AABANY Congratulates Shekar Krishnan and Sandra Ung on Becoming New York City Council Members

The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) congratulates Shekar Krishnan and Sandra Ung for being elected to the New York City Council. Both have been members of AABANY and continue to serve the AAPI community. The City Council made history by becoming the first New York City council with a majority of seats occupied by women (31 out of 51) and Adrienne Adams became the first black New York City Council Speaker on January 5th. 

Sandra has been elected to represent the 20th District of New York which covers Flushing, Mitchell-Linden, Murray Hill, Queensboro Hill and Fresh Meadows. She has committed her entire career to serving the Queens community. Sandra was most recently the Special Assistant to Congresswoman Grace Meng where she assisted local residents of Queens in navigating the complex government bureaucracy. Sandra also serves in a leadership role on the congresswoman’s re-election campaigns and as the Executive Director of Grace’s At the Table PAC, a political action committee dedicated to expanding women and minority representation in politics. 

Sandra’s government service and public interest experience includes: Special Assistant to the New York State Commissioner on Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation;  Legislative Assistant to former New York City Comptrollers Bill Thompson and John Liu; Chief of Staff to former New York State Assemblyman Jimmy Meng; and staff attorney to Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit organization that assists those impacted by domestic violence. She also worked as an associate attorney at Dorsey & Whitney. Sandra had previously served on the AABANY Board as Treasurer. 

Shekar has been elected to represent the 25th District of New York which covers Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst. He made history by becoming one of the first South Asians elected to the New York City Council. Shekar co-founded Friends of Diversity Plaza. Located near Jackson Heights, Diversity Plaza has become a symbol of how public space can bring people together. It now serves a critical function in neighborhood organizing efforts and building solidarity across communities. Shekar has also engaged in inclusive political organizing and grassroots community dialogue in support of progressive causes.

Shekar is the co-founder of Communities Resist, a legal services organization that takes a community-rooted and intersectional approach to housing and racial justice in North Brooklyn and Queens. Shekar represents tenants and neighborhood coalitions in fair housing litigation and anti-displacement advocacy in some of the most gentrified neighborhoods in New York City. Shekar was an AABANY member and spoke on the Fall Conference panel: Fighting for Housing and Community Justice: The Role of Lawyers in the Movement.

Please join AABANY in congratulating both Shekar and Sandra for their election to the City Council. We thank them for their commitment to public service and we wish them every success as they begin their terms as City Council members.

Chris Kwok Testifies Before the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety on March 22

On March 22, Chris Kwok testified on behalf of AABANY before the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety in support of two changes to the funding of Hate Crime Units of New York District Attorneys’ Offices. These recommendations call for Hate Crime Units to be staffed with full-time prosecutors and legal support personnel, and for periodic audits by the committee to ensure their use of dedicated funds for hate crime prosecution. Chris shared that AABANY first voiced these recommendations in its report on anti-Asian violence. The report specifically identified the “Jade Squad”—a police division formed to combat Chinese gang violence in the 1970s— and concomitant Asian Gang Units that were formed at the District Attorney’s Office. In line with these successful historical efforts, AABANY now advocates for the creation of dedicated and fully funded hate crime divisions in law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices.

The AABANY report recounts numerous instances of assault and harassment against Asian Americans in New York over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Chris highlighted the persistence of such racially fueled attacks to this day. Chris also noted that media outlets, community leaders, and politicians have since backed AABANY’s proposals to fully fund and formally staff anti-hate-crime initiatives. Among these supporters, Chris identified the inspector of the NYPD Task Force and New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang. In the face of unrelenting anti-Asian violence throughout the state, Chris explained that the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force and District Attorneys’ Office Hate Crime Units require dedicated funding and full-time personnel to improve their reporting structures. Only with such resources can anti-hate-crime initiatives produce reports that adequately detail the efforts of law enforcement to stem anti-Asian violence. The statement concluded with Chris’s message that fully funded and full-time Hate Crime Units are critical to encouraging the continued reporting of anti-Asian hate crimes and to fostering greater trust within the Asian American community. To read Chris’s written statement, submitted with his testimony, click here.

