Queens political stories to watch for in 2022

A poll worker watches as voters fill out their ballots at the P.S. 31Q polling site in Bayside on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

In 2021, many political races and stories demanded extensive media coverage. From former Gov. Andrew Cuomo ending a decade-long run in disgrace to historic local Queens races, New Yorkers were never bored.

Now, as we look ahead to 2022, here are some key political stories to keep an eye on.

Congressional District 12 race

Astoria resident Rana Abdelhamid is running against longtime incumbent Carolyn Maloney for Congressional District 12. (Photos courtesy of campaigns)

First, we have Rana Abdelhamid running to represent New York’s 12th Congressional District, which consists of western Queens as well as sections of east Manhattan and north Brooklyn. Abdelhamid is a Democrat running for incumbent U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s seat. 

Abdelhamid is focusing her platform on recovery and relief as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on her community. Abdelhamid is also a proponent of improving affordable housing, investing in public education and passing Green New Deal.

Her progressive stances have garnered the support of high-profile Democrats such as Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán, actress and former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, and former Long Island City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. She is also backed by Justice Democrats, the group that helped U.S Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman unseat their incumbent challengers. 

Maloney, who’s occupied that seat since 2013, also supports the Green New Deal, as well as building up public transportation.

Last summer, Maloney only narrowly beat her primary challenger, activist Suraj Patel, by 3,500 votes. Patel told media back in March that he also intends to run again.

A new era of women-led politics in the City Council 

A first-ever woman majority is poised to take over the City Council with many representing Queens and supported by 21 in ’21. (Photo courtesy of 21 in ’21)

Councilwoman Adrienne Adams declared victory in the race for speaker on Friday, Dec. 17, making her the first Black woman to sit in that position.

“Our coalition reflects the best of our city,” Adams said. “We are ready to come together to solve the enormous challenges we face in order to not just recover from COVID but to build a better, fairer city that works for everyone.”

Adams will be leading a history-making women-led City Council. As many as 31 women are sitting in City Council seats in the 51-member body, with many of them representing Queens. 

The group 21 in ’21, founded in 2017, advocated on behalf of several candidates to elect more women to seats on the Council. 

Some new members include Astoria Democrat Cabán, Oakland Gardens Democrat Linda Lee, Sunnyside Democrat Julie Won and Howard Beach Republican Joann Ariola.

Excluded Workers Fund

A first-ever woman majority is poised to take over the City Council with many representing Queens and supported by 21 in ’21. (Photo courtesy of 21 in ’21)

Queens officials are advocating for additional funds to be invested in the Excluded Workers Fund, which has provided $2 billion to over 300,000 families.

State Senator Jessica Ramos, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and activists called on Gov. Kathy Hochul to invest an additional $3 billion to the Excluded Workers Fund that provides aid to people left out of government programs like unemployment or the stimulus packages during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Considering the fund was drained after only about four months of being open to applications, activists are considering the hundreds of thousands of other families still in need of those funds. Advocates estimated that around 50,000 applicants were left out since the fund closed. 

Most of these families excluded from government aid are undocumented immigrants that pay taxes and contribute to the city’s economy. 

What NYC officials will throw their name in the hat for the governor race?

The New York state gubernatorial race will be quite a show. The resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo resulted in almost an immediate rush of candidates vying for the seat, currently held by Hochul. While Hochul is running to be elected for the position, so are a number of other candidates.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams declared his candidacy in November, branding himself as the party’s progressive option. Williams, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, ran for lieutenant governor against Hochul in 2018 but came up short by about 6 percentage points. 

De Blasio ends his eight-year mayoral administration this year and filed paperwork a month ago for his potential gubernatorial run. But there may be a few factors against de Blasio, who had an unsuccessful bid for president in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Tom Suozzi, Democratic Congressman who represents parts of northeast Queens and Long Island, is also running for the position. The former mayor of Glen Cove and Nassau County executive now describes himself as a “commonsense Democrat” representing parts of Queens and Long Island in Congress.

On the Republican ticket so far, Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, launched his bid for governor. Giuliani is a former professional golfer and worked as a special assistant in President Donald Trump’s White House.

Reform at Rikers Island

Photo by Dean Moses.

Queens elected officials have not been quiet on this issue. 

The plan, as of now, is to close Rikers Correctional Center by 2027. Under this plan, smaller jails would replace Rikers in each borough except Staten Island— construction on the Kew Gardens facility has already begun. The plan as a whole are controversial.

Councilman Robert Holden, among other Queens leaders, stood outside the Kew Gardens construction site to protest borough-based jails in August 2021. Instead, Holden suggested rebuilding Rikers.

“There is no reason to close Rikers Island; keep it open,” he said.

However, progressive Queens elected officials disagree, calling Rikers a humanitarian crisis that includes a heated debate about solitary confinement. U.S Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called on Hochul to immediately close Rikers and release those detained in September, when the death count at the jail was at 11 (it is currently at 14). De Blasio, however, said that idea was a non-starter.

Eric Adams, the incoming mayor, consistently supported closing Rikers but recently started to walk back on those sentiments. Particularly, Adams brings up issues with the community-based jails and their functionality. Adams could make changes to the scale of these jails, but choosing new locations would require another land use approval process.

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