After nine weeks of battling government agencies to help her parents get their unemployment benefits because of the coronavirus pandemic, City Council Candidate Julie Won decided that was time to have a say in how city agencies work by running for the New York City Council in the 2021 elections.
“This is our moment to build a city that works for everyone. When elected to the City Council, I will fight to champion a just and fair recovery. I will put working families first and build a coalition to fight for us all,” she said during her campaign launch on Monday morning.
Won entered the fray of what may be the largest race so far in the borough –– the race for District 26 –– while standing in the heart of the district underneath the Sunnyside sign on Queens Boulevard and 46th Street.
According to the New York City Campaign Finance Board, 15 candidates have filed so far to run for term-limited City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer’s (D-Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, Dutch Kills) seat in 2021.
Won and her family immigrated from South Korea in 1998 to Queens. If elected, Won will be the first Korean-American woman elected to office in New York State.
“While I see Julie as a pioneer for the Korean American community, she’s a leader for us all,” said Rosamond Gianutsos, a doctor, Families for Safe Streets activist, and Queens Community Board 2 member. “Whether you are a small business owner, an immigrant, or amongst the 77% of New Yorkers who do not own/register a car. And even if, like me, you are none of these things, Julie will still appeal to you. Energetic and resilient, Julie embodies civic engagement.”
Won is a technology change agent who works on innovating constituent and consumer experiences with federal and city government services, non-profit organizations and businesses. She’s also on the board of Queens Community Board 2, the advisory board of Community Capacity Development (CCD): 696 Build Queensbridge and the executive board of the Korean-American Association of Greater NY. She also serves on the Queens Borough President’s Complete Count Committee for the 2020 Census and volunteers with local mutual aids.
As the child of working class immigrants who were employed by local small businesses, Won understands that the neighborhood’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will require a holistic approach, said small business advocate Jonathan Forgash.
“Neighbors support businesses with dollars and businesses support neighborhoods with jobs, services, meals, meeting places, tax dollars and so much more. And don’t forget, the majority of small business owners and workers live locally,” he said. “She will fight to ensure a fair and just recovery for our neighbors and businesses that make up our neighborhoods.”
Audrey Lee, a middle school humanities teacher at a charter school in the South Bronx who lives in Astoria, said that Won listens to the community about their wants and needs. One of the first times they met, Won asked her what needed to be changed in education she said.
“I feel that that question from her made me believe that she has our best interests at heart,” said Lee. “She’s willing to listen, she’s willing to ask questions, and she’s willing to learn.”
Lee hearkened back to the Revolutionary War. The colonists wanted representation in government, she said. They were angry at King George III because they didn’t have representatives to be their voice and to represent their interests.
That’s what Won will do if elected to the New York City Council, she said. She’ll be the district’s voice in government.
“Somebody who is willing to listen to what the people want is definitely going to represent our interests, and is definitely going to do the best that she can to make sure that not only are we heard but that we have our voice in government,” Lee said about Won.