Let me briefly tell you how I envision the role of the
public advocate and why I am doing this. I see the public
advocate as the citywide office that is there to make government
work for people. There were a couple of articles this week
in the papers that brought the idea of a public advocate
home to me in a way that I get furious every time I hear
people say that there should be a public advocate. As you
recall there was that drive a year ago to end that office
of public advocate.
There was one article in The Time's this week about Liu,
that the owner of a Chinese restaurant was killed in Queens,
was brutally killed, and the article pointed out how his
wife and his children were living in the back of the restaurant
without heat, water and almost everything. My point is that
nobody was really doing anything about it. And the reporter
said that it was six months ago that this was first reported.
When I read that I thought, if I were public advocate, I
would do everything to make sure that that family got housing.
I don't understand why there isn't some emergency housing
for people, I guess there is, but it hasn't happened for
them six months later. I would also try and get them some
emergency money--there was a fundraising effort for this
particular which I participated in, maybe six months ago,
but they're still sleeping in the back of that restaurant
without heat, and without any kind of adequate things that
they should have. So that was one article that made me think
about the public advocate and why I am so passionate about
it. The second article was about bi-lingual education. It
was a very thoughtful article, it was so confusing that
it occurred to me that one area that the public advocate
didn't do is set up in the office a division which would
be an independent office which would explain and help parents
and to give information about the various programs, and
the various things that go on that are good or not good,
or which is the best bi-lingual program or which isn't.
The third area was when the current public advocate stood
on the "boulevard of death." And announced a program that
he felt was important to stop the terrible killings in Queens.
And I thought to myself, that's a very good thing that the
public advocate should be doing, unfortunately the current
public advocate, who I think has done a very good job had
a very cranky relationship with the chief executive. He
hasn't been able to get as much done as he might had that
relationship not happened. I'm not blaming anybody; I'm
just making a comment.
Q-What aspect of the Giuliani administration
do you find most objectionable, and how would she address
it as public advocate?
A-Well, I found a lot objectionable, probably the thing
I found most objectionable was--now this is a little self
serving--that I was punished for something that was so ridiculous
that I wouldn't even bother going into it. I think I found
the meanness, and the going after people who couldn't really
help themselves was probably the most objectionable thing.
Although I think the lack of respect for people's civil
rights and the horrible things with Diallo and Dorismond
that we all know are terrible. I do believe that the really
meanness of going after people in the city. We've got enough
problems in the city that we don't need.
Q-How you change/adjust the role
of public advocate in this next administration?
A-The problem has been the cranky relationship that has
existed between the public advocate and the mayor and I
think that unfortunately the public advocate has done a
lot of really good things. Most people think that he and
the mayor, all they do is scream and yell at each other.
But he has had some very effective programs. I think even
what's going to happen in 2002 with a new mayor, with an
entirely new council, and borough presidents. I think it
is going to give an opportunity to redefine the office and
I would like to think about redefining it in trying to get
along with, to work with the various city commissioners,
the mayor, try to solve some of the many problems that exist
now and that will exist in 2002. And we know they're coming.
My career has always been to try and work with people and
get things done. To solve problems by working with the various
people that are there to try and solve the problem as opposed
to having this cranky relationship.
Q- What, specifically, qualifies
you for that position?
A-I worked for several mayors. I worked as the education
assistant for a mayor. I then worked for the New York City
police department, for something called the New York City
Police Foundation, where one of the programs that we ran
was to raise private money. I than ran a transportation
program for disabled elderly people, and I also ran an anti-handgun
violence program. I then became Parks Commissioner for four
years and under David Dinkins and that gave me citywide
managerial experience, which I think is a very important
aspect of why I want to do this. I think I understand how
an agency should work, agencies that are supposed to be
providing programs, I understand how to try persuade agencies
and commissioners to do the kind of things they are supposed
to be doing.
After the Parks department I was fired when mayor Giuliani
came in, and I took over the New York Historical Society,
which maybe some of you know was closed and had a terrible
debt, I am very proud to say that six and a half years later,
it's open, it's flourishing, we had a $600,000 surplus last
year and I guess this all points to, I love to solve problems,
I love to take difficult situations and make them work,
I like to work with people to make things better. That's
what I have done my whole career and that's why I am running
for public advocate.
