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
Incumbent
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 served as a law clerk at the United States Court of International Trade, calling it a "formative experience." [6][6][8][9] 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, children and families, seniors, small businesses, the environment, and education.

Committee assignments[edit]

Simotas's Committee Assignments as of 2014 include:

Women's issues[edit]

Upon passage of Assemblymember Simotas's Rape-is-Rape bill, survivor and advocate Lydia Cuomo was on hand in Albany to celebrate the legislation's protections for rape survivors across New York. June 11, 2013

In 2014, Simotas was named Chair of the Assembly’s Task Force on Women’s Issues. The Task Force works closely with Assembly committees, subcommittees, and other task forces on a number of matters that directly impact the lives of New York’s women. Simotas said, “I am honored to assume leadership of the Task Force on Women’s Issues. From advancing legislation to protect rape survivors, extend family leave, fight sex trafficking, and ensure a woman’s right to make her own end-of-life decisions, I am acutely aware of the numerous critical issues facing New York women.”[20]

Simotas’s “Rape is Rape” legislation, first proposed in 2012, has gained national attention. The bill, which passed the Assembly in 2013,[21] would redefine and expand the definition of rape in New York, eliminating unnecessary distinctions in the current legal definition. Simotas spoke at a press conference advocating for the bill in February 2013, saying “It’s our obligation to respect survivors by ensuring that what any person would recognize as rape is unequivocally called rape by the law. With this bill, we can enact sensible legislation that makes it easier to punish the guilty and give survivors a sense of justice.”[22]

Each March, Simotas and Representative Carolyn Maloney present awards for Women's History Month to three notable women at a “Celebrating the Women of Western Queens” event. Award recipients have included local women leaders in the fields of public service, community organizing, education, public health, philanthropy, and small business.[23]

Energy and environment[edit]

In January 2014, legislation introduced by Simotas to protect gas and electric utility consumers passed the Assembly. Simotas’s bill ensures a customer’s right to an actual meter reading upon discontinuation of service and mandates that utilities companies are transparent and forthcoming about this right when doing business. Under current law, customers may be charged based on estimated usage, which can result in customer overcharges that fail to be corrected or refunded.[24]

Throughout her first and second terms, Simotas worked with local organizations, schools, and businesses to promote green development and sustainability projects throughout western Queens. In 2013, Simotas met with students from the Global Kids organization to discuss climate change,[25] and a few weeks later was present for the ribbon cutting ceremony at William Cullen Bryant High School’s rooftop garden space.[26] She has worked extensively to call for a reduction in waste and pollution throughout city streets,[27] in addition to participating in and promoting annual park clean-up events throughout the district.[28]

Simotas has been chairperson of Smart Power NY, a coalition to develop new energy sources for the area, since April 2012.[29][30] 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.[30][31][32] NRG wants to replace 31 generators with new ones that will increase the megawatts of power while reducing emissions.[31][33] Emissions would be reduced because the new plants will use natural gas, while the current generators run primarily on oil.[30][33] While the Smart Power NY coalition was only created in 2012,[29] 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.[30] Furthermore, "repowering" the new plants will create new jobs.[29][30][33]

Simotas spoke of her role as chairwoman, noting its importance 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 DNAInfo.com article of May 24, 2012[32]

Civil rights[edit]

Simotas has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights. Annually, she marches 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...."[34][35] Simotas had been a lead sponsor ("co-sponsor") of Assembly Bill A08354, which passed the Assembly by an 80–63 vote,[36] later passed the Senate, and was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.[37] She has also voted for GENDA, the transgender rights bill, Assembly Bill A5039, for which she was a "multi-sponsor".[38] She was endorsed by the Empire State Pride Agenda, an LGBT advocacy group, in both her 2010 and 2012 races.[39][40] She has also garnered the support of individual gay activists, some of whom who have volunteered for her campaigns.[35][41]

She has supported voters' rights, pushing for the allocation of additional polling sites and the expansion of early voting.[42][43][44]

Simotas led several other public officials in protesting against the anti-immigrant Greek organization, Golden Dawn, which held a recruitment meeting in Queens.[45][46][47] Simotas said that the anti-immigrant message was not welcome in her community; she expressed anger because she is an immigrant herself.[45][46][47][48][49]

