Queens Borough President candidate Costa Constantinides has a five-point plan to expand the office’s accessibility, protect immigrant communities, and prioritize Census outreach to ensure every resident is counted.
Constantinides’ plan is anchored by a new Department of Diversity and Outreach, which would oversee satellite offices throughout the borough along with other major initiatives. These locations will bring the Borough President’s Office directly to neighborhoods such as Jackson Heights, Bayside, the Rockaways, and Jamaica, with staff who speak the languages native to these neighborhoods.
Queens is home to more immigrants than any other borough, including more than 180,000 undocumented citizens who currently live in fear of ICE raids. More than 190 languages are spoken among nearly 2.4 million residents, yet language barriers can often make it difficult for our newest neighbors to get support for their organizations. The upcoming 2020 Census will be perhaps one of the most important counts in our lifetime — determining federal representation as well as funding for hospitals, affordable housing, and major infrastructure.
Constantinides’ five-point plan will address these issues by:
Bringing the Borough President’s Office to Neighborhoods:
Queens residents shouldn’t have to trek to Borough Hall to resolve an issue, receive guidance, or apply to join a Community Board. Satellite locations use the model set by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s successful second office in Harlem, which means uptown residents don’t have to travel to Lower Manhattan just to get help. Creating these offices represents Constantinides’ commitment to making the office visible throughout the borough.
Expanding Language Services:
With a roughly $5 million operating budget, the Queens Borough President’s Office can expand both printed and digital materials in foreign languages to better inform communities of their rights as immigrants, major policies changes, and the public services available to them. The Department of Diversity and Outreach must also work with ethnic communities to identify gaps in translation or interpretation services, so the office can advocate for better language access.
Making Sure Every Queens Resident is Counted:
The Department’s Director of Diversity and Outreach will immediately be tasked with ensuring every Queens resident is counted in the upcoming 2020 Census. The Department’s strategic plan will identify historically undercounted areas and reverse these trends. Astoria, for instance, lost more than 10,000 residents in the last Census, due to low participation, in spite of well-documented neighborhood growth. Partnerships with neighborhood organizations’ existing 2020 Census outreach will be a key component of this plan. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to block the Trump administration’s bogus citizenship question also means every New Yorker can be counted next year — no matter her or his status.
Empowering Community-Based Organizations:
Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) need all the support possible to foster growth and understanding within Queens neighborhoods. The Queens Borough President’s Office can educate CBO leaders on the City’s budget process and help them understand the requirements. CBOs are often a neighborhood’s first responders in times of need, so we must give them all the resources, support, and funds possible.
Reinventing Environmental Justice Communities:
The Department of Diversity and Outreach will work with sustainability experts within the Borough President’s Office to bring environmental justice to Queens’ communities of color. Whether it’s flooding in Southeast Queens or pollution from power plants near the Queensbridge Houses, there are plenty of neighborhoods who need cleaner air, resilient infrastructure, and good, green jobs. The Department will work with on-the-ground community organizations to find solutions to these historic problems.