CITY Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/city 2022-08-12T20:39:28+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Joomla! - Open Source Content Management ‘I’m Not a Sidelines Person’: Elizabeth Holtzman Runs for Congress in the New NY-10 2022-08-11T04:00:00+00:00 2022-08-11T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11514-elizabeth-holtzman-runs-congress-ny-10 Rachel Cohen rcohen@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/elizabeth-holtzman-photo2.jpg" /></p> <p>Elizabeth Holtzman (photo: Liz Holtzman for Congress)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, the first and only woman ever elected Brooklyn District Attorney and New York City Comptroller, has ended her decades-long hiatus from political campaigns to </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11452-candidates-ny-10-brooklyn-political-clubs-forum" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">run for Congress in the crowded field</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for the new 10th district.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I said to myself, ‘I'm not a sidelines person — this country is in danger,” Holtzman </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11480-max-politics-podcast-liz-holtzman-run-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said about why she joined the race during a recent appearance</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on the Max Politics podcast from Gotham Gazette. “And I have the background, the skills, the know-how, the guts to take these dangers on and try to defeat them.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman, who was at 31 the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at the time when she first won in 1972, is campaigning alongside roughly a dozen candidates to represent a diverse set of neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new 10th district, which has no incumbent running, includes the East and West Villages, Soho and Noho, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Battery Park City, the Financial District, parts of Downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus, Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Borough Park, and more.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is among the congressional and state senate primaries that will conclude on August 23, with early voting preceding from August 13-21, as well as absentee balloting.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman represented parts of Brooklyn in Congress from 1973-1981, then won her race to become Brooklyn District Attorney, followed by Comptroller. She narrowly lost her 1992 bid to become New York’s first female U.S. Senator.</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11480-max-politics-podcast-liz-holtzman-run-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked by Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> about why she decided to run for Congress, Holtzman, who said she lives in the geographic center of the new 10th district, said the conservative majority of the Supreme Court is “trying to take our rights away,” former President Donald Trump is likely to run another campaign based on “fraud and deceit,” and “MAGA” Republicans are threatening the economy, climate, and more</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman emphasized that she differentiates herself from the other contenders in having the background and courage to take them on.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman cited her experience as a member of Congress in the ‘70s, in which she helped pass a plethora of legislation and was one of the first members on the House Judiciary Committee to call for the impeachment of then-President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If we were in normal times, I wouldn’t be running for Congress now, I’d be on some kind of vacation,” Holtzman said. “But the fact of the matter is, I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror as we go downhill towards authoritarianism and worse, and say to myself ‘I did nothing about it.’”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked if there are lessons that the country learned during the Nixon era that have been forgotten today, Holtzman said that both Nixon and Trump were “out of control,” but noted that the U.S. Department of Justice through a special prosecutor investigated Nixon while there has been no such investigation of Trump beyond the Mueller report and now the special committee on the insurrection of January 6, 2021.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman said she is frustrated by the lack of action based on the evidence.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The smoking gun tape came from a grand jury subpoena,” Holtzman said in reference to the indictment of Nixon. “Where are those subpoenas today? [U.S. Attorney General] Merrick Garland has to wake up.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Speaking further about how she differentiates herself from her opponents, Holtzman said experience in Congress is not the same as her opponents who are in the City Council and State Legislature, an apparent reference to Rivera, Niou, and Simon. She added that Jones, without stating his name, is in his first term in Congress and does not represent the city, while she has a record of legislative accomplishments during her eight-year congressional career.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She cited a lawsuit to stop bombing in Cambodia, legislation to end Nixon’s State Secrets Protection Act, and successful efforts to uncover and oust Nazi war criminals in the United States.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If elected back to Congress, Holtzman said one of her top priorities would be to combat gun violence. She said she would support bans on assault weapons, large magazines, and excess handguns, noting how one of her first areas of focus as city comptroller was to hold gun manufacturers liable. Holtzman also said that she would call on state and federal governments, which she said buys billions of dollars in munitions, to pressure gun manufacturers to end the sale of assault weapons and illegal guns by halting their business.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“You just need someone who has that smart idea and says, ‘Let's do something about this,’” Holtzman said. “And so let's use our power, the leverage of all these purchases, to get gun manufacturers to change their behavior.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holzman added that another top priority would be affordable housing, and she pointed to helping finance tens of thousands of units using the city’s pension funds while serving as comptroller, and noted she hopes to secure funding to repair the existing housing stock and build additional affordable housing. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman also said she would work on issues related to the climate, mentioning rising sea levels and being a frequent kayaker. She said that she would try to make the president take action, as well as advocate for legislation to reduce subsidies for fossil fuel companies and investigate whether they are paying the federal government a fair share of royalties.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about her view of national Democratic leadership </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">and the Senate filibuster, Holtzman said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, who was elected as her congressional successor in 1980, has been “trying to do a good job” in the Senate, and emphasized how he cannot end the filibuster or do much else without having the votes. She also said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is “a very effective, very savvy person” and lauded her leadership in helping pass the Affordable Care Act under then-President Barack Obama.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman also called President Joe Biden a “very decent” and “caring” person and noted how they both were elected to Congress at the same time. While she said Biden had saved the country from facism by defeating Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election, she emphasized that he could have acted quicker on some issues since being elected, mentioning that the U.S. Supreme Court majority draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked well prior to the decision coming down, giving him time to prepare more executive action than he appeared ready with.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The president's got a lot on his mind,” Holtzman said. “He's got a war going on in Ukraine. He's got China breathing down his neck, and Taiwan, and he's got [Senator] Joe Manchin saying first he's going to help on some bills and then changing his mind. I mean, it's been tough.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked about Biden and Schumer not at the time being able to get Manchin to a deal on major climate legislation, Holtzman said, “It's very easy to sit on the outside and poke holes in what people are doing, but you don't know all the offers that have been made —he’s a very slippery person,” Holtzman said of Manchin. “It seems to me, some people might even say, he's trying to get publicity every time he turns the president down.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She said she was sure that Biden and Schumer were working on getting to a deal, and they were indeed, with a package soon announced on the Inflation Reduction Act, which incorporated big pieces of Biden’s much larger Build Back Better agenda.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman emphasized that the real problem in Congress is that Democratic voters did not deliver on electing lower ranking officials during the previous presidential election. “It's one thing to attack Biden, but if you really want to do something about it, elect more Democrats to office, make contributions,” she said, in something of a departure from some Democrats who criticize current leadership for not doing enough with what they have.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On her path to victory in the crowded field, Holtzman said “given the expected lower turnout in this district,” she “might be able to win just with the people who voted for me in the past.” While the district has several very </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">high-voter turnout areas, the August primary, with many residents out of town, could see quite low participation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman said she has been surprised and energized by the response of voters on the street, mentioning how “sometimes people even scream” when they meet her and lauding her endorsement from feminist icon </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gloria Steinem.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> But Holzman said she needs to ensure that all residents in the district actually know that she is running. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She added that she needs to expand her base and make sure people know her record, pointing to having been the only district attorney in the country who called on the Supreme Court to ban racial discrimination in jury selection, as well as her efforts to deport Nazi war criminals from the United States, and fight the plan to build nine new municipal incinerators, which eventually led to the closure of all polluting incerators in the city.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If people want someone who knows how to get things done, is prepared to stand up to no matter who, and is prepared to take on bad guys — that's me,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked about potentially blocking the ascension of someone from the next generation of Democratic progressives, Holtzman pushed back, asking “Why should they block me?” and saying that her opponents are blocking each other by running against one another. She emphasized that she is “bringing something different from all of them” in the race and that voters should have a choice, adding how the country is coming closer to facism and needs a leader who has experience.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“As soon as people see that I've got the energy and the guts, the intellectual ability and the physical ability to do this job, then they're not going to judge me on the basis of how many years pass by chronologically, how tall I am, how much I weigh, the color of my eyes,” said Holtzman, who is 81. “No, they're going to try to assess, am I someone who's going to fight for them? When the chips are down, am I going to fight for them? And is anyone going to buy me off or stop me from doing that? And am I going to fight for them, not just stand up and fight for them, but fight in a way that's going to produce results?”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since Holtzman left elected office at the end of 1989, </span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/11/nyregion/issue-of-fraud-raised-in-loan-to-holtzman.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">after losing her comptroller reelection bid amid a scandal</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, she said she has been practicing law and working on various commissions. She was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to serve on a panel overseeing classified documents about Nazi war criminals, and she was asked more recently to serve on two panels about sexual assault in the military and other matters. Holtzman also mentioned that she served on the transition committees for New York Attorney General Letita James and former Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On local issues in the new 10th district, Holtzman said she will prioritize the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, which is one of the most polluted areas in the country. She said she would meet with the community, environmentalists, and local activists to ensure the cleanup is thorough and environmentally friendly.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the final speed round of questions, Holtzman said it is long overdue for the federal government to take over the Rikers Island jail complex, but said the new mayor and the New York City Department of Correction are trying to act in good faith. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It's an emergency situation when people are dying unnecessarily, so I don't know what the city government is doing about it,” Holtzman said. “Maybe they ought to be taking some more action with the City Council and state government — where were they in all of this?”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">funding for much-needed New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) repairs and upgrades and if there’s a strategy she favors to generate revenue for public housing that is not simply tens of billions of federal dollars in grants, Holtzman said it is important to examine how the current funding is being spent, especially when it comes to building maintenance. She said public housing used to be a “gem” not only in the city, but across the country, and the units have been neglected for too long. She did not offer support for any of the several strategies underway or proposed, or any other.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unsuccessful congressional bid for the district, Holtzman declined to comment on his candidacy and said she wants to focus on the issues that need to be addressed in the neighborhoods. But she did reference the East Side Coastal Resiliency project passed by de Blasio and supported by Rivera. An initiative funded by the city and federal governments to reduce flood risk and improve resiliency along parts of the east side of Manhattan that includes major upheaval for East River Park, Holtzman indicated a lack of full familiarity but asked why so many trees had to be cut down.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked if she was under the impression the project could have been done without moving many trees, Holtzman said she is unsure, but if she was in Congress, she would deeply review the project if it involved cutting down 500 trees. “I'd look at it not once and twice, I'd look at it 100 times before I went ahead with something like that,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">[LISTEN to the full conversation: </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11480-max-politics-podcast-liz-holtzman-run-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Max Politics Podcast: Elizabeth Holtzman on Running for Congress in the New NY-10</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">]</span></p> <p></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/elizabeth-holtzman-photo2.jpg" /></p> <p>Elizabeth Holtzman (photo: Liz Holtzman for Congress)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, the first and only woman ever elected Brooklyn District Attorney and New York City Comptroller, has ended her decades-long hiatus from political campaigns to </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11452-candidates-ny-10-brooklyn-political-clubs-forum" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">run for Congress in the crowded field</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for the new 10th district.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I said to myself, ‘I'm not a sidelines person — this country is in danger,” Holtzman </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11480-max-politics-podcast-liz-holtzman-run-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said about why she joined the race during a recent appearance</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on the Max Politics podcast from Gotham Gazette. “And I have the background, the skills, the know-how, the guts to take these dangers on and try to defeat them.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman, who was at 31 the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at the time when she first won in 1972, is campaigning alongside roughly a dozen candidates to represent a diverse set of neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new 10th district, which has no incumbent running, includes the East and West Villages, Soho and Noho, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Battery Park City, the Financial District, parts of Downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus, Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Borough Park, and more.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is among the congressional and state senate primaries that will conclude on August 23, with early voting preceding from August 13-21, as well as absentee balloting.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman represented parts of Brooklyn in Congress from 1973-1981, then won her race to become Brooklyn District Attorney, followed by Comptroller. She narrowly lost her 1992 bid to become New York’s first female U.S. Senator.</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11480-max-politics-podcast-liz-holtzman-run-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked by Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> about why she decided to run for Congress, Holtzman, who said she lives in the geographic center of the new 10th district, said the conservative majority of the Supreme Court is “trying to take our rights away,” former President Donald Trump is likely to run another campaign based on “fraud and deceit,” and “MAGA” Republicans are threatening the economy, climate, and more</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman emphasized that she differentiates herself from the other contenders in having the background and courage to take them on.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman cited her experience as a member of Congress in the ‘70s, in which she helped pass a plethora of legislation and was one of the first members on the House Judiciary Committee to call for the impeachment of then-President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If we were in normal times, I wouldn’t be running for Congress now, I’d be on some kind of vacation,” Holtzman said. “But the fact of the matter is, I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror as we go downhill towards authoritarianism and worse, and say to myself ‘I did nothing about it.’”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked if there are lessons that the country learned during the Nixon era that have been forgotten today, Holtzman said that both Nixon and Trump were “out of control,” but noted that the U.S. Department of Justice through a special prosecutor investigated Nixon while there has been no such investigation of Trump beyond the Mueller report and now the special committee on the insurrection of January 6, 2021.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman said she is frustrated by the lack of action based on the evidence.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The smoking gun tape came from a grand jury subpoena,” Holtzman said in reference to the indictment of Nixon. “Where are those subpoenas today? [U.S. Attorney General] Merrick Garland has to wake up.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Speaking further about how she differentiates herself from her opponents, Holtzman said experience in Congress is not the same as her opponents who are in the City Council and State Legislature, an apparent reference to Rivera, Niou, and Simon. She added that Jones, without stating his name, is in his first term in Congress and does not represent the city, while she has a record of legislative accomplishments during her eight-year congressional career.