Aravella Simotas

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Aravella Simotas
NY State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas.jpg
Simotas in 2012
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 36th district
Assumed office
January 1, 2011
Preceded by Michael N. Gianaris
Personal details
Born (1978-10-09) October 9, 1978 (age 35)[1]
Political party Democratic
Residence Astoria, Queens, New York
Alma mater Fordham University
Fordham Law School
Profession lawyer, politician
Website Official website

Aravella Simotas (born October 9, 1978) is an American politician and a member of the Democratic Party, who currently represents parts of western Queens, including Astoria and parts of Long Island City in the New York State Assembly.[1][2] She is the first woman elected to office from her district, and is the first Greek-American woman elected to office in New York.[3][4]

Education and early life[edit]

Simotas immigrated to the United States from Greece and settled in Astoria with her parents and brother when she was an infant.[5][6][7] She graduated from P.S. 17, Junior H.S. 126, and William C. Bryant High School.[3][6][8]

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree (summa cum laude) from Fordham University in 1999, followed by a law degree from the Fordham University School of Law in 2002.[1][3][6][8][9] During law school, she was the managing editor at the Fordham Environmental Law Journal.[3][8][9][10] She first gained notice as the moderator at a Law Journal panel about citing electric generators in New York City under New York energy law.[10]

Early career[edit]

Simotas began her career in public service as a district representative for Speaker of the New York City Council, Peter Vallone, Sr. and later for New York City Council member Peter Vallone, Jr.[7] While at law school, she also worked at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, where she developed a passion for environmental advocacy.[3][11]

After law school, Simotas was a law clerk at the United States Court of International Trade.[6][8][9] She called that a "formative experience" for her.[6] She has been an associate attorney at Bickel & Brewer, a commercial litigation firm in Manhattan.[6][8][9] She also works with the Bickel & Brewer Storefront, "an organization that provides legal representation to the economically challenged."[3][11] She served as a member of the Queens Community Planning Board 1 and the United Community Civic Association.[3][11]

Electoral history[edit]

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2010 election[edit]

Simotas was first elected to office in 2010. She received the Democratic Party nomination and ran unopposed in the November 2, 2010 general election.[1][12][13][14][15][16]

2012 election[edit]

Simotas was unopposed in the 2012 Democratic primary. In the general election, she ran on both the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, and was opposed by Republican Julia Haitch.[17]

According to preliminary results collected by the Daily News, Simotas won re-election to the State Assembly, for the new District 36, in the general election on November 6, 2012 with 84% of the vote.[18]

Legislative career[edit]

Simotas has been a staunch advocate for women's issues, seniors, small businesses, the environment, and education.

Committee assignments[edit]

Simotas's Committee Assignments as of 2012 include:

Women's issues[edit]

In March 2012, Simotas and Representative Carolyn Maloney presented awards for Women's History Month to three notable women from Queens: Assemblymenber Catherine Nolan, longtime community activist Eartha Washington, and Astoria Performing Arts Center director Taryn Sacramone.[20][21] She remarked on the lack of women in both federal and state government offices, noting that Nolan had helped her,[20] and calling Nolan her "inspiration".[21]

Simotas has proposed a bill to lengthen maternity leave from 12 to 24 weeks in New York. She attended a press conference in support of the bill as an expectant mother herself. The bill, also supported by Senator Jose Peralta, would affect businesses with 50 or more employees.[22]

In the fall of 2012, Simotas proposed a "rape is rape" law, to correct what she perceives as an oddity in New York law which narrowly defines rape as forced vaginal penetration. The bill would expand the definition to include forced anal, oral or vaginal contact.[23][24]

Energy and environment[edit]

