By Madina Toure

Bellerose native Celia Dosamantes—at 24, the youngest of the seven candidates pursuing the City Council seat vacated by Mark Weprin—has ambitious goals for District 23.

The former aide to Assemblyman David Weprin and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) wants to expand transportation services, put more funding into senior services such as Access-A-Ride and Medicare as well as local senior centers that cater to the Latino, Indian and Muslim communities.

“I came from the neighborhood, I grew up here and I want the leadership to reflect the diversity of the community and my platform is for everybody,” Dosamantes said.

She said the biggest issue in the district is education, which hits close to home for her.

Dosamantes attended Francis Lewis HS, which she said suffered from overcrowding. In addition, her mother taught for more than 30 years and was a network leader with Martin Van Buren HS in Queens Village. Despite having high-performing schools, School District 26 suffers from issues such as crowded classrooms, lack of opportunities and insufficient transparency from the city Department of Education, Dosamantes said.

She noted Benjamin Cardozo HS in Bayside is cutting out some of its Advanced Placement programs and that Martin Van Buren HS was able to resolve its issues with high suspension rates, but currently shares its location with Business Technology Early College HS.

She also wants to put in associate degree programs in some of the high schools, re-evaluate the lottery system that determines high schools for students and avoid the use of trailer classrooms.

But the larger issue, she said, is increasing transparency from the DOE regarding its policies and projects on a micro level at each school and ensuring parents are informed of those changes.

“We have the (community) education council but we need to have more dialogues, not just with the PTA and the education council. We need to have, what exactly is the DOE doing on a macro level as a whole, as a system, but on a micro level with each school,” she said.

Dosamantes received her bachelor’s degree from SUNY Albany and is hopes to finish law school at St. John’s University. She says she reflects the diversity of the district and the borough at large: she is Indian, Bengali, Mexican, Hungarian, Israeli and Russian and speaks Bengali, Hindi and Spanish.

She is the first woman to serve as executive director of the Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group. She is also the co-founder of Footprints Path to Success.

Dosamantes said the complaints and concerns regarding Access-a-Ride have to do with language barriers and appointments not being picked up on time, which can be fixed with an accountability structure.

More generally, she said that there are other ways to get funding for social-recreational services such as senior services, transportation and education to promote the community.

The $17.5 million in funding that Madison Square Garden owes the state is a source of money, Dosamantes cited as an example.

“(I) worked on the budget on the state for the last four years and there’s been a $2 billion surplus every year,” Dosamantes said. “It’s just how you implement it.”

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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