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She cited a lawsuit to stop bombing in Cambodia, legislation to end Nixon’s State Secrets Protection Act, and successful efforts to uncover and oust Nazi war criminals in the United States.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If elected back to Congress, Holtzman said one of her top priorities would be to combat gun violence. She said she would support bans on assault weapons, large magazines, and excess handguns, noting how one of her first areas of focus as city comptroller was to hold gun manufacturers liable. Holtzman also said that she would call on state and federal governments, which she said buys billions of dollars in munitions, to pressure gun manufacturers to end the sale of assault weapons and illegal guns by halting their business.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“You just need someone who has that smart idea and says, ‘Let's do something about this,’” Holtzman said. “And so let's use our power, the leverage of all these purchases, to get gun manufacturers to change their behavior.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holzman added that another top priority would be affordable housing, and she pointed to helping finance tens of thousands of units using the city’s pension funds while serving as comptroller, and noted she hopes to secure funding to repair the existing housing stock and build additional affordable housing. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman also said she would work on issues related to the climate, mentioning rising sea levels and being a frequent kayaker. She said that she would try to make the president take action, as well as advocate for legislation to reduce subsidies for fossil fuel companies and investigate whether they are paying the federal government a fair share of royalties.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about her view of national Democratic leadership </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">and the Senate filibuster, Holtzman said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, who was elected as her congressional successor in 1980, has been “trying to do a good job” in the Senate, and emphasized how he cannot end the filibuster or do much else without having the votes. She also said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is “a very effective, very savvy person” and lauded her leadership in helping pass the Affordable Care Act under then-President Barack Obama.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman also called President Joe Biden a “very decent” and “caring” person and noted how they both were elected to Congress at the same time. While she said Biden had saved the country from facism by defeating Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election, she emphasized that he could have acted quicker on some issues since being elected, mentioning that the U.S. Supreme Court majority draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked well prior to the decision coming down, giving him time to prepare more executive action than he appeared ready with.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The president's got a lot on his mind,” Holtzman said. “He's got a war going on in Ukraine. He's got China breathing down his neck, and Taiwan, and he's got [Senator] Joe Manchin saying first he's going to help on some bills and then changing his mind. I mean, it's been tough.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked about Biden and Schumer not at the time being able to get Manchin to a deal on major climate legislation, Holtzman said, “It's very easy to sit on the outside and poke holes in what people are doing, but you don't know all the offers that have been made —he’s a very slippery person,” Holtzman said of Manchin. “It seems to me, some people might even say, he's trying to get publicity every time he turns the president down.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She said she was sure that Biden and Schumer were working on getting to a deal, and they were indeed, with a package soon announced on the Inflation Reduction Act, which incorporated big pieces of Biden’s much larger Build Back Better agenda.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman emphasized that the real problem in Congress is that Democratic voters did not deliver on electing lower ranking officials during the previous presidential election. “It's one thing to attack Biden, but if you really want to do something about it, elect more Democrats to office, make contributions,” she said, in something of a departure from some Democrats who criticize current leadership for not doing enough with what they have.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On her path to victory in the crowded field, Holtzman said “given the expected lower turnout in this district,” she “might be able to win just with the people who voted for me in the past.” While the district has several very </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">high-voter turnout areas, the August primary, with many residents out of town, could see quite low participation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Holtzman said she has been surprised and energized by the response of voters on the street, mentioning how “sometimes people even scream” when they meet her and lauding her endorsement from feminist icon </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gloria Steinem.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> But Holzman said she needs to ensure that all residents in the district actually know that she is running. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She added that she needs to expand her base and make sure people know her record, pointing to having been the only district attorney in the country who called on the Supreme Court to ban racial discrimination in jury selection, as well as her efforts to deport Nazi war criminals from the United States, and fight the plan to build nine new municipal incinerators, which eventually led to the closure of all polluting incerators in the city.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If people want someone who knows how to get things done, is prepared to stand up to no matter who, and is prepared to take on bad guys — that's me,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked about potentially blocking the ascension of someone from the next generation of Democratic progressives, Holtzman pushed back, asking “Why should they block me?” and saying that her opponents are blocking each other by running against one another. She emphasized that she is “bringing something different from all of them” in the race and that voters should have a choice, adding how the country is coming closer to facism and needs a leader who has experience.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“As soon as people see that I've got the energy and the guts, the intellectual ability and the physical ability to do this job, then they're not going to judge me on the basis of how many years pass by chronologically, how tall I am, how much I weigh, the color of my eyes,” said Holtzman, who is 81. “No, they're going to try to assess, am I someone who's going to fight for them? When the chips are down, am I going to fight for them? And is anyone going to buy me off or stop me from doing that? And am I going to fight for them, not just stand up and fight for them, but fight in a way that's going to produce results?”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since Holtzman left elected office at the end of 1989, </span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/11/nyregion/issue-of-fraud-raised-in-loan-to-holtzman.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">after losing her comptroller reelection bid amid a scandal</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, she said she has been practicing law and working on various commissions. She was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to serve on a panel overseeing classified documents about Nazi war criminals, and she was asked more recently to serve on two panels about sexual assault in the military and other matters. Holtzman also mentioned that she served on the transition committees for New York Attorney General Letita James and former Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On local issues in the new 10th district, Holtzman said she will prioritize the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, which is one of the most polluted areas in the country. She said she would meet with the community, environmentalists, and local activists to ensure the cleanup is thorough and environmentally friendly.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the final speed round of questions, Holtzman said it is long overdue for the federal government to take over the Rikers Island jail complex, but said the new mayor and the New York City Department of Correction are trying to act in good faith. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It's an emergency situation when people are dying unnecessarily, so I don't know what the city government is doing about it,” Holtzman said. “Maybe they ought to be taking some more action with the City Council and state government — where were they in all of this?”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">funding for much-needed New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) repairs and upgrades and if there’s a strategy she favors to generate revenue for public housing that is not simply tens of billions of federal dollars in grants, Holtzman said it is important to examine how the current funding is being spent, especially when it comes to building maintenance. She said public housing used to be a “gem” not only in the city, but across the country, and the units have been neglected for too long. She did not offer support for any of the several strategies underway or proposed, or any other.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unsuccessful congressional bid for the district, Holtzman declined to comment on his candidacy and said she wants to focus on the issues that need to be addressed in the neighborhoods. But she did reference the East Side Coastal Resiliency project passed by de Blasio and supported by Rivera. An initiative funded by the city and federal governments to reduce flood risk and improve resiliency along parts of the east side of Manhattan that includes major upheaval for East River Park, Holtzman indicated a lack of full familiarity but asked why so many trees had to be cut down.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked if she was under the impression the project could have been done without moving many trees, Holtzman said she is unsure, but if she was in Congress, she would deeply review the project if it involved cutting down 500 trees. “I'd look at it not once and twice, I'd look at it 100 times before I went ahead with something like that,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">[LISTEN to the full conversation: </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11480-max-politics-podcast-liz-holtzman-run-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Max Politics Podcast: Elizabeth Holtzman on Running for Congress in the New NY-10</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">]</span></p> <p></p> Asian Advocates, Elected Officials Call on Redistricting Commission to Redo City Council Map 2022-08-11T04:00:00+00:00 2022-08-11T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11516-asian-advocates-electeds-redistricting-city-council Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/unity-map-img.png" /></p> <p>A portion of the Unity Map proposal for new City Council districts</p> <hr /> <p>Last month, the New York City Districting Commission released a preliminary map of new City Council district lines, redrawing boundaries across the city based on population changes enumerated in the 2020 Census. Uproar quickly ensued over several of the major changes in the draft maps for the 51 City Council districts across the five boroughs.</p> <p>In Brooklyn, the commission proposed a new Asian American majority district that could award political power to a growing constituency — what the commission itself deemed an “Asian opportunity district” for the fastest-growing ethnic group in the city.</p> <p>But some Asian American advocates say that the proposal will continue to divide their communities and rob them of equitable representation in the Council. And they are proposing a different map of Brooklyn districts and preparing to push the districting commission to change its boundaries at upcoming hearings to be held before the commission puts the next iteration of the maps to the current City Council.</p> <p>New York City’s Asian population grew by 345,383, or 33.6%, over ten years, the fastest of any major racial or ethnic group in the city, according to <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/planning-level/nyc-population/census2020/dcp_2020-census-briefing-booklet-1.pdf?r=3">2020 Census data</a>. That accounts for more than half of the total increase in the city population, which grew by 629,057 people, or 7.7%. Asians now make up 15.6% of the city’s total population of more than 8.8 million.</p> <p>In Brooklyn, Asians account for 13.6% of the borough’s population, up 110,647 residents, or a 42.5% increase from 2010. The borough neighborhoods with the highest Asian populations include, in order, Bensonhurst, Sunset Park, and Gravesend.</p> <p>The Districting Commission, in its proposed maps, created new lines in South Brooklyn that have drawn consternation from some Asian and Latino advocates, immigrant advocacy groups, and the local Council Members, Justin Brannan of District 43 and Alexa Aviles of District 38.</p> <p>Under the new lines, the two districts would be combined in parts to create a new District 43 with an Asian American majority, while splitting the Hispanic population of Sunset Park and Red Hook that is currently concentrated in District 38. The configuration could possibly also set the two lawmakers on a path to conflict in the upcoming 2023 elections that will use the new maps and see every Council seat on the ballot. The proposed new District 38 would include Brannan’s political base of Bay Ridge and Aviles’ political base in Sunset Park.</p> <p>“It is perplexing that the creation of an AAPI-majority seat in southern Brooklyn would lead to the dissolution and division of Red Hook, Sunset Park – in addition to Dyker Heights – and it is certainly not necessary,” Brannan and Aviles said in a <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/1547976504901939203?s=20&amp;t=vmJm9aeBd8LP-sF0-oZyvQ">joint statement</a> when the preliminary map was released, noting that the “historically Latino” District 38 would be torn apart.</p> <p>“Pitting one community of interest against another and wiping out hard-fought gains that have existed for a generation is not the path forward,” they added.</p> <p>Asian American advocates, on the other hand, are organizing around different proposals that could even yield two new districts with Asian American pluralities.</p> <p>The population trends in South Brooklyn show that the Asian population has already grown significantly within the current confines of District 38, where Asians make up about 41% of the population, and some have argued that it should be kept intact. But they are also arguing for a unified district that encompasses Bensonhurst’s large Asian population, which is currently split across four City Council districts and would still be divided among three districts under the preliminary proposal from the districting commission.</p> <p>The Districting Commission is currently soliciting public input on the map it has proposed, and will hold a series of public hearings, one in each borough, over the next few weeks. Members of the public can even present their own maps to the commission as alternative proposals to consider. The Brooklyn hearing is <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/districting/public-meetings-hearings/meetings.page">scheduled</a> to take place at Medgar Evers College on August 21 from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.</p> <p>“We have to show them how we can achieve these goals without blowing up all of Southern Brooklyn,” said Council Member Brannan, in a phone interview. “I think we are all on the same page.”</p> <p>Indeed, Brannan’s and Aviles’ interests in holding their communities together align with many Asian American advocates who say that District 38’s growing Asian American population effectively already makes it an Asian opportunity district. “You want to empower emerging immigrant communities but you don't do that by tearing down one of the main historic Latino districts in Brooklyn,” Brannan said. His current district covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, half of which would end up in the new proposed District 38 while the rest would largely be in the new District 47.</p> <p>Though there isn’t yet a consensus on what an alternate map should look like, groups like New York Immigration Coalition are helping educate their members on the proposal and using mapping tools to submit their own ideas to the commission. “I think making a majority Asian district in South Brooklyn is definitely what advocates have been calling for and it's really, really needed,” said Asher Ross, who is leading the Immigration Coalition’s redistricting work.</p> <p>“The biggest problem with the South Brooklyn lines, in our opinion, is that they would break off Red Hook from Sunset Park and take a district that was actually plurality Asian with a very large Latino share of population and make it a strong white plurality district,” Ross said of the proposed new District 38. </p> <p>One alternative that has been proposed is the <a href="https://www.latinojustice.org/sites/default/files/2022-07/Unity%20Plan%20City%20Council.pdf">Unity Map</a>, by a coalition composed of Asian American Legal Defense Fund, The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Under that proposal, Districts 38 and 43 would remain largely unchanged while Bensonhurst would be largely contained within the new District 47 along with Gravesend – creating a district with a 34.3% Asian American population – rather than being split between the current Council Districts 38, 43, 44 and 47.</p> <p>The Unity Map also seeks to unite communities of interest in other parts of the city. It brings together Chinatown and most of the Lower East Side into a new proposed District 1, removing Tribeca and Battery Park City, and also unites the Asian American population of Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park in Queens into a new District 32. Like Bensonhurst, those neighborhoods are also divided among four Council districts currently. The Unity Map also proposes 11 Latino majority districts, rather than the current 10, and 11 districts largely made up of Black communities of interest. </p> <p>“This is an iterative process and we continue to hear public testimony on the preliminary plan,” said Eddie Borges, a spokesperson for the Districting Commission, in a brief phone interview. “We encourage people, if they’re unhappy, to either come to one of the hearings next week or come by Zoom or send an email to <a href="mailto:publictestimony@redistricting.nyc.gov">publictestimony@redistricting.nyc.gov</a>. Up to date, we’ve received more than 1,000 testimonials and we wouldn’t be surprised if we had another 1,000 people next week.”</p> <p>Some have argued that while the current District 38 has recently been represented by Latino officials, including Aviles and her predecessors Carlos Menchaca and Sara Gonzalez, it is already an opportunity district for Asian representation and could easily trend that way for a future election without any changes to its boundaries.</p> <p>Many of the issues around the preliminary map stem from the commission’s decision to keep the three Staten Island City Council districts contained on the island despite changes in population, affording little wiggle room to redraw lines in the other boroughs. The other choice facing the commission would likely have been to combine a portion of Staten Island with some of Southern Brooklyn, which is already the case in legislative districts at other levels of government.</p> <p>That not only impacted the drawing of these Brooklyn districts, but also in part led to a new district that includes parts of Queens combined with a portion of the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, which has been another major source of pushback from current elected officials, advocates, and residents of those areas.</p> <p>“Asian Americans made significant gains in representation in New York City government with the election of a record five Asian American members elected to City Council last year,” said Jerry Vattamala, Democracy Program Director at the AALDEF, in a statement accompanying the release of the proposal. “Yet, as the fastest growing racial group in the city, this is still an underrepresentation indicative of the historic and continued marginalization of Asians and other communities of color. The Unity Map is fair and necessary to ensuring our communities’ voices are being heard and that the long-neglected issues we care about are actually addressed.”</p> <p>Steven Romalewski, director of the Mapping Service at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research, said the Unity Map and other proposals from local residents – highlighted on CUNY’s <a href="https://nyc.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cc&amp;propA=current_2013&amp;propB=council_plan_july15prelim&amp;selected=-73.937,40.746&amp;opacity=1.99#%26map=11.62/40.7841/-73.9321">Redistricting &amp; You</a> website – have more flexibility than the commission’s map. “That doesn’t necessarily mean those proposals are better or worse,” he said in an email. “But it’s somewhat easier to move the lines around to achieve the goal of population equality while also meeting the other districting requirements.”