6th June, Sunday
It was 4:30 PM, around one hundred reputed community leaders from different communities gathered in the Jewish Center, Jackson Height, New York with a common curiosity; What is the future of New York’s City Council District 25. Six empty chairs were awaiting the candidates of Councilman for the NY City Council. The moderator of the program and the producer of TV Sunday, Kiran Marahatta was easing the tension in the environment by engaging the audience. Finally, it was time to welcome the six candidates on the stage to begin the discussion formally. Although nine candidates are running for the city council election, only six could make it to the program because of their prior commitment to others. As soon as the six candidates, Yin (Andy) Chen, Fatima Baryab, Caroline Tran, Alfonso Quiroz, Shekhar Krishnan, and Suraj Jaiswal, were seated, moderator Marahatta started off the program formally with their brief introduction.
The introduction session made undoubtedly clear that the panel was as diverse and vibrant as District 25 itself as it is considered the most diverse district in the United States, where more than 100 languages are spoken, and almost the same numbers of cultures are being practiced. The representatives belonged to various origins, nationalities, gender, sexual orientation, educational and professional backgrounds and, not to mention, possessed equally diverse ideas and strategies as well.
After everyone introduced themselves in the best way possible to connect with the audience, the representatives happened to face a serious question about their familiarity with the challenges of the Nepalese living in the area they were representing and their plans to tackle them. Yin Chen said that he would help the Nepali community fight against the current corona crisis and encourage their participation in his campaigns. Similarly, Fatima Baryab recalled how she and her organization have been helping Nepal in need, for instance, the earthquake of 2014, and promised to continue it. Revealing a different side of the challenges faced by Nepalese in America, Shekhar Krishnan touched on the issues of housing, tenants, problems faced by Nepali drivers, small businessmen, and so on.
After 12 years of working closely with the Nepali community, another representative, Caroline Tran, seemed very familiar with their major issues and how they are no different from most immigrants in America. She put forward the need to provide the Nepali community with sufficient resources, tools, and opportunity so that one day they will be capable enough to represent their community as council members themselves. Likewise, promoting a better and secured life by making all the services easily accessible was what Alfonso Quiroz looking forward to doing for the Nepali community.
Another candidate, Suraj Jaiswal, who also claimed his family having a matrimonial relationship with Nepal, raised an important issue of illegal Nepalese residence. “Even though immigration is a federal issue but as a city council member, we can still raise this issue and request federal officials to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” Jaiswal said for the sake of Nepalese immigrants living illegally.
In about one and a half-hour-long discussion, most of the candidates expressed their commitment to making Jackson Height clean and safe. Besides, access to services, voting rights for taxpayers, health facilities, youth involvement in politics were also significant subjects the panel members pondered.
However, the answer for ‘how are the commitments, plans, and targets going to be executed’ is still relatively of a mystery. But whose viewpoint and agendas influenced the audience? Let election result triumph its answer!