Council member Linda Lee was inaugurated into her position Sunday, April 3, at Queensborough Community College’s Student Union. Lee, a Democrat, now represents District 23 after emerging victorious among seven other candidates in the Democratic primaries last June and the general election in November.
Lee, along with Council member Julie Won of District 26, is the first Korean American woman elected to New York City Council. She is the first woman of color to hold office in District 23.
Prior to becoming a Council member, Lee was the president and CEO of Korean Community Services (KCS), which is dedicated to serving the Korean American community. On a daily basis, the organization provides workforce development, senior care, healthcare, mental health, immigration and other social services to thousands of clients. Additionally, since the start of the pandemic, it has helped community members receive unemployment benefits, PPP loans, COVID tests and vaccinations.
According to Lee, her work at KCS inspired her to run for office in hopes of helping a larger number of people.
“The more I worked at [Korean Community Services], the more I saw it wasn’t just seniors who deserved better — kids, parents, workers, business owners, they’re all struggling in their own ways,” Lee said. “I decided to run for office because I believed we should be doing more to help make ordinary people’s lives just a little bit better each day and provide that voice for the voiceless.”
There were a large number of people who provided remarks during the ceremony. These included Queensborough Community College President Dr. Christine Mangino, Senator Chuck Schumer, New York Attorney General Tish James, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Congresswoman Grace Meng.
Rozic and Meng swore Lee into office.
Lee’s 7-year-old son Drew Kang led the Pledge of Allegiance at the inauguration, with Benjamin N. Cardozo’s Navy JROTC serving as Color Guard. The Korean and American national anthems were performed by Jina Aguilar. Invocations were done by Reverends John Bae and Martin Chang, Rabbi Daniel Pollack and Imam Zubayer Ahmad. The audience was also entertained by the performances of the YeDam Missions Drum Team, Queens College Fanaa Dance Team and Korean Community Services’ Senior Dance Team.
In addition to being a Council member, Lee serves as the chair of the New York City Council Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addictions; co-chair of the New York City Council Queens Delegation; and co-vice chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. She serves on the committees on Aging, Contracts, Education, General Welfare, Parks and Recreation, Transportation and Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Senior Centers and Food Insecurity. Additionally, she is a member of the Women’s Caucus.
While she led KCS, the organization was named a “Champion of Change” in 2014 by the White House for its work around the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, Lee spearheaded the creation of the only state-licensed Article 31 mental health clinic serving the Korean American community in New York.
Lee received a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University’s School of Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College.
She now succeeds Barry Grodenchik as District 23’s Council member. Grodenchik served in that position from 2015 to 2021.