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Espinal Counts On Local Ties to Win Battle for Assembly Seat

Aridia Espinal (Photo: New York Assembly)

Sept. 6, 2018 By Tara Law

Aridia “Ari” Espinal, 30, has only been the District 39 assembly member since February, but she is already a familiar face in her neighborhood. 

When Espinal walks around the district— which encompasses Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst— she needs to leave ample time to speak with people who recognize her, she said.

“If I have to be somewhere at noon, I have to leave my campaign office an hour before, because someone’s going to stop me in the streets,” Espinal said.

Espinal said that so many people are friendly with her because she was born and raised in the district, and has volunteered in the community since she was 13. 

Last winter, Espinal took the Assembly seat in a special election after Francisco Moya stepped down to join the City Council.

Espinal was appointed by the Queens Democratic party as the candidate to run in the special election, and no primary was held. The Queens GOP chose not to run a candidate.

On Sept. 13, Espinal will be challenged in a Democratic Primary. She faces Yonel Letellier Sosa and Catalina Cruz.

However, Espinal said, she feels confident that she will receive a mandate in the primary next week because she is such a well-known and dedicated member of the community. 

In an interview in late August, Espinal noted that neither of her opponents were born in the neighborhood. 

“One of the biggest differences is— I’m from here,” Espinal said. “I was born and raised in this neighborhood and I love what I am doing.”

According to Espinal, her deep familiarity with issues that impact the community— such as an underfunded school system, an inefficient MTA and expensive housing— will ultimately carry her to victory.

Espinal was born to Dominican immigrants in Corona, and began her work in the community as an elementary school student at St. Leo’s Catholic Academy in Corona.

She volunteered at her school and with the Corona Lion’s Club, where she helped to organize community events, clean graffiti, and worked to improve the quality of life in the community.

Espinal said that she carried this hands-on ethos into her adulthood. After graduating from college, she joined Moya’s office and eventually became his director of constituent services.

Now as an Assembly Member, Espinal continues to emphasize the community-facing component of her job. 

Espinal said that she disperses “mobile offices” out on the streets of her district, where constituents can meet with her aids and learn more about resources available through the state. On the weekends, she travels throughout the district herself to speak with the community.

“It’s something that I instilled in my staff— that we need to do this. Because, you know, people need to know that we’re there for them,” Espinal said.

Espinal said that her closeness to the community has enabled her to see issues more clearly than candidates with less experience in the district. 

For instance, she faults politicians who have campaigned on reforming the MTA for neglecting a discussion about the bus lines. According to Espinal, many people require reliable bus lines just to reach the subway.

“If you live on South Cliff by Otis Avenue… 15 blocks from the 7 line, how are you going to get to the 7 line to get to work? You have to take a bus,” said Espinal.

Espinal said that the city should begin to install ticket vending machines along the bus route, because bus riders currently need to visit subway stations to refill their MetroCards.

Espinal also said that discussions about schools have become overly fixated on funding Pre-K for All, whereas there has been little debate about investing in middle and high school programs.

Among the problems on constituents’ minds, Espinal said, “School overcrowding is huge. We need these kids to not learn in trailers. We need these kids to actually be in classrooms where they’re not learning with 36 other children.”

Espinal argued that the school system needs to build more middle and high schools, and to invest in more STEM programming.

On many issues, Espinal said, it is important to foster more dialogue between stakeholders and community members. 

For instance, Espinal believes that it is important for developers to meet the community before launching projects—particularly if affordable housing is involved.

The community, she said, should be able to define what level of affordable housing is acceptable, said Espinal.

 “We need to keep fighting and have a loud voice,” she said.

The best thing she can do as an elected official, Espinal said, is to give her constituents a chance to stand up for themselves.

“I don’t need to be empowered—I want to empower them to make the change,” said Espinal.

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Jackson Heights

Ari Espinal was put in by the Queens Democratic Machine. I want an independant voice, representing our community, NOT the machine. I am voting for Catalina Cruz, as I know she will fight for our community.


