Queens Villager enters boro race

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Queens Village resident and community activist Haydee Zambrana joined the crowded race Feb. 21 on the steps of...

By Adam Kramer

The ninth contender hoping to succeed term-limited Claire Shulman as Queens borough president has thrown her hat into the political arena.

Queens Village resident and community activist Haydee Zambrana joined the crowded race Feb. 21 on the steps of Borough Hall. She hopes to be the first Hispanic to rise to the borough’s highest elected office.

Zambrana said she has been pushing to find a Hispanic candidate to run for borough president for a long time.

“We are a big community and do not get enough representation,” she said.

There are roughly 390,000 Hispanics, equal to about 19.5 percent of the borough’s population, based on the 1990 Census. The Queens’ Hispanic community is centered in Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Flushing.

She said there were not many people with her qualifications who could mount a legitimate campaign, but she was hesitant to enter the race due to the time constraints of her two jobs.

But when the members of the Latin-American political community volunteered to help her build a campaign, she said, “I’ll do it.”

Zambrana works as a guidance counselor for the Board of Education at the Alfred E. Smith Vocational High School in the Bronx and is the director Latin Woman in Action in Corona.

The non-profit multiservice agency, which she founded 11 years ago along with a group of woman, helps people attain U.S. citizenship, solve immigration problems, make referrals for employment and escape domestic violence. She said the group, originally earmarked for Latin women, now serves all of the Queens’ immigrant communities.

“The immigrant community has been ignored for too long,” she said. “I have good relationships with everyone, including blacks and whites. This race is not just about color. It is working with people.”

The six Democrat and two Republican borough president hopefuls are City Councilman Mike Abel (R-Bayside), former Board of Ed President Carol Gresser of Douglaston, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis), Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst), state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway), Assemblyman Anthony Seminario (D-Richmond Hill) and Councilman Alfonso Stabile (R-Ozone Park).

Some of the issues Zambrana will focus on in her attempt to lead the borough education, overcrowded schools, finding jobs for the borough’s diverse communities and housing.

“I know I can’t create miracles,” she said. “I will look at the issues, try to ameliorate the housing situation and look into ways to develop housing in Queens.”

She said the biggest obstacles to affordable housing in the borough are zoning regulations and the lack of available funds, but she will try to find solutions to the problems.

Right now the 54-year-old mother of two and grandmother of five who moved to New York from Puerto Rico in 1962 and grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, El Barrio and Hollis before settling in Queens Village is putting together her political team. She said she has yet to raise funds for the race but will soon start to actively hit the fund-raising trail.

When asked about her chances against the known candidates who have already declared she answered, “Do I stand a chance? Yes, a strong chance.”

She said when people who know what she has done in the community find out about the campaign, they will come out to support her.

“If I had a vote for everyone I have helped get American citizenship,” she said, “I would win.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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