On Oct. 21, Lester Chang, who is vying to become the representative for New York’s 49th District in the State Assembly following this November’s midterm elections, spoke with Vision Times to discuss his platform and vision for New York State.
Chang, who is running as a Republican, was born in public housing on the Lower East Side to immigrant Chinese parents who were determined to provide a better life for him and his two siblings.
Following the untimely death of his father, Chang and his family moved to Hong Kong to live with relatives only to return to New York a few years later to settle in Midwood, Brooklyn.
Chang says on his campaign website that he is “a product of New York’s public education system” which he credits, in part, for his academic success. After graduating from Midwood High School he went on to earn a B.S. degree in accounting from Brooklyn College (CUNY) and a Masters Degree in International Transportation from State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx.
Following school, he spent time working in the financial industry eventually moving into a career in logistics where he had the opportunity to travel the world, overseeing operations in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong and China.
In addition to his private sector career, Chang is a retired Navy reservist, spending nearly 25 years serving his country. His military background influences his politics considerably.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks he was assigned to support Homeland Security in Washington D.C. and from 2009 to 2010 he was deployed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan as a military analyst. His last rank, prior to retiring, was Chief Warrant Officer.
Chang remains a member of the New York State Naval Militia and volunteered a considerable amount of his time supporting Operation COVID-19. He helped convert the Jacob Javits Center into a field hospital and treated over 1,000 patients suffering from COVID-19. When the mission transitioned into a vaccination drive, he helped serve hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.
Addressing surging crime rates
Chang believes that the surging crime rates in New York State are the direct consequence of the 2018 bail reform laws that were implemented across the state in 2020. He believes the most effective way to address the issue is for the state to declare a state of emergency and mobilize the National Guard to patrol the streets.
He told Vision Times that “as soon as I’m elected” he will petition whoever the Governor is to repeal the cashless bail scheme and mobilize 3500 to 5000 national guard to patrol the streets. “Every single subway … every single subway platform and buses covered for at least one year,” he said.
Chang argues that such an approach is not without precedent, pointing out that “in the major thoroughfare in the airports right now there’s approximately 600 national guards on patrol,” a remnant of 9/11 mobilization.
He is not advocating for martial law, but for more law enforcement presence and support in New York City’s subways and on major commuter routes.
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Education a primary focus
A quality public school education for all New York State students is a primary focus for Chang who also argues for more school choice for families.
If elected, he is promising to work towards implementing an Education Investment Tax Credit (EITC), something he calls “a capital investment” in education.
“The EITC will provide more choices to families who are not happy with local public schools, for whatever reason they have,” he says on his campaign website.
“Parents need real choices because children learn differently. Getting everyone, including those who can’t afford private school, the best possible educational opportunities, is the best investment we can make in our children,” he said.
Chang also favors merit-based admission to specialized high schools and promises to fight to preserve “the current admissions criteria and demanding curricula of our city’s top-tier magnet high schools.”
He argues that schools like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech have a history of providing exceptional education for generations of “academically talented New York teenagers, and especially to the smart children of immigrants.”
“There is no reason, except for political control, to prevent the creation of more charter schools,” Chang said.
He says that his district currently has no charter schools due to the heavy influence unions currently have on the industry. “Most of the people who work in a charter school are not union teachers,” he said.
If elected, he says he will call for 50 new charter schools to be established in the district over the next few years to allow more school choice for parents and to provide students with learning opportunities that are tailor made for their learning styles.
Chang will be squaring off against long-time Democrat incumbent Peter Abbate Jr., who has served the district as a representative in the State Assembly since 1987.
Lester Chang is on the ballot this November 8 when New Yorker’s from across the state will hit the polls to elect representatives for all 150 districts.