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photo of Aravella Simotas2010 Questionnaire response from:
Aravella Simotas, candidate for State Assembly (36th Assembly District, Queens)

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Candidate Name: Aravella Simotas

Candidate for Assembly District: 36 (Queens)

Contact Person: Mike Murphy (646) 752-5992


Campaign Address: 33-09 23rd Avenue, Astoria, NY 11105

Phone: (718) 606-2532

Fax: (718) 228-5417





  • Congressman Joe Crowley
  • Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
  • NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn
  • NYS Senator George Onorato
  • NYS Senator Jose Peralta
  • NYS Assemblymember Michael Gianaris
  • NYS Assemblymember Micah Kellner
  • NYC Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.
  • NYC Councilmember Daniel Dromm
  • NYC Councilmember James Van Bramer and other elected officials
  • Taminent Regular Democratic Club
  • Powhatan and Pocahontas Regular Democratic Club
  • Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens
  • As a long-time member of Queens Community Board 1 and the United Community Civic Association, many of the individual members of these organizations have given me their personal endorsement.
  • CWA District 1
  • SEIU Local 32BJ
  • CWA Local 1180
  • CWA Local 1181
  • UFCW Local 1500



  1. If there is a Campaign office(s), is it wheelchair accessible?


    Yes, the campaign office, which is located in Astoria, is wheelchair accessible.


  2. How have you incorporated people with disabilities into your campaign?


    Yes, several of our campaign volunteers, who have various campaign responsibilities, are individuals with disabilities. Also, I have consulted with numerous members of the community who provide services for people with disabilities to incorporate their issues in my campaign platform.


  3. If you are not an incumbent,

    1. Is your present office/work place accessible to people with disabilities?


      Yes, my law firm is located in the GM Building, 767 5th Avenue, NYC, which is accessible to individuals with disabilities.


    2. If the present district office is inaccessible, do you intend to find an accessible office?


      Yes, the current Assembly district office is accessible, and if I am elected, I intend to occupy the same office.


  4. What personal and professional experience have you had with people with disabilities in your personal life and in the workplace?


    As an attorney who prosecutes housing discrimination cases, I have worked with many clients with disabilities. Also, on Queens Community Board 1, I have worked alongside two of my fellow board members who have disabilities to advocate for the expansion of accessible housing and transportation.


  5. What type of jobs would you be willing to hire and to provide reasonable accommodation (e.g. flex or part time) for staff members with disabilities?


    I will provide reasonable accommodations to each member of my staff without regard to whether they are my chief-of-staff or office intern. I will ensure that each member of my staff is hired because they are the most qualified to perform the tasks at hand, and will provide them with any reasonable accommodation needed to help them perform those tasks.


  6. While in public office and/or prior to this campaign, what have you accomplished in regard to advancing disability rights? This can include work towards accessible housing, transportation, employment, health care, education, and including people with disabilities in the political process?


    For the past four years, I have worked with the United Spinal Association to prosecute a case involving housing discrimination against an individual in a wheelchair. A recent article that was published about my involvement in this matter is located at At my law firm's New York office, I am also the lead attorney who handles these types of matters for the Bickel Brewer Storefront LLP, which also prosecuted the lawsuit that ensured that wheelchair athletes can participate and compete for cash prizes in the New York City marathon.


  7. Will you commit to only attend and/or sponsor events that are accessible to people with disabilities including providing written materials in alternate formats, providing assistive listening systems, and sign language interpreters, as well as ensuring that locations are accessible to people who use mobility aids, like wheelchairs and walkers?


    Yes, I am committed to sponsoring events that are hosted at accessible venues, and ensuring that all materials used during such events are provided in alternative formats when feasible, and that appropriate measures are taken so that each attendee can participate.


  8. Do you pledge to use your office to affirm or strengthen, rather than weaken, civil rights protections to persons with disabilities?


    Yes, as a member of the NYS Assembly, I pledge to utilize my office to strengthen civil rights protections to all people, including those with disabilities.


  9. How do you propose your active involvement/availability to the disability community?

    1. Will there be a specific person in your office responsible to this community?


      Yes, I intend to appoint a liaison for this community.


    2. Will have regular office agenda meetings on these issues?


      Yes, many residents of Assembly District 36 are either elderly or individuals with disabilities. In order to serve them, I will make sure that the issues affecting them are on my agenda.


    3. What would you do to have direct contact with our community?


      In addition to appointing a liaison, I will be in regular contact with the members of the Capable/Disabled committee of Queens Community Board 1, in order to keep abreast of any new developments affecting this community.


  10. How will you work closely with the disability community to assure passage of vitally needed legislation? What will be your strategy?


    I will seek guidance from organizations, such as the 504 Democratic Club and the United Spinal Association, to determine what issues are most pressing, and work with other legislators in the NYS Assembly, including Assemblymember Micah Kellner, who have a record of fighting for the disability community to ensure that adequate legislation is drafted, sponsored and passed.


  11. How would you change the laws of New York State to protect the rights of its citizens with disabilities?


    To strengthen the protection of rights of persons with disabilities, as a member of the NYS Assembly I would work towards enacting legislation to increase access to services, including healthcare, transportation and education.