</p> <p>“I think it’s great that we can see these different plans on the map, because it makes it very clear that there isn’t just one way to draw the districts. And it also makes it clear that drawing a district a certain way has implications for all the districts around it, and across the city,” he added.</p> <p>Local advocates are likely to advance similar proposals but there are several complicated factors to consider, said Elizabeth OuYang, coordinator of the Redistricting Task Force for Asian Pacific Americans Voting and Organizing to Increase Civic Engagement (APA VOICE), a coalition of 21 organizations not affiliated with the Unity Map proposal.</p> <p>“There is the issue of Asian American communities of interest in Sunset Park and Bensonhurst. There is the issue of keeping neighborhoods together and there is the issue of respecting other marginalized groups,” OuYang said in a phone interview. “All those three are interrelated and so it's complicated and we are looking at it very carefully.</p> <p>“Both the history of diluting Asian Americans into four districts in Bensonhurst and our 43% increase in APAs in Brooklyn do dictate reform,” she added.</p> <p>“It has always been a challenge for us that Bensonhurst is divided into four City Council districts,” said Don Lee, chair of Bensonhurst-based Homecrest Community Services, a member of the APA VOICE coalition.</p> <p>Though Lee had no complaints about the Council members from those districts, and said that they work well with the communities, he did say that it is “if nothing else, taxing.” “How can you really ever be a voice when you're only a portion of each of the districts?”</p> <p>The separation of the community is also confusing for voters who live in the same neighborhood but could have different Council members from one street to the next, he noted.</p> <p>“We are a very powerful voting bloc,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, another APA VOICE coalition member, noting that Asian Americans make up <a href="https://www.aafederation.org/as-the-asian-population-continues-to-grow-faster-than-all-others-in-new-york-city-advocates-urge-elected-leaders-to-do-more-to-meet-the-communitys-needs/">more than</a> 10% of the population in 28 out of 51 City Council districts. “Our elected officials, no matter who they are…it’s to their peril if they ignore us.”</p> <p>At least one Asian American group supports the new maps. The Asian Wave Alliance, a political club that isn’t part of APA VOICE, applauded the districting commission for creating the new Asian opportunity district. “For decades, Asian residents in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst have been splintered across four city council districts, diluting our representation and subverting our priorities and concerns,” said AWA President Yiatin Chu, in a press release. “This draft map will unite and connect the Asian communities and allow their voice be heard at the City Council.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/unity-map-img.png" /></p> <p>A portion of the Unity Map proposal for new City Council districts</p> <hr /> <p>Last month, the New York City Districting Commission released a preliminary map of new City Council district lines, redrawing boundaries across the city based on population changes enumerated in the 2020 Census. Uproar quickly ensued over several of the major changes in the draft maps for the 51 City Council districts across the five boroughs.</p> <p>In Brooklyn, the commission proposed a new Asian American majority district that could award political power to a growing constituency — what the commission itself deemed an “Asian opportunity district” for the fastest-growing ethnic group in the city.</p> <p>But some Asian American advocates say that the proposal will continue to divide their communities and rob them of equitable representation in the Council. And they are proposing a different map of Brooklyn districts and preparing to push the districting commission to change its boundaries at upcoming hearings to be held before the commission puts the next iteration of the maps to the current City Council.</p> <p>New York City’s Asian population grew by 345,383, or 33.6%, over ten years, the fastest of any major racial or ethnic group in the city, according to <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/planning-level/nyc-population/census2020/dcp_2020-census-briefing-booklet-1.pdf?r=3">2020 Census data</a>. That accounts for more than half of the total increase in the city population, which grew by 629,057 people, or 7.7%. Asians now make up 15.6% of the city’s total population of more than 8.8 million.</p> <p>In Brooklyn, Asians account for 13.6% of the borough’s population, up 110,647 residents, or a 42.5% increase from 2010. The borough neighborhoods with the highest Asian populations include, in order, Bensonhurst, Sunset Park, and Gravesend.</p> <p>The Districting Commission, in its proposed maps, created new lines in South Brooklyn that have drawn consternation from some Asian and Latino advocates, immigrant advocacy groups, and the local Council Members, Justin Brannan of District 43 and Alexa Aviles of District 38.</p> <p>Under the new lines, the two districts would be combined in parts to create a new District 43 with an Asian American majority, while splitting the Hispanic population of Sunset Park and Red Hook that is currently concentrated in District 38. The configuration could possibly also set the two lawmakers on a path to conflict in the upcoming 2023 elections that will use the new maps and see every Council seat on the ballot. The proposed new District 38 would include Brannan’s political base of Bay Ridge and Aviles’ political base in Sunset Park.</p> <p>“It is perplexing that the creation of an AAPI-majority seat in southern Brooklyn would lead to the dissolution and division of Red Hook, Sunset Park – in addition to Dyker Heights – and it is certainly not necessary,” Brannan and Aviles said in a <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/1547976504901939203?s=20&amp;t=vmJm9aeBd8LP-sF0-oZyvQ">joint statement</a> when the preliminary map was released, noting that the “historically Latino” District 38 would be torn apart.</p> <p>“Pitting one community of interest against another and wiping out hard-fought gains that have existed for a generation is not the path forward,” they added.</p> <p>Asian American advocates, on the other hand, are organizing around different proposals that could even yield two new districts with Asian American pluralities.</p> <p>The population trends in South Brooklyn show that the Asian population has already grown significantly within the current confines of District 38, where Asians make up about 41% of the population, and some have argued that it should be kept intact. But they are also arguing for a unified district that encompasses Bensonhurst’s large Asian population, which is currently split across four City Council districts and would still be divided among three districts under the preliminary proposal from the districting commission.</p> <p>The Districting Commission is currently soliciting public input on the map it has proposed, and will hold a series of public hearings, one in each borough, over the next few weeks. Members of the public can even present their own maps to the commission as alternative proposals to consider. The Brooklyn hearing is <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/districting/public-meetings-hearings/meetings.page">scheduled</a> to take place at Medgar Evers College on August 21 from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.</p> <p>“We have to show them how we can achieve these goals without blowing up all of Southern Brooklyn,” said Council Member Brannan, in a phone interview. “I think we are all on the same page.”</p> <p>Indeed, Brannan’s and Aviles’ interests in holding their communities together align with many Asian American advocates who say that District 38’s growing Asian American population effectively already makes it an Asian opportunity district. “You want to empower emerging immigrant communities but you don't do that by tearing down one of the main historic Latino districts in Brooklyn,” Brannan said. His current district covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, half of which would end up in the new proposed District 38 while the rest would largely be in the new District 47.</p> <p>Though there isn’t yet a consensus on what an alternate map should look like, groups like New York Immigration Coalition are helping educate their members on the proposal and using mapping tools to submit their own ideas to the commission. “I think making a majority Asian district in South Brooklyn is definitely what advocates have been calling for and it's really, really needed,” said Asher Ross, who is leading the Immigration Coalition’s redistricting work.</p> <p>“The biggest problem with the South Brooklyn lines, in our opinion, is that they would break off Red Hook from Sunset Park and take a district that was actually plurality Asian with a very large Latino share of population and make it a strong white plurality district,” Ross said of the proposed new District 38. </p> <p>One alternative that has been proposed is the <a href="https://www.latinojustice.org/sites/default/files/2022-07/Unity%20Plan%20City%20Council.pdf">Unity Map</a>, by a coalition composed of Asian American Legal Defense Fund, The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Under that proposal, Districts 38 and 43 would remain largely unchanged while Bensonhurst would be largely contained within the new District 47 along with Gravesend – creating a district with a 34.3% Asian American population – rather than being split between the current Council Districts 38, 43, 44 and 47.</p> <p>The Unity Map also seeks to unite communities of interest in other parts of the city. It brings together Chinatown and most of the Lower East Side into a new proposed District 1, removing Tribeca and Battery Park City, and also unites the Asian American population of Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park in Queens into a new District 32. Like Bensonhurst, those neighborhoods are also divided among four Council districts currently. The Unity Map also proposes 11 Latino majority districts, rather than the current 10, and 11 districts largely made up of Black communities of interest. </p> <p>“This is an iterative process and we continue to hear public testimony on the preliminary plan,” said Eddie Borges, a spokesperson for the Districting Commission, in a brief phone interview. “We encourage people, if they’re unhappy, to either come to one of the hearings next week or come by Zoom or send an email to <a href="mailto:publictestimony@redistricting.nyc.gov">publictestimony@redistricting.nyc.gov</a>. Up to date, we’ve received more than 1,000 testimonials and we wouldn’t be surprised if we had another 1,000 people next week.”</p> <p>Some have argued that while the current District 38 has recently been represented by Latino officials, including Aviles and her predecessors Carlos Menchaca and Sara Gonzalez, it is already an opportunity district for Asian representation and could easily trend that way for a future election without any changes to its boundaries.</p> <p>Many of the issues around the preliminary map stem from the commission’s decision to keep the three Staten Island City Council districts contained on the island despite changes in population, affording little wiggle room to redraw lines in the other boroughs. The other choice facing the commission would likely have been to combine a portion of Staten Island with some of Southern Brooklyn, which is already the case in legislative districts at other levels of government.</p> <p>That not only impacted the drawing of these Brooklyn districts, but also in part led to a new district that includes parts of Queens combined with a portion of the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, which has been another major source of pushback from current elected officials, advocates, and residents of those areas.</p> <p>“Asian Americans made significant gains in representation in New York City government with the election of a record five Asian American members elected to City Council last year,” said Jerry Vattamala, Democracy Program Director at the AALDEF, in a statement accompanying the release of the proposal. “Yet, as the fastest growing racial group in the city, this is still an underrepresentation indicative of the historic and continued marginalization of Asians and other communities of color. The Unity Map is fair and necessary to ensuring our communities’ voices are being heard and that the long-neglected issues we care about are actually addressed.”</p> <p>Steven Romalewski, director of the Mapping Service at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research, said the Unity Map and other proposals from local residents – highlighted on CUNY’s <a href="https://nyc.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cc&amp;propA=current_2013&amp;propB=council_plan_july15prelim&amp;selected=-73.937,40.746&amp;opacity=1.99#%26map=11.62/40.7841/-73.9321">Redistricting &amp; You</a> website – have more flexibility than the commission’s map. “That doesn’t necessarily mean those proposals are better or worse,” he said in an email. “But it’s somewhat easier to move the lines around to achieve the goal of population equality while also meeting the other districting requirements.”</p> <p>“I think it’s great that we can see these different plans on the map, because it makes it very clear that there isn’t just one way to draw the districts. And it also makes it clear that drawing a district a certain way has implications for all the districts around it, and across the city,” he added.</p> <p>Local advocates are likely to advance similar proposals but there are several complicated factors to consider, said Elizabeth OuYang, coordinator of the Redistricting Task Force for Asian Pacific Americans Voting and Organizing to Increase Civic Engagement (APA VOICE), a coalition of 21 organizations not affiliated with the Unity Map proposal.</p> <p>“There is the issue of Asian American communities of interest in Sunset Park and Bensonhurst. There is the issue of keeping neighborhoods together and there is the issue of respecting other marginalized groups,” OuYang said in a phone interview. “All those three are interrelated and so it's complicated and we are looking at it very carefully.</p> <p>“Both the history of diluting Asian Americans into four districts in Bensonhurst and our 43% increase in APAs in Brooklyn do dictate reform,” she added.</p> <p>“It has always been a challenge for us that Bensonhurst is divided into four City Council districts,” said Don Lee, chair of Bensonhurst-based Homecrest Community Services, a member of the APA VOICE coalition.</p> <p>Though Lee had no complaints about the Council members from those districts, and said that they work well with the communities, he did say that it is “if nothing else, taxing.” “How can you really ever be a voice when you're only a portion of each of the districts?”</p> <p>The separation of the community is also confusing for voters who live in the same neighborhood but could have different Council members from one street to the next, he noted.</p> <p>“We are a very powerful voting bloc,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, another APA VOICE coalition member, noting that Asian Americans make up <a href="https://www.aafederation.org/as-the-asian-population-continues-to-grow-faster-than-all-others-in-new-york-city-advocates-urge-elected-leaders-to-do-more-to-meet-the-communitys-needs/">more than</a> 10% of the population in 28 out of 51 City Council districts. “Our elected officials, no matter who they are…it’s to their peril if they ignore us.”</p> <p>At least one Asian American group supports the new maps. The Asian Wave Alliance, a political club that isn’t part of APA VOICE, applauded the districting commission for creating the new Asian opportunity district. “For decades, Asian residents in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst have been splintered across four city council districts, diluting our representation and subverting our priorities and concerns,” said AWA President Yiatin Chu, in a press release. “This draft map will unite and connect the Asian communities and allow their voice be heard at the City Council.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
‘Do in Congress What I Did in Albany’: Yuh-Line Niou Runs for Congress in the New NY-10 2022-08-10T04:00:00+00:00 2022-08-10T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11493-yuh-line-niou-runs-congress-ny-10 Rachel Cohen rcohen@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-ynl-cong-10.jpg" /></p> <p>Yuh-Line Niou, center, with campaign volunteers (photo: @teamniouyork)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, who has represented the 65nd Assembly District in Lower Manhattan since 2017, is running for Congress in the new 10th Congressional District of New York.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou, a favorite of many in the progressive left, is part of a crowded race of roughly a dozen Democratic candidates hoping to win the new congressional seat, which spans a set of diverse neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. Rep. Jerry Nadler, who represents the current 10th district, is running in the new 12th district against Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Suraj Patel after his West Side turf was drawn into the 12th, leaving the new 10th district wide open.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We have to make sure that we have somebody who's willing to fight for us, fight for us continuously, and make sure that we are standing up in this moment where our government is needing that voice more than ever,” Niou </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11463-max-politics-podcast-yuh-line-niou-runs-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said during a recent appearance on the Max Politics podcast from Gotham Gazette</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Right now, our country is in this moment of apathy, where a lot of times, these horrible things are happening to us and we feel like we can't do anything to change it,” Niou said. “As a young person who's just started working in public service when I was in college, I really realized that there are a lot of times when people make it seem like there's some big secret to accessing government, but it's really just that there are powerful people that are in government right now that don't want us to realize that we actually have the power to make the changes that we want to see.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new 10th Congressional District includes </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">a set of diverse neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the East and West Villages, Soho and Noho, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Battery Park City, the Financial District, parts of Downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus, Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Borough Park and more.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The party primary elections for all congressional and State Senate districts will conclude on August 23, with early voting and absentee balloting preceding primary day.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the interview, Niou was first asked about her reaction to former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to end his congressional bid, which was announced just before the taping of the mid-July podcast with Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou lauded de Blasio’s two decades of public service and mentioned how it can be difficult to choose the direction of your career related to serving various constituencies.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked how de Blasio lost many of his relationships with progressive voters living in Brooklyn, who had helped elect him as a City Council member, public advocate, and mayor, Niou said she is unsure if there was a trigger that has led to this unpopularity, but emphasized the importance of listening to constituents — even if they have an opposing view — and the need to “meet them where they are.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou said she is running for Congress this year, and giving up her Assembly seat in the process, because the country is in crisis. She pointed to mass shootings and the loss of reproductive rights via the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade precedent, among other issues that have spurred her run.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She argued she has represented her overlapping district “really well” over the last six years, and underscored wanting to continue to represent her neighbors and community.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou said she would represent all of the expansive district’s residents and be the type of elected official who is a good listener and accessible to hear their concerns. She stressed, though, that it is important to fight for the most vulnerable to uplift everyone in the community.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I tend to look at making sure that things are accessible for all,” Niou said. “It’s so importance for us to be able to have the lens of looking through all legislation and all representation as, ‘Is this going to help with social justice, is this going to make it so that we have ecological and environmental justice, and is this going to make it so that we’re looking at things with disabilities centered in our conversation, is this making it so we are actually looking at economic justice?’ We have to ask those questions.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If elected to Congress, Niou said she would look at social infrastructure and climate spending, including passing the Green New Deal, the Green New Deal for Public Housing, and the Green New Deal for Public Schools, and said she will fight for the working class to build an economy that works for the average New Yorker. She said she would direct her attention to combating climate issues facing Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, with both parts of the congressional district largely coastal, and empower small businesses while creating strong union jobs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou added that she would advocate for the full funding of public housing, mentioning how she pushed in the State Legislature for state government to take more responsibility for public housing, and how she fought for and achieved hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state funding for NYCHA.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It also means doing in Congress what I did in Albany, which is winning our community a larger share of government support for that true affordable housing to ensure people who live and work in our communities can keep their head above water,” Niou said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While Niou is not the only progressive Democrat in the race (most if not all of the six leading candidates describe themselves as such), she has the most endorsements from New York’s left wing, including the Working Families Party and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, among others. Still, City Council Member Carlina Rivera and Rep. Mondaire Jones (NY-17) have also received a significant number of endorsements from progressive officials and groups, with Rivera leading the field in local backing, including from Rep. Nydia Velazquez and both Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Also in the race are Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman, and former Rep. Liz Holtzman, who recently received the endorsement of the New York Daily News editorial board.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked if she would continue to be a left-wing progressive in Congress, Niou said there is a need for political courage. If Democrats are in the House minority following this year’s midterm elections, progressives can be a “roadblock to conservative overreach,” Niou argued, and “a voice of moral authority in the face of attacks on our rights or giveaways to the wealthy.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If part of a House Democratic majority, Niou said she will continue to work to develop legislation to improve the lives of New Yorkers. She said bipartisanship can only be reached if Republicans are not attacking democracy or “violently harm their colleagues in a fascist coup.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We don't need to save seats,” Niou said. “What we need to do is save our people. I always think that it's really important that we vote for somebody who's willing to stand in front of our people and take the hits.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked for her assessment of current Democratic leadership at the national level, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and President Joe Biden, Niou said she has “always spoken truth to power” against her own party leaders, including former Governor Andrew Cuomo, noting how she defied him and regularly pushed back against what she deemed the state’s “austerity budget.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She said that she wants to always be held accountable to her constituents.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I felt like we lost a lot of lives because instead of passing a budget that would be something that was going to make us healthy, happy, and whole again, we were cutting and slashing health care funds and social services and education dollars in the beginning of a worldwide global pandemic,” Niou said, with apparent reference to the state budget deal reached during the first phase of the pandemic in spring of 2020. “We should have been investing in our communities.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou was then asked to address some of the criticism she faced, namely about being unwilling to compromise and often taking positions against projects, budgets, and legislation. Niou said she thinks she’s actually rarely a voice of opposition, but is such when it is essential. There are times where she has to say “no” when it is warranted, she said, providing the example of education cuts and underfunding healthcare. “I'm just really trying to shine a light on some of the places where people are not given the ability to shine the light on in the normal darkness and opaqueness of government,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On housing, an area where Niou has particularly faced some criticism for her opposition, Niou said that more housing is needed in the 10th Congressional District, and reiterated her belief that new units need to be deeply and permanently affordable. She also said that density is not a problem in Lower Manhattan, but many do not have a say over the housing developments being built in their neighborhoods.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new congressional district includes the city’s two Chinatowns, one in Manhattan that Niou currently represents and the other in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Asked about possibly representing the two large Asian-American communities in the district, Niou said the district was purposely redrawn to include both Chinatowns and to have Asian-American representation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou, the first Asian American to be elected to her Assembly seat, said if she does not win the congressional seat, it might be decades for another opportunity to elect an Asian-American representative from New York to Congress. The new district also has a sizable Latino population, but is dominated by white voters, particularly white liberals who reside across much of Lower Manhattan as well as most of the Brooklyn portion of the district and typically vote in especially high numbers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou pointed to the country facing an increase in anti-Asian hate, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia over the last several years. She touted her work in the State Legislature in continuing the fight for Asian-American representation, including advocating for additional funding in the state budget for local groups to do community work.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou said she was able to secure $10 million for Asian-American organizations in the Liberty Defense Fund, which was doubled this year, and tripled funding toward yeshivas for protections against hate crimes (the district also includes a significant Orthodox Jewish population in Borough Park). </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked about some Asian-American voters moving from voting for Democrats to Republicans, Niou said she is not surprised, especially given the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It's really important that people recognize that a lot of times when we're seeing this kind of hatred, this kind of fear throughout, the purpose of that kind of terrorism, that kind of hatred, is to make us afraid and to make us not show up for things, not run for things, just to hide,” Niou said. “That's why it's so much more important that we have visibility and that we have somebody who's running that looks like us, and helps us break some of the stereotypes and break some of the hatred and the perpetual foreigner syndrome that our country buys into.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about the gap between a portion of Asian-American communities and progressives, especially on issues like police funding and presence, Niou said it can be narrowed down to educating New Yorkers about the need to fund programs that can help with ending poverty and fostering community safety. Niou, who is a progressive proponent of divesting from policing to invest in other community programming, said safety should be focused on prevention, expanding mental health services, and giving residents a platform to share their concerns.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I will say that I am not surprised by folks being disillusioned with the Democratic Party when it comes to our Asian American communities because I will say that during this pandemic and for many, many years before it, we have not had the representation to really be able to speak for our communities in a way that matters,” Niou said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On her recent comments </span><a href="https://jewishinsider.com/2022/07/yuh-line-niou-new-york-city-congress-democratic-primary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">endorsing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that targets Israel, Niou emphasized that she is committed to the safety, security, and wellbeing of all Jewish people in her district, the United States, Israel, and anywhere in the world. She added that she has dedicated her personal and public lives to fighting for communities targeted by bigotry, white supremacy, and nationalism, which includes her Jewish neighbors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She said she supports the BDS movement’s right to political speech, including boycotts and economic pressure, and commitment to human rights. “I know that boycotts are tried true, respected, and constitutionally protected, non-violent tactic for human rights and social justice movements, and I think that it's really important that we be able to continue to be able to utilize that tool,” Niou said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When pressed by Max again to clarify whether she is a supporter of the BDS movement, Niou said that she believes tax dollars should never be used in violation of human rights, which is why she supports legislation that “would prevent federal funds from going to the persecution of Palestinians, or to the construction of settlements.” She mentioned Rachel Corrie, who she said was “my classmate, and she was my friend,” and </span><a href="https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/rachel-corrie-activist-crushed-israel-bulldozer" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">her story of being bulldozed to her death</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> while protesting for Palestinian rights.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“​​I'll just say it out loud that I will be a strong voice in Congress against occupation and in support of equality, justice, and a thriving future for all Israelis and Palestinians,” Niou said. “The only way we get there is through direct negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During a brief lightning round of questions, Niou said it is time to shut down Rikers Island jails and called the jail complex “a human rights atrocity.” But she did not directly answer the question as to whether she believes the Rikers jails should be entered into a federal receivership.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about Rep. Mondaire Jones’ recent move to Brooklyn to run in the 10th district, Niou said anyone can run, but she believes constituents would want a candidate who knows their issues and what they have experienced. “I think that when we have neighbors that we already know and already know the issues that they care about, it makes a big difference in how we represent them,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked what strategy she favors for bringing in revenue to repair dilapidated NYCHA public housing outside of tens of billions in federal funding, Niou also did not answer the question directly. Instead, she pointed to a bill proposed by Rep. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Velazquez to fully fund public housing, as well as the Green New Deal for Public Housing and the Build Back Better agenda that included tens of billions for NYCHA but has not passed through the Senate after passing the House.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The most important thing is that we find more and more mechanisms in order to be able to get those dollars to our state and to our public housing residents who are seeing that their homes are making them sick — no hot water, no heat, mold, lead, paint,” Niou said. “It's really, really devastating, every single time.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">[LISTEN to the full conversation:</span> <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11463-max-politics-podcast-yuh-line-niou-runs-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Max Politics Podcast: Yuh-Line Niou on Running for Congress in the New NY-10</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">]</span></p> <p>

***
Rachel Cohen, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-ynl-cong-10.jpg" /></p> <p>Yuh-Line Niou, center, with campaign volunteers (photo: @teamniouyork)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, who has represented the 65nd Assembly District in Lower Manhattan since 2017, is running for Congress in the new 10th Congressional District of New York.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou, a favorite of many in the progressive left, is part of a crowded race of roughly a dozen Democratic candidates hoping to win the new congressional seat, which spans a set of diverse neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. Rep. Jerry Nadler, who represents the current 10th district, is running in the new 12th district against Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Suraj Patel after his West Side turf was drawn into the 12th, leaving the new 10th district wide open.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We have to make sure that we have somebody who's willing to fight for us, fight for us continuously, and make sure that we are standing up in this moment where our government is needing that voice more than ever,” Niou </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11463-max-politics-podcast-yuh-line-niou-runs-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said during a recent appearance on the Max Politics podcast from Gotham Gazette</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Right now, our country is in this moment of apathy, where a lot of times, these horrible things are happening to us and we feel like we can't do anything to change it,” Niou said. “As a young person who's just started working in public service when I was in college, I really realized that there are a lot of times when people make it seem like there's some big secret to accessing government, but it's really just that there are powerful people that are in government right now that don't want us to realize that we actually have the power to make the changes that we want to see.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new 10th Congressional District includes </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">a set of diverse neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the East and West Villages, Soho and Noho, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Battery Park City, the Financial District, parts of Downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus, Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Borough Park and more.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The party primary elections for all congressional and State Senate districts will conclude on August 23, with early voting and absentee balloting preceding primary day.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the interview, Niou was first asked about her reaction to former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to end his congressional bid, which was announced just before the taping of the mid-July podcast with Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou lauded de Blasio’s two decades of public service and mentioned how it can be difficult to choose the direction of your career related to serving various constituencies.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked how de Blasio lost many of his relationships with progressive voters living in Brooklyn, who had helped elect him as a City Council member, public advocate, and mayor, Niou said she is unsure if there was a trigger that has led to this unpopularity, but emphasized the importance of listening to constituents — even if they have an opposing view — and the need to “meet them where they are.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou said she is running for Congress this year, and giving up her Assembly seat in the process, because the country is in crisis. She pointed to mass shootings and the loss of reproductive rights via the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade precedent, among other issues that have spurred her run.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She argued she has represented her overlapping district “really well” over the last six years, and underscored wanting to continue to represent her neighbors and community.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou said she would represent all of the expansive district’s residents and be the type of elected official who is a good listener and accessible to hear their concerns. She stressed, though, that it is important to fight for the most vulnerable to uplift everyone in the community.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I tend to look at making sure that things are accessible for all,” Niou said. “It’s so importance for us to be able to have the lens of looking through all legislation and all representation as, ‘Is this going to help with social justice, is this going to make it so that we have ecological and environmental justice, and is this going to make it so that we’re looking at things with disabilities centered in our conversation, is this making it so we are actually looking at economic justice?’ We have to ask those questions.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If elected to Congress, Niou said she would look at social infrastructure and climate spending, including passing the Green New Deal, the Green New Deal for Public Housing, and the Green New Deal for Public Schools, and said she will fight for the working class to build an economy that works for the average New Yorker. She said she would direct her attention to combating climate issues facing Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, with both parts of the congressional district largely coastal, and empower small businesses while creating strong union jobs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou added that she would advocate for the full funding of public housing, mentioning how she pushed in the State Legislature for state government to take more responsibility for public housing, and how she fought for and achieved hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state funding for NYCHA.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It also means doing in Congress what I did in Albany, which is winning our community a larger share of government support for that true affordable housing to ensure people who live and work in our communities can keep their head above water,” Niou said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While Niou is not the only progressive Democrat in the race (most if not all of the six leading candidates describe themselves as such), she has the most endorsements from New York’s left wing, including the Working Families Party and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, among others. Still, City Council Member Carlina Rivera and Rep. Mondaire Jones (NY-17) have also received a significant number of endorsements from progressive officials and groups, with Rivera leading the field in local backing, including from Rep. Nydia Velazquez and both Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Also in the race are Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman, and former Rep. Liz Holtzman, who recently received the endorsement of the New York Daily News editorial board.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked if she would continue to be a left-wing progressive in Congress, Niou said there is a need for political courage. If Democrats are in the House minority following this year’s midterm elections, progressives can be a “roadblock to conservative overreach,” Niou argued, and “a voice of moral authority in the face of attacks on our rights or giveaways to the wealthy.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If part of a House Democratic majority, Niou said she will continue to work to develop legislation to improve the lives of New Yorkers. She said bipartisanship can only be reached if Republicans are not attacking democracy or “violently harm their colleagues in a fascist coup.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We don't need to save seats,” Niou said. “What we need to do is save our people. I always think that it's really important that we vote for somebody who's willing to stand in front of our people and take the hits.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked for her assessment of current Democratic leadership at the national level, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and President Joe Biden, Niou said she has “always spoken truth to power” against her own party leaders, including former Governor Andrew Cuomo, noting how she defied him and regularly pushed back against what she deemed the state’s “austerity budget.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She said that she wants to always be held accountable to her constituents.