Indian American Shekar Krishnan in race for Queens council seat

If elected, Krishnan could become the first South Asian elected to New York City Council. 

A couple of Indian Americans are among a crowded field of nine contenders vying to win the June 22 Democratic primary for the New York City Council District 25 seat in Queens.

Whoever is elected in Tuesday’s primary is all but certain to replace the term-limited Councilman Daniel Dromm in January, because of the district’s heavy Democrat leanings.

The crowded race is poised to shift representation in the district spanning parts of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst for the first time in nearly 12 years, according to a City & State New York report.

One of the most diverse districts in the country, it has a population of 162,560, 42% of whom are Hispanic, 15.2% are white, 5.8% are Black and 34.5% are Asian American, according to 2010 Census Data.

The district is also known for having many first- and second-generation immigrants, including large Ecuadorian, Colombian, Nepali, Indian and Bangladeshi populations.

Borough-wide, more languages are spoken in Queens than in any other place on Earth, and about 47% of the population is foreign-born.

Among the candidates running in the primary is Indian American civil rights lawyer Shekar Krishnan, who scored Dromm’s endorsement earlier in June, City & State New York report noted.

Fatima Baryab, co-founder of nonprofit SUKHI NY and Rajesh Ranot are two other South Asian candidates. Ranot has $200 in private funds, the report said citing Campaign Finance Summary 2021 Citywide Elections.

Read: Indian American NYU student Chetan Hebbur to run for New York City Council (April 5, 2017)

Krishnan, who has raised the second highest private funds with $81,734, leads in the number of endorsements, City & State New York reported.

Krishnan has been endorsed by a number of different officials and organizations including Congressional Rep. Nydia Velazquez, State Senators Julia Salazar and John Liu, the Black Lives Caucus, Make the Road Action, and the United Federation of Teachers, among others.

Issues of inequity, particularly within health care, housing, education, and racial justice, are big themes driving the election, particularly given how the pandemic impacted existing issues.

“Covid didn’t create these issues for our neighborhoods, it exacerbated them for everyone to see,” Krishnan told City & State New York touching on the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on the community.

“I think that the fact that Jackson Heights and Elmhurst were the epicenter of the epicenter of this pandemic wasn’t any accident. It was the result of decades of disinvestment in our neighborhoods.”

Krishnan points to his experience as a civil rights lawyer fighting for housing justice as the reason he decided to run for office, saying Jackson Heights and Elmhurst have experienced years of systemic inequities where the community has not gotten the resources and services it needs from the government.

To address this, the son of South Indian immigrants said, the city needs to truly invest in services — not temporary fixes or patches.

On the healthcare front, Krishnan is in favor of significantly expanding city funding for Elmhurst Hospital as well as instituting a citywide moratorium on hospital closures and increasing language accessible services within health care.

Affordable housing is also a hot topic in the district with candidates saying one of the reasons the virus was able to rip through the community with such force is because so many people are living in overcrowded housing due to high housing costs, City & State New York said.

Read: Indian-American Civil Rights Lawyer Runs for NYC City Council (June 22, 2021)

“Where your home is affects everything else — the resources that we need but don’t receive for our public hospitals, for our public schools, for our mental health services,” said Krishnan, adding that housing is the most central crisis in the city.

Outgoing council member Dromm and Krishnan both wrote op-eds on Streetsblog NYC calling for part of 34th Avenue to be converted into a linear park.

The stretch was previously converted into an “open street” during the pandemic to give residents more room to stretch their legs and seek solace out of their apartments.

Krishnan said his platform is the result of the contributions of many different movements across the community. Language access, and making sure that’s a big part of his outreach, is also something he pointed to as one of his priorities.

“If we don’t prioritize language access in our city, then the laws and the rights that — especially in communities of color -— have mean very little because then the city government isn’t going to be reaching with the services or resources that it needs to be reaching,” Krishnan was quoted as saying.

If elected, Krishnan could also become the first South Asian elected to New York City Council.

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