  12. While the State is focused on reducing the costs of Medicaid and other programs, persons with disabilities need to continue to have access to the services and supports they need and choose.

    1. Would you oppose proposals which would negatively affect eligibility, benefits, coverage, and/or access to services for Medicaid beneficiaries and eliminate the systemic bias that leads to unwanted placement in nursing homes and other institutions?


      Yes, I would oppose any legislation that would adversely affect the allocation of Medicaid resources to individuals with disabilities, and would support legislation that eliminates systematic biases that lead to the unwanted placement of such people in institutions.


    2. Would you seek to promote comprehensive long term care reform that will not reduce coverage or access to services?


      We must ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to comprehensive long term care. Thus, I will work to ensure that healthcare coverage for such people are expanded, and not eliminated or cut.


    3. Would you increase rental/housing subsidies to participants in the new Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Medicaid waiver program?




  13. Would you expand Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program (EPIC) to provide the same level of eligibility and coverage to persons with disabilities under age 65?


    Yes, EPIC should be expanded to cover all persons with disabilities.


  14. Will you support moving funds from nursing homes to moving patients out of nursing homes and back into the community?


    Yes, individuals with disabilities should have the choice to be active members of the community.


  15. We are in the midst of a housing crisis. Accessible, affordable housing is in short supply. People with disabilities are being priced out of the market. Do you support the creation of a housing trust fund for persons with disabilities?


    I support increasing the number of affordable housing units for people with disabilities, and the creation of a housing trust to aid in this objective.


  16. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires housing developers to set aside a certain percentage of accessible units for persons with disabilities when federal funds are used for construction. Do you favor incorporating these provisions into State law so that the Department of Housing and Community Renewal can be empowered to enforce these provisions?


    Yes, NYS law should be amended to ensure that Section 504 protections are incorporated therein, and that the Department of Housing and Community Renewal has enforcement powers.


  17. Visitability sets guidelines to ensure newly constructed multi-family dwellings have basic accessible/adaptable features to permit people with disabilities can visit, and for residents to "age in place," without having to move out when age and/or disability set in. Do you support incorporating the concept of "visitability" in the New York State Building Code?


    Yes, the NYS Building Code should be amended to ensure that newly constructed multi-family housing developments are accessible so to allow individuals with disabilities to visit, and so that residents who become disabled are not forced to leave their homes.


  18. At present: SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) Household income cap is $29,000. DRIE (Disabled Rent Increase Exemption) is $19,284/single and $27,780/2 or more. What is your position on increasing DRIE income eligibility to match SCRIE?


    The DRIE tax exemption should be increased to be comparable with SCRIE; in light of the high cost of living in NYS, especially for persons with disabilities, it is important we provide them with every tax exemption possible.


  19. While localities have acquired voting machines that attempt to meet the accessibility standards of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), many poling places in New York State remain inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Do you favor the elimination of provisions in Section 4-104 (1-a) of the New York State Election Law allowing waiver of polling place accessibility standards?


    Yes, I favor the elimination of waiving polling place accessibility standards. HAVA was passed in 2002, and it is time for all polling sites in NYS to comply with the law.


  20. Despite Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with disabilities face problems when pursuing higher education. These statutes do not specify how students should request accommodations or assistance in asserting their rights under the law. Will you support a fully funded office of disability services on each SUNY and CUNY campus to assist students with disabilities in securing accommodations?


    Yes, I would support the creation of a disability services office in SUNY and CUNY campuses to ensure that our students have all the resources necessary to assist them in asserting their rights to reasonable accommodations.


  21. How do you propose dealing with school districts that deny civil rights to disabled students even after the Sate Division of Civil Rights affirms the student's rights such as to use a service animal?


    Every student has the right to receive an education. Each school district that is found to violate the law by refusing to provide students with disabilities necessary accommodations or resources should be mandated to complete certification programs that teach school administrators and educators how to incorporate changes in school policies and curriculums to enable all students to receive an education.


  22. Do you support legislation requiring car services, and shuttle services to purchase wheelchair accessible vehicles or otherwise ensure that they have the capacity to serve persons with disabilities?


    Yes, I will support legislation that requires car services and shuttle services to ensure that they have the capacity to serve individuals who use wheelchairs.


  23. Will you or do you support Assembly Member Kellner's proposed bill requiring New York City to transition to a 100% accessible taxi fleet?


    I will support legislation, such as Micah Kellner's bill, requiring that a greater percentage of New York City's taxi fleet becomes accessible.


  24. Persons with disabilities have historically been under-represented within the Democratic Party leadership. According to the 2000 census, persons with disabilities comprised 20.6% of New York State residents and 23.1% of those 18 years and older. Previously, we were told that only those groups included in the Voting Rights Act were included in the goals and timetables for delegate selection. Yet the lesbian and gay communities were included for the first time at the 2000 convention and again at the 2004 and 2010 conventions. Would you support a campaign to set a goal that 10% of the total New York State Delegation to the 2012 Democratic National Convention be comprised of persons with disabilities.


    Persons with disabilities must be included in the Democratic Party leadership. I will support the goal that 10% of the total NYS Delegation to the 2010 Democratic National Convention be comprised of persons with disabilities.





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For other candidates running for State Senator and State Assembly positions, go to the Questionnaires section



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