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Gonzalez, Lambropoulos battle for District 59 Senate seat in Astoria

Gonzalez and Lambropoulos at the candidate forum. Photo by Queens Post

June 25, 2024 By Queens Post News Team

Kristen Gonzalez and Gus Lambropoulos, candidates for District 59 of the New York State Senate, addressed Astoria residents Wednesday evening ahead of the Democratic primary elections on Tuesday, June 25. 

Gonzalez, the incumbent State Senator for District 59, and Lambropoulos, an Astoria native who announced his candidacy in January, spoke to members of the Astoria Homeowners, Tenants and Business Civic Association at Pistilli Grand Manor at 45-02 Ditmars Blvd. as part of the association’s candidates’ night. 

Each candidate was granted roughly ten minutes to promote their campaigns and answer questions from the audience. Gonzalez highlighted her work promoting climate justice in the New York State Senate, and Lambropoulos championed his opposition to congestion pricing, which Governor Kathy Hochul indefinitely paused last week. 

Gonzalez, who has held the seat for District 59 since January 2023, pointed to her work on New York’s Energy Committee, where she helped pass “landmark” legislation to allow New York to build its own renewable energy sources. She said the legislation has already allowed Rise Light and Power to transform the Ravenswood Powerplant into a renewable energy facility and said such measures will help erase Astoria’s reputation as “Asthma Alley”. 

Gonzalez said she has been on the “frontline” of the fight against hospital closures in her district, adding that she has also fought to ensure healthcare access for all. 

She also pointed to housing legislation that she has voted in favor of, including the Homeowners Protection Program, which allocated $40 million to struggling homeowners at risk of foreclosure. 

She said she has also helped allocate $40 million in state funding to small landlords struggling with the cost of competition and $150 million to a first-time homeowner program. 

Questioned about what measures she has implemented to assist small business owners in her district, Gonzalez said she had passed legislation that holds utility companies accountable for disproportionate hikes in prices and said she also supports a bill recently introduced at the state level to assist small businesses with rent. 

She added that she is currently building a network of small businesses within her district to help lobby in favor of further measures to support small businesses at the state level. 

Lambropoulos, on the other hand, promised to introduce legislation offering a new deal for college students, promising “fixed predictable and fixed tuition from day one to graduation.” 

He also promised to fight for rent stabilization and low-income senior housing for senior citizens in the community, adding that he would advocate for small businesses in the district. 

He praised Governor Hochul for halting congestion pricing indefinitely, stating that the measure would have placed even more pressure on the MTA’s “aging infrastructure.” 

“I’ve been an outspoken opponent of congestion pricing and applaud Governor Hochul for stopping this plan,” Lambropoulos told community members. “Congestion pricing is a bad deal, and thankfully, it’s over.” 

Lambropoulos also attacked Gonzalez over her opposition to New York Senate Bill 3161, which removed the penetration requirement from the state’s rape statutes. 

“Senator Gonzalez was one of only four senators who voted against the legislation,” Lambropoulos said. “We need leaders in Albany who will protect human rights. No questions asked.” 

Given an opportunity to respond following Lambropoulos’s address, Gonzalez described herself as a survivor of sexual assault and said she voted against the bill because it was too broad. 

She said she supported the bill’s intention but that it could have “unintended consequences,” adding that public defenders and district attorneys opposed it. 

Speaking after the event, Gonzalez said she also opposed Governor Hochul’s unilateral decision to halt congestion pricing indefinitely. 

“We were really vocal and publicly opposed to her unilateral decision to delay congestion pricing. It’s undemocratic and I thought it was irresponsible because we didn’t have a clear plan for what would happen next. It was done without notice to the legislature. It isn’t a sign, for me, of how good government should work. 

“I think it’s important for us to create a version of congestion pricing that gives us the investment we need that doesn’t burden working-class New Yorkers. That’s our residents who live on fixed income and may not be able to pay $15.” 

Gonzalez also described Astoria as a “transit desert” and said she aimed to “fix the MTA.” 

“Part of our green New York vision is implementing a public transport system that’s safe, that’s reliable, that’s interconnected. A transport system that doesn’t just look like trains but also an entire system that runs off renewable energy. A system that sees trains connect with buses that connect with the ferry. Queens has a lot of transit deserts and it’s incumbent on our state legislature to really invest in our public transport system.” 

Lambropoulos, meanwhile, faced questions from the audience about photographs on social media that show him posing alongside an individual wearing a “F*ck Joe Biden” t-shirt. 

The resident contended that Lambropoulos described himself as a “proud Democrat while displaying Republican characteristics.”

Lambropoulos responded that his political leanings should not prevent him from taking a picture with a member of the opposite party. 

“I can’t take a picture of someone if someone’s wearing a shirt that I don’t like?” Lambropoulos responded. “I have to tell them to take off the shirt.” 

Speaking after the event, he said he was confident of defeating Gonzalez in Tuesday’s election, stating that he has cultivated the support of working-class voters.

“I’m pretty confident. The people are speaking out loud that change is needed,” Lambropoulos said. “She may have 30 endorsements from the unions, but I have 170,000 people that are endorsing me.” 

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