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I felt like we lost a lot of lives because instead of passing a budget that would be something that was going to make us healthy, happy, and whole again, we were cutting and slashing health care funds and social services and education dollars in the beginning of a worldwide global pandemic,” Niou said, with apparent reference to the state budget deal reached during the first phase of the pandemic in spring of 2020. “We should have been investing in our communities.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou was then asked to address some of the criticism she faced, namely about being unwilling to compromise and often taking positions against projects, budgets, and legislation. Niou said she thinks she’s actually rarely a voice of opposition, but is such when it is essential. There are times where she has to say “no” when it is warranted, she said, providing the example of education cuts and underfunding healthcare. “I'm just really trying to shine a light on some of the places where people are not given the ability to shine the light on in the normal darkness and opaqueness of government,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On housing, an area where Niou has particularly faced some criticism for her opposition, Niou said that more housing is needed in the 10th Congressional District, and reiterated her belief that new units need to be deeply and permanently affordable. She also said that density is not a problem in Lower Manhattan, but many do not have a say over the housing developments being built in their neighborhoods.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new congressional district includes the city’s two Chinatowns, one in Manhattan that Niou currently represents and the other in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Asked about possibly representing the two large Asian-American communities in the district, Niou said the district was purposely redrawn to include both Chinatowns and to have Asian-American representation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou, the first Asian American to be elected to her Assembly seat, said if she does not win the congressional seat, it might be decades for another opportunity to elect an Asian-American representative from New York to Congress. The new district also has a sizable Latino population, but is dominated by white voters, particularly white liberals who reside across much of Lower Manhattan as well as most of the Brooklyn portion of the district and typically vote in especially high numbers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou pointed to the country facing an increase in anti-Asian hate, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia over the last several years. She touted her work in the State Legislature in continuing the fight for Asian-American representation, including advocating for additional funding in the state budget for local groups to do community work.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Niou said she was able to secure $10 million for Asian-American organizations in the Liberty Defense Fund, which was doubled this year, and tripled funding toward yeshivas for protections against hate crimes (the district also includes a significant Orthodox Jewish population in Borough Park). </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked about some Asian-American voters moving from voting for Democrats to Republicans, Niou said she is not surprised, especially given the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It's really important that people recognize that a lot of times when we're seeing this kind of hatred, this kind of fear throughout, the purpose of that kind of terrorism, that kind of hatred, is to make us afraid and to make us not show up for things, not run for things, just to hide,” Niou said. “That's why it's so much more important that we have visibility and that we have somebody who's running that looks like us, and helps us break some of the stereotypes and break some of the hatred and the perpetual foreigner syndrome that our country buys into.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about the gap between a portion of Asian-American communities and progressives, especially on issues like police funding and presence, Niou said it can be narrowed down to educating New Yorkers about the need to fund programs that can help with ending poverty and fostering community safety. Niou, who is a progressive proponent of divesting from policing to invest in other community programming, said safety should be focused on prevention, expanding mental health services, and giving residents a platform to share their concerns.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I will say that I am not surprised by folks being disillusioned with the Democratic Party when it comes to our Asian American communities because I will say that during this pandemic and for many, many years before it, we have not had the representation to really be able to speak for our communities in a way that matters,” Niou said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On her recent comments </span><a href="https://jewishinsider.com/2022/07/yuh-line-niou-new-york-city-congress-democratic-primary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">endorsing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that targets Israel, Niou emphasized that she is committed to the safety, security, and wellbeing of all Jewish people in her district, the United States, Israel, and anywhere in the world. She added that she has dedicated her personal and public lives to fighting for communities targeted by bigotry, white supremacy, and nationalism, which includes her Jewish neighbors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She said she supports the BDS movement’s right to political speech, including boycotts and economic pressure, and commitment to human rights. “I know that boycotts are tried true, respected, and constitutionally protected, non-violent tactic for human rights and social justice movements, and I think that it's really important that we be able to continue to be able to utilize that tool,” Niou said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When pressed by Max again to clarify whether she is a supporter of the BDS movement, Niou said that she believes tax dollars should never be used in violation of human rights, which is why she supports legislation that “would prevent federal funds from going to the persecution of Palestinians, or to the construction of settlements.” She mentioned Rachel Corrie, who she said was “my classmate, and she was my friend,” and </span><a href="https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/rachel-corrie-activist-crushed-israel-bulldozer" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">her story of being bulldozed to her death</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> while protesting for Palestinian rights.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“​​I'll just say it out loud that I will be a strong voice in Congress against occupation and in support of equality, justice, and a thriving future for all Israelis and Palestinians,” Niou said. “The only way we get there is through direct negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During a brief lightning round of questions, Niou said it is time to shut down Rikers Island jails and called the jail complex “a human rights atrocity.” But she did not directly answer the question as to whether she believes the Rikers jails should be entered into a federal receivership.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about Rep. Mondaire Jones’ recent move to Brooklyn to run in the 10th district, Niou said anyone can run, but she believes constituents would want a candidate who knows their issues and what they have experienced. “I think that when we have neighbors that we already know and already know the issues that they care about, it makes a big difference in how we represent them,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked what strategy she favors for bringing in revenue to repair dilapidated NYCHA public housing outside of tens of billions in federal funding, Niou also did not answer the question directly. Instead, she pointed to a bill proposed by Rep. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Velazquez to fully fund public housing, as well as the Green New Deal for Public Housing and the Build Back Better agenda that included tens of billions for NYCHA but has not passed through the Senate after passing the House.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The most important thing is that we find more and more mechanisms in order to be able to get those dollars to our state and to our public housing residents who are seeing that their homes are making them sick — no hot water, no heat, mold, lead, paint,” Niou said. “It's really, really devastating, every single time.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">[LISTEN to the full conversation:</span> <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11463-max-politics-podcast-yuh-line-niou-runs-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Max Politics Podcast: Yuh-Line Niou on Running for Congress in the New NY-10</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">]</span></p> <p>

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Rachel Cohen, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Despite Tens of Billions Proposed, NYCHA Again Left Out of Major Federal Funding Packages 2022-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 2022-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11511-despite-tens-of-billions-proposed-nycha-again-left-out-of-major-federal-funding-packages Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/billions-major-package.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>NYCHA left out in the cold again (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the Democrat-led federal government moves toward passage of another massive spending package, billions of dollars in much-needed funding to repair crumbling public housing, particularly at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), has again been left out.</p> <p>The U.S. Senate on Sunday passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a major spending bill that will invest hundreds of billions in climate action and clean energy, cut health care costs and raise taxes, reducing the overall federal deficit. But the bill excluded investments in public housing that were previously included in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better proposal, which the Inflation Reduction Act is considered by some to be a slimmed-down version of.</p> <p>The Inflation Reduction Act passed the Senate on a party-line vote with every Democrat voting for and every Republican voting against it, and is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives this week as well. It is being hailed by many, especially climate activists, as a massive victory for the country and by many pundits as politically advantageous for Democrats ahead of this fall’s congressional elections and the 2024 presidential race. The package includes hundreds of billions of dollars in funding, all offset by other parts of the plan, largely going toward the transition from fossil fuels to greener, renewable energy.</p> <p>The legislation came out of an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, with changes then insisted upon by Senator Krysten Sinema of Arizona. Manchin and Sinema were the main obstacles to getting more of the full Build Back Better agenda passed in the Senate, with concerns about overall spending, the national debt, and inflation. </p> <p>Though the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better proposal passed the House of Representatives, it stalled in the Senate. If it had been successful, it would have been a boon for public housing entities like NYCHA, which have seen decades of federal disinvestment. It included as much as $170 billion for housing, including $65 billion for public housing across the nation.</p> <p>In September of last year, Schumer made the case for a major federal investment in public housing. “There is a humanitarian crisis going on in public housing developments across New York City,” he wrote in an op-ed in City &amp; State. “Due to decades of disinvestment, many of the New York City Housing Authority’s properties have fallen into such a state of disrepair that the only solution is through big, bold, and transformative action by the federal government.” </p> <p>NYCHA has struggled for years due to a lack of funding and though its operational finances were brought into better standing by former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, it still has a capital backlog of roughly $40 billion in required maintenance and repairs. Much of the city’s public housing is crumbling around its roughly half a million residents across the five boroughs, with rampant issues related to basic structural damage both exterior and interior, leaky roofs, mold, broken doors and elevators, faulty heating systems, and more.</p> <p>U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a Brooklyn Democrat, also acknowledged NYCHA’s needs during her vote for the Build Back Better Act in November.</p> <p>“[F]ederal disinvestment in public housing has forced many residents of public housing across the country to live in accelerating substandard living conditions. In my home city of New York, residents suffer from consistent lack of hot water, insufficient heat during the winter months, rodent and insect infestations, broken elevators, and widespread and recurring lead and mold problems,” she said. “This legislation includes the largest single one-time investment ever made to HUD’s Public Housing Capital Fund will go a long way to clearing the backlog of repairs around the country.”</p> <p>Velázquez <a href="https://velazquez.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/velazquez-seeks-funding-critical-public-housing-repairs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">introduced a bill early in 2021</a>, the Public Housing Emergency Response Act, that would allocate $70 billion in public housing funding across the country for physical repairs and upgrades via that capital fund, including $32 billion for NYCHA. But, it has not moved, nor has it been incorporated into any package able to pass both houses of Congress.</p> <p>While city and state officials have been making some moves toward bringing in billions in capital repair revenue and getting repairs done at some public housing developments, the need far outstrips what has been done thus far, and few see a real solution without the federal government stepping in with at least tens of billions of dollars in direct funding.</p> <p>In this year’s $101 billion New York City budget, Mayor Eric Adams dedicated about $5 billion in additional funding to affordable housing over ten years, for a total $22 billion housing program that includes dedicated capital funding for NYCHA -- roughly $1 billion per year. Adams had previously pledged to invest as much as a total of $4 billion annually in affordable housing, including $1.5 billion for NYCHA, but did not follow through.<br /><br />Adams has repeatedly called on the federal government for greater assistance for NYCHA. In May, speaking at a news conference in favor of state legislation to create the NYCHA Preservation Trust that was later passed to help the authority raise more money for capital repairs, Adams said, “One thing that's clear, we need to stop playing with this. We're not getting money from the federal government this year. They're not. They already told us, ‘We are not concerned with NYCHA residents.’ They did not pass that $35 billion that we needed, so we must do it on our own. Here's a way to do it, the Trust. Let's get the Trust passed.”<br /><br />An Adams spokesperson declined to comment for this article. </p> <p>In June, the state Legislature passed that bill, creating the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust that would then convert up to 25,000 NYCHA units, out of a total of 176,000, into federal Section 8 housing units eligible for federal housing vouchers worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Crucially, the trust will also be able to issue bonds to raise billions more for repairs and maintenance.  </p> <p>Elected officials and advocates expressed disappointment that Congress may yet again fail to provide desperately needed funds that could help the more than 535,000 New Yorkers, mostly low-income people of color, who call NYCHA home. </p> <p>City Council Member Alexa Avilés, who chairs the Committee on Public Housing, praised Congress for addressing climate change in the IRA, but criticized the failure to fund housing. "Reconciliation offered a golden opportunity to fight for housing investments and public housing...But the need isn’t going anywhere," she said. "As far as I’m concerned, the US Senate – Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema most of all – owe public housing residents the full $65 billion."</p> <p>“It is beyond disappointing that Congress has left out public housing once again,” said Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, in an email. “Even with the passage of the Preservation Trust, NYCHA can utilize federal resources to make immediate repairs that will improve living conditions for residents and make buildings greener.” </p> <p>“There was little expectation that funding for NYCHA would be included in the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Jeffrey Maclin, a spokesperson for Community Service Society of New York, a nonprofit group. “However, if there was a silver lining to the failure of Build Back Better – which proposed investing billions to restore NYCHA’s infrastructure – it was recognition that we cannot solely rely on Washington to rescue NYCHA. That helped spur state creation of The NYCHA Preservation Trust, which represents a comprehensive strategy for preservation of our public housing in New York.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/billions-major-package.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>NYCHA left out in the cold again (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the Democrat-led federal government moves toward passage of another massive spending package, billions of dollars in much-needed funding to repair crumbling public housing, particularly at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), has again been left out.</p> <p>The U.S. Senate on Sunday passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a major spending bill that will invest hundreds of billions in climate action and clean energy, cut health care costs and raise taxes, reducing the overall federal deficit. But the bill excluded investments in public housing that were previously included in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better proposal, which the Inflation Reduction Act is considered by some to be a slimmed-down version of.</p> <p>The Inflation Reduction Act passed the Senate on a party-line vote with every Democrat voting for and every Republican voting against it, and is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives this week as well. It is being hailed by many, especially climate activists, as a massive victory for the country and by many pundits as politically advantageous for Democrats ahead of this fall’s congressional elections and the 2024 presidential race. The package includes hundreds of billions of dollars in funding, all offset by other parts of the plan, largely going toward the transition from fossil fuels to greener, renewable energy.</p> <p>The legislation came out of an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, with changes then insisted upon by Senator Krysten Sinema of Arizona. Manchin and Sinema were the main obstacles to getting more of the full Build Back Better agenda passed in the Senate, with concerns about overall spending, the national debt, and inflation. </p> <p>Though the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better proposal passed the House of Representatives, it stalled in the Senate. If it had been successful, it would have been a boon for public housing entities like NYCHA, which have seen decades of federal disinvestment. It included as much as $170 billion for housing, including $65 billion for public housing across the nation.</p> <p>In September of last year, Schumer made the case for a major federal investment in public housing. “There is a humanitarian crisis going on in public housing developments across New York City,” he wrote in an op-ed in City &amp; State. “Due to decades of disinvestment, many of the New York City Housing Authority’s properties have fallen into such a state of disrepair that the only solution is through big, bold, and transformative action by the federal government.” </p> <p>NYCHA has struggled for years due to a lack of funding and though its operational finances were brought into better standing by former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, it still has a capital backlog of roughly $40 billion in required maintenance and repairs. Much of the city’s public housing is crumbling around its roughly half a million residents across the five boroughs, with rampant issues related to basic structural damage both exterior and interior, leaky roofs, mold, broken doors and elevators, faulty heating systems, and more.</p> <p>U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a Brooklyn Democrat, also acknowledged NYCHA’s needs during her vote for the Build Back Better Act in November.