It’s ‘Community First’ for Council Candidate Dr. Neeta Jain

City Council Candidate Dr. Neeta Jain. Photo from campaign website

City Council Candidate Dr. Neeta Jain wears many hats. 

She is a practicing psychologist, and the President of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Democratic Club. She is founding member of a non-profit organization. And now, she is running in the February 2 special election to replace former City Councilmember Rory Lancman in City Council District 24 (Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Electchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills, Jamaica).

Her slogan, Community First, is a succinct summary of her campaign and her 30 years in Queens.

Or as she said in a recent interview over the phone, “I just love to serve humanity.” 

If she is elected, Dr. Jain said she plans to prioritize increasing resources for mental health, schools, aid for small businesses impacted by COVID, and affordable housing in the district. Jain has received endorsements from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria and Long Island City, parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan) and City Councilmember Peter Koo among others. She said her background as a psychologist uniquely situates her to handle the looming aftermath of the pandemic and the needs of the district overall.

Jain came to Flushing from her native India in 1992, as stated in a recent interview with ITV Gold. She didn’t know many people in the area but quickly became a volunteer at a non-profit called the Nav Nirman Foundation, where she counseled on domestic violence and DWI cases. She credits a Dr. Varma, who acted as her mentor and helped to connect her with her neighbors. 

“He is the one who introduced me to my own community in this country,” she said.

Dr. Jain later became an advocate for domestic violence victims. Inspired by her counseling work, she got in touch with elected officials to get help for people in the area. She had to work hard to make connections and establish herself as a community leader, she said.

“I’m telling you, as any other immigrant, I went through all the grinding in the beginning,” she said.

But her experiences transformed her. She knew she wanted to help people, she said, especially immigrants from India who came to Queens. She wanted to ensure they would have help to settle down. So Jain began to help immigrant families enroll their children in school, and steered newly arrived immigrants to jobs that lined up with their degrees.

“Since then, I never looked back,” she said. “I always got involved in the community.” 

Her work in the community took on added significance during the pandemic, she said, when she helped distribute food to people suffering from the economic fallout. The experience made her realize how many families needed access to healthy food. She vowed to get additional resources for families that depend on food stamps, she said. 

“I want to definitely expand the SNAP program,” she said.

Another thing that Jain wants to expand on is access to mental health. 

“Mental health is a big issue. And it’s going to be a big issue, even in the future, it’s not going to go away that easily,” she said. “The first thing I want to make sure, that my community has proper health care and access to mental health,” she said.

The pandemic’s impact on mental health weighed on Dr. Jain. She worried about children who were cooped up inside their homes, their childhoods profoundly impacted by the virus. She came across many people in the district who lost loved ones and she could see the profound impact a death in the family can have on a person.

“I am getting across a lot of constituents who lost their spouses during this pandemic and they need help,” she said.

So if she is elected she will also want to be involved in the mental health committee on the city council. 

Dr. Jain said she was also concerned about education and was saddened by the lack of resources for remote learning during the pandemic. She remembered a family she knew of who only had one iPad for four children.

“You can imagine how difficult it is for the parent to see their four kids are struggling with that one iPad,” she said. 

She said she will prioritize getting additional resources for schools in her district.

Her Jain faith highly influences how she sees the world, she said. She is the founder and president of the non-profit organization the International Amhisa Foundation. The foundation promotes non-violence and harmony in accordance with Jain principles. Her faith, which teaches tolerance and mutually acceptance, is a profound influence on her campaign. It’s also something that she tries to adhere to every day. 

“I pray for universal peace,” she said. “Because as a Jain, the Jain mantra is a universal mantra. Pray for everybody’s well being and peace.”