Healthcare[edit]

Simotas kicks off QSAC's annual 5K race for Autism. September 2013

Simotas has supported the expansion of Mount Sinai Queens hospital, which is undergoing a massive $125 million building project, noting the expanding population of western Queens and the necessity of increased healthcare opportunities to meet the needs of a growing community.[50]

In October 2013, Simotas hosted an informational seminar for Astoria seniors about Medicare, health insurance, and local resources.[51] She has authored legislation in the Assembly to strengthen life insurance (Assembly Bill A02130), to protect pharmacy choice for workers injured on the job (Assembly Bill A02653), and to strengthen regulations affecting children’s health by ensuring the right to apply sunscreen at schools (Assembly Bill A02126).[22]

In the community, Simotas has participated in several events promoting healthcare causes. In 2013, she was invited to kick off the Quality Services for the Autism Community’s annual 5K Run to support those living with autism.[52] Simotas has likewise joined several other public officials at the Senator George Onorato 5K Run, held at Aqueduct Race Track, to bring financial support and services for women with breast or ovarian cancer.[53][54] She has been endorsed by Local 1199, a major labor union representing health care workers.[55]

Education[edit]

Simotas reads to students during a "Proud to Read Aloud" event at P.S. 70 in Astoria, Queens. May 2013

An advocate for education and Astoria's students, Simotas has pushed for several initiatives to strengthen schools and augment opportunities for learning. In 2013, Simotas led the push to retain and expand Gifted and Talented programs in her district.[56] She has also supported budget measures to preserve funding for post-secondary education institutions, especially the City University of New York and State University of New York systems, in addition to lauding the passage of universal pre-kindergarten in New York.[57]

Simotas has been active in keeping local public schools open and functioning in her district, including Long Island City High School, which has been threatened with closing or "co-location" (consolidation) since the early 2010s.[58] She also hosts and regularly visits participants in a variety of Assembly programs to promote reading both during the school year and the summer months.[59]

Quality of life[edit]

Since taking office, Simotas has worked extensively to protect the character of Astoria neighborhoods and promote the role of community members in determining the shape of their communities. On the heels of a string of proposed adult establishments taking Astoria residents by surprise, Simotas authored the “Community Full Disclosure Act” which was signed into law in 2013. The law mandates greater transparency and a stronger community role in the liquor licensing process.[60]

Simotas speaks out in support of her Community Full Disclosure Act during floor debate in the Assembly chamber.

“[Simotas’s new law] will end the days when bikini bars could offer lap dances, pole dances, or other exotic performances without alerting communities ahead of time.”

New York Daily News[61] article of August 3, 2013

Simotas has pushed for cleaner streets in Astoria, calling upon Mayor Bill de Blasio to take action and reduce street waste and litter.[62] She has also advocated on behalf of augmented pedestrian safety measures, homeowners' rights, reduction of train noise near schools, and improved public transit options for commuters.

Personal[edit]

Simotas is married to John Katsanos, and they have one daughter, born in 2012.[63]

Awards[edit]

In April 2014, Simotas was honored with a Women in Leadership Award by the Center for the Women of New York.[64]

Simotas was named "Greek American Woman of the Year" in 2013 by the Association of Greek American Professional Women.[65]

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.[66][67]

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."[67][68]

References[edit]

