Our Vision for Astoria as District Leader

I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who believed in our campaign for District Leader. From the beginning, we helped put District Leader races in Queens on the map. We raised close to $3,000 in grassroots donations from people in the district and across 15 states. We attended/organized over 40 events during our time in the race. People heard about our campaign from social media and word of mouth long before anyone entered the race. We challenged the local establishment AND WON. We did what some thought was inconceivable: run a hyper local grassroots campaign and invite more people into the democratic process.

I suspended our campaign on April 24, 2020. This was just weeks after Bernie had suspended his campaign and the progressive movement seemed to be losing steam. Because we were removed from the ballot, I thought it was over. How could we ever compete? It seemed impossible.

Then just recently, I’ve been getting a surprising amount of support from progressives — both in Astoria and beyond. A number of people have reached out via iMessage, Instagram, Twitter, and phone calls to let me know that they want to write my name in for District Leader. At first, I was confused because I thought that there were no write-in candidates allowed. Well it turns out that because our race had more than two candidates, there officially IS an option to vote for a write-in candidate!

Since the end of May, I’ve been having people reach out in support of our campaign. This is unbelievable! I launched my campaign with the hopes of changing how people think about our local democracy. Although we may not be on the ballot, it appears that’s exactly what we’re doing. I’m truly humbled. Our impact on voters around the neighborhood shows me I probably shouldn’t have suspended my campaign. I gave friends, neighbors, and supporters something to believe in. That’s why today, I am unsuspending my campaign for the last week to honor the movement we’ve built. Just because our vision is not on the ballot, doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for. Voters who believe in our vision for Astoria are welcome to write in my name on their ballot for Assembly District Leader (Male): Nick Haby.

So what is our vision? This is what we’ve always wanted to accomplish if we won the election. No matter the outcome of this election, we will fight for these reforms:

1. Improving Voter Turnout. In 2019, the Democratic Primary for the Queens District Attorney saw an increase in voter turnout. Assembly District 36 has over 48,000 active registered Democrats, meaning that they have once at least once in the past four years. Turnout was at 17%. Sadly that means just over 8,000 voters came out to vote. I think our progressive neighborhood could be doing so much more to engage voters.

A) Organize a team of volunteers to register voters setting up stations around the neighborhood. This could be done at local democratic clubs or at tables in public spaces, such as Astoria Park or outside at street fairs.

B) Work with the Board of Elections to update voter data. If a voter has moved or left the Democratic Party (#DemExit), the data needs to reflect that. Our team of volunteers can work with the BOE to update voter data by contacting voters in the district by either going door to door or contacting via phone.

C) Our goal should be to increase voter turnout to 100%, but in Democratic Primaries, we need to increase it to over 30%. We will also look to recruit candidates who speak the communities needs and inspire voters to participate in our democratic process.

2. Organize Town Halls and Community Forums. Over the past 10 years, our current District Leader has not had more than 10 town halls or community forums combined. There are a limited number of ways for Astoria Democrats to engage local leadership and address their concerns. The town hall and community forum format would allow for more people to connect and to learn about what’s happening in the community.

A) Organize at least one town hall each year. This would allow the community to share what’s being done around the neighborhood and what they’d like to see. As District Leader, we need to address the concerns of Democrats. The town hall format would be another way to hold our elected leaders accountable. Sometimes having these conversations can be tough, but it’s all a part of being a representative.

B) Organize a town hall with all County Committee Members at least once a year. We have over 150 County Committee Members in AD36. The District Leaders of Part A and Part B should work together to host a town hall for organizing our fellow County Committee Members. While the County Committee Organization normally has meetings once every two years, I strongly believe that our members should be meeting regularly within their districts to serve their communities.

C) Host a series of community forums to address key areas that impact our neighborhood. Whether it’s the price of rent, small business, education, environmental justice, racial justice, or healthcare, we could have a series of forum to educate the community on ways to improve our neighborhood.

3. Organize Volunteer-driven Task Forces. This is something that’s never been done before in our district. Because the District Leader would represent over 24,000 active registered Democrats, it’s important to address the concerns impacting all of those voters. I am proposing a number of task forces to address the following key areas:

  • Environmental Justice (Cleaning up our parks, streets, addressing air pollution, composting measures, etc)
  • Healthcare (If we had a mutual aid network set up before COVID-19, think about how much easier it would have been to distribute supplies, food, and medicine to our neighbors?)
  • Small business (We have the Small Business Advisory Council. We could hear from more local businesses to see how we can improve business on a hyperlocal daily basis)
  • Racial Justice (Astoria is a diverse community. The recent protests showed us that we could be doing more to ease racial tensions among diverse communities in Astoria and beyond.)
  • Education (Ensuring students have resources for learning, secure funding for after school programs, ensuring children can learn in adequate, friendly environments, etc.)

These are the foundational groups to what could be a more engaging and effective way to address the concerns of our neighborhood. The District Leader would not have to lead each group, but it provides opportunities for more parents, business owners, families, communities, and essential workers to have a say in our local government. Out of these groups, we could see ideas for new policies. We could have events in support of diverse communities. We could also hold rallies or protests to hold our elected leaders accountable and to be heard. We could have a number of direct marketing campaigns that could help inform the public about the issues in our neighborhood. This is just the start of what could a new way to envision Astoria.

If you have any suggestions or concerns, then feel free to reach out at nickforastoria@gmail.com.

Former Candidate for District Leader. Organizer. Democratic Socialist. Queens County Committee Member representing AD36/ED31.

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