Simotas has been chairperson of Smart Power NY, a coalition to develop new energy sources for the area, since April 2012.[25][26] Its first goal was to support the utility NRG Energy with their plan to replace its "decades-old, dirty" power plant in Astoria with a newer generator.[26][27][28] NRG wants to replace 31 generators with new ones that will increase the megawatts of power while reducing emissions.[27][29] Emissions would be reduced because the new plants will use natural gas, while the current generators run primarily on oil.[26][29] While the Smart Power NY coalition was only created in 2012,[25] Simotas noted that she lived in the community her entire life, had "fought for cleaner power in western Queens for more than a decade", and had recently become a new mother.[26] Furthermore, "repowering" the new plants will create new jobs.[25][26][29]

Simotas welcomed "three prominent" public officials from Queens to the Smart Power NY in late May 2012: Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Joseph Crowley and State Senator Jose Peralta.[30] New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined the coalition in July 2012, specifically supporting the Astoria Repowering Project.[31] Smart Power NY is also advocating policies to reduce energy bills.[25]

Simotas is chairwoman of the coalition because:

Western Queens has been environmentally assaulted for decades.... Our area is home to major airports, [and] major bridges ... our power plants provide about 60 percent of New York City's energy. High rates of asthma and other illnesses caused by these pollutants are a scourge on our community.

—Aravella Simotas, quoted in article of May 24, 2012[28]

She has opposed the renewal of a permit for a transfer station near Laguardia Airport, due to the scavenging birds that it attracts, and thus the risk of another bird striking an airplane in the air space over her district.[32]

Civil rights[edit]

Simotas has been in favor of LGBT rights. She has marched in the Queen Pride Parade, and voted in favor of marriage equality in New York, which she termed "my proudest moment as a legislator and, frankly, as a person...."[33][34] Simotas had been a lead sponsor ("co-sponsor") of Assembly Bill A08354, which passed the Assembly by an 80–63 vote,[35] later passed the Senate, and was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.[36] She has also voted for GENDA, the transgender rights bill, Assembly Bill A5039, for which she was a "multi-sponsor".[37] She was endorsed by the Empire State Pride Agenda, an LGBT advocacy group, in both her 2010 and 2012 races.[38][39] She has also garnered the support of individual gay activists, some of whom who have volunteered for her campaigns.[34][40]

She has supported voters' rights, especially getting additional polling places.[41][42]

Simotas led several other public officials in protesting against the anti-immigrant Greek organization, Golden Dawn, which held a recruitment meeting in Queens.[43][44][45] Simotas said that the anti-immigrant message was not welcome in her community; she expressed anger because she is an immigrant herself.[43][44][45][46][47]

Health care[edit]

Simotas joined several other public officials at the Senator George Onorato 5K Run, held at Aqueduct Race Track, to bring financial support and caring for women with breast or ovarian cancer.[48][49] She has been endorsed by Local 1199, a major labor union representing health care workers.[50]


Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas speaks out to in an effort to save Bryant High School in March, 2012.

Simotas has been active in keeping public schools open and functioning in her district, including Long Island City High School, which has been threatened with closing or "co-location" (consolidation) in the early 2010s.[51]


Simotas is married to John Katsanos, and they have one daughter, born in 2012.[52]


In 2011, Simotas was named a "Rising Star" and listed in the The Capitol's "40 Under 40" list of "Albany's next generation" of political leadership.[53][54]

In the same year, she also was one of the first winners of the Geraldine Ferraro Leadership Award. When she received the Ferraro award, Simotas said, "Congresswoman Ferraro was a trailblazer who paved the way for me and countless other women looking to enter public service, and it’s a deeply humbling experience to receive an award in her name."[54][55]


