Kew Gardens activist joins 2021 race for City Council
by Sara Krevoy
Oct 07, 2020 | 2307 views | 0 0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Aleda Gagarin says she never planned to run for public office, but when a group of neighbors and fellow activists asked her to join the race for City Council, she couldn’t refuse the call.

“They didn't feel the progressive values we need to fight for, and that New York City deserves, were being represented,” said Gagarin. “And I felt the same after seeing the recent budget negotiations.”

Gagarin now finds herself in a ten-person race to fill the seat that will be vacated by Councilwomn Karen Koslowitz in 2021.

Other candidates include David Aronov, Evan Boccardi, Eliseo Labayen, Marcelle Lashley-Kabore, Sharon Levy, Lynn Schulman, Douglas Shapiro, Edwin Wong and Donghui Zang.

A Kew Gardens resident for 15 years, Gagarin has advocated in the community for issues such as marriage equality, immigration and criminal justice, while also serving as a local CYO basketball coach after having brought back the first girls’ team to Resurrection Ascension Catholic Academy in a decade.

She has worked on several political campaigns as well, including Tiffany Caban’s run for Queens district attorney and her husband Mel’s bid to replace Grace Meng as the district Democratic nominee for Congress earlier this year.

With a budget vote shortly following the start of her potential tenure on the City Council, Gagarin views reprioritizing the city’s funds as a major component of the process to bring equity and inclusion to the table.

Gagarin believes her current career as a nonprofit senior development director, as well as her master’s degree in urban planning, give her the innovative vision and fierce negotiating skills necessary to achieve “budget justice.”

“New Yorkers have been failed at every single level of leadership and government,” she said. “Changing that requires bold legislation and making different decisions about where we put the city’s money. If elected, I would be a hard negotiator on budgets and introduce bold legislation.”

Gagarin explained that as a member of the City Council, she would advocate for investing more funds in public schools, hospitals, permanently affordable and supportive housing, mental health care, medical services and meal programs for seniors.

Another key component of Gagarin’s campaign is her opposition to the city’s borough-based jail plan, which would see a high-rise prison built in Kew Gardens, while simultaneously supporting the permanent closure of Rikers Island.

“The vast majority of people in Rikers are just awaiting trial,” she said. “That’s unacceptable.”

Instead, Gagarin says she envisions a New York City that is “beyond prisons,” and wants to see money put toward community-driven remedies for public safety issues.

“I think we have a deeply bloated policing budget,” she explained, “and I would like to see more of that invested into community care and permanent solutions. I don't think policing fixes systemic problems. In fact, it often exacerbates them.”

When it comes to education, Gagarin supports increasing CUNY funding, as well as equity among the city’s public schools, which have been regarded as the most segregated in the nation.

“I will make sure that no child’s zip code will have an impact on the quality of their education,” she committed.

Additional platforms of Gagarin’s campaign include gender equity, universal childcare, bolstering small businesses, completing the Queens Boulevard bike lane project, and ensuring safe and accessible public transportation for constituents.

“I think that I have the most progressive, comprehensive vision of what a just and sustainable New York could look like,” Gagarin noted. “A New York that works for the many and not the few.”

“I have the organizational and professional background that gives me the skills to do this job effectively, and on top of that I am embedded within my community on a personal level,” she added. “I deeply love my community, my district and our city at large, and I look forward to an opportunity to serve.”
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