ASTORIA – Felicia Kalan spoke with The National Herald about her campaign for New York City Council District 22, the seat previously occupied by Costa Constantinides. The district includes Astoria, as well as Rikers Island, parts of Jackson Heights, Woodside, and East Elmhurst.
Kalan, a working mom of two, is running as a Republican in a mostly Democratic district.
TNH: Did you always want to go into politics?
Felicia Kalan: While politics wasn't always in the plan, I have always had a heart to love and serve people and I'm a problem-solver – which is why my platform is centered around "People Before Politics." I was raised by a single mom along with my great grandfather John Riley, a World War II veteran. He taught me at an early age how important it was to serve my community, and I remember his home was always a place people would bring their problems – big or small – and my Grandpa would always be there to help resolve them and to be a listening ear. My grandpa was also a small business owner, he owned a small convenience store attached to his home, and I caught the entrepreneur spirit from him and my mother Mary, who owns a Home Health Care Agency she started when I was in high school.
After graduating college, I became a Legislative Aide for Republican State Representative Margaret Conditt and gained a passion for constituent services. I also co-founded a social enterprise called UNCHAINED that worked with survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking and became a social entrepreneur (shorturl.at/cmsI9). Later, I became the V.P. of a company called COhatch (https://www.cohatch.com/) – a co-working space and social enterprise incubator that helps revitalize struggling commercial districts. I have a passion for growing small businesses and unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit of communities.
As a mom of two navigating the education system in New York City, I started to become more involved in local issues, and attempted to join the Community Board. As a family in Christian ministry (my husband is a Pastor/Elder of Bridge Community Church) our family always lives on mission and prayerfully asking Christ how we can "love and serve our neighbors." For me, running for City Council was a calling I felt God placed on our life as a family, and so I began to pursue that calling to run for this City Council seat. I believe in such a dark time, we need a strong leader that can bring experience in government and business to help us rebuild, and also a person that can be a spiritual leader that fights to meet the needs of our community, and that's why I'm running.
TNH: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the district?
Kalan: District 22 is a wonderful place to raise a family and I want to keep it that way. However, we do have challenges we need to work through in regard to public safety, sanitation, improving our public middle and high schools, and helping revitalize struggling commercial districts and getting people connected to good paying jobs. Unfortunately, almost all of my opponents are calling to "Defund the Police" and I don't believe that is the right thing to do when crime is at an all-time high, and fighting for public safety, clean streets, and better quality of life is a high priority for me.
TNH: What would be the top issue you would take on once elected to the City Council?
Kalan: We have a 92 billion dollar budget and every year our taxes increase and it seems our city services continue to decline. I want to fight for more budget transparency and to ensure our district receives funding that goes directly into our district to fund sanitation upgrades, schools, public safety, and basic city services. I do not agree with the radical left ideology to "defund the police" and my fear is that our beloved district will see an increase in crime if the 114th Precinct is defunded. I believe in order to have a more fair, balanced system that represents working people, we need to stop electing people who don't reflect the values of our community: faith, family, hard work, and dignity for all.
TNH: What should the Greek-American community, in particular, know about your campaign?
Kalan: The Greeks invented Democracy, to which America prides itself in adopting, but as New Yorkers let's ask ourselves one question – have our voices been heard? It seems that year after year, they are forgotten and replaced with out-of-touch agendas.
I am running as a Republican in a mostly Democrat district, which is a challenge to overcome. However for me, it's not about a Republican, Democrat or Socialist agenda, it's about representing the true needs and values of our community at City Hall, and fighting for Queens. I believe the values I share with a majority of the Greek community is that of strong family values, Christian values, mutual honor and respect for all people, and the value of hard work. For far too long, hard-working people have been forgotten and our city government has only perpetuated cyclical poverty. I have a heart and compassion for the most vulnerable in our community, but a different solution than what most Democrat politicians at present – which is that of empowering upward mobility. We are in a unique season in our city's collective history and the end goal of every initiative I will be a part of is not simply giving fish, but teaching people how to fish so they can regain their dignity and provide for their families.
TNH: How has your family reacted to your decision to run for the City Council?
Kalan: My family has been very supportive, and we prayed together before making this decision to seek after The Lord's confirmation on this calling. My husband Andy has been a solid rock for me on this journey and as a spiritual leader, he is ready to get to work with me to continue loving and serving our community in a new way! May 18th is our wedding anniversary and we will have been married nine years with a 6 and 4 year old! My son Zaden tells his friends that I'm running for City Council to get the trash off of the streets, so he is my little campaign manager! It is important to me that my kids learn how government works at an early age, and I can't wait to welcome many school trips at City Hall and at my district office as Councilwoman!
Running as a mother in the pandemic with two children has not been without challenges, but when the DOE shut down our schools I knew that now more than ever – we need parents with school children fighting for us at City Hall. I didn't agree with the school shut-downs, and I'll continue to amplify my voice and experience as a mother at City Hall- we need more parents representing us!
More information about Felicia Kalan and her campaign is available online: https://www.feliciakalan.com/.