BY NATHAN DUKE
Focusing on public transportation, schools and rent regulations, Jessica Ramos will challenge state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Elmhurst) for his seat in this year’s Democratic primary for District 13.
Ramos, who lives in Jackson Heights, said that she had been prompted to run against the senator after he joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC)—a group of Democratic state senators who often voted alongside Republicans—last year. This past week, a deal was struck that would bring the IDC members back into the fold of the Democratic Party, but Ramos said that her campaign is still forging full speed ahead.
“I’ve been involved in the community and government for a long time,” Ramos said. “I was a legislative aide in the City Council in 2006. I left a few years later to join the labor movement; then was in the de Blasio administration. I really can understand how limited the city’s power is over the big issues in our lives. Albany controls school funding, the subways and rent regulations—and I’m a mom, a straphanger and a renter.”
Ramos—who most recently was the director of Latino media for the mayor’s office—said that public transportation is a significant issue in her district.
“Last summer, I got stuck on a 7 train on the way to City Hall for two hours,” she said. “A lady next to me started crying. She was on her way to her first day on a new job. It had been hard for her to find work and she wanted to make a good impression. She said her pay would be docked for being late. This put the subway crisis into a new perspective for me. People need to be able to get where they are going on time.”
Ramos noted that several schools in her district are severely overcrowded—especially PS 19 in Corona, which was once ranked as one of the nation’s most overcrowded.
“We need to have new high schools,” she said, citing Willets Point as a site where one should be constructed. “We keep building elementary and middle schools, but we need neighborhood high schools again.”
Ramos also noted that PS 69—which her children attend—is currently owed $1.8 million by the state, while District 13 is owed approximately $45 million.
She listed rent regulation as another priority issue for her campaign.
“I’ve been living in the same apartment for seven years,” she said. “The difference between what I pay and the market rate is $500 to $600. It’s enough to displace me from my neighborhood. I’m lucky—my landlord is a great person, but not all landlords are.”
Ramos said that tenants at LeFrak City have seen their rents skyrocket due to major capital improvements. For example, if a tenant’s sink is replaced, he is charged incrementally every single month for the improvement.
“It should end when the sink is paid for,” she said. “It’s an unfair way that landlords raise rents. We are losing affordable housing in Queens.”
Ramos also said that, if elected, she would remain vigilant in protecting her district’s immigrant population, especially in the era of President Donald Trump.
“[Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is not playing fair,” she said. “They are rounding up people with no criminal background—people who pay taxes. Families are being separated. Immigrants make our city better.”
Ramos said that despite the fact that Peralta and the other members of the IDC have rejoined the mainline Democratic Party, she believes that he is not doing enough to push forward progressive legislation.
“This budget he supported did not include the DREAM Act, the Reproductive Health Act, speed cameras or rent control—all of which are important measures that are needed to improve New Yorkers’ lives,” she said. “Being a Democrat is not just a box on a voter registration card.
It’s standing up for a set of values and delivering for working people. An elected official should be respectful of the people who voted him into office. He was voted in as a Democrat and we expected him to conference with his colleagues. That trust has been broken.”
Reach editor-in-chief Nathan Duke via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 122.