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Cruz Runs for Assembly, Says She’s the People’s Candidate

Aug. 31, 2018 By Tara Law (Updated Sep. 4)

Jackson Heights resident and attorney Catalina Cruz, who spent her childhood in Queens as an undocumented immigrant and later gained citizenship, is now vying for public office.

Cruz, 35, is running to represent the 39th Assembly District, made up of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Corona, and is up against incumbent Aridia Espinal in the upcoming Democratic primary on Sept. 13.

Cruz says area voters heading to the polls in two weeks time will recognize that the challenges she has faced are the same as those of her potential constituents.

Her professional background, she adds, also proves that she’s able to govern. She has worked as chief of staff to Council Member Julissa Ferraras, and was also a member of the governor’s Exploited Workers Task Force.

But most crucially, Cruz believes that constituents can trust her to look out for their interests because she doesn’t take corporate donations.

“My only answer is to the people,” Cruz said. “I don’t owe anything to anyone other than the voters.”

In a meeting with the Queens Post, Cruz broke down the many challenges District 39 residents currently face, including combating the federal government’s efforts to clamp down on undocumented immigrants, searching for truly affordable housing, and dealing with an unreliable subway.

On immigration, for instance, her platform includes securing $100 million to fund five years of legal services, and providing undocumented immigrants with the ability to get a driver’s license. Her stance, she says, is a must given the federal administration’s hostile policies against immigrants.

She also backs the passage of the New York State Liberty Act, which would assure undocumented immigrants gain access to an array of legal services, and the state Dream Act, which would give undocumented New Yorkers access to state college financial aid.

Cruz says her first-hand experience with the immigration system, where she lived in fear of her status being known, and watched as her mother, a trained nurse, being forced to work multiple menial jobs, allows her to see what types of resources are most needed for many District 39 residents.

“[My mother] would tell us not to get in trouble in school, don’t call attention to yourself, no getting arrested— it was just something we always knew,” Cruz said.

As for housing affordability, Cruz said she wants to make sure residents, including seniors, middle and low-income residents, can afford to stay in the district they’ve long considered home or are just settling into.

She is critical of the city’s affordable housing policy, as the income ranges needed to qualify for apartments, based on the Area Median Income, are too high.

“The people who can meet that demand for rent are not going to be the people here, who need it,” Cruz said. “It’s going to be people from outside of the community who can afford it. It’s going to meet the overall city demand, but not the one for the particular community.”

Cruz would back legislation that could help keep rents affordable, like ending a provision that allows landlords to increase rent after making major capital improvements, or tax breaks for low income seniors.

In addition, she supports efforts to help undocumented persons, who have fewer housing options and economic mobility than citizens, live in the district. The Department of Buildings, she says, should relax restrictions for illegally subdivided housing, as many undocumented persons are already living in such homes within the district. The poorest will likely continue to live in subdivided housing anyway, a notion that the city should realize.

“I would get behind any piece of legislation that would make it more affordable for the people who want to live here,” Cruz said.

As for the subway system, Cruz says New York State should give control of New York City Transit back to the City. The MTA should then create an independent supervisory body to oversee the transit system, and finally refinance the authority’s debt to cut costs.

“If I can refinance my student loans, why can’t you refinance the debt of the MTA?” she said.

Cruz said her campaign platform was created after conducting frequent meetings with community groups and residents over coffee to discuss these and other concerns. 

While the Queens Democratic Party backs Espinal, she says the endorsement means little compared to what the voters will ultimately do at the polls.

“At the end of the day, the only people who get to choose are the voters, and they love the fact that I’m running like this,” said Cruz. “Independent from corporate money, independent from party leaders, independent from anything but the people.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that she became a citizen through the Dream Act. Ms. Cruz won a Green Card as a young adult and later became a citizen, but did not benefit from DACA.

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I don’t want to hear anybody roar in JH Tic Tac, woman or not. What I want is somebody who can continue to make America great like Lincoln, somebody who listens to all the people and improves America as a leader who has great judgment, needs to do the right thing and loves power. All three are crucial. Only Lincoln had it in the modern age and he saved the first democracy in 2,500 yrs. and ended the evil of slavery as a result.

JH resident

Her platform is designed to destroy the quality of life in the neighborhoods she wants to represent. What does she think will happen if she caters to the working class and drives out professionals? These neighborhoods will become more rundown than they are today and it’s all but guaranteed that you’ll NEED to speak Spanish to survive.

I do not want to live in her ideal society where my income taxes will go to support undocumented immigrants and the working class. These people contribute very little to society and she wants to make life easier for them despite all the handouts they already receive.

I’ve been naive in the past, but I will not vote a straight Democrat ticket this fall, people like Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez are only interested in supporting Latinos instead of looking out for everyone.


Whoa…hold on JH….I agree with you that Cruz is not good for the area but for different reasons. What is wrong with catering to the working class??? It is as important as catering to the professionals. What I disagree with Cruz is catering to the welfare multi generation group that almost destroyed NYC in 1970. Don’t vote against her because she is catering to the working class, that is the backbone of JH, vote against Cruz because she wants to bring back the welfare state that almost destroyed NYC in 1970.


Exactly Jose, there is a difference between a moderate progressive and a bleeding heart liberal. The former gave us an end to slavery, union rights, medicare, civil rights etc., the latter almost destroyed cities like NY in the 1970 with welfare for life.

One can debate Chavez and Maduro. They were more like the problem on the other side, ie they were more like an idea bankrupt, ego maniac, bigot demagogue like Trump, but you are right, the extremes will ruin a country in the end.


Paul you’re all over the place here, meandering and mostly wrong. To start with the Republican party (abolitionists) ended slavery. Your “moderate progressive(s)” ie Socialists want open boarders, an end to ICE and sanctuary for illegals. This is the way that 21st century Democrats will bring slavery back. An endless stream of cheap labor working for slave-like wages. While machines are now picking the cotton, the “progressives” are building a new plantation.

Your “gave us … union rights, medicare, civil rights etc.” statement is also erroneous. But these issues would require separate replies.


Tony thank you for your reply

1-Abolitionists did not end slavery. They tried from 1776 to 1865 and could not do it. Lincoln did it in 5 yrs. with the 13 amendment.
2-Moderate progressives are not for open borders, end to ICE, sanctuary cities. Extreme left wing liberals are.
3-Moderate progressives did give us union rights, medicare, civil rights etc., extremists on either side did not.


It’s also what socialists were saying when they made Finland the happiest country on earth.

Ooh look I can cherry-pick too!


Let me see. She wants $100 million to pay for legal services for immigrants. Legal ones or illegal ones? She wants to relax rules on illegally divided apartments. What do you think the fire department would say about that? And landlords don’t to get to raise rents if they improve an aging and worn out unit? She’s living in dreamland alright. Another clueless candidate!


FDNY will say what socialist DeBlasio (ie: Warren Wilhelm Jr. ) tells the department to say. Remember the “Happy Land” fire. An illegal, unlicensed “social club” in the Bronx.

The Fire Dept ordered the place closed for code violations: included lack of fire exits, alarms or sprinkler system. But Happy Land was not shut down for PC reasons. 87 deaths in minutes, all immigrants (Hondurans).


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