  1. ^ a b c d "Legislative Preview: Meet the New Members," The Capitol, January 2011, p. 13. Found at NY Capitol News website. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  2. ^ N.Y. State Assembly website. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Official biography at the New York State Assembly website. Accessed January 19, 2011.
  4. ^ "Legislative Preview: Meet the New Members," The Capitol, January 2011, p. 19. Found at NY Capitol News website. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  5. ^ She was born in Zimbabwe of Greek parents who were working there at the time. See "Legislative Preview: Meet the New Members," The Capitol, January 2011, p. 13. Found at NY Capitol News website. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Jeremy Walsh, "Astoria resident sets sights on Gianaris seat: CB 1 member Aravella Simotas to run for longtime friend's position in the state Assembly," New York Post, February 17, 2010. Found at New York Post website. Accessed January 19, 2011.
  7. ^ a b Walsh, Jeremy. "Astoria resident sets sights on Gianaris seat". February 18, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e FindLaw listing: Aravella Simotas. Accessed March 13, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d Meet the Firm - The Professionals: Aravella Simotas. Bickel & Brewer. Accessed March 13, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Aravella Simotas, "Discussion: Panel III: Electric Generators in New York City: Balancing the Energy and Environmental Needs of the Community," 8 Fordham Envtl. Law J. 531 (2002). Abstract found at LexisNexis website. Accessed January 20, 2011.
  11. ^ a b c "Profile for Aravella Simotas: Candidate for State Representative District 36, New York: November 6, 2012 New York General Election". 2010. 
  12. ^ Chris Bragg, "Conservative Democrat Enters Race For Gianaris Seat," City Hall News, May 28, 2010. Found at City Hall News. Accessed January 19, 2011.
  13. ^ Diana Huynh, "In Astoria, the Field Narrows," Gotham Gazette, August 05, 2010. Found at Gotham Gazette website. Accessed January 20, 2011.
  14. ^ John Toscano, "Simotas Unchallenged For 36th A.D. Seat As Ciafone Quits," Queens Gazette, August 18, 2010. Found at Queens Gazette website. Accessed January 20, 2011.
  15. ^ "Assembly Election Returns: November 2, 2010" (PDF). New York State Board of Elections. 2010. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Election Results 2010: New York State Legislature". The New York Times. 2010. 
  17. ^ "THE CONTEST LIST: General Election - 11/06/2012: Queens All Parties and Independent Bodies". New York City Board of Elections. October 5, 2012. p. 34. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  18. ^ Staff reports (November 7, 2012). "Election 2012: New York Election Results: Live election results for all Assembly, State Senate and other local elections". Daily News. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Committee membership". New York State Assembly. n.d. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  20. ^ a b Henely, Rebecca (April 1, 2012). "Women reps seek equality". Times Ledger. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Young-Ellis, Georgina (April 2012). "Three Outstanding Women Honored For Women’s History Month". Queens Gazette. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Proposed bill would lengthen maternity leave". Queens Chronicle. July 12, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2012. 
  23. ^ "Interviewregarding her "rape is rape" bill". WPIX. Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  24. ^ "Gov. Andrew Cuomo will step into the 'rape is rape' bill fray and push it ahead as legislators grapple with reclassification of forced anal and oral sex". Daily News (New York). February 17, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  25. ^ a b c d Pafundi, Jason (April 26, 2012). "Simotas Named Chair Of Smart Power NY". Queens Tribune. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b c d e Bartlett, Josey (April 26 – May 3, 2012). "Astoria works on cleaner emissions: Power plant takes a step closer to greener equipment, gains support". Queens Chronicle. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  27. ^ a b Trapasso, Clare (May 8, 2012). "NRG hopes to replace 31 generators in Astoria". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  28. ^ a b Kern-Jedrychowska, Ewa (May 24, 2012). "Astoria Coalition Supports Power Company's Bid to Install Clean Generators". Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  29. ^ a b c Henely, Rebecca (April 30, 2012). "Officials support Astoria repowering to grow jobs". Times Ledger. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  30. ^ Staff (May 29, 2012). "Smart Power NY Coalition Announces New Members: Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Joseph Crowley and State Senator Jose Peralta join effort to bring clean energy to Astoria.". PRWeb. Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  31. ^ Staff (July 13, 2012). "Officials Quinn Throws Support Behind Astoria Repowering Project". NY1. Retrieved October 25, 2012. 
