By Matthew Fischetti
As a working-class girl from Elmhurst who commuted to middle school on the Upper East Side, Kristen Gonzalez developed an early political consciousness.
Even though she was in the same city, she realized she lived in two different worlds. At her Roosevelt Avenue station in Queens, she saw lines of immigrants waiting to get free breakfast from a Catholic charity.
When she got off the subway at 86th Street in Manhattan, she saw lines of businessmen in fancy suits and coats grabbing their morning Starbucks.
Even though Gonzalez is only 26 years old, she already has an impressive background in politics. At Columbia University, she was president of the local College Democrats chapter where she got involved in Get Out The Vote campaigns.
From there she worked at the City Council writing policy recommendations through the Young Women’s Initiative, but felt like she didn’t see the needle moving. So during what would have been her senior year, she dropped out to work in Washington as a Latino Engagement intern for the Obama administration and then in Senator Chuck Schumer’s office.
While she says the experience was informative, it also made her realize the change she wanted to make wouldn’t be found in the confines of City Hall or in the Capitol Rotunda, but rather, “it was in the working-class communities that raised me back in Queens.”
Less than 24 hours after the new State Senate district maps were released, Gonzalez declared as a candidate for District 17, which includes areas of Woodhaven, Maspeth, Long Island City, Glendale, Ridgewood and Greenpoint.
She was first approached by the Democratic Socialists of America to run for office in December. Gonzalez thought it was a real opportunity to build a larger socialist movement in Albany.
“Next week, the strategy is to start down in southern parts of the district and, and really try to build on the movements we’ve seen with campaigns like Felicia Singh to turn up more folks in the Punjabi, Bangladeshi, and Guyanese communities,” she said. “Then coming back up to really engage and build a base of more Latino working-class families, as well.”
Gonzalez has assembled over 20 veteran progressive politicos who worked on campaigns for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán.
Gonzalez’s top three priorities are passing single-payer health care, building publicly owned renewable energy, and passing good cause eviction and ending subsidies for luxury developments.
She first got involved with DSA in 2018, organizing their tech action working group, rallying support for privacy bills like the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act to force the NYPD to be more transparent about the types of surveillance technology the department uses.
When asked about Mayor Eric Adams’s push to make New York City a hub for cryptocurrency, Gonzalez rolled her eyes.
“It’s a replication of the issue where the city moves forward in a way that benefits the very wealthy who are invested in things like crypto, but without thinking about those who are behind who just don’t have basic access to the internet,” Gonzalez said.
A recent report from the state comptroller’s office found that over one million New Yorkers lack access to quality broadband services. As a member of the tech action working group, Gonzalez helped create the Internet For All campaign, a 46-page blueprint on how to achieve municipal ownership of broadband utilities.
Gonzalez has already raised over $23,000, and her Twitter account had such a quick influx of support and followers, the social media service put her account under review for “suspicious activity”.
“I could not be more grateful and just humbled by the support that we saw in this last week,” Gonzalez said. “We believe this is the best campaign for the district because we are representative of it.”