Civic leader and decade long resident of Forest Hills Edwin Wong believes he’ll be able to do what he does best if he’s elected to the New York City Council for District 29: Bring people together.
As the founder and president of the Forest Hills Asian Association and a member of Community Board 6, Wong has spent the last few years working to bring the growing Asian community in the district into the civic and political fold.
“There is this growing population, this growing demographic. Let’s make sure that people are aware of it, and at the same time, try to bring everyone together,” he said about his efforts.
Now, after a recent election to the Democratic Party’s State Committee to represent Assembly District 28, Wong is ready to take his political and community engagement to another level by running for New York City Council in 2021, he said. The seat he’s running for, District 29, has been held by term-limited City Councilmember Karen Koslowitz (D-Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill) for the better part of 3 decades.
Wong’s main focuses are education and small businesses. As a father of two young boys with a day job as a commercial lender at a bank, he comes to the table with an intimate understanding of both the issues, he said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he was worried about space in overcrowded schools, special education and ESL classes. Now, with the pandemic he’s concerned about public health and access to the internet for remote learning.
“The biggest concern is really how do we get these kids to go back to school safely,” he said.
Likewise for small businesses. As a commercial lender he’s seen first hand the ways that small businesses are struggling under the pandemic restrictions. He thinks that they need more access to grants and low interest loans. But he also thinks that there needs to be more programs that encourage people to support local businesses during these hard times like the citywide outdoor dining program.
“We can do more things like that that get people to come out and support them,” he said.
To tackle the city’s current fiscal crisis that was caused by the pandemic, Wong said he would propose that city employees about a certain salary level agree to small salary cuts. This would hopefully help the city avoid some layoffs, he said.
“It won’t solve everything but I think it will at least help with some of the challenges,” he said.
Wong is against building borough based jails, especially given the city’s financial situation, he said.
“There’s much more that can be done with the money that’s been set aside for those jails that I think, at this point, in time we need more than anything else. We don’t need more jails,” he said.
When asked about the movement to defund the NYPD, Wong said he’s not against reallocating money away from the department but that he wouldn’t go as far as defunding.
“You can’t entirely defund a police department because then you’d have no police department,” he said.
As a civic leader and community activist, Wong’s focus has been on the district he lives in. But, his ideas are applicable citywide, he said. If elected, he’ll work hard on these issues, and listen to the community, he said.
He’s running for office in a polarized time, he said, but that won’t deter him.
“There’s a lot of divisiveness now in our city and our country. Bringing everyone together, that’s my strength,” he said.