</p> <p>“[F]ederal disinvestment in public housing has forced many residents of public housing across the country to live in accelerating substandard living conditions. In my home city of New York, residents suffer from consistent lack of hot water, insufficient heat during the winter months, rodent and insect infestations, broken elevators, and widespread and recurring lead and mold problems,” she said. “This legislation includes the largest single one-time investment ever made to HUD’s Public Housing Capital Fund will go a long way to clearing the backlog of repairs around the country.”</p> <p>Velázquez <a href="https://velazquez.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/velazquez-seeks-funding-critical-public-housing-repairs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">introduced a bill early in 2021</a>, the Public Housing Emergency Response Act, that would allocate $70 billion in public housing funding across the country for physical repairs and upgrades via that capital fund, including $32 billion for NYCHA. But, it has not moved, nor has it been incorporated into any package able to pass both houses of Congress.</p> <p>While city and state officials have been making some moves toward bringing in billions in capital repair revenue and getting repairs done at some public housing developments, the need far outstrips what has been done thus far, and few see a real solution without the federal government stepping in with at least tens of billions of dollars in direct funding.</p> <p>In this year’s $101 billion New York City budget, Mayor Eric Adams dedicated about $5 billion in additional funding to affordable housing over ten years, for a total $22 billion housing program that includes dedicated capital funding for NYCHA -- roughly $1 billion per year. Adams had previously pledged to invest as much as a total of $4 billion annually in affordable housing, including $1.5 billion for NYCHA, but did not follow through.<br /><br />Adams has repeatedly called on the federal government for greater assistance for NYCHA. In May, speaking at a news conference in favor of state legislation to create the NYCHA Preservation Trust that was later passed to help the authority raise more money for capital repairs, Adams said, “One thing that's clear, we need to stop playing with this. We're not getting money from the federal government this year. They're not. They already told us, ‘We are not concerned with NYCHA residents.’ They did not pass that $35 billion that we needed, so we must do it on our own. Here's a way to do it, the Trust. Let's get the Trust passed.”<br /><br />An Adams spokesperson declined to comment for this article. </p> <p>In June, the state Legislature passed that bill, creating the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust that would then convert up to 25,000 NYCHA units, out of a total of 176,000, into federal Section 8 housing units eligible for federal housing vouchers worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Crucially, the trust will also be able to issue bonds to raise billions more for repairs and maintenance.  </p> <p>Elected officials and advocates expressed disappointment that Congress may yet again fail to provide desperately needed funds that could help the more than 535,000 New Yorkers, mostly low-income people of color, who call NYCHA home. </p> <p>City Council Member Alexa Avilés, who chairs the Committee on Public Housing, praised Congress for addressing climate change in the IRA, but criticized the failure to fund housing. "Reconciliation offered a golden opportunity to fight for housing investments and public housing...But the need isn’t going anywhere," she said. "As far as I’m concerned, the US Senate – Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema most of all – owe public housing residents the full $65 billion."</p> <p>“It is beyond disappointing that Congress has left out public housing once again,” said Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, in an email. “Even with the passage of the Preservation Trust, NYCHA can utilize federal resources to make immediate repairs that will improve living conditions for residents and make buildings greener.” </p> <p>“There was little expectation that funding for NYCHA would be included in the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Jeffrey Maclin, a spokesperson for Community Service Society of New York, a nonprofit group. “However, if there was a silver lining to the failure of Build Back Better – which proposed investing billions to restore NYCHA’s infrastructure – it was recognition that we cannot solely rely on Washington to rescue NYCHA. That helped spur state creation of The NYCHA Preservation Trust, which represents a comprehensive strategy for preservation of our public housing in New York.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated. </p>
Transcript: Elizabeth Holtzman NY-10 Max Politics Interview 2022-08-06T04:00:00+00:00 2022-08-06T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11488-transcript-elizabeth-holtzman-ny-10-max-politics Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/liz-holtzman-600b.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Elizabeth Holtzman (photo: Holtzman campaign)</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Elizabeth Holtzman Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recorded July 26, 2022</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11480-max-politics-podcast-liz-holtzman-run-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Listen to the audio here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (</span><a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">see map here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Transcript:</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer intro…] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Elizabeth Holtzman, thank you very much for being here and taking the time. How are you today?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I'm fine. Thanks for having me.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright. So let's hear the broad strokes. We'll get into a lot of the details of your past and your vision for representing this district in Congress in the future, but the broad strokes in terms of what drew you to this race. Why are you running for Congress here in 2022?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I'm running for Congress because these are very dangerous times. We have a right wing out of control Supreme Court trying to take our rights away. We have a former president trying to get reelected as president through fraud and deceit. We have a MAGA Congress of Republicans threatening economic rights and climate and so forth, and enabling the out of control Supreme Court and our former president. In this time, when a new district was created, I live right in I think the geographical center of the district, I said to myself, ‘I'm not a sidelines person. This country is in danger, and I have the background, the skills, the know how, the guts to take these dangers on and try to defeat them.’ And that's what distinguishes me from my colleagues, and that's the motivation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If we were in normal times, I wouldn't be running for Congress now. I'd be on some kind of vacation. But the fact of the matter is, I don't want to look at myself in the mirror as we go downhill towards authoritarianism and worse, and say to myself, ‘I did nothing about it.’ And the fact of the matter is what I bring to this is eight years of experience in Congress. I was chair of a subcommittee, I got many bills through.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most importantly, I took on Nixon, and I took on the anti-democratic forces at that time. I was also Brooklyn District Attorney, the first woman in New York City ever to be elected district attorney. And I took on all kinds of issues dealing with crime and violence against women. I was comptroller of New York City, where I helped to finance affordable housing, took on issues of climate, to gun issues, to pollution. So I come with a lot of experience and know how, but most importantly, I'm a practical person, and I want to get things done. I don't want to go to Congress to issue press releases, to stand in front of press conferences. I want to get things done for the people of this district and for the country.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">You mentioned having been in Congress during the Watergate scandal, taking on Nixon in the Judiciary Committee. Are there lessons that the country learned then that have been forgotten now in this Trump era. Obviously, two impeachment of Donald Trump where he was acquitted by the Senate both times, but trying to undermine the election results of 2020, a number of scandals, obviously, and you mentioned some of those attempts and some of those forces. Your experience during the Nixon years, are there lessons the country learned that had been forgotten that people need to be reminded of, or are we looking at very different situations here?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, in some respects, the situations are very similar. You had presidents out of control. But we had an advantage, which was in part that the Department of Justice, actually through a special prosecutor, was moving against the president. Now we do not have that, and as you know, the Mueller investigation, when he wrote his report, was basically maligned and mischaracterized by Attorney General William Barr, who said that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, had exonerated Trump.  That was a lie. That wasn't true. And a judge said that it was misleading as well. So here we had the public being told by the Justice Department that Trump did nothing wrong, that he was exonerated in connection with the Russia matter, and then after that, there's been no investigation of him, and there's been no investigation of his conduct in connection with the insurrection.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Merrick Garland has to read history. If he can't remember it, he has to read about it. The Constitution explicitly allows for the prosecution of someone who leaves office for misconduct or criminality in office. You can’t ignore that. You can't say, ‘Oh, maybe this is not good for the country. Oh, maybe we have to have healing. Oh, maybe you have to be nice to Republicans.’ That's not what the framers said. The framers said, ‘A president does something bad, the president’s a criminal, the president is open to prosecution.’ So why are we ignoring that, aAnd why are we ignoring what the Nixon process taught us? Which is that when Nixon left office, he basically never came back. Why? Because every one of his top aides was put in jail because he himself was named as an unindicted co-conspirator. Because the criminal justice process worked against him, as well as the congressional process. The smoking gun tape came from a grand jury subpoena. Where are those subpoenas today? Merrick Garland has to wake up.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">It'll be very interesting, obviously, to see what the Department of Justice does here, especially as we continue to watch these hearings.</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">All I'm saying is that the insurrection took place on January 6. Our impeachment Inquiry was basically over and the smoking gun tape was released only a few days from now in 1974, almost 50 years ago. So, where’s Merrick Garland? That's what I'm saying, By this time, where are the top aides that have been indicted? Really. I mean, finally, we get someone who's in contempt, but those people Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, were prosecuted and convicted and sent to jail for substantive crimes, not for refusing to testify. </span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">This speaks to one of the pitches you're making and the reason you said you're running here for Congress, which is unique times and your unique background, as you said just a minute ago. If it weren't the current circumstances, you'd be on vacation somewhere. Say more about what makes you unique and what your pitches to voters here in this crowded competitive primary. You have a number of accomplished colleagues running, competitors running, people who are currently in office, both in Congress, City Council, State Legislature. What sets you apart?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, with all due respect, I mean the City Council is not the U.S. Congress, and neither is the State Legislature in Albany. So nobody aside from one candidate who is from upstate New York, and who is in his first term in Congress has any experience with the U.S. Congress. I was in Congress for eight years. I had a huge record of legislative accomplishments. So that's one thing I can bring. I would not be in this race if I didn't think I had something special to contribute, and that's what people are telling me on the streets, that's why they're supporting me, because they know my record, not just of standing up and speaking out, but of getting things done. Hust take my first term in the U.S. Congress, I brought a lawsuit to stop the Cambodia bombing. It was a landmark lawsuit and we won in the lower court and we won from Justice Douglas. President Nixon had proposed a State Secrets Act. My very first bill stopped that act from going into effect. If it had gone into effect, maybe we never would have found out about Watergate. I uncovered the presence of Nazi war criminals in the United States and started a decades-long action to bring them to justice. That's just in my first two years of Congress. So I'm just saying that there's a record of accomplishment that is really unmatched, and I'm just bringing it to the people of my district, of this district, hope to be my district, because we we need somebody who can take on this court, who's not just going to grandstand, but who actually has a record of accomplishment and knows how to get things through Congress and knows how to go outside the Congress. And so that's what I bring.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Say more about what that would look like, take us forward now. You're elected, let's say for the sake of this discussion you're part of a Democratic majority. That's obviously not a given and is a pretty uphill battle. But let's say you're in the majority, what does that look like? What are the ways in which you would be able to exercise that experience, that creativity? What can you tell people that would be sort of top of the agenda and the ways that you would follow through on that pitch?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">OK, well, not necessarily in order, but one of the things that people are very concerned about is gun violence, and I've been concerned about it since the first time it was in Congress and as DA. Because you put a gun in someone's hand, all of a sudden, they're no longer a coward, they're a killer, and we've suffered too much with that. And it's the kind of chain that goes or tunnel or pathway that goes from the south is driving all these illegal guns into our city. We've got to do something to stop it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One of the things I want to see, I mean, even with the Democratic majority, we may not be able to get any legislation through Congress on this issue. Of course, I would support a ban on assault weapons, large magazines, excess handguns, and also requiring gun manufacturers to become liable. In fact, the first bill that was introduced, one of the first bills in the country holding gun manufacturers liable, was one that I introduced when I was comptroller. But what I think needs to be done, aside from if you can get legislation through, great, I don't think so, but I'm going to fight like hell to get that done. But we need to start asking the federal government and state governments that buy billions of dollars in munitions from gun manufacturers to start saying the gun manufacturers, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Don't sell assault weapons. You want our business? Don't sell assault weapons,’ or if they don't manufacture assault weapons, ‘Hey, you want our business? Do not sell so many guns into the illegal channels that will get to New York City and kill people.’ That that kind of thing is actually happening in a private lawsuit. In connection with that gun slaughter that took place in Connecticut several years ago. The gun manufacturers agreed to have the gun to monitor the sales of guns. So why can't the federal government do that? We don't need legislation to make them do that. You just need someone who has that smart idea and says, ‘Let's do something about this.’ And so let's use our power, the leverage of all these purchases, to get gun manufacturers to change their behavior. That would be one of the top items on my agenda, as well as legislation in that area.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The second thing I'd want to do is deal with affordable housing because I had some experiences, comptroller in that area. We financed, when I was comptroller, tens of thousands of units of affordable housing using the city's pension funds without any risk to those funds. We could try to replicate that not only around the country, but also enhance and broaden those programs in places like New York. That's something I'd like to do because I haven't experienced doing it, and because it works. And we need to repair our existing housing stock of affordable housing, and we need to create additional affordable housing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And the third area I'd like to work on is the environment. I mean, I'm an avid kayaker, and I know when I see the trees that are dying on the shoreline, that's a direct result of climate change because of the rising sea levels and the salt that now gets into the roots of these trees that were able to live on the shoreline 10, 12, even five years ago. So we don't have to go to Greenland and we don't have to go to the North Pole to find the consequences of these rising water levels here right in New York. So I want to take on that issue and try to get the president to take actions himself and also legislation if it's at all possible to reduce the subsidies for the fossil fuel companies to audit. This doesn't require legislation to audit whether those fossil fuel companies are paying the federal government the proper share of royalties that they owe the government. No one really audits them, it's kind of a self regulating system that never in my judgment works properly. But that's the kind of thing if we got money from those programs, if we could stop the subsidies or reduce the subsidies and get more money from the audits, we could use that money, for example, for mass transit. We can use that money for charging stations for electric cars. So there are things that we could do right now.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">You expressed some frustration with the Department of Justice, Attorney General Merrick Garland. There's been a lot of frustration directed in that same direction, but also at Democratic leadership at the national level. President Joe Biden, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who obviously is from your neck of the woods in Brooklyn and I'm sure you know quite well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Those three, the three major Democratic leaders right now. What do you make of their leadership and how they're approaching issues like the filibuster, like using more executive powers to respond to the Supreme Court rulings on Roe and other issues? What do you make of the Democratic leadership at the national level right now? And what would your message to them be if you are in the next Congress? </span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I need to be a little bit cautious. First of all, with regard to President Biden, we came to Congress at the same time, so I've known him and we've known each other for a very, very long time. I’ve known him probably before his wife met him. So he's a very decent person, he's a caring person, and this country owes him a debt of gratitude that can never be erased no matter what he does when he beat Donald Trump, denied Trump another term of office. He saved this country from fascism. So I'm just very indebted to Joe Biden.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Is their messaging proper? No, I think Biden has done some important things. Could he do more? Could he have gotten his act together more quickly, for example, on when the Supreme Court decision on abortion came out? They should have had a to do list ready and had all the things they were going to do. They didn't, OK, but they're gonna get it ready, and he will act appropriately about that. So I mean I'm not really frustrated. The president's got a lot on his mind. He's got a war going on in Ukraine. He's got China breathing down his neck and Taiwan, and he's got Joe Manchin saying first he's gonna help on some bills and then changing his mind. I mean, it's been tough. Plus he’s got a mess that was left to him by Trump, so I'm not going to attack him, certainly not yet. And as far as Chuck Schumer, Chuck Schumer took my seat in the House when I ran for Senate, and I think he's been trying to do a good job in the Senate. People say, ‘Well, he hasn't ended the filibuster.’ Well, you need votes, you need votes for that. And you don't even have all the votes on the Democratic side, so how are you going to do that? You can't just wave a magic wand and then all of a sudden, things happen. It doesn't happen that way. Nancy Pelosi, you have to give her an enormous amount of credit. Actually, if you go back to the Affordable Care Act that Obama proposed, if it hadn't been for her leadership and her stewardship, that legislation may have never passed the House of Representatives. We owe that to her. She's a very effective, very savvy person. Do I agree with her 100% of the time? I don't necessarily agree with myself 100% of the time. I’m not going to criticize her leadership. I think we have a lot to be thankful for.