Rep. Gregory Meeks, a 12-term Democrat from St. Albans representing the 5th Congressional District, is being challenged by South Jamaica, Queens resident Shanyiat Chowdhury for the two-year term in the June 23 primary.
The 5th district includes Elmont, Inwood, north and south Valley Stream and Southwest Queens.
Police brutality and systemic racism is at the forefront of Meeks’ focus in the wake of George Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day. “Nothing will change without real consequences commensurate with the crimes committed by those who abuse their authority,” Meeks said. “Nothing will change unless we as a community push for America to reckon with its original and long enduring sin. ‘The arc of history’ is long but the bends towards justice is only true if we as a nation work together to bend it.”
Meeks is a supporter of the federal Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which would ban police officers from using chokeholds. “This is a turning point in American history as our nation takes a hard and imaginative look at reforming law enforcement,” he said. “Chokeholds are a lethal force and their practice comes with far too little consequences for those who’ve abused their authority.”
With a majority of his district being one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus, Meeks said that businesses and organizations should receive appropriate funding. “No question, federal assistance for the Port Authority is critical for the functioning of our region's economy, now and after this crisis,” he said. “The drop in revenue caused by Covid-19 must be mitigated immediately through federal aid.”
Born in Queens to Bangaldashi parents, Chowdhury served in the United States Marine Corps from 2011 to 2017 as a field radio operator. He was a staffer on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign in 2018 that upended an incumbent Democrat.
His upbringing served as an inspiration for running, he said. “I’m a working class person just like the families throughout this district and after 22 years of the same representation, we need elected officials who are present in their communities and do not take their constituents for granted.” Chowdhury said. “No person should feel entitled to their position and I believe everyday people should be representing everyday Americans.”
If elected, Chowdhury said that his first task will be helping working families recover from the coronavirus pandemic. “The CARES Act did very little to help working families survive these past months as a one-time $1,200 check over the course of months is not enough for our families to pay their rent or mortgage, put food on the table, or live life with dignity,” he said. “Instead of bailing out big business and the wealthy, we should have advocated for more resources and investment in our community, especially considering the impact it had on the entire district.”
Choudhury noted that a coronavirus recovery plan should emphasize assisting community members within the district and not big businesses. “We should have advocated for more resources and investment in our community, especially considering the impact it had on the entire district,” he said. “I will push for an economic recovery plan that will include strengthening our unions, universal basic income and loans to local businesses. I also want to protect tenants and homeowners from predatory landlords so that the families in our communities are stronger and better protected.”