Ari Espinal looked like a deer in headlights in the NY1 debate, particularly when asked about corporate rent control, which she does not support. So she’s in favor of more chains and less small businesses, the true backbone of our community. She would be another empty suit in Albany.

Hard volunteer in the District

Basically, she’s just had one job her entire life, and that was for Moya. It makes me anxious that she says her community service started in elementary school, the same one that hosted a spanish language debate for this seat. It was there, after she was very public about only participating in debates on ‘level ground’ and causing a stir by bringing a rowdy crowd to the debate at the Jewish Center. As for the Chhaya debate, she called them at noon to say she wasn’t going to attend. Reminds us of the bad move Joe Crowley made, not attending a debate in the Bronx.

Espinal was not an attentive hmm, whatever role she had at Moya’s. I know she answered the phones, but never seemed to move messages to get a response or answer. They made families wait over an hour for free Thanksgiving turkeys, and with a recent backpack giveaway, they asked families to line up 2 hours before. That’s not respecting hard working families.

As for schools, she handed out flyers outside PS 89 first day of school. Nearly 2,000 students and about 1,000 of their caregivers had a horrendous experience trying to get into the school, but there was no comment or observations noted by Espinal.

As a resident, I’ve noticed 2 new trailers outside of P.S. 7 at a time where politicians have been claiming they are reducing them. There are new trailers at PS. 28 too, nearby that home she’s lived in forever. If she’s from here…she doesn’t seem to see whats going on all around here.

She was given the seat with under 600 votes in April and she’s been paid by NYS basically for a nice summer vacation.

Everyone should research and listen to the debates that she did participate in. Everyone should get out and vote Thursday, September 13th. Everyone should look for a candidate that has our #QueensValues and work ethic.

LIC Neighbor

Knew it! Dominicana with the name such as Aridia. Probably from La Sierra, San Jose de Las Matas or Janico, carajo!!! You notice that both Aridia and Catalina Cruz work or have worked for other local politician’s in their offices as members of their staff. These are professional politician’s. How stupid are we to vote for these people??

Random guy

I never saw her before , she should walk on Roosevelt Ave , 37ave , so she could see and be seen , she should be at the schools and talk to the parents outside,
Don’t stay in the office , be out on the streets with the locals , the people she wants to help.


Sounds like a winner , hopefully she’ll do what she is saying .
She is woman , hear her roar Jackson Heights !!!

Pancho Villa

“Her deep familiarity with issues that impact the community— such as an underfunded school system, an inefficient MTA and expensive housing— will ultimately carry her to victory.”

However, she does not understand that these issues are created by illegal immigration. Her district is the epicenter of illegal immigration in NYC. This district needs a Republican candidate to make it great again

make MAGA again

Republicans gutted education spending.

The GOP tax bill threatens funding of key programs the MTA relies on for upgrades and expansions.

Republicans gave millions of dollars in tax breaks to the luxury condo developers that are driving up housing prices.

…but Trump scared you into believing the scary illegal immigrant boogieman is the cause of the problems. Do you think illegal immigrants are living in the luxury condos that are driving up housing costs?

Trumpeters don’t seem to think much. You sound angry enough to burn your Nikes!

Rico Suave

Let me educate you….These are the issues affecting the district:
Overcrowded schools. Overcrowded by who? By the children of illegal immigrants, and on top of it the taxpayer must pay $15k per pupil.
Funding for MTA upgrades. If the taxpayer stops subsidizing illegal immigration, there would be more funds available for the MTA. For example, NYS is paying more than $15MM in legal services for illegals. Why should the taxpayer, be paying legal services for people that should not be here to begin with. I rather have those $15MM go to the MTA.
Expensive housing. Illegal immigrants put pressure upon the demand for housing, and when demand increases prices or rents will always go up. this is simple economics 101 in case you did not know.

Again, the root cause of the problems in this district is illegal immigration.


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