The Council district covering Downtown Flushing does not have a sizable Jewish population, but certainly the decisions made by its future Council Member can affect Jewish communities across the city, in the funding they receive, combating anti-Semitism, and the city’s relationship with Israel. Incumbent Peter Koo is term-limited and there are nine candidates seeking his seat, each with deep resumes of civic and political involvement.
Among them is Sandra Ung, who is familiar among activists in the Queens Jewish community as a former staffer for Rep. Grace Meng in constituent services. “I recognized the importance of helping people who could not help themselves,” she said as an inspiration behind her career in public service. Last Sunday, she visited Kew Gardens Hills to meet with community activists and supporters.
Born in Cambodia, her family fled the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime, initially to Taiwan and then the United States when she was seven years old. From their arrival as refugees, her family made their home in Flushing, where she attended local public schools, culminating in her graduation from Columbia Law School in 2001.
Shimi Pelman, a Democratic district leader in Kew Gardens Hills and the CEO of Union Plaza Care Center in Flushing, expressed his support for Ung, noting that she is knowledgeable about issues that are important to the Jewish community. As DSA candidates seek to pick up seats across the city and advance their boycott of Israel, Pelman said that it is important for Jewish activists to support pro-Israel candidates in every district. Ung’s candidacy has the support of Rep. Meng, Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, Assembly Members Daniel Rosenthal and Nily Rozic, and Councilman Jim Gennaro.
Having worked at Rep. Meng’s office with Rabbi Daniel Pollack, Ung learned about the customs and holidays of Orthodox Jews, their support for Israel, and the importance of Holocaust education. “I visited Auschwitz and I saw evil firsthand.”
A priority in Ung’s Council run is supporting seniors. It is a sacred duty in her community to take care of elders in the family, and it is a mitzvah for Jews, too. But the pressure of making ends meet and taking care of children makes it difficult to provide for the needs of seniors. “They should age in dignity. We want to take care of our parents,” she said. “I would expand paid family leave and universal child care. This pandemic taught us that families are stressed.”
Her ability to provide representation and empowerment to helpless individuals includes Sanctuary For Families, which helps victims of domestic violence receive legal representation and access to public services. “I got domestic violence survivors to court, and got the orders of protection that they needed.” Among Asian Americans, it is a difficult topic, and such organizations help victims speak up, share their experiences, and rebuild their lives. “Language access is very important. Every city agency should have translation resources,” she said. “We need to think creatively for these agencies post-pandemic.”
The Democratic Primary for the City Council will take place on June 22. District 20 covers the neighborhoods of Downtown Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Auburndale, and Fresh Meadows to the north of the Long Island Expressway.
By Sergey Kadinsky