Sandra Ung, Former AABANY Treasurer, Runs for City Council on Platform of Unity for the Flushing Community

Former AABANY Treasurer and longtime community advocate Sandra Ung has announced her candidacy for New York City Council for the upcoming 2021 election. Sandra, who has dedicated her life to serving the Queens community, hopes to use her extensive experience in and passion for law and public service to best support and represent the Flushing community.

Growing up, Sandra always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. “I’ve always believed that it’s important to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves,” she said in a recent interview. Sandra, who is ethnically Chinese, fled Cambodia during the genocide and immigrated to the United States when she was just seven years old. Soon after, she moved to Flushing, where she has called home ever since. But growing up as an immigrant presented many challenges.

“It’s not easy when you come to a country where you don’t know the language and have to start over,” she said. “But I quickly realized that we were not the only family on this path.” With this passion for community justice in mind, Sandra attended New York City public schools until graduating from Hunter College and then going to Columbia Law School to get her J.D. in 2001. She then worked at a law firm, where she learned detail-oriented writing and organizational skills that allowed her to really understand how to be a professional.

She then worked for Sanctuary For Families, a New York non-profit focused on helping victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence. Domestic violence is not regularly or openly talked about in the Asian American community, and survivors often find it difficult to talk to counselors and attorneys, especially when they look nothing like them. When working with organizations like Sanctuary for Families and the Korean American Family Service Center, Sandra saw her Asian American clients slowly open up to her, and she realized how important it is to have a support system that truly understands you and, therefore, your needs.

Now, one of Sandra’s platforms is to provide greater assistance for domestic violence victims. The pandemic has revealed what people in the field already know: domestic violence is a real, pressing issue in every community, and it is not addressed well enough. Therefore, true domestic violence advocacy requires not only highlighting and funding service providers, but also providing ways for survivors of domestic violence to physically move-out, with better housing solutions, and become financially independent from their abusers.

Sandra has worked for the New York State Assembly as a Special Assistant to the NYS Commissioner on Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation; a Legislative Assistant to former New York City Comptrollers Bill Thompson and John Liu; and Chief of Staff to former New York State Assemblyman Jimmy Meng. Currently, she is the Special Assistant to Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens), leading the congresswoman’s re-election campaigns and running Grace’s At the Table PAC, a political action committee dedicated to expanding women and minority representation in politics. As the eyes and ears on the ground while the congresswoman is in D.C., Sandra is proud to represent the immigrant community and support them through the same challenges she faced growing up. She especially enjoys running free workshops that teach public speaking and career-based skills to young women who lack access to this knowledge, like she did when she was also growing up in an immigrant family. “We really understand that if you want to have a seat at the table, you need the basic skill set to get you to that table in the first place,” she said.

While serving as AABANY’s Treasurer, Sandra felt empowered by the inclusivity that AABANY created for its community. Due to the breadth and diversity of its members and leaders, AABANY showed Sandra the importance of having strong representation of Asian Americans in leading legal, public interest, and government positions, where they will truly advocate for the communities they serve.

Therefore, after over a decade working for New York state and years of working on other people’s campaigns, Sandra feels ready to tackle and win her own. “The recent national and local elections have shown that we are more divided than ever,” she said. “So, in campaigning, it is especially important to me to set a positive tone.” She hopes to focus on creating unity within the Flushing community, building a broad coalition as strong as their neighborhood.

Now more than ever, Sandra looks up to her mother, who was born in Cambodia and forced to leave her family during the genocide. While working in a laundromat all her life, Sandra’s mother taught her about perseverance and hard work; her parents continue to inspire her to give back to the country that gave them everything they have.

“The people around me have given me the courage to try and do this,” she said. “I believe in my community, I believe in myself, and I believe that I will be the best person for this job.”

To learn more about Sandra’s campaign and find out how you can get involved, please visit sandrafornewyork.com

To hear more about the campaign from Sandra herself, please watch the video below.

To follow Sandra’s campaign on social media, please visit their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

This member profile has been published for informational purposes only and does not constitute and should not be construed as a campaign endorsement.