  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". yournabe.com. February 18, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e FindLaw listing: Aravella Simotas. FindLaw.com. 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 April 25, 2014. 
  20. ^ "New York State Assembly". 
  21. ^ "New York State Assembly". 
  22. ^ a b "New York State Assembly". 
  23. ^ Queens Gazette. 2014-04-16 http://www.qgazette.com/news/2014-04-16/Features/Simotas_Maloney_Celebrate_Womens_History_Month.html |url= missing title (help). 
  24. ^ "New York State Assembly". 
  25. ^ "New York State Assembly". 
  26. ^ "New York State Assembly". 
  27. ^ "Queens Gazette". 2014-01-29. 
  28. ^ "Queens Gazette". 2013-10-23. 
  29. ^ a b c Pafundi, Jason (April 26, 2012). "Simotas Named Chair Of Smart Power NY". Queens Tribune. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  30. ^ 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. 
  31. ^ a b Trapasso, Clare (May 8, 2012). "NRG hopes to replace 31 generators in Astoria". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  32. ^ a b Kern-Jedrychowska, Ewa (May 24, 2012). "Astoria Coalition Supports Power Company's Bid to Install Clean Generators". dnainfo.com. Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  33. ^ a b c Henely, Rebecca (April 30, 2012). "Officials support Astoria repowering to grow jobs". Times Ledger. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Queens Celebrates At Pride Parade". Queens Gazette. June 6, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  35. ^ a b Mishev, Simeon (June 6, 2012). "Recapping Queens Pride". Center Blog). Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  36. ^ 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. 
  37. ^ 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. 
  38. ^ "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. 
  39. ^ 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. 
  40. ^ "Empire State Pride Agenda Endorses Pro-Equality Candidates for State Office (Press release)". August 7, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  41. ^ "Stonewall Democrats: Officers and Directors' page: Chap James Day – Recording Secretary". April 29, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  42. ^ Staff. Queens Gazette http://www.qgazette.com/news/2012-08-15/Front_Page/Simotas_Gianaris_Fight_For_Voters_Rights.html |url= missing title (help). Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  43. ^ DeBenedetto, Paul (October 11, 2012). "Queens Voters Forced to Trek a Mile After Polling-Place Swap". DNAinfo.com. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  44. ^ "New York State Assembly". 
  45. ^ 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. 
  46. ^ a b Flint, Miranda (October 11, 2012). "Locals Protest Golden Dawn’s New York Presence". Jewocity.com. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  47. ^ a b Henely, Rebecca (October 11, 2012). "Officials want neo-Nazi set out of Astoria". Jewocity.com. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  48. ^ Queens Crapper (blogger) (October 7, 2012). "Greek neo-Nazis moving into Queens". Queens Crap (blog). Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  49. ^ 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) 
  50. ^ Queens Times-Ledger. 2013-10-25 http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2013/43/cedarsinaiexpands_tl_2013_10_25_q.html |url= missing title (help). 
  51. ^ Queens Gazette. 2013-10-16 http://www.qgazette.com/news/2013-10-16/Features/Simotas_Hosts_Healthcare_Seminar_For_Seniors.html |url= missing title (help). 
  52. ^ Queens Gazette. 10/02/13 http://www.qgazette.com/news/2013-10-02/Features/Simotas_Kicks_Off_Annual_QSAC_5K_RunWalk.html |url= missing title (help). 
  53. ^ "Race Held In Support Of Cancer Treatment And Cure". Queens Gazette. May 2, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  54. ^ "Running For The Cure". Queens Gazette. April 25, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  55. ^ Celeste Katz (August 1, 2012). "32BJ/SEIU Endorses For State Senate, Assembly". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  56. ^ Queens Gazette. 2013-02-20 http://www.qgazette.com/news/2013-02-20/Features/Simotas_Announces_New_Gifted_And_Talented_Program.html |url= missing title (help). 
  57. ^ "New York State Assembly". 
  58. ^ "Fighting For LIC H.S.". Western Queens Gazette. October 30, 2013. Retrieved October 31, 2013. 
  59. ^ "New York State Assembly". 
  60. ^ "New York State Assembly". 
  61. ^ New York Daily News. 08/03/13 http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/bikini-bars-bare-new-york-liquor-license-article-1.1416629 |url= missing title (help). 
  62. ^ Queens Gazette. 2014-01-29 http://www.qgazette.com/news/2014-01-29/Features/Electeds_Push_For_Cleaner_Astoria_Streets_Continue.html |url= missing title (help). 
  63. ^ Celeste Katz (August 8, 2012). "Aravella Simotas: Assemblywoman. Mom.". New York: Daily News. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  64. ^ "Center for the Women of NY". Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  65. ^ Queens Gazette http://www.qgazette.com/news/2013-04-10/Features/Simotas_Named_Greek_Woman_Of_The_Year.html |url= missing title (help). 
  66. ^ "Rising Stars: Albany's Next Generation of Political Leaders: 40 Under 40". The Capitol. May 23, 2011. p. 15. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  67. ^ a b "November 6th, 2012 General Election Voter Guide". League of Women Voters website. n.d., 2012. p. 66. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  68. ^ "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
Incumbent