State Senator Michael Gianaris (Astoria, LIC, Sunnyside) has joined in the call to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, a position popularized by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ stunning primary victory against Rep. Joe Crowley. Last Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on WNYC Radio, “Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is right” and, “We should create something better.” U.S. senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren have also joined in the call.
It has been very exciting/interesting to be in Northwest Queens these past few months as young, insurgent challengers for congress have taken on institution-incumbents of the NYC delegation in the Democratic primaries. Here in New York District 12, Carolyn Maloney kept her seat safe from Suraj Patel, whom Cornerinterviewed in April. But the nation will be thinking about the race in NY-14, which includes Ditmars, Woodside, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, Corona, College Point, Throgs Neck, Parkchester, Morris Park and City Island – where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat Joe Crowley. (Below: map of NY-12, left, and NY-14, right.)
State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas tweeted a photo of herself seated at a table with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz at George’s, the restaurant that replaced or reconceptualized the Astor Room at Kaufman Astoria Studios, and wrote above it, “The Power Table.” This tweet, posted Friday afternoon, is the first to be linked to the address under the name George’s. Also, the photo shows what George’s looks like.
That means, the city is on top of developing a mega housing development over the Sunnyside Yards (a lot of people in Astoria and LIC don’t know what that is, but it’s the huge swath of train land east of Northern Boulevard that you see from either the N/W or 7 trains when approaching or leaving Queensborough Plaza). But when it comes to running a streetcar through LIC and Astoria to connect with Brooklyn, it’s just not there yet.
Also, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer was at the Met Gala, which was Catholic themed. “It’s almost time for this kid from #Queens to head to the @metmuseum for the #MetGala!” he tweeted earlier on. JVB has gone before at least in 2013 and 2014. He was also hanging out with Jesse Eisenberg the other day.
As the Times explains, last year only about 550 people went to the gala, which is invitation only, each invitation overseen by Anna Wintour and tickets cost $30,000. Are all the council members invited? Who sponsored or invited the councilman of the 26th District? I hit him up with questions on Instagram so let’s see if he responds.
The city is officially moving forward on developing a neighborhood over the Sunnyside Yards by launching a master planning process this summer. The Economic Development Corporation announced today that Alicia Glen, deputy mayor of economic development and Anthony Coscia, chairman of Amtrak, which owns most of the space, signed a letter of intent to collaborate on the plan. The EDC’s announcement confirms Crain’s New York Business’ March 29 report that urbanist Vishaan Chakrabarti will be heading the master plan team. But more people are involved! Cali Williams, an EDC vice president for the last decade, now has the title: director of Sunnyside Yard. And a steering committee headed by Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership and Sharon Greenberger, head of the YMCA for Greater New York (what?) will be consulting on the plan. But wait… what about elected officials who don’t want this to happen?
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district spans both the LIC and Sunnyside sides of the yards, has been vocal against this project. How the EDC and mayor’s office will be able to push this ahead without the support from the 26th city council rep, I’m really not sure. The yards would have to be rezoned to allow residential development and super tall buildings, something the council member would have to approve. Sunnyside Post reported shortly after the EDC’s announcement today that JVB and State Rep. Catherine Nolan, who also opposes the plan, complained the city went around them on this. Well of course.
The other day I interviewed Suraj Patel, who is running against incumbent Representative Carolyn Maloney in the Midterm Democratic primary election for Congress on June 26. When I walked into his campaign headquarters at 64 Cooper Square, a converted East Village bar flush with young people on laptops, he was sitting by the door talking to a young woman who seemed to want to help his campaign. His website has a ‘Meet Suraj‘ feature allowing anyone to book 20 minutes with him. That’s what I did.
Patel, 34, is less than half the age of the incumbent (she’s 72) and has been described as part of a movement of Millennial challengers or “progressive insurgents” inspired by the last national election, to push out old guard Democrats. In New York, this includes Rep. Ed Crowley’s Bronx/Queens challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezand Rep. Yvette Clarke’s Brooklyn challenger Adem Bunkeddeko.
Patel, an East Village resident, grew up in Indiana and moved to the city 12 years ago for law school, his website says. He’s president of his family’s hotel business and teaches business ethics at NYU. His LinkedIn includes Barack Obama and the White House’s advance teams between 2008 and 2016, the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and special assistant to the chief of staff of the Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2012-2013. In this campaign, he has raised more than $1 million in contributions, close to Maloney’s $1.3 million and has spent at least $460,000. He lost the endorsement vote of the Village Independent Democrats to Maloney 20 to 17.
I let his staffer know a few hours in advance that I write a neighborhood blog and asked to be able to record audio. I’m not sure if Patel was expecting a journalist but I explained when the session started. The first few minutes of audio didn’t record well so I tried to edit it into shape. After that it’s smooth sailing. There’s also a nearly full transcript below.