District 22 Candidate

Edwin DeJesus (I)

Campaign Website: edwinfornyc.com

NYC Campaign Finance Board – funds raised.

Note: DeJesus is not running in the Democratic primary. He will be in the general election running as an independent.

 

Queens Post Questionnaire

What Office/District are you running for and why? I am running for NYC Council in District 22 (Astoria, Rikers Island and parts of Woodside, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst). At 24 years old, I am the youngest Puerto Rican candidate to run for office. If elected, I would be the youngest member of the council in history. However, I am not a career politician. Rather, I am just a regular person who is tired of the same old BS in politics. Sadly, our neighborhood has been negatively impacted by large corporations in recent years. I have witnessed Key Foods become a Target. I have witnessed Best Market become a German chain store. Gentrification is accelerating due to the economic crisis caused by government lockdowns and the greed of Big Real Estate. Astoria cannot become the next Williamsburg. This is why I am an independent candidate running to revive Green Party ballot status in New York. Not a Democrat. Not a Republican. A New Yorker.
How long have you lived or worked in the District and how active are you in the community right now? I grew up in Astoria my entire life, so I remember trick-or-treating in the 11105 zip code near St. Francis of Assisi. I am a product of the public school system including PS2, IS141 and ACTvF. I attended Columbia University on a full scholarship to study film and took nightly jobs to cover my personal expenses. After being the first in my family to receive a college degree, I moved into a basement with my fiancé who also grew up in Astoria. Now my fiancé and I are barely surviving the cost of rent for a studio apartment (#CancelRent). As a freelance filmmaker, I am building a coalition of Ordinary people from all backgrounds who do not feel represented by the 2-party duopoly. As a local organizer, I support community initiatives such as the NYCHA Justice for All Coalition, #FundExcludedWorkers and campaign for NY Health. I am also involved in a local neighborhood group that is focused on saving our trees and cleaning up street litter.
What is your current or most recent occupation? I am a former Bernie 2020 National Advance hire who produced rallies and town halls for Senator Sanders across the country. Unfortunately, the campaign was suspended shortly after the outbreak of coronavirus. Today it is difficult to find gig work opportunities in the NYC film industry due to bipartisan failure to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have also worked as a live videographer and event producer at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
What would you advocate for in terms of the future of Riker’s Island? I plan to expedite the permanent closure of Rikers Island by 2027 and use the land to create a 21st century hub for renewable energy via green union jobs. The power assets ought to be publicly-owned in addition to a community board that must be created within the Department of Environmental Protection to guide the decision-making process. We must significantly expand our system of Tidal Energy Turbines and implement new technology that is highly reliable and cost-competitive such as Verdant Power. These policies mostly benefit working class and low-income residents who disproportionately lack the means to survive against climate disaster. Rikers Island has an inmate population that is currently set to be split up into 4 borough-based jails. We must stop the development of these new jails and instead create rehabilitation facilities for nonviolent inmates and remove prison labor loopholes. We ought to refund racial justice by immediately expunging the records of all prisoners convicted of nonviolent, drug-related criminal offenses. We must instead arrest criminal executives of Big Pharmaceutical companies for price gouging drugs and CEOs of hedge fund management firms for market manipulation.
What were your thoughts on the rezoning proposal at 30-02 Newtown Avenue in Astoria? This specific project would be a major inconvenience for the local community near Newtown Avenue. Not only is a 11-story building completely out of place in Astoria, it would attract some jobs for outsiders in the short run and push out locals from the neighborhood in the long run. Astoria is NOT for sale!
Do you think the rezoning process (ULURP) is working? If not, how would you change it? Absolutely not – it needs to be entirely reimagined. The ULURP process was designed to be circumvented by Big Real Estate developers and corporate landlords who donate large sums of money to politicians like Mayor Bill de Blasio or Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The ULURP is an illusory tool that we use. It’s not the final jurisdiction over rezoning plans. We must completely democratize this process so that people who have been living in the community for a long time have the final say in terms of land use and development.
Do you believe in member deference when it comes to rezoning? Yes, absolutely. As your next City Councilmember, I will not allow a Councilmember of another district to affect our quality of life in Astoria. I will draft legislation to permanently respect member deference in regards to rezoning within a Councilmember’s district.
Should the city council cut police funding? If so, by how much? No – instead we ought to refund Ordinary people with basic human rights first. The most impactful way to reimagine public safety is to abolish the War on Drugs and reinvest in mental health. A higher quality of life is the first step toward decarceration and demilitarization. We must first defund mainstream media, Big Pharma and Wall Street. We shall make Amazon, career politicians and the NYPD Commissioner pay to balance our city budget. Our campaign proposes a refund for all New Yorkers with Weekly Survival Checks ($600/week) aka UBI. In other words, I propose to CUT TAXES for the working class. Extinguishing poverty would reduce crime. Then we would no longer need as many police on our streets.
Do you think non-citizens (including undocumented immigrants) should be able to vote in New York City elections? Yes, if individuals meet the following criteria: pay taxes like everyone else, be a resident of the community for at least 1-2 years and no prior felony convictions. More than 60 percent of NYC restaurant workers are immigrants, many of whom rely on tips to make a living – thousands have lost income due to lockdown restrictions.
How would you select community board members and is the current system working? The current system is failing to give a voice to lifelong residents who are low-income. Land use decisions must be made by local members of the community. Unfortunately, priority has been given to newcomers who might only be concerned with profit and not necessarily align with the interests of the community. That being said, I propose creating an eligibility requirement of at least 5 years of living in the community (or a number which is democratically agreed upon) to join the board. Otherwise, gentrification will continue to ruin Astoria and negatively impact the diversity of our neighborhood.
Are you an advocate for protected bicycle lanes in the district and, if so, where do you think they should go? Yes, absolutely – on side streets like 35th Street. It is important to keep in mind that protected bike lanes don’t prevent the majority of accidents which occur at intersections. Bikes are an excellent means of transportation and an alternative to methods which rely on fossil fuels. I am in favor of expanding the bike lane system, but we must be extremely careful in regards to how we determine placement. Our biggest concern should be not to endanger the public safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. Additionally, street parking spaces are like gold in Astoria. Essential workers (many of whom have children) should not have to suffer if they lack the financial means to own a driveway. My mother sometimes has to circle her block in search of a spot for an HOUR after work everyday. Reckless bike lane placement and Citi Bike docking stations disproportionately impact the lives of low-income, elderly and disabled residents.
What is your view on the transportation network in Queens? What would you do to improve it? Firstly, City Council must immediately re-evaluate the placement of speed cameras. These devices are helpful near school zones and parks but installing them everywhere is regressive for low-income residents. Many folks who work paycheck to paycheck cannot afford to pay an insanely expensive ticket for going 5 miles above the speed limit. We also ought to speed up the NYC ferry service for pedestrians and bikers across the East River. This would greatly reduce traffic congestion on bridges and mostly benefit essential workers. I support boosting the number of publicly available e-bikes and e-scooters, especially for commuters. We ought to create incentives for more companies like Revel to establish a set of environmentally friendly standards. Lastly, we urgently need to set the groundwork for a project to electrify the city’s bus fleet and make every bus look like the beautiful M60 bus.