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Putting Latinos, Asians On Map

By Bryan Virasami and Ron Howell

February 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Newsday. All Rights Reserved.

Latinos and Asians in Queens may increase their political power base if two new legislative districts proposed yesterday are approved.

The new districts, drawn from Census 2000 figures, reflect the growing number of immigrants who have moved into Queens over the last decade.

They must be approved by state legislators after several public hearings around the state in coming weeks.

There was no shortage of interest in both seats yesterday.

In Flushing, at least two former Democratic City Council candidates, Ethel Chen, a retired librarian, and Adrian Joyce, former chair of Community Board 7, said they were both interested in the proposed 22nd Assembly District.

In the proposed 39th Assembly District covering heavily Hispanic Corona and Jackson Heights, a large number of Latinos expressed an interest in running.

"It'll be a crowded field," said William H. Salgado, a Jackson Heights lawyer who declared he was "definitely inclined" to enter the race.

Another person interested in the seat is Julissa Ferreras, 25, a community liaison worker in the district office of City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, the first and only Latino elected to legislative office so far in Queens.

One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monserrate himself has expressed an interest in running. But the source said Monserrate has been making threats to run because he is upset that Queens Assemb. Brian M. McLaughlin is trying to exert his influence in the new Latino district.

One of the candidates is Jose Peralta, who advocates on behalf of immigrants at the New York City Central Labor Council, where McLaughlin is the president.

"He [Peralta] expects to be a candidate," said Evan Stavisky, a political consultant for Peralta. Stavisky also has been the political consultant for McLaughlin.

"Jose Peralta is a well-respected and well-regarded voice for new Americans," Stavisky said. "If anyone wants to talk about backroom politics, that's not a subject we're going to engage in."

As of yesterday evening, Monserrate had not returned phone calls to Newsday.

Others candidates who emerged yesterday were Francisco Moya, 27, a Democratic activist, and Luis Rosero, 29, who ran against Monserrate for City Council last year.

Salgado said he feared national origin could become an issue in the race.

While the proposed district is made up largely of Latinos, they have roots all over the hemisphere, including the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Peru.

"I think because of the strong presence of various nationalities, it will become an issue," said Salgado, who is from Colombia.

In Flushing, Asian-Americans make up more than half of the proposed 22nd District of 123,855 residents.

Initially, Chen said she would study the district before deciding whether to run but quickly talked about her qualifications.

"I think I have wide appeal to voters because they know me," she said yesterday. "I think we have a very good chance to win."

Joyce said he's had experience working with all ethnic groups and would seek support from country Democratic leaders.

"The best person for the job should get it," Joyce said. "I fully anticipate I'll run and get elected."

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