  32. ^ Trapasso, Clare (May 1, 2012). "Recent bird strikes renew opposition to trash station: Opponents say College Point station could be plane hazard". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  33. ^ "Queens Celebrates At Pride Parade". Queens Gazette. June 6, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  34. ^ a b Mishev, Simeon (June 6, 2012). "Recapping Queens Pride". Center Blog). Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  35. ^ Badash, David (June 15, 2012). "Same-Sex Marriage: New York Assembly Passes Marriage Equality Bill – Details". The New Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  36. ^ Green, Jonah (June 24, 2011). "Gay Marriage Bill Passes In New York; Governor Cuomo Signs Same Sex Marriage Bill Into Law". Huffington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  37. ^ "AIDS Issues Update Blog: Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS: With All Eyes on NY Gay Marriage, GENDA Passes in Assembly". June 15, 2011. 
  38. ^ Spector, Joseph (August 7, 2012). "Pride Agenda Makes Endorsements, But Doesn’t Yet Back Saland and McDonald". Politics on the Hudson. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  39. ^ "Empire State Pride Agenda Endorses Pro-Equality Candidates for State Office (Press release)". August 7, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  40. ^ "Stonewall Democrats: Officers and Directors' page: Chap James Day – Recording Secretary". April 29, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  41. ^ Staff. Queens Gazette |url= missing title (help). Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  42. ^ DeBenedetto, Paul (October 11, 2012). "Queens Voters Forced to Trek a Mile After Polling-Place Swap". Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  43. ^ a b Trapasso, Claire (October 22, 2012). "Astoria elected officials and liberals mobilize against neo-Nazi group: Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and others denounce Golden Dawn for trying to gain a toe-hold in Queens". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  44. ^ a b Flint, Miranda (October 11, 2012). "Locals Protest Golden Dawn’s New York Presence". Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  45. ^ a b Henely, Rebecca (October 11, 2012). "Officials want neo-Nazi set out of Astoria". Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  46. ^ Queens Crapper (blogger) (October 7, 2012). "Greek neo-Nazis moving into Queens". Queens Crap (blog). Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  47. ^ Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi party in Greece, and is involved in Holocaust denialism. A sample of work on Golden Dawn reports:
    • Altsech, Moses (August 2004), "Anti-Semitism in Greece: Embedded in Society", Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism (23): 12, "On 12 March 2004, Chrysi Avghi (Golden Dawn), the new weekly newspaper of the Neo-Nazi organization of that name, cited another survey indicating that the percentage of Greeks who view immigrants unfavorably is 89 percent." 
    • "Migration woes take centre stage ahead of Greek election", The Sun Daily, 4 April 2012 
    • Xenakis, Sappho (2012), "A New Dawn? Change and Continuity in Political Violence in Greece", Terrorism and Political Violence 24 (3): 437–464, doi:10.1080/09546553.2011.633133, "...Nikolaos Michaloliakos, who in the early 1980s established the fascistic far-right party Chrysi Avgi (“Golden Dawn”)." 
    • Smith, Helena (16 December 2011), "Rise of the Greek far right raises fears of further turmoil", The Guardian (London) 
  48. ^ "Race Held In Support Of Cancer Treatment And Cure". Queens Gazette. May 2, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  49. ^ "Running For The Cure". Queens Gazette. April 25, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  50. ^ Celeste Katz (August 1, 2012). "32BJ/SEIU Endorses For State Senate, Assembly". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  51. ^ "Fighting For LIC H.S.". Western Queens Gazette. October 30, 2013. Retrieved October 31, 2013. 
  52. ^ Celeste Katz (August 8, 2012). "Aravella Simotas: Assemblywoman. Mom.". New York: Daily News. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  53. ^ "Rising Stars: Albany's Next Generation of Political Leaders: 40 Under 40". The Capitol. May 23, 2011. p. 15. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  54. ^ a b "November 6th, 2012 General Election Voter Guide". League of Women Voters website. n.d., 2012. p. 66. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  55. ^ "Maloney Holds Annual Women’s Breakfast". Greek News. June 13, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 

External links[edit]

New York Assembly
Preceded by
Michael N. Gianaris
New York State Assembly, 36th District
January 1, 2011 – present