At a candidate forum in Jackson Heights last night, the former chief of staff to the recently arrested former City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, Julissa Ferreras, said she hasn’t been questioned by authorities about her role as head of a nonprofit group that can’t account for hundreds of thousands of dollars it received in member items from Monserrate.
“Lots of people out there, including my opponents, have said, ‘You know, there’s an investigation and all these things.’ I have personally not been contacted by anyone,” said Ferreras, who hopes to replace Monserrate.
“And as soon as I’m contacted by any agency or district attorney or whatever it is that people are saying out there that has contacted me, I will be more than happy to answer any and every question to the best of my ability.”
After she worked as Monserrate’s chief of staff, Ferrerras served as the chairman of the board for the organization Libre, which received $400,000 in public funding from Monserrate. The organization is unable to account for the money, and the matter is now under investigation by the Queens district attorney.
Ferreras said she has the endorsement of 14 City Council members.
Later, Ferreras talked about how she worked tirelessly with Monserrate to secure a deal with the city for more than 1,000 units of affordable housing for the redevelopment of Willets Point. When an older women expressed expressed concern about overdevelopment in the community, Ferreras reassured her by saying, “The reality is, I don’t believe Willets Point is going to happen anytime soon. But when it does, you need to have the right person there that to ensure that they are hiring minority and women-owned businesses,” and, she added, “that they are hiring people from our community.”
The forum, hosted by the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens at a small church on 34th Avenue, also featured three other candidates for the seat, including Francisco Moya, who emphasized the importance of “transparency” and said, “I remember what this community once was.”
Moya noted he worked with David Paterson while he was in the State Senate, and handed out campaign literature that borrowed Barack Obama’s campaign slogan: “Yes We Can.”
Also running are George Dixon, a local resident who said he didn’t want to bring more police into the community because that would only move the crime problem to another location; and Eduardo Geraldo, a former president of the Queens Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who voiced support of the Willets Point project and said the commercial thoroughfare of Roosevelt Avenue, where crime is a problem, should be put under control of one police precinct. Currently, it’s patrolled by two.
The organizer of the event, Democratic District Leader Daniel Dromm, said a fifth candidate did not attend because Dromm had only learned of that person’s candidacy earlier in the day and that person was unable to attend on such short notice. As Dromm spoke, an audience member handed him a flier for a person who was not in attendance. Then, Dromm noted there were, in fact, six candidates in the race.