Count on the businessman to tout economic development initiatives as the cure to Corona and East Elmhurst’s ills.
Eduardo Giraldo, 45, formerly president of the Queens Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is running for the 21st City Council District seat on a stance of prioritizing local jobs.
To alleviate the cuts in funding coming from the city’s budget crunch, he said he would put pressure on the major commerce establishments in the district to contribute for the good of the community.
“This district has four golden geese that have been producing eggs,” he said, identifying LaGuardia Airport, the Mets, the United States Tennis Association and the city−subsidized Willets Point redevelopment. “Where is the enthusiasm to reach out to the community?”
Giraldo is proud of his own economic development. From an early age in his native Colombia, business was in Giraldo’s blood. He sold candy in elementary school and by the time he was in middle school, he was repairing bicycles on weekends.
Giraldo first came to the United States in 1980 as a high school exchange student, living with an American family in Minnesota. He returned after graduating, flying to New York with a student visa.
He cited a bus trip through Middle America during the exchange program as what sold him on the country.
“We went to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Miami,” he said. “It was 15 or 20 days, traveling by bus, taking part in parades. I think that’s what attracted me. They cherish what they have in their towns.”
Giraldo started studying computer science at St. John’s University in 1983, but soon switched to business administration. After stints at Met Life and AIG, he opened his own insurance brokerage firm in Jackson Heights in 1994.
The Feb. 24 election is Giraldo’s first bid for public office. He said people in the Colombian community asked him to run for office several years ago, but he declined. When former state Sen. John Sabini announced he would not seek re−election and would step down after receiving an appointment from Gov. David Paterson last year, Giraldo was back in the mix among Colombian candidates.
But while Giraldo is well−known in Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona, he admitted he has had little dealings with the black enclave in East Elmhurst.
“I think it would be wrong for them to support me,” he said. “I have done nothing for them.”
Giraldo estimated 150 million Latinos will live in the United States by 2020, but warned that in places like Queens, Latinos compartmentalize their populations by country of origin.
“We’re full of tribes. If we continue that way, we are going to get nothing accomplished,” he said.
He envisions the role of Council member as “a bridge between corporate America, government and the community.”
Giraldo also said the previous councilman, state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) did not do enough to ensure job guarantees for the community from the big projects.
“The Mets promised $28 million in contracts for minorities,” Giraldo said. “I don’t think we even got $1 million.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@tim
©2009 Community News Group
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