In a summer surprise, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, one of the most powerful members of the New York City Council and a front-runner to become City Council speaker next year, announced Thursday she wouldn’t be running for re-election this year in the 21st District. Assemblyman Francisco Moya, a Democrat who’s represented Corona in Central Queens since his election in 2010, quickly jumped into the fray, announcing his candidacy just hours after the Ferreras-Copeland news broke. City & State reporter Jeff Coltin caught up with Moya on Thursday afternoon to talk about his candidacy.

C&S: You wasted no time in announcing your candidacy. Did you talk to Ferreras-Copeland and know she wasn’t going to run?

FM: No, I have not talked to her. Just when I heard she wasn’t running I reached out to her, but I have not been able to get in touch with her.

But look, we have to make sure we are getting the right people elected to public office. And this is a neighborhood that I was born and raised in. It’s a place that I really work hard to make sure that we can do the best that we can. We can’t allow corruption to come back into politics in this community.

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C&S: You talk about keeping corruption out of your community – seemingly alluding to Hiram Monserrate, who used to represent the area and was convicted on corruption charges in 2012. Is he a challenger here?

FM: Well, he says he’s running. But we’re prepared to run a campaign based on record. And we have a good track record, not just in the Assembly, but here in the community, and we’re going to take it to the people.

C&S: You’re now among a number of other state legislators running for City Council seats. Why leave the Assembly? Is the higher pay a part of the equation?

FM: Pay has never been a part of the equation. As a matter of fact, I left a very good job in the private sector to go to the Assembly. It’s always been about public service and it’s always been about the community that I grew up in. I’m here to make sure that we can fight for the issues that matter most. We have a lot of problems that we face coming up in the near future and I think that we need to have people that are serious about making the right decisions for the people that live in this community.

C&S: Are you hoping to skip the long drive up to Albany, though?

FM: I will miss Albany! I think that we’ve done very well, if you look at legislation that I’ve been able to put forward. Issues like immigration, the DREAM Act, sanctuary state, driver's licenses for immigrants, worker rights, worker safety – those are real issues that have impact, not just on my constituents, but statewide policy that will make a difference in people’s lives. The Assembly, we have a lot of great members that do great work to represent their constituencies in the state of New York and I’m proud to be a member of that body and have been proud to serve there for the last seven years.

C&S: You’re one of the most outspoken legislators on immigration issues, even sponsoring legislation to make New York a “sanctuary state.” Can you make an impact on immigration issues in City Hall? Could you lose influence with a position change?

FM: When sanctuary cities are under attack just given the Trump agenda, I think now more than ever we need champions, and working alongside the mayor of the city of New York on issues like immigration and immigration advocates, I represent one of the most diverse districts in the entire country. Large immigrant communities. There’s no one better who can stand up and represent the interests of our immigrant communities than me.

C&S: Your name had been floated as a potential candidate against state Sen. José Peralta after his move to the Independent Democratic Conference. Did you consider running for that position?

FM: That’s never been in conversation. I’ve been focused on my work in Albany. So that has never even been discussed.

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C&S: Do you support electing a Democrat in his place, who would caucus with the mainline Democrats?

FM: I think my stance has always been clear about making sure we have real Democrats in office in order for us to pass the progressive issues that we have in front of us in the state of New York, DREAM Act being one of them. The only way we do that is with a Democratic majority. So I’ve always been a supporter of making sure we have a Democratic majority and I still support that.

C&S: Have to ask you a couple soccer questions –

FM: My favorite subject!

C&S: Your district now does not cover Willets Point, but the City Council district does. Is this just a plan to get NYCFC to move to Queens?

FM: (laughs) Look, I don’t think we’re even close to thinking about that. I’m a huge supporter of soccer and the promotion of the sport. I think it’s the greatest sport in the world.

Promoting it to bring soccer to communities like mine, where I don’t think there’s any free patch of grass that’s available – people are playing soccer. But one of the things that I love is to see that we have young kids participating in the world’s greatest sport. I’ve had the good fortune to make friends with one of the greatest soccer players of all time, David Villa, who has come to the district and has done many free clinics with the kids from our public schools. And I hope to continue doing that as we go forward into the council as well.

C&S: Does it hurt to see Real Madrid in the Champions League final?

FM: It always hurts to see Madrid in any final. Given that the greatest team of all time, FC Barcelona, is on the sidelines this year. We have the greatest player in the world, Leo Messi. But I’m looking forward to when they come here and play in New York in the next couple of months.