Joann Ariola is a longtime Queens civic leader, wife, mother, and grandmother, whose career has always been focused on forging positive relationships between her neighbors and government agencies to promote peace and public safety. There is no quality of life without safe streets. To that end, she has actively supported the NYPD for decades as a civic activist, member of Community Board 10, and President of the Howard Beach/Lindenwood Civic Association, as well as serving on the 106th Precinct Council. Previously, Joann worked under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, and now is the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for MediSys Health Network in Queens, working closely with Flushing and Jamaica Hospitals. Other former career paths included work at the Queens District Attorney’s Office, Queens Criminal Court, and the NYC Council, serving as the Chief of Staff and Press Secretary to Council Members in both Queens and Brooklyn. Joann also serves as the Chair of the Queens County Republican Party since 2017, and Republican State Committee Member for the 23rd Assembly District.
The eldest of three children, Joann’s passion for community service came from the example set by her parents. They had a true commitment to helping others, especially the less fortunate. Joann’s community involvement began with her service as a board member for her children’s Parents’ Association. Her work there brought her to the realization that while a parent’s involvement begins at home, it certainly does not end there.
In all of Joann’s varied roles, her goal has always been to keep Queens the kind of safe, affordable community in which her family and yours will proudly thrive for generations to come, with excellent educational and economic opportunities.
QJL: The borough president is best known for his or her ability to influence land use and borough development projects. What advancements do you have in mind?
Joann: First and foremost, I will oppose any new community jails, including the proposed skyscraper jail in Kew Gardens.
QJL: The QBP has influence on appointments to various boards, including community boards. Do you have plans to revamp anything in this arena, as it appears that many voices aren’t heard?
Joann: The voice of Community Boards has been diminished over the years and it has been bypassed or ignored recently. When Mayor de Blasio and his administration started putting criminals, including sex offenders, into neighborhoods like Fresh Meadows, the Community Boards had no say; that must change. We also need to entice more young people to serve on community boards and that will take some outreach.
QJL: As QBP, the relationship with City Council Members is paramount to get new legislation moving. In what areas would you open new conversations?
Joann: Thankfully, there are still a few sensible Council Members I can work with to address more quality of life issues. I would also like to have more legislation that holds government agencies accountable.
QJL: Queens businesses and livelihoods were decimated from the pandemic; what is your path to recovery?
Joann: We need to get our local government out of the way, more than anything else. It was too hard to run a business in this city before the pandemic. Now, it is impossible, thanks to inconsistent policies and draconian enforcement. We must stop the city from using small businesses as ATMs to pay for their reckless spending.
QJL: The QBP is certainly the face of the borough. How would you use this platform to keep the issues of Queens front and center?
Joann: As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am not shy about speaking up when I see something is wrong. It has been too long since we have had a BP who will say no to the Mayor; I have no problem saying no.
QJL: How would you continue to advance the voice of the Jewish community?
Joann: The Jewish community is as much a part of the rich tapestry of our city’s great diversity as any other group of people. They must be well represented on our boards and committees throughout local government. Jewish heritage must be honored and cherished and given the same respect and protection as any other group.
QJL: Prior to the pandemic, anti-Semitism was on the rise. More recently, as a COVID response, Jewish neighborhoods have felt that they were singled out unfairly. How will you ensure there is no hate for Jews in Queens?
Joann: Our city leadership has been terribly inconsistent about enforcing health guidelines through this pandemic. If it’s okay for rioters to destroy property, it certainly must be okay for religious New Yorkers to gather to worship.
QJL: Are there any capital projects you would spearhead?
Joann: We need to restore funding to our NYPD any way possible. I would allocate funding to them for more Neighborhood Coordination Officers in Queens. As a civic president and member of a precinct community council, I’ve seen what difference that can make. There are many other projects that need funding, but we need to restore public safety. Otherwise, our parks, schools, landmarks, and cultural institutions won’t be safe.
[Writer’s note: Joann often hosts the NYPD at her civic association meetings, enabling them to directly address residents and their concerns. She also promotes their Build the Block Initiative meetings with NYPD Neighborhood Coordination Officers.]
QJL: What voice will you add to the law enforcement dialogue?
Joann: The victims of violent crime deserve more of a voice. Families are permanently shattered when someone is murdered, and we need to spend more time listening to these residents.
QJL: Do you plan to create any specific task forces?
Joann: We need a small business task force that really works.
QJL: Are there any specific individuals or groups you desire to award a proclamation?
Joann: There are a lot of people in Queens who volunteer their time for various civic activities, such as cleaning up their local parks or helping seniors get their groceries and medications, and never seek any credit for it. I would like to find lots of people like that and show them recognition.
[Writer’s note: Joann has raised funds for the Cops on Bikes Program and has brought meals to police officers for Officer Appreciation Days, including during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to get local youth off on the right foot, she hosts NYPD meet-and-greets for youth to know and respect their local police. Joann collects toys and supplies for families in need with NYPD Domestic Violence and Community Affairs Officers and helps organize crime prevention events and bike and electronics VIN etching opportunities with her local precincts’ Crime Prevention Officers.]
By Shabsie Saphirstein