Christine Liu (Photo from Christine Liu)

Meet Christine Liu, Newly Elected Councilwoman For District Four

We sat down recently with Councilmember Christine Liu, representative for District Four on the Town of North Hempstead Board, to discuss public service, family and diversity. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

AO: Please introduce yourself.
CL: I am the newly elected town council person for District Four, and the first Asian American town council person, I believe, not just for our town, or Nassau County, but for all of Long Island. So it’s quite historic in many, many respects, I think.
I grew up in Queens. I went to school in the city, then went to NYU, and then went to law school. I got an Assistant Chief Counsel position with the Department of Justice, but then in 2003, that’s when Homeland Security was formed, and immigration/naturalization services moved from the Department of Justice to Homeland Security. So that’s where I was for most of my legal career.

And then, when I was pregnant with my second, I decided I was going to take a break. We were living in Forest Hills at the time, and we were kind of outgrowing our apartment, so we decided to move out east.

AO: How did you get started with public service?
CL: I just immersed myself in the school district and started with the PTA. I think for a lot of parents that’s where their second career begins. That branched out to Girl Scouts and Little League and all the other community activities.

The Office of Asian affairs was getting started (at that time) and I guess they were looking for community leaders to help join an advisory council there. So somebody had given my name to somebody at the county. They reached out and said, ‘Would you be willing to come and join? It’s a volunteer position, but we need eyes and ears of the community. When we have things that we roll out that you can share and if you have concerns in the community, you share with us.’ I enjoyed that role I think since 2017, 2018. Then in the town of North Hempstead, former Town Supervisor Judy Bosworth found me somehow and asked if I could join the Asian American Advisory Committee there. So I did that as well.

Then Gina Sillitti got elected and she was looking for a liaison. Somebody introduced us and she asked to interview me, and we got along really great. Because I was still very involved in the community and my kids were still kind of young, she let me come on part time. And I said, ‘Okay, this is great, get my feet back into the work world.’ And it was good because I was the community liaison, so it was still working with the community and whatever issues or events they had. It was a very good fit.

AO: What made you decide to run for office?
CL: They asked me very early on, maybe July of that year, and I gave them my answer about four months later, I decided not to, and my husband was not on board, because I was already out of the house a lot. A number of people started talking to us about how important this seat was and how important it was to have Asian representation; the Town of North Hempstead is almost 30 percent Asian, and this district, I think it was about 40 percent Asian. So they said it would be great for the community and for the town. So we thought about it some more and things kind of lined up. My mom moved into our place. She was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m here now you don’t have to worry about cooking. You don’t have to worry about shopping or anything. I can drive the kids.’ I was a lot more comforted. They were very well taken care of. My kids were very supportive. ‘Why don’t you try this? I think you’ve been supporting us so it’s now our turn to support you.’ My husband seems to be on board now. So this probably was the right time. I had a lot of support from the community. And so I said yes.

AO: Please share more about your heritage.
CL: My grandparents are from China. They went to Taiwan during the civil unrest. Then my parents: my father was born in China, but my mom was born in Taiwan. They got married in Taiwan, and I was born in Taiwan. But I emigrated here when I was one and then moved straight to Queens and I’ve been here ever since.

AO: Do you find yourself bridging the two cultures?
CL: So you have a lot of your values, your upbringing, even though I was brought up here but my parents grew up in Taiwan, so they’re bringing their traditions and cultures here with them. So I have that. But then I also grew up here so I have all the values and cultures and when I was raised here and schooling and education, and then my kids are on a totally separate level. So I am in that bridge, especially since I can speak Chinese, even though I’ve been here most of my life.

AO: What was that like for you being bilingual?
CL: Everybody is so impressed by that actually. My mom is in all of her glory. So every time people say, ‘Why you don’t have an accent? How do you know how to do that?’ And my mom, she says, ‘It’s all because of me,’ because we had to speak Chinese at home. I would say because of that, I don’t have to translate what I’m going to say in either language. It just comes very naturally.

The high school that I went to had Chinese, so I took Chinese and French. Then in college I kept that up and one of my majors was East Asian studies. Then I actually went to this church, it was a mainly Chinese speaking congregation. So all of those aunties and uncles were all speaking to me in Chinese. So I was developing my Chinese even further.

AO: What is it like representing such a diverse district?
CL: We have so many celebrations, which is great, and it’s beautiful. We had lots of celebrations for Lunar New Year. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a parade, and I remember last year we did Italian Heritage Month. Then the Korean community also has their festivals, so I think it’s beautiful. We have Christmas, Easter and everything else in between.

What’s important is people feel validated. They feel a sense of belonging and identity and something that it’s not just to be aware. My new movement is we don’t want to just promote Asian culture and awareness. You want to be proud to be Asian American. You want to be proud to be Italian American, Irish American. Moving from a simple event and awareness to actually being proud and owning it and sharing it with everybody. That’s the transition I would like to see.

We’re trying, we’re making strides, and I want to say during the pandemic, it was hard with a lot of the Asian hate. We’re seeing a lot of hate and all forms kind of everywhere across the country. We’re not going to see that here in Long Island. But I would say that in the Town of North Hempstead, every time it rears its ugly head, we stomp it out right away. We call our press conferences. We get our police to investigate.

AO: How does it feel to be making history while serving your community?
CL: I’ve made so many wonderful friends during this time. That is how this community came about and became supportive. I can’t tell you how many people were saying you should do this. This is how you should help our community. To the fact that running for student council because [they were inspired by the campaign.] One mom reached out and she showed me a speech that her daughter was making. She was running for student government in fourth grade. And her mom was like, ‘Why do you want to do this?’ and she said, ‘It’s because I see all the signs. So maybe they could be for me too.’ I kind of choked up, actually. Grace Meng and Shawn Liu, they opened up the door for people like me. I feel like I can open up doors for all of the community and Long Island, too.

Just Getting Started

Kevin James Thornton’s super second act

By Amanda Olsen • May 10, 2024


Dining guide-spring
  • No events