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Chou stands apart in new assembly race

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In pushing for universal health care and a large increase in the minimum wage, Evergreen Chou, Green Party candidate for the 22nd Assembly District, is not afraid to say his views about the role of government diverge from those of his fellow candidates.

“I want to make the case that there is this difference in the Greens,” Chou said. “We have a platform. We want to be a breath of fresh air for people.”

Chou is one of six candidates seeking to become Flushing’s new assembly representative.

Democratic lawyer John Albert, Democratic district leader Ethel Chen, Democratic political aide Barry Grodenchik, Democratic businessman Jimmy Meng and Republican district leader Meilin Tan are also running in the 22nd Assembly District, centered on downtown Flushing and created by redistricting.

Chou, 41, immigrated to the Bronx from Taiwan at the age of 9. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science in 1980, he enrolled in City College.

Chou, however, dropped out of the school.

“It wasn’t very clear what I wanted to do in life,” he said.

After traveling and working odd jobs for several years, Chou’s life changed in 1987. He returned from living in California and began training to become an ultrasound technologist, earning a degree from SUNY Health Science Center in Brooklyn. He now works at Lutheran Medical Center.

That same year Chou met a woman named Day Starr at a poetry reading.

The two began dating and eventually married. Chou moved to Starr’s home, a Caribbean-American enclave in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

“When I met her, it was really a culture shock to see the Caribbean-American community and some of the problems they had to deal with,” he said.

Chou also became more politically involved. He joined a movement which sought to shut down crack houses throughout the city. He became a member of the Chinese Progressive Organization, a Chinese-based organization that aided Chinese immigrants.

Chou and Starr lived in Flatbush before moving to Flushing in 1992, the year he became interested in politics when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader ran for president of the United States.

“I believed he had a very insightful analysis,” Chou said. “Nader made me focus on the election part of the movement.”

Chou joined the Green Party. After supporting Green Party candidate Al Lewis’s run for governor in 1998, Chou ran for City Council last year. He and Green Party candidate Paul Graziano ended up in a 17-17 tie in last year’s Green Party primary, and party leaders chose to nominate Graziano. Graziano lost the general election to City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing).

Having founded a political club known as the Flushing Greens with his wife, Chou has become the city’s leading Chinese-American voice in the Green Party and is often featured in Chinese newspapers.

Chou said he wanted to change the image of the Green Party.

“All over the world we may be known as an environmental party, but in New York, it can be an environmental, social justice party,” Chou said.

Passing a living wage bill that would establish a minimum wage in New York state at $10 per hour from the current $5.15 level is Chou’s main goal.

“If the lives of people are going to be better, it’s going to feed into the economy,” he said.

Creating more affordable housing is also an issue for Chou. He complained Flushing has been targeted for luxury housing, forcing the lower-classes out of the area.

“We all know the housing is going out of control,” Chou said.

Chou said he also wanted universal health care for the state.

“[The Greens] believe health care is a right,” he said.

Chou also called for the state to invest more in clean air technology. In particular, he wants to see city buses run on alternative fuels.

Although admitting he was not favored in the election, Chou said he was taking the campaign seriously.

“The Green Party, we’re a third party, we’re a struggling third party,” he said. “But we’re in the race.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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