Queens borough presidential hopefuls engaged the public at a forum regarding LGBTQ+ issues on Feb. 10. The event took place at LGBT Network’s office in Long Island City and was moderated by NY1’s Juan Manuel Benitez.
Of the candidates currently on the ballot only three were in attendance, Anthony Miranda, Donovan Richards (D-Arverne, Bayswater, Broad Channel, Cambria Heights, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Howard Beach, Jamaica, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Laurelton, Rockaway Beach, Rosedale, South Ozone Park, Springfield Gardens), and Elizabeth Crowley.
City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, part of Long Island City, Woodside) was unable to attend due to a family emergency. His Campaign Manager Patrick Jordan stood in for him.
The event was staged in four parts, introductions, questions from the moderator, attendees’ questions, and closing statements. Each candidate brought different ideas and perspectives on addressing issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community, laying out their plans.
The first question asked was how they would create more LGBTQ+ representation on Queens’ community boards.
Miranda started off the responses, firmly stating that the process in which applicants are decided has left out those of this community. “We’ve had a number who’ve said they applied and never were rejected, never told, never were interviewed,” he responded.
Later on, he explained that he wants to streamline the process through the borough president’s office and create accountability in decision making.
Richards presented the idea that transparency was a factor in the lack of representation. “We start with transparency, first off I think we can look at some bi-annual reporting mechanisms to ensure that that information is out there and in the public.”
“Without transparency there is no accountability,” he further explained. Utilizing community outreach and local organizations, he believes he can accomplish this.”
Jordan showed that his candidate already has a track record regarding this. “We’ve created an office of diversity and outreach to ensure that we are not just asking for more applicants for those things, that we are going into every part of Queens and asking people to apply,” he answered.
He went on to say that many people are unsure of what a community board is or the process to apply for it. Constantinides hopes to inform those who feel unrepresented, in turn giving them the information to pursue a role in local government.
When presented with the issue of rising hate crimes and intolerance directed toward LGBTQ+ individuals, each candidate gave their perspective.
Crowley believes that there should be zero tolerance for bullying or harassment of any kind directed at those who identify as LGBTQ+ in schools. In the plans she laid out additional services, like psychologists, would be a necessity for all schools and would be provided for in the citywide budget. “We need to do better by our kids,” she proclaimed.
In addition to this, she pledged to create a liaison to the LGBTQ+ community as well as forming a task force to handle any issues regarding it.
Jordan explained that “private schools and public schools have different thresholds of what bullying means, that needs to change immediately.”
“We see some of the harshest forms of bullying in these private schools, that may not be the most supportive of LGBTQ inclusion,” he continued.
In their closing remarks, each candidate tried proving how they would provide further aid and inclusion in local government and Queens as a whole.
The event was put together with the assistance of City Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights) who has fought for LGBTQ+ rights for 25 years. “I think the goal is to make sure that LGBT issues are covered in the Queens borough president’s race, it’s really important.”
“Our biggest enemy has always been our invisibility, so if we don’t have an event like this we remain invisible and our issues don’t get addressed,” he stated.
The election is set for March 24, where all registered Queens residents may cast their votes for the next borough president. Further forums will be taking place all over Queens up until the election.