Arab, Asian leaders to co-sponsor congressional debate

April 16, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Green Party candidate James Lane is taking part in the congressional debate in Bensonhurst on April 19. Photo courtesy Lane campaign
Share this:

In a sign of the growing political clout of the borough’s Arab and Asian communities, organizations representing the two groups are joining forces to co-sponsor a debate featuring two of the three candidates for the Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island seat in Congress.

A coalition of non-profit community-based, advocacy, and social service organizations will host what is being termed as a non-partisan candidate forum on Sunday, April 19, at the Happy Healthy Adult Daycare Center, 1874 86th Street, at 2 p.m.

Two of the three candidates in the race – Democrat Vincent Gentile and the Green Party’s James Lane – have confirmed their attendance at the forum. Republican-Conservative Dan Donovan was invited but is not participating, according to the debate’s organizers.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Lane, a third party candidate, was not invited to a major debate on April 14 held on Staten Island that was co-sponsored by NY1 and the Staten Island Advance.

The forum’s co-sponsors include: APA VOICE, Asian Americans for Equality, the Arab American Association of New York, Asian American Federation, Brooklyn Asian Community Empowerment, Common Cause NY, Make the Road New York, MinKwon Center for Community Action, OCA-NY Advocates, and United Chinese Association of Brooklyn.

Donovan, Gentile and Lane are running in a special election on May 5 to represent the 11th Congressional District. The seat became vacant with the resignation of Republican Michael Grimm, who resigned from Congress after pleading guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court to a charge of tax fraud in January.

The 11th Congressional District is made up of the entire borough of Staten Island and parts of Southwest Brooklyn, including sections of the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge and Gravesend.

The forum’s organizers pointed out that the district is home to a diverse constituency, boasting a population that is 12 percent Asian, 16 percent Hispanic and seven percent African-American. In recent years, the Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst portions of the district have also seen increasing numbers of Arabs and Asians moving in.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Bensonhurst has the largest number of Chinese-born residents, 31,658, of any neighborhood in New York City. The Times cited a 2013 report from the Department of City Planning called “The Newest New Yorkers.”

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said her organization is working hard to register voters and educate members of the community on political issues.

“CD11 is home to the largest Arab community in New York City; a community that is growing in both size and political power. The Arab American Association of New York will continue to tirelessly conduct voter registration and political education in our community, and advocate on behalf of the issues that are most urgent and critical. In this effort, we are eager to partner with a congressman who will fight with us, and who will do his part to end racial profiling, achieve comprehensive immigration reform, and fix our broken criminal justice system,” Sarsour said in a statement.

“We encourage CD 11’s constituents and residents to join the forum. This is a great opportunity for us to ask and find out what the candidates commit to do before the election and hold them accountable for their action afterward,” stated Steve Chung, president of the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn.

Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation (AAF), said Asian-American leaders are eager to have the community’s voice heard on important issues.

“Asian Americans are moving beyond enclaves to make their homes in every neighborhood in our city. In fact, we are becoming more influential and making significant contributions to our city’s civic life. Yet, our community needs are often overlooked based on stereotypes of the model minority or as the perpetual foreigner. AAF is pleased to lend our hand to this candidate forum to ensure that the next congressional representative understands the Asian community, appreciates our contributions as well as our needs, and is willing to champion the needs of those most vulnerable in his district,” Yoo said.



Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment