Ariola takes commanding lead over Singh in southern Queens City Council race

Joann Ariola celebrates her victory over Felicia Singh with Councilmen Robert Holden (left) and Eric Ulrich (right) on Nov. 2. (Photo courtesy of Kevin J. Ryan)

Republicans appeared to draw a line in the Rockaway sand and fended off a progressive onslaught to defend the last GOP-held office in Queens.

Absentee ballots must still be counted, with the process beginning next week.

Ariola celebrated her apparent victory on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 2, at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach, where Councilman Eric Ulrich, who has held the seat since 2009, said he was happy to pass the torch to the woman he had endorsed to succeed him.

District 32 comprises several south Queens neighborhoods, from Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor and Breezy Point to Howard Beach, Broad Channel, Ozone Park, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill.

Ariola first ran for public office a quarter of a century ago when she ran for the Assembly but came up short. She then ran for City Council in 2001 but lost to current state Senator Joseph Addabbo. She most recently ran in the special election for Queens borough president last year, and now she will take her place in the City Council.

“I know what my neighbors want, as these election results prove. They want safe streets, clean parks, thriving businesses and quality education, and I’m going to fight for those things in the Council. They do not want the progressive socialism that’s hurting our city’s quality of life and they have resoundingly rejected it this week,” Ariola said. “I look forward to continuing the fine tradition of vigorous representation of Councilman Eric Ulrich and working with other sensible council members, like Councilman Robert Holden. We have a lot of work to do.”

She based her campaign on a public safety message and hammered her opponent for supporting defunding the NYPD and closing Rikers Island.

Progressives turned out in droves to support Singh, an educator and daughter of working-class immigrants, who ran on a platform of education and environmental issues, supporting taxi drivers and small businesses. She had the support of the Working Families Party and a coalition of grassroots and labor organizations including 32BJ and District Council 37.

“With the results from last night, it is clear I will not have the honor of serving as the council member of District 32,” Singh said Wednesday. “I’ve always been in service to others: I served as a teacher; I served the United States; and I served our community as a civic leader. My fight comes from my mother. My faith comes from my father. My courage comes from my community. I ran for all of our communities because I knew we deserved so much more. I ran to include people who have never been part of our electoral process at all. Folks who felt erased and neglected year after year after year.”

Singh took solace in the debt relief deal reached Wednesday between taxi drivers and the city after many went on a two-week hunger strike.

“As a daughter of a taxi driver, I am so moved to know that today the New York Taxi Worker Alliance won the city-backed guarantee,” Singh said. “Moment and community building takes time, courage and resilience. Hope is everywhere because it’s inside us.”

She also thanked her family, staff, volunteers and endorsers that came together to form Team Felicia.

“People showed up from all corners of this community and you’ve become our family. For that I’m grateful,” she said. “We lead with joy and courage and we built something revolutionary here in Queens.”

Meanwhile, Ulrich was pleased with the results Tuesday night.

“The torch has been passed to a truly great person. I have full confidence in Joann’s ability to represent our community at City Hall. She will be a breath of fresh air and a strong voice for all the people of the 32nd Council District,” Ulrich said. “The election is now over. The voters have spoken. And we must all work together for the betterment of our city. Thank you to my constituents for giving me the opportunity to serve as your councilman for the past 12-and-a-half years. It has been an honor and privilege and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We made a difference. Now it is Joann’s turn.”