He experienced countless hardships growing up in impoverished areas of Brooklyn, but persevered and survived. Now he is running for State Assembly in the 38th District against incumbent Mike Miller in the Democratic Primary this June.
“I want to change the way 'we the people' are treated in New York by the bureaucrats,” he said. “I will help people become employed, fight the MTA when they continuously insist on raising the fare and make it profitable for small businesses to not only remain in Queens, but be compelled to come to Queens.”
There are four major issues in the community that concern him: public safety, the economy, education and transportation. Pumarejo said there needs to be a larger police presence in the community, a community center for kids, and a homeless shelter.
He also thinks the Department of Sanitation needs to do a better job getting rid of the ice and snow.
The key to succeeding today is education, he said. Kids are falling behind in math and science and need teachers that are trained and evaluated better. Parent involvement needs to increase as well.
“It does take a village to raise a child,” he said.
While the economy is slowly recovering from the recession, there is still much room for improvement, he said. One of his priorities is more tax incentives for businesses, especially small business owners who hire unemployed individuals.
“Let’s keep these businesses here in our city, let's inspire them to hire our people, let's provide them with incentives to expand,” he said.
According to Pumarejo, the district, which includes neighborhoods like Woodhaven, Glendale and Richmond Hill, has some of the worst bus and subway systems in Queens. The Q56, Q37 and the J train are often late and the stations are in need of repair.
During his childhood, Bed-Stuy was not only a dangerous place to live, but Pumarejo's home life wasn't much safer. His dad would abuse him, his seven siblings and his mother often. He was also bullied a lot and learned how to defend himself physically and intellectually.
“Growing up in that environment, the first thing you learned was how to survive,” Pumarejo said.
After finding one of his best friends shot dead in 11th grade, Pumrejo chose to stay on the right path. He went to York College, where he majored in math.
However, while in school, he had kids and had to get a job. He took his Seires7 test to become a stock broker and was hired by Bear Sterns. His ambition and drive helped him succeed until his personal life intervened.
His wife separated from him and did not want him to see his children. After losing his job and continuing to battle his ex-wife for custody of his kids, his life was in shambles.
In 2007, he moved to 86th Street in Woodhaven and began to work for the nonprofit Arbor Rest, where he helped ex-cons and people living on public assistance get jobs.
“I sold the dream of reinventing themselves because they didn’t want to work,” he said.
In 2011, he joined NYC Business Solutions and helps people with public assistance and finding employment.
Convincing companies to hire people that had just left prison, had six kids or had a curfew, was a challenge. At the same time, he had to persuade people to want to get a job.
“The environment I grew up in, a lot of the people, even family members, were drug addicts, in prison or on their way to prison,” Pumarejo said. “I was extremely lucky. I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I got out of it. Being there inspired me to want to help, not just one person, but millions of people.”
Today, he is grateful to live in Woodhaven. He loves how it is a family-oriented community and his kids do not have to fear for their safety every day.
“As a single parent, I not only struggle with bills daily, but also with horrific subway conditions, and ignorance for public safety that appears to be getting worse,” he said.