07/31/2008
‘Hope, Change’ Candidate Talks About Race, Plans
by Lee Landor , Assistant Editor

Albert Baldeo, an Ozone Park attorney and community activist, at a fundraiser with his wife and son. (courtesy of Albert Baldeo)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 He calls himself the “hope and change” candidate, “new blood” in the political system, a “breath of fresh air,” and “the face of the diversity of Queens.” Albert Baldeo, 48, an attorney and community activist from Ozone Park, is one of three men vying for the state’s 15th Senate District seat.

Baldeo, a Democrat, is well-known within the boundaries of the district, which includes Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven and a portion of Ridgewood and Richmond Hill. He came within 700 votes, or 1 percent, of defeating state Sen. Serphin Maltese, a Republican who has held the seat unopposed since 1988, in the 2006 election.

This year’s attempt to vanquish Maltese, however, will be more complicated: City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who is term-limited out of office in 2009, has joined the race, splitting Democrat voters. 
Still, Baldeo is confident in his chances. “I think the mindset of people is changing,” he said. “They’re fed up with the old politicians. They’re fed up with the musical chairs. They’re fed up with recycled politicians.” 
Recalling the close 2006 race, Baldeo added that he believes the voters in the district see the need for change. “You have to get new blood into the system and you have to inject new ideas.” 
A critical way of doing this, he noted, is recognizing and acknowledging the constituency — a large portion of which includes new immigrants. Listening to the constituents, hearing their opinions and addressing their needs is what its all about for Baldeo, who came to the city from Guyana in 1988. 

This will also aid the process of distributing funds equitably among the district’s various communities and organizations, he believes. As it stands currently, loyalties to special interests and lobbyists determine the distribution of funds, Baldeo said, noting the recent slush-fund scandal that swept through the City Council. 
Tired of incidents like these, and fed up with “politics as usual” and politicians who “serve themselves, not their constituents,” Baldeo, a, husband father and taxpayer himself, decided to get involved and make changes from the legislative side. 

The key to making changes is hearing from voters, which Baldeo plans to do by assembling town hall meetings and sitting with local groups to discuss issues ranging from social services for seniors to youth, education and health programs. Transparency and accountability are a big part of the process as well, he said. 
As one of the most diverse districts in the city, it’s important for the elected representatives of District 15 to note and appreciate the concerns — from inability to navigate the system to discrimination — their constituents have, according to Baldeo. 

One goal is to “help new Americans assimilate faster to the mainstream of American life and also to be responsible citizens,” he said. “I’m the one person who understands diverse cultures. ... I am the face of the diversity of Queens.” 

Baldeo spends much of his time advising and assisting — free of charge — new Americans in becoming U.S. citizens, registering to vote, getting to the polls and acquiring public benefits and their fair share of taxes. 
He opened the first Community Assistance Center and Voter Registration Drive and formed the Alliance to Combat Air and Noise Pollution in the environs affected by Kennedy International Airport traffic, as well as fought for funds for Howard Beach’s Frank M. Charles Memorial Park and led a petition drive to keep Aqueduct Racetrack open year-round as both a winterized race track and a disaster shelter. 

Baldeo, who raised $400,000 for his campaign, was able to secure a place on the Democratic ballot, filing more than 4,000 signatures. Only 1,000 were needed, but he wanted to show off the overwhelming support he believes he has garnered during his time advocating for the local community.

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