As I continue my campaign for Commissioner on the West New York United team, I look beyond the radiant beauty of our town and am constantly reminded why I set out on this journey.
While West New York’s industrious and diverse population reminds me of my family’s rich and inspiring history, its current governance exudes the antithesis of the character that this town and its family was built upon.
What resonates most deeply within my heart about West New York and its people are the unique and diverse cultural backgrounds that bring flavor and flair to our communities. Like many families who have immigrated to the United States and settled in West New York, my family has a story as well.
My father desired freedom, education and opportunity, so he fled Communist China by literally swimming to Hong Kong from the mainland. He needed two attempts to pull off the feat, having been physically tortured through starvation after being caught the first time by the Communists.
From Hong Kong, he eventually made his way to New York, where he waited tables at a Chinese restaurant fulltime, while putting himself through Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees – all without initially understanding a word of English.
My wife’s grandfather was a prominent surgeon heading a hospital before he was imprisoned, mocked and then sent to live in isolation for over a decade by the Communist party, simply because he was educated in Western philosophies.
My father-in-law dreamed of following his father’s footsteps with a career in medicine, but was denied any opportunity for higher education in China due to the Cultural Revolution. Still he managed to self-educate and gain prominence as an engineer working on electronic devices.
However, like many others who left everything behind to come to America, my father-in-law gave up all he had worked for, including the respect, comfort and status achieved through his hard work and intellect, to arrive in our great nation.
He immigrated to the United States in his early forties to settle in Brooklyn and worked as a laborer for the sake of his only daughter, so that she could be afforded what he never truly tasted – freedom, education and opportunity.
And then the women… not nearly as dramatic as the men, undeniably underappreciated, they are the true heroes in life’s daily grind. My mother and mother-in-law held our families together, remembering holidays, birthdays, favorite toys and snacks, and important events.
They performed traditional roles including the cooking and cleaning – all while performing fulltime jobs.
Leaving literally all they had halfway around the world to settle in Brooklyn, the journey my wife and her parents took to survive daily, especially early on, inspires me.
Despite the daunting challenges of beginning a new life in a foreign land with little more than the clothes on their backs, our parents made the enormous sacrifice through hard work and sheer dedication to provide us with the opportunity we enjoy today.
Knowing what families will do, not only to survive, but thrive in a strange new land, pushes me to this day to always strive and achieve a little more.
Because of their sacrifice, I have a career as an engineer with more than a decade’s worth of experience designing, managing and negotiating high priority, large-scale municipal projects to improve green infrastructure, streetscapes and public utilities in excess of $150 million annually.
Growing up, I lived the opportunity that my father-in-law could only dream – to learn alongside the best and brightest at Cornell University and earn my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Civil Engineering. While working as an engineer, I aspired to continue my education and add variety to my skill set.
So for nearly four years, I studied nights and weekends in the evening law program at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, where I immersed myself with inspiring legal minds, while maintaining a fulltime engineering career by day.
Presently, I am proudly an attorney admitted in New York and while my evenings are no longer spent studying case law in the library, I have dedicated myself to the community and have served as an adjunct professor at CUNY, where I have lectured specifically to help students with learning difficulties in mathematics.
Today, I am a father of a curious and active three-year old boy. My family and I cherish and share proudly in the town’s rich heritage and unique cultural diversity. From the festive parades to scenic strolls through the park, we enjoy every bit of West New York.
As I meet and greet residents today, I enjoy their colorful stories depicting the joys in their lives. I share in their laughter and happiness as they recount their family histories and how their families came to be.
Often, I would listen astounded by the accomplishments achieved and remark how similarly the circumstances of their arrivals in the United States resonated with my own and my wife’s parents.
Yet, I also share in their sadness and concern over the repeated stories of corruption and political self-interest perpetrated by the Roque administration. I believe Constitutional rights have been violated repeatedly having heard numerous instances of municipal employees and residents being harassed, because of perceived differences in political alliances.
A seemingly never-ending string of allegations where scare tactics, such as threats or even acts of violence, used against residents send chilling reminders of the communists, fascists and dictatorial countries so many of us desperately fled.
Recently, the current administration settled two wrongful termination suits for hundreds of thousands of dollars each.
Hard-earned money that clearly could have been used to fund the non-existent afterschool and community enrichment programs, school buses for children during the school closings for renovations, street light repairs, and countless other positive uses have instead been wasted with no explanation to the taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill.
Now, with a municipal election on hand, an opportunity to change has presented itself. I am running for Commissioner on the WNY United team to end the corruption, mismanagement and negligence. My desire is to provide our families and children the opportunity to grow and flourish in a nurturing environment that encourages community and endures.
For this to happen, we must demand accountability, integrity and representation from our town leaders – something sadly and utterly lacking in the current Roque administration.
I promise to apply the full breadth of my experiences, education and abilities to deliver that exact accountability, integrity and representation to our local governance, so the municipality serves the people – our children, our mothers and our fathers – not the politicians.
I will demand a full audit and opening of all the books, and shine a light into the darkest crevices of town hall, so that transparency can finally tell us the true story of the past four years.
I plan to bring legitimacy to our local governance by hiring qualified applicants to fill municipal positions. I will demand that contractors fulfill their contractual obligations and provide legitimate services for the jobs they were hired to perform.
Most importantly, I will be available. I will open my doors and embrace the entire town. I will hold the office of Commissioner in the highest esteem and honor the sacrifice of all those before who make it possible for us enjoy the freedom, education and opportunity of this wonderful country.
I will bring decency and pride to the position and represent the trust of the people in the position of commissioner with Accountability, Integrity and Respect.
United we stand,
Thomas M. Leung