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are Democrats who sort of are miffed that Biden and Schumer particularly haven't been able to sort of figure out what to give Joe Manchin to get him on board with some some version of the Build Back Better agenda, even if it's extremely slimmed down, you know, some major climate action and some other things. He's obviously shifted the goalposts numerous times it seems, and Manchin seems particularly challenging to negotiate with. But are you of that mind that you sort of are a little bit miffed as to how the president and the Senate Majority Leader haven't been able to sort of figure out what to just give Manchin to get something big done on another set of policy priorities here?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, that may mean nothing to give Manchin. I mean, I'm sure they're trying. It's very easy to sit on the outside and poke holes in what people are doing, but you don't know all the offers that have been made. We don't know that, and I feel reluctant to criticize the president for that because I just don't know enough about what Manchin has been offered and what he's turned down. And he's been a very slippery person. It seems to me, some people might even say he's trying to get publicity every time he turns the president down, leads him on and then turns him down. So I think it's a very dicey situation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The real problem here is that not enough Democrats turned out in the presidential election to vote for the lower ranks of candidates, and so we got, you know, a 50/50 split in the Senate and a very narrow majority in the House. And we've got to do better. Democrats who care about it. I mean, it's one thing to attack Biden, but you really want to do something about it? Elect more Democrats to office. Make contributions, even if it's $1, or two, or five, or 20. Let's get Democrats elected — That's the way you're going to give power to Schumer and to Biden and to Nancy Pelosi to get through an agenda that we really need on climate, on guns, on women's rights.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let's come back to your decision to run in this race and how the race is shaping up. There's obviously some limited polling out there and some of it shows that you've got a solid start here. And with just a few weeks to go, the largest percentage in all the polls we've seen is undecided. What do you make of the lay of the land in the race and what's your thinking on your path to victory? And I mean that in terms of there's probably some solid constituency who has known you in the district for a long time and remembers your work in Congress and perhaps as Brooklyn district attorney and New York City Comptroller. And then you obviously need to grow from that. Who are the Elizabeth Holtzman voters that you're particularly trying to appeal to, and how do you see your path to victory here over the next few weeks?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, given the expected low turnout in this district, I don't know that it'll be low turnout, but if there's a very low turnout, I might be able to win just with the people who voted for me in the past. I wouldn't discount that or minimize that, and not only that, but I'm joking a little bit. But the truth of the matter is, I have been so surprised and energized by the response I'm getting from voters on the street. People who know my record, who know what I stand for, are so enthusiastic about my candidacy. It's really great. Sometimes people even scream when they meet me, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ it's wonderful, it's a little embarrassing. So I think the first thing we have to do is to make sure that everybody in the district knows I'm running, and those people who support me know that I'm running, and we have to make sure that they vote — that's the critical thing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Second thing is, of course, to expand that base of support to other people. People who know my record are very impressed by it. For example, I'm the only one in this race who Gloria Steinem is supporting. She's not a politician, she's not supporting me because she's going to be working with me next year in the City Council or in the State Legislature or in Congress or whatever. She's supporting me because of all of my decades of work of fighting for women's rights and never giving up. She knows me, and I'm really so honored by her endorsement. So I really think that when people know the record, they know that, for example, when I was DA, I was the only district Attorney in america, not just in New York City, in America, to call on the Supreme Court to ban racial discrimination in jury selection. Nobody would join with me in that. But we were able to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to ban that and the Supreme Court acknowledged the work of my office in a footnote in their decision banning the use of peremptory challenges on a racial basis. So I mean, that's the kind of person I was, I mean, when I was in Congress, I mentioned it earlier.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In my very first year, I found out that there were Nazi war criminals living in America and spewing out their hatred and their vitriol, not to mention making an example of their criminal conduct. So nobody wants to deal with that problem. Nobody cared. Not only did I expose a problem, I didn’t just have a press conference. I worked on the problem until there was a new law that strengthened our ability to deport these people, and also got a special unit set up in the Department of Justice. When I was New York City Comptroller on climate, the mayor, who was a Democrat, proposed building nine new polluting incinerators. I worked with all the major environmental groups in New York, we got together, I organized them together, and we took on this proposal. We put an end to the proposal and that in and of itself led to the shutdown of every single polluting incinerator, municipal incinerator, New York City. That's my record, it's right out there. If people don’t want that, don't vote for me. But if people want someone who knows how to get things done, is prepared to stand up to no matter who, and is prepared to take on bad guys. That's me.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I see in some other interviews you're getting a version of this question. And one of the sort of criticisms you're getting in running this race is you had this accomplished career. There's a bunch of young, dynamic, Democratic progressive candidates in the race. Why potentially block one of them if you're able to be successful?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Excuse me? Why should they block me? And why should they block, no, just turn that question right around. You can’t just say I’m blocking them. They're blocking each other. They're running against each other. I'm just bringing something different from all of them in this race. I think the voters should have a choice, and the idea that someone of my age can't do the job. Well, there's some people when I ran for DA, there was a bias about women in office. I remember going campaigning when I was running for DA for the first time in Brooklyn, first time in New York City that a woman was running, voters came to me said ‘Liz, you know we love you. Great record in Congress, and we voted for you for Congress. And so forth the Senate, blah, blah. But this is not a job for a woman.’ They thought it was too tough for a woman to be DA. Well, after I was DA, they said ‘Do you know something? Women can be a DA.’ That question never came up again, never came up in Brooklyn, and didn't really come up in New York City because that preconception went out the window.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think as soon as people see that I've got the energy and the guts, the intellectual ability, and the physical ability to do this job, then they're not going to judge me on basis of how many years pass by chronologically, how tall I am, how much I weigh, the color of my eyes, no. They're going to try to assess, am I someone who's going to fight for them? When the chips are down, am I going to fight for them? And is anyone going to buy me off or stop me from doing that? And am I going to fight for them, not just stand up and fight for them, but fight in a way that's going to produce results? That's what people want, and I think that's how people are going to vote.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Just to be clear, I was not questioning your ability to do the job. It was more a question about the decision whether or not to sort of say, ‘OK, the next generation is coming up and I'll you know let the next congressperson be from the next generation’ or something along those lines. But point taken.</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">But maybe if we weren't in this emergency time, that point would resonate. But it's not resonating with me now because I know how close we're coming to fascism in this country. And everybody basically knows that except the MAGA Republicans, and so we can't go around with business as usual. That's not what's needed now, and I think people in this district understand tha, and that's why I'm running. And I don’t need on the job training.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Do you get a sense of ageism in some of the criticism you're getting?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">No, not from the voters. When I go out on the streets, when people see me in the middle of that hot sun, campaigning, handing out leaflets, talking to people, walking around. She can can do the job now. </span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">What about from your competitors? </span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, none of my competitors have said that to me to my face. I don't know what they say behind my back.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">No, no, I haven’t heard anything. I’m just not at every forum or every block party or wherever you might bump into some competitors or be on the stage with them. Alright, so say a little bit about what you've been doing since leaving elected office. I You've been involved in some appointed positions, but you've also been in some private practice. Tell folks just a few highlights of sort of that private sector work and what you've been up to in the recent decades?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, as people may know, I'm a lawyer. I was one of the women in a very small group of women admitted to Harvard Law School when I went there. There was a quota on the admission of women when I went to Harvard Law School. Anyway, so I've been practicing law, but people just won't let me practice law quietly, so I've been asked to be on several commissions, federal panels. President Clinton appointed me to a panel dealing with secret classified U.S. records on Nazi war criminals. The U.S. government had worked with Nazi war criminals. It was a secret and ugly history, and that required declassifying documents in the possession of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. And I was one of three members on a panel overseeing that declassification effort — one of the biggest in this country's history.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then I was asked more recently to serve on two panels dealing with sexual assault in the military. That was very interesting. We had to deal with reviewing the military code of justice. We had to review different kinds of procedures that were in the military, some of which did not protect victims properly, and they were trial procedures that were not, in some cases, adequate. So we had to review the entire way in which sexual assault victims were treated, and the process took place, and write reports on it, and make recommendations. That was a lot of work, and I was very privileged to be part of that. I hope we made a difference. And then of course here in New York, I was asked to serve on the transition committee for the Attorney General Tish James and then also for Ken Thompson who became DA in Brooklyn and sadly died not too long after he took office. So I've kept my hand in government, not so much in politics since then.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">You could probably list 20 of these, but name one very sort of hyper local issue in the 10th congressional district that you would really pay close attention to. Obviously, listeners here and I heard you speak broadly about climate and housing and gun violence. Those are obviously broad, sweeping issues, but in terms of like a local issue of concern to one of the communities in this NY-10 district, what's something sort of top of mind that you would look to take on in Congress, whether it's securing more funding for something or it's changing regulation, or whatever it might be sort of a hyperlocal neighborhood community issue that's top of the agenda for you?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, not hyperlocal, but pretty local is the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, which it's a toxic site. It's one of the most polluted areas in the country, and that pollution is something that doesn't stay right in the canal. It affects the surrounding neighborhoods. There's a lot of development going on in connection with that, and there's a cleanup of the canal. There's some environmentalists and local activists who were concerned about that. I want to understand the issues in depth. I want to deal with, if a cleanup is not proper, you can be sure I'm going to fight tooth and nail. I mean, that's one of the reasons that we fought that incinerator plan. We actually went out, my office actually went out, and tested the burn temperatures of the existing incinerators and we saw that the burn temperatures were too low to burn off dioxin, which meant that dioxin was being released right into our own communities in New York City. Wll, we publicized that, and we got that plant shut down,and we got those incinerators shut down. And that's the kind of thing I'm going to do. I'm going to find out the facts. I'm going to meet with the community. And I'm going to try to make sure that whatever cleanup that takes place there is thorough and proper and broadly acceptable scientifically and environmentally.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">You're listening to Max Politics here with Ben Max. We're in our last few minutes with Elizabeth Holtzman who's running for Congress in the new 10th congressional district in New York, which includes a large section of Lower Manhattan and a swath of Brooklyn, including neighborhoods in downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus, Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Borough Park, and more. Just a few last questions here. A couple of sort of short answer questions I'm asking all the NY-10 candidates that I'm talking with are these following a few. Do you think it's time for the Rikers Island jail complex to be under a federal receivership? There's a monitor, there's some debate with the Adams administration about how much time they should have to enact their reform plans and whether there will be a federal takeover of the jails. Do you think it's time for that, or do you think more time for the Adams administration to turn things around is warranted?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think it's long past time for the federal government to have taken over Rikers Island. I'm sure that the mayor is doing this in all good faith, even though the Corrections Department and they're committed to do the right thing, someone after the court denied a federal takeover, someone else died. I mean, that's unacceptable. We cannot have people dying because corrections officers or this system in the jails is not adequate to provide proper medical care. We cannot have that happen. That's unacceptable, and it's been going on too long. So as far as I'm concerned, something's wrong with what happened with the monitor. The monitor should have been out there screaming and yelling. I don't know why the federal government wasn't more insistent. Maybe they should have thought about appealing the order of the judge, but I think it's an emergency situation when people are dying, and unnecessarily so. And I don't know what the city government is doing about it. Maybe they ought to be taking some more action with the City Council and state government, where were they in all of this? So I really just think that the action should have been taken before, and it's too late. I mean, it's not too late. It's delayed. It should have been done, and it still can be done and should.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">The New York City Housing Authority, public housing, obviously, there's a federal monitor there as well. There's tens of billions of dollars that have been part of different drafts of the Build Back Better plan that we were discussing earlier. There's a lot of hope that somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 to $40 billion would be heading to NYCHA from the federal government for much needed capital repairs. But short of that type of immense funding, is there a NYCHA revenue-generating strategy that you support? There's a variety of methods that are either partly underway right now or that have been long debated. Is there anything to bring revenue in for NYCHA repairs that you're particularly supportive of that isn't just the federal government sending an immense amount of aid?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I mean, I have to study the various proposals further. I think they should be reviewed. But I think one of the things that has to also be examined very carefully is how the money that they're already getting is being spent and how those repairs are being done right now. I mean there is maintenance going on right now, but it's apparently quite horrible and totally inadequate. So a lot has to be done with regard to public housing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Years ago, public housing was a gem, not just for New York City, but for the country, providing safe, clean, affordable housing to people in need in New York, and that's what it has to be and it's been neglected for too long. It's going to be something that I will pay attention to, and if I can be helpful, you bet I will be. I think we can look for new sources of money, that's important, but we also have to make sure that the monies that we're spending are being spent properly. I mean, what I mentioned to you before about auditing oil company royalty payments. Right now, we're subsidizing the oil industry in many ways, and one of the ways that we may be subsidizing them is they pay a certain royalty on the gas and oil they withdraw from federal lands, but nobody's auditing them. So how do we know that they're telling us the truth? I mean there could be billions involved there. We can't just let money go without checking and that's the kind of thing I think we need to be doing because you've got that money, you could then use it for mass transit, you can use it maybe for non-climate cleanups things, such as housing.We need the money and we can use it, we can put it to very good news. But we got to make sure also that the money is used properly when it gets to the object.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I mentioned in the introduction that former Mayor de Blasio dropped out of this race recently. You've seen a lot obviously in your time and in your government tenure and since. What do you make of what happened to his prospects and his political standing? This was obviously someone ushered into office as a progressive response to the Bloomberg years. He had eight years as mayor, which until the covid crisis, he had many advantages in a robust economy and low crime. And now he enters this congressional race and drops out after receiving so little support in an area that includes his original political home base in Park Slope. Any sort of takeaways that you have of that arc for him and what sort of went so wrong for him?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I don't really want to comment about Mr. de Blasio. I like to talk more about questions about what can be done in the district and what needs to be addressed. I mean one of the other issues that has come up has to do with this new park that's going to be created on the Lower East Side that apparently is designed to be very resilient. In the process, 500 trees were cut down. I mean to me, cutting down trees, why are we doing that?</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think most, if not all, were being moved as part of the construction process. </span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">No, no, no, no, no. You can’t replace old trees with new trees. Read a book called “The Hidden Life of Trees” and that'll tell you that it's not a substitute. And I just remember when I was a congresswoman and the Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Transportation, wanted to give us money to repair Ocean Parkway, which is a beautiful street design by one of the great designers in our country's history. He designed Central Park and Prospect Park. They said, ‘Oh, well, we're going to put up jersey barriers and we're going to cut down the trees. And guess what? I said, ‘You're going to do the highway and you're going to repave Ocean Parkway and make it a beautiful street, but you're not cutting down one tree.’ And that's what happened. So if you put your foot down about cutting down trees, you can succeed.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Your understanding is that a major resiliency project there could have been done without cutting down trees.