters canvass on her behalf to try to “flip the last Republican district in Queens blue.”

Singh has been endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz late last month.

Both Singh and Ariola would be the first woman to represent the district, but if Singh wins the general election on Nov. 2, she would be the first Punjabi or Guyanese person, as well with identities as Sikh and Muslim, to represent the district in the Council.

“I am thrilled to have the support of Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, she grew up as a DREAMer, and we share the working-class, immigrant experience, including the struggle of exploitation and lack of equitable access to resources,” Singh said. “I am hopeful about the future well-being of our communities because of the strong relationships we’re building statewide as Democrats. I’m proud to have Assemblywoman Cruz as part of our coalition.”

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.