Q-What is the main issue you would
A-That's a really hard question, there are so many problems,
and there are going to be so many more with the economy
going south, I would say education, I would say affordable
housing. Also health and children. We want to make sure
that that program goes along so well that every child who
is eligible for health insurance gets it. Did you all know
that there is childcare money available, but there are no
facilities to put childcare money in. That's the kind of
thing that I would like to look at. I can't say it's most
important, but they're all terribly important, and it's
too hard to figure out which is the most important.
Q-What good things has Mark Green
done that you would build upon?
A-One of things that Mark has done along with the City
Council is suing the mayor to get information about how
the police are not policing themselves at all. And I think
that caused him to set up in the office of the police department
an office that gets paid for by private money that now monitors
That's a very good program that he was able to put a public-private
partnership together. The program in the family court which
I think is called C-Plan--I am not sure if that is the right
name for it--where there are six or seven people in the
family court trying to help the terrible situation where
the lawyers aren't and to help judges get through some of
the problems and help the parents and the children.
Q-What is your position on Giuliani's
action and attack on the Brooklyn Museum of Art?
A-I was one of the first museum director that is not part
of the CIG group, but gets city money and joined the lawsuit
over the issue of sensation. And for that I was punished--never
mind how--but I felt very strongly that it was the completely
wrong thing to do. And of course this time, with the new
flack, there were no lawsuits and the whole thing was really
ridiculous. But I feel very strongly that you don't have
to go see the exhibition if you don't want to. But the fact
that it is there, it's important to be there and I think
the mayor's attacks are reprehensible and I would certainly
continue to feel that way.
Q-What we should to investigate conditions
in homeless shelters and dropping centers?
A-It's a disgrace that there are those conditions and I
think that one of the problems is that one agency in the
government, the HRA, is doing one thing, and the Department
of Homeless Services is doing another. And my understanding
is that the Department of Homeless Services is trying very
hard to make things a little better. But the other side
[the HRA] is just pushing and pushing more people into the
streets. I would try to work with whoever is the mayor at
that time to say, "We got to do something about this problem,
we've got to put some money into better services for the
homeless and all those various things that need to be done."
That's when I said try to get involved with the chief executive
so that we can try to solve some of these problems.
Q-What about your accomplishments?
A-There were several programs that I have started, probably
the one that I am most proud of--for two reasons. One, because
it was way before people were talking about ending welfare
as we know it and, two because it was the only program that
the mayor forced the current parks commissioner. And that
was I raised quite a lot of private money to do a welfare
to work to take park workers in the parks department and
do training for them and try to train them so they could
get real jobs in the Parks Department or in other city agencies.
And I raised about a million dollars and we have about three
hundred graduates in the second year of the program. One
of the most interesting things was getting people licenses,
because then it will make them able to drive trucks and
packers and all the things that are needed in the parks
department. So it was a very effective program, I don't
think it is functioning anymore, but it was something that
I was very proud of.
The other thing I did that I feel is a very important part
of my career and that I would continue to do as public advocate
is setting up these public-private partnerships, where you
raise private money to make things a little bit better where
you have a budget cut in a third of your agency. So I got
private money to enhance some of the parks particularly
in the borough because as you well know Central Park is
particularly well funded, it always has been, it's the richest
piece of real estate in the world, but there are parks throughout
the rest of the system that are not so well funded. So I
would say that we should raise private money to improve
the City Parks Foundation.
Q-Why are you the best candidate
for this position?
A-I think the field is very competitive, this is a tough
race. I'm doing this because I really care. I don't have
to leave my job--I mean I have to leave my job now that
I am running--but I am not doing this because I am term
limited out, or because I need a job. I am doing this because
I feel like I can make a difference. I feel that my long
career in government and not for profit organizations has
sort of pointed me towards this. I've never run for office
before, so I really want to try it to see how it goes. And
I just feel passionate about this, I feel that there are
so many problems in New York, and there are going to be
so many more problems. And I think I am a really good problem
solver, so that's why I am the best candidate.