OPINION Council Member Ulrich Endorses Richard David For City Council
By Aminta Kilawan Narine, Esq.
Council Member Eric Ulrich is perhaps one of the most familiar local political faces in Queens. When in Richmond Hill, he starts off his speeches at the Phagwah Parade with an emphatic “Namaste” and proudly wears a kurta each year to the Diwali Motorcade. He even once told me he loves visiting Hibiscus Restaurant on 101st Avenue for its fried bangamary.
This past Monday, Ulrich, who notably is a Republican, made the bold move of endorsing a Democrat, Richard David, for City Council in District 28, the district neighboring District 32 which Ulrich represents. District 28 and District 32 both include large amounts of Indo-Caribbean residents. Both include parts of Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park.
A recent New York Times article stated that “Richard David’s face is plastered around the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens. Along Liberty Avenue, on posters in the windows of sari shops and roti restaurants, Mr. David advertises his campaign for City Council, which, if successful, would make him New York’s first city councilman of Guyanese descent.”
David was born in Guyana and arrived in Southeast Queens when he was 10 years old. He has sat on Community Board 9 for nine years. In a six-person race for the Democratic nomination, David is the top candidate. He announced his candidacy in February and is the only Indo-Caribbean on the ticket. David has 10 years of experience in New York City government, including a management position as a vice president with the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
According to the Queens Chronicle, he is currently is on unpaid leave from his position as chief of staff at the Administration for Children’s Services, a job he accepted just over a year ago. Throughout his campaign, David has indicated that his government experience gives him an advantage over his opponents; none have tangible experience in government. He also co-founded the Indo-Caribbean Alliance, a non-profit organization which provides free mentorship and tutoring to youth among its list of programs.
At a press conference held with the bustling stores near Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue functioning as a backdrop, Council Member Ulrich said: “I believe there is one candidate that stands tall above the rest, and that’s my friend Richard David. Many of you know that I’m a Republican but I represent a District that is 3:1 Democrat. I got re-elected to that seat 3 times … I am supporting a Democrat in this race who I believe is going to be effective, honest and who I know is going to work for all of the voters in this district: Democrat, Republican, this side of the Van Wyck or the other side of the Van Wyck.” In comparing Ulrich’s District 32 to District 28, David said: “Our districts are side by side but the graduation rates are lower, the asthma rates are higher, the home ownership rates are about the same but the foreclosure rates are higher on this side. There’s no reason to have this disparity in two neighboring districts that are identical in every other way.”
Ulrich highlighted that when you run for public office, you have to serve all the people, whether they voted for you or not. He indicated that he enjoys a lot of support from Democratic residents, many of whom used to be in his district but now reside in the 28th District due to redistricting. He encourages all of these residents to vote for David. Ulrich believes that Richard David is “the most qualified person to take on the many challenges that face Southeast Queens” especially given that “right now the district does not have representation and does not have a Council Member.” Former Council Member Ruben Wills, who used to represent District 28, was convicted earlier this month and sentenced to two to six years in prison.
Hettie Powell, who is running again in the September 12 primary election, lost to Ruben Wills four years ago. David’s other opponent is Adrienne Adams, chair of Community Board 12. Adams was chosen by a vacancy committee literally one week after Wills was convicted. David told the Queens Chronicle that he was not even approached by party leaders, who had originally endorsed Wills in spite of the pending criminal case. Their response? They automatically endorsed all incumbent candidates.
Ulrich said that David has been knocking on doors and proving to voters in District 28 that he is the most qualified person to take on the many challenges that face Southeast Queens. In a press release issued by his campaign, David accepted Ulrich’s endorsement stating: “Council Member Ulrich previously represented parts of District 28 and is one of the most effective members of the Council. He has been able to bring resources back to his district including participatory budgeting, new community centers, parks and schools. He has also been the leading voice on veteran’s issues. I’m honored to receive his support and look forward to working with him if elected.” Like Ulrich, Richard David grew up in a single-parent home. Ulrich won a special election in February 2009 and was re-elected in November 2009 as the youngest member of the City Council. He was 26 years old at the time. David is the youngest candidate in the Council District 28 race at 31 years old.
For one of my very first articles in this column over two years ago, I interviewed Council Member Ulrich. He cited several reasons why political representation is lacking in the Indo-Caribbean community, including gerrymandering and a distrust of political parties. “The fact that it took Roxanne Persaud, who I supported, so long to get into office speaks volumes,” Ulrich said. Notably, he cited the fact that when an Indo-Caribbean does choose to run, s/he is challenged by more than one other Indo-Caribbean in the primaries, making it all the more difficult to win the race.
In the upcoming City Council race, Richard David is the only Indo-Caribbean candidate on the ballot. This is therefore a unique opportunity for the Queens Indo-Caribbean community. Richard David can actually win.