It is common in Queens for elected officials to hold events together, but when the representatives of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona and East Elmhurst held their holiday party this year, they listed their involvement under the name “Unity Team.”
“We realized that we’re younger, we’re a new group of people — at least in new offices — and we feel that government officers should work together for the benefit of the community,” state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) said.
The Unity Team is an informal partnership formed between the state and city officials for the four neighborhoods around early 2010.
It includes state. Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst); Assemblymen DenDekker, Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) and Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights); and City Council members Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), as well as the area’s district leaders and state committee members.
The members meet every month and constantly e-mail each other about constituent issues and legislation they are working on.
“I think that’s where the community actually wins, when the community is working together,” Moya said.
The team was formed to fix what the members call the divisive political landscape in the neighborhoods left when Hiram Monserrate was senator. Peralta said that when he ran for senator, he met with the district leaders of the three Assembly districts and found that Monserrate did not communicate with them.
Dromm also said Monserrate’s administration was marked by a lack of transparency and the senator would often promise to support an issue, such as same-sex marriage, then change his mind.
“It was tumultuous,” he said. “And you never knew what you were going to get and what to expect.”
Aubry, who was elected to the Assembly in 1992, said he worked with former Assemblyman Ivan LaFayette, former Councilwoman Helen Sears and Borough President Helen Marshall when she was a councilwoman, but it was not done with this level of coordination.
“We try to approach issues in a united fashion, issues of quality of life as well as legislative issues,” Aubry said.
While the team may represent the officials’ common goals, it also reflects the community’s differences.
Peralta and Ferreras are Dominican Americans, Moya is Ecuadorian American, Aubry is black, Dromm is openly gay and DenDekker is of Dutch origin.
“Having elected officials that look like parts of different parts of the community in the community is important and sometimes hard to achieve,” Dromm said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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