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Photo by Mark Hallum
Yonel Lettelier Sosa is challenging state Assemblywoman Ari Espinal for the seat she won in a special election in April.
By Mark Hallum

Yonel Lettelier Sosa is hoping to mobilize the Hispanic communities in Corona and Elmhurst which he claims are generally apolitical in his attempt to take to take the seat currently occupied by state Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights).

The Dominican Republic-born Democrat, who also faces attorney Catalina Cruz in the Sept. 13 primary, has worked politically throughout District 39 — which includes Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst — from founding the Association of Latin American Leaders to working for state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) as chief-of-staff when Peralta served in the state Assembly.

“The politics in the community are very delicate and also very complex, so I’ve been trying to release this information in a way they’ll understand. From a Latino aspect, all politicians are crooks,” Sosa said of his effort to encourage residents to be more politically active. “They all believe that the politicians are corrupt… From the American side, it’s a little bit different. [The corruption] is a little better and they can deal with it.”

Sosa said that many of the issues facing people in Corona and Elmhurst are not the same as those faced in other parts of the borough, where topics of discussion usually revolve around property taxes. One of the top issues he sees are those pertaining to schools.

“In our community, our issues are not taxes or property. Our issues are about welfare and single mothers and schools,” Sosa said. “We have some of the most overcrowded schools in the nation where our kids are learning in classrooms with 35, 40 kids… There have been studies that when a class has lot of kids, you know what happens? The kids don’t get a quality education.”

Housing laws are “skewed” against residents in western Queens, according to Sosa, with landlords cashing in on vacancy decontrol and Major Capital Improvements, in which property owners can obtains permission from the state to up the rent on any building in order to cover costs of maintaining the building.

Sosa says this system has the greatest impact on immigrants and elderly people.

“I have a different mentality, I come from the community, I feel for the people, that’s the difference,” Sosa said, explaining how he is different from other candidates in the race.

In an effort to politically motivate the community Sosa held a Friday fund-raiser at his campaign headquarters on 81st Street and Roosevelt Avenue in which music and dancing were meant to draw people in.

Attendees could enjoy salsa music, food and beverages before listening to Sosa’s plan for the district if he takes the seat from Espinal, who was elected to fill the spot in an April special election after it was vacated by City Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) when he won election to the City Council last year.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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