Yonel Letellier Sosa Enters 39th Assembly District Race

If there is anything that Yonel Letellier Sosa believes it is the importance for an elected representative to have experience. In fact, he feels this is key to becoming the 39th Assembly District leader.

“I believe I have the experience, knowledge, know-how, vision to decipher all these problems and try to do the best for our community,” Sosa said. “Not for what’s best for special interests.”

Sosa is challenging newly-elected State Assemblymember Ari Espinal (D-Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona) in this year’s Democratic primary. The other candidate in the race is Catalina Cruz, a DREAMer who announced her candidacy months ago.

The Elmhurst resident was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York City when he turned one. While growing up, he worked in the community with various civic organizations and clubs. He was president of the New Visions Democratic Club for 10 years and founded the Association of Latin American Leaders, which he still leads.

“[The Association of Latin American Leaders] was an attempt to bring awareness to the community and do positive things,” he said.

He cited the Affordable Care Act as an example. The organization taught “navigators” to explain what the policy was to community members.

Furthermore, Sosa referred to his time in Albany. He worked as chief of staff to Jose Peralta first in the state assembly and, seven years after, in the state senate. He’s helped on various political campaigns as well and petitioned for the Democratic party.

Yonel Letellier Sosa. Photo by Brandon Jordan

His campaign began two weeks ago, late relative to the other candidates in the race. Yet he is already meeting with residents, holding fundraisers, and participated in a debate with Cruz last week.

A few issues that Sosa highlighted include transportation, affordable housing, and electoral reform. He first discussed reforming the election process, citing his own struggles when running for office.

When former City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras-Copeland announced she would not run for re-election, Sosa was one of five candidates to announce his intention to run, but he did not list the office and district he would run in. He was not placed on the ballot because of this.

Sosa sued both Espinal and Francisco Moya for this incident, noting in court their petition challenge caused it, but did not succeed with the state Supreme Court dismissing his suit.

He felt concerned with the recent special election, feeling it was not right to have only one person on the ballot. Because of this and more, he favors easier voter registration and reforming the election process including special elections.

On transportation, he explained the significance of the 7 train line. He noted that many residents depend on the train, which could cause “wear and tear.” Moreover, the noise from the train line is another issue he wants addressed and felt it is possible to reduce the noise.

“The MTA fixes where all the tourists are so it looks nice and neat,” he said.

Sosa talked about the question of affordability for both small business owners and homeowners too. He felt concerned about the potential development in Willets Point and requested stronger leadership to ensure residents would not suffer from what occurs there.

He also spoke about education, especially with the lack of adequate funding that several schools in the district receive. These schools, often overcrowded, do not provide enough resources for students.  

“Because of inadequacy at the state level, our kids are suffering,” he said.

He did note his opponents Espinal and Cruz were both “wonderful” people yet did not believe they had anything like his experience helping the community.

“I just feel we deserve better, especially now at the national level,” he said.

Indeed, after leaving the diner, Sosa highlighted distinct features of the district. This includes the various nationalities—Argentinian, Indian, Colombian—that exist throughout the district. These people were ones he felt required the best representative in Albany.

“I’m risking my 25 years of work,” he said. “But I feel that I have to do it. No one else is willing to risk their reputation. If I’m going to risk my reputation, let it be for the people.”

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