</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I don't know that it could have been. All I know is that if I were a congressperson, and somebody came to me with a project that involved cutting down 500 trees, I'd look at it not once and twice. I'd look at it 100 times before I went ahead with something like that. And I'll tell you something, if you tell people they can't cut down the trees, they can always figure out another way to do it.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright, well, we will leave it there. Interesting thoughts from Elizabeth Holtzman, my guest today. Thank you for taking the time. Elizabeth Holzman is of course a former member of Congress, former Brooklyn District Attorney, former New York City Comptroller and now a candidate for Congress again in the new 10th congressional district of New York spanning parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Thank you for the time and be well.</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thank you very much.</span></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/liz-holtzman-600b.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Elizabeth Holtzman (photo: Holtzman campaign)</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Elizabeth Holtzman Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recorded July 26, 2022</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11480-max-politics-podcast-liz-holtzman-run-congress-ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Listen to the audio here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (</span><a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">see map here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Transcript:</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer intro…] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Elizabeth Holtzman, thank you very much for being here and taking the time. How are you today?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I'm fine. Thanks for having me.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright. So let's hear the broad strokes. We'll get into a lot of the details of your past and your vision for representing this district in Congress in the future, but the broad strokes in terms of what drew you to this race. Why are you running for Congress here in 2022?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I'm running for Congress because these are very dangerous times. We have a right wing out of control Supreme Court trying to take our rights away. We have a former president trying to get reelected as president through fraud and deceit. We have a MAGA Congress of Republicans threatening economic rights and climate and so forth, and enabling the out of control Supreme Court and our former president. In this time, when a new district was created, I live right in I think the geographical center of the district, I said to myself, ‘I'm not a sidelines person. This country is in danger, and I have the background, the skills, the know how, the guts to take these dangers on and try to defeat them.’ And that's what distinguishes me from my colleagues, and that's the motivation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If we were in normal times, I wouldn't be running for Congress now. I'd be on some kind of vacation. But the fact of the matter is, I don't want to look at myself in the mirror as we go downhill towards authoritarianism and worse, and say to myself, ‘I did nothing about it.’ And the fact of the matter is what I bring to this is eight years of experience in Congress. I was chair of a subcommittee, I got many bills through.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most importantly, I took on Nixon, and I took on the anti-democratic forces at that time. I was also Brooklyn District Attorney, the first woman in New York City ever to be elected district attorney. And I took on all kinds of issues dealing with crime and violence against women. I was comptroller of New York City, where I helped to finance affordable housing, took on issues of climate, to gun issues, to pollution. So I come with a lot of experience and know how, but most importantly, I'm a practical person, and I want to get things done. I don't want to go to Congress to issue press releases, to stand in front of press conferences. I want to get things done for the people of this district and for the country.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">You mentioned having been in Congress during the Watergate scandal, taking on Nixon in the Judiciary Committee. Are there lessons that the country learned then that have been forgotten now in this Trump era. Obviously, two impeachment of Donald Trump where he was acquitted by the Senate both times, but trying to undermine the election results of 2020, a number of scandals, obviously, and you mentioned some of those attempts and some of those forces. Your experience during the Nixon years, are there lessons the country learned that had been forgotten that people need to be reminded of, or are we looking at very different situations here?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, in some respects, the situations are very similar. You had presidents out of control. But we had an advantage, which was in part that the Department of Justice, actually through a special prosecutor, was moving against the president. Now we do not have that, and as you know, the Mueller investigation, when he wrote his report, was basically maligned and mischaracterized by Attorney General William Barr, who said that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, had exonerated Trump.  That was a lie. That wasn't true. And a judge said that it was misleading as well. So here we had the public being told by the Justice Department that Trump did nothing wrong, that he was exonerated in connection with the Russia matter, and then after that, there's been no investigation of him, and there's been no investigation of his conduct in connection with the insurrection.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Merrick Garland has to read history. If he can't remember it, he has to read about it. The Constitution explicitly allows for the prosecution of someone who leaves office for misconduct or criminality in office. You can’t ignore that. You can't say, ‘Oh, maybe this is not good for the country. Oh, maybe we have to have healing. Oh, maybe you have to be nice to Republicans.’ That's not what the framers said. The framers said, ‘A president does something bad, the president’s a criminal, the president is open to prosecution.’ So why are we ignoring that, aAnd why are we ignoring what the Nixon process taught us? Which is that when Nixon left office, he basically never came back. Why? Because every one of his top aides was put in jail because he himself was named as an unindicted co-conspirator. Because the criminal justice process worked against him, as well as the congressional process. The smoking gun tape came from a grand jury subpoena. Where are those subpoenas today? Merrick Garland has to wake up.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">It'll be very interesting, obviously, to see what the Department of Justice does here, especially as we continue to watch these hearings.</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">All I'm saying is that the insurrection took place on January 6. Our impeachment Inquiry was basically over and the smoking gun tape was released only a few days from now in 1974, almost 50 years ago. So, where’s Merrick Garland? That's what I'm saying, By this time, where are the top aides that have been indicted? Really. I mean, finally, we get someone who's in contempt, but those people Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, were prosecuted and convicted and sent to jail for substantive crimes, not for refusing to testify. </span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">This speaks to one of the pitches you're making and the reason you said you're running here for Congress, which is unique times and your unique background, as you said just a minute ago. If it weren't the current circumstances, you'd be on vacation somewhere. Say more about what makes you unique and what your pitches to voters here in this crowded competitive primary. You have a number of accomplished colleagues running, competitors running, people who are currently in office, both in Congress, City Council, State Legislature. What sets you apart?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, with all due respect, I mean the City Council is not the U.S. Congress, and neither is the State Legislature in Albany. So nobody aside from one candidate who is from upstate New York, and who is in his first term in Congress has any experience with the U.S. Congress. I was in Congress for eight years. I had a huge record of legislative accomplishments. So that's one thing I can bring. I would not be in this race if I didn't think I had something special to contribute, and that's what people are telling me on the streets, that's why they're supporting me, because they know my record, not just of standing up and speaking out, but of getting things done. Hust take my first term in the U.S. Congress, I brought a lawsuit to stop the Cambodia bombing. It was a landmark lawsuit and we won in the lower court and we won from Justice Douglas. President Nixon had proposed a State Secrets Act. My very first bill stopped that act from going into effect. If it had gone into effect, maybe we never would have found out about Watergate. I uncovered the presence of Nazi war criminals in the United States and started a decades-long action to bring them to justice. That's just in my first two years of Congress. So I'm just saying that there's a record of accomplishment that is really unmatched, and I'm just bringing it to the people of my district, of this district, hope to be my district, because we we need somebody who can take on this court, who's not just going to grandstand, but who actually has a record of accomplishment and knows how to get things through Congress and knows how to go outside the Congress. And so that's what I bring.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Say more about what that would look like, take us forward now. You're elected, let's say for the sake of this discussion you're part of a Democratic majority. That's obviously not a given and is a pretty uphill battle. But let's say you're in the majority, what does that look like? What are the ways in which you would be able to exercise that experience, that creativity? What can you tell people that would be sort of top of the agenda and the ways that you would follow through on that pitch?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">OK, well, not necessarily in order, but one of the things that people are very concerned about is gun violence, and I've been concerned about it since the first time it was in Congress and as DA. Because you put a gun in someone's hand, all of a sudden, they're no longer a coward, they're a killer, and we've suffered too much with that. And it's the kind of chain that goes or tunnel or pathway that goes from the south is driving all these illegal guns into our city. We've got to do something to stop it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One of the things I want to see, I mean, even with the Democratic majority, we may not be able to get any legislation through Congress on this issue. Of course, I would support a ban on assault weapons, large magazines, excess handguns, and also requiring gun manufacturers to become liable. In fact, the first bill that was introduced, one of the first bills in the country holding gun manufacturers liable, was one that I introduced when I was comptroller. But what I think needs to be done, aside from if you can get legislation through, great, I don't think so, but I'm going to fight like hell to get that done. But we need to start asking the federal government and state governments that buy billions of dollars in munitions from gun manufacturers to start saying the gun manufacturers, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Don't sell assault weapons. You want our business? Don't sell assault weapons,’ or if they don't manufacture assault weapons, ‘Hey, you want our business? Do not sell so many guns into the illegal channels that will get to New York City and kill people.’ That that kind of thing is actually happening in a private lawsuit. In connection with that gun slaughter that took place in Connecticut several years ago. The gun manufacturers agreed to have the gun to monitor the sales of guns. So why can't the federal government do that? We don't need legislation to make them do that. You just need someone who has that smart idea and says, ‘Let's do something about this.’ And so let's use our power, the leverage of all these purchases, to get gun manufacturers to change their behavior. That would be one of the top items on my agenda, as well as legislation in that area.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The second thing I'd want to do is deal with affordable housing because I had some experiences, comptroller in that area. We financed, when I was comptroller, tens of thousands of units of affordable housing using the city's pension funds without any risk to those funds. We could try to replicate that not only around the country, but also enhance and broaden those programs in places like New York. That's something I'd like to do because I haven't experienced doing it, and because it works. And we need to repair our existing housing stock of affordable housing, and we need to create additional affordable housing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And the third area I'd like to work on is the environment. I mean, I'm an avid kayaker, and I know when I see the trees that are dying on the shoreline, that's a direct result of climate change because of the rising sea levels and the salt that now gets into the roots of these trees that were able to live on the shoreline 10, 12, even five years ago. So we don't have to go to Greenland and we don't have to go to the North Pole to find the consequences of these rising water levels here right in New York. So I want to take on that issue and try to get the president to take actions himself and also legislation if it's at all possible to reduce the subsidies for the fossil fuel companies to audit. This doesn't require legislation to audit whether those fossil fuel companies are paying the federal government the proper share of royalties that they owe the government. No one really audits them, it's kind of a self regulating system that never in my judgment works properly. But that's the kind of thing if we got money from those programs, if we could stop the subsidies or reduce the subsidies and get more money from the audits, we could use that money, for example, for mass transit. We can use that money for charging stations for electric cars. So there are things that we could do right now.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">You expressed some frustration with the Department of Justice, Attorney General Merrick Garland. There's been a lot of frustration directed in that same direction, but also at Democratic leadership at the national level. President Joe Biden, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who obviously is from your neck of the woods in Brooklyn and I'm sure you know quite well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Those three, the three major Democratic leaders right now. What do you make of their leadership and how they're approaching issues like the filibuster, like using more executive powers to respond to the Supreme Court rulings on Roe and other issues? What do you make of the Democratic leadership at the national level right now? And what would your message to them be if you are in the next Congress? </span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I need to be a little bit cautious. First of all, with regard to President Biden, we came to Congress at the same time, so I've known him and we've known each other for a very, very long time. I’ve known him probably before his wife met him. So he's a very decent person, he's a caring person, and this country owes him a debt of gratitude that can never be erased no matter what he does when he beat Donald Trump, denied Trump another term of office. He saved this country from fascism. So I'm just very indebted to Joe Biden.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Is their messaging proper? No, I think Biden has done some important things. Could he do more? Could he have gotten his act together more quickly, for example, on when the Supreme Court decision on abortion came out? They should have had a to do list ready and had all the things they were going to do. They didn't, OK, but they're gonna get it ready, and he will act appropriately about that. So I mean I'm not really frustrated. The president's got a lot on his mind. He's got a war going on in Ukraine. He's got China breathing down his neck and Taiwan, and he's got Joe Manchin saying first he's gonna help on some bills and then changing his mind. I mean, it's been tough. Plus he’s got a mess that was left to him by Trump, so I'm not going to attack him, certainly not yet. And as far as Chuck Schumer, Chuck Schumer took my seat in the House when I ran for Senate, and I think he's been trying to do a good job in the Senate. People say, ‘Well, he hasn't ended the filibuster.’ Well, you need votes, you need votes for that. And you don't even have all the votes on the Democratic side, so how are you going to do that? You can't just wave a magic wand and then all of a sudden, things happen. It doesn't happen that way. Nancy Pelosi, you have to give her an enormous amount of credit. Actually, if you go back to the Affordable Care Act that Obama proposed, if it hadn't been for her leadership and her stewardship, that legislation may have never passed the House of Representatives. We owe that to her. She's a very effective, very savvy person. Do I agree with her 100% of the time? I don't necessarily agree with myself 100% of the time. I’m not going to criticize her leadership. I think we have a lot to be thankful for.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are Democrats who sort of are miffed that Biden and Schumer particularly haven't been able to sort of figure out what to give Joe Manchin to get him on board with some some version of the Build Back Better agenda, even if it's extremely slimmed down, you know, some major climate action and some other things. He's obviously shifted the goalposts numerous times it seems, and Manchin seems particularly challenging to negotiate with. But are you of that mind that you sort of are a little bit miffed as to how the president and the Senate Majority Leader haven't been able to sort of figure out what to just give Manchin to get something big done on another set of policy priorities here?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, that may mean nothing to give Manchin. I mean, I'm sure they're trying. It's very easy to sit on the outside and poke holes in what people are doing, but you don't know all the offers that have been made. We don't know that, and I feel reluctant to criticize the president for that because I just don't know enough about what Manchin has been offered and what he's turned down. And he's been a very slippery person. It seems to me, some people might even say he's trying to get publicity every time he turns the president down, leads him on and then turns him down. So I think it's a very dicey situation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The real problem here is that not enough Democrats turned out in the presidential election to vote for the lower ranks of candidates, and so we got, you know, a 50/50 split in the Senate and a very narrow majority in the House. And we've got to do better. Democrats who care about it. I mean, it's one thing to attack Biden, but you really want to do something about it? Elect more Democrats to office. Make contributions, even if it's $1, or two, or five, or 20. Let's get Democrats elected — That's the way you're going to give power to Schumer and to Biden and to Nancy Pelosi to get through an agenda that we really need on climate, on guns, on women's rights.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let's come back to your decision to run in this race and how the race is shaping up. There's obviously some limited polling out there and some of it shows that you've got a solid start here. And with just a few weeks to go, the largest percentage in all the polls we've seen is undecided. What do you make of the lay of the land in the race and what's your thinking on your path to victory? And I mean that in terms of there's probably some solid constituency who has known you in the district for a long time and remembers your work in Congress and perhaps as Brooklyn district attorney and New York City Comptroller. And then you obviously need to grow from that. Who are the Elizabeth Holtzman voters that you're particularly trying to appeal to, and how do you see your path to victory here over the next few weeks?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, given the expected low turnout in this district, I don't know that it'll be low turnout, but if there's a very low turnout, I might be able to win just with the people who voted for me in the past. I wouldn't discount that or minimize that, and not only that, but I'm joking a little bit. But the truth of the matter is, I have been so surprised and energized by the response I'm getting from voters on the street. People who know my record, who know what I stand for, are so enthusiastic about my candidacy. It's really great. Sometimes people even scream when they meet me, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ it's wonderful, it's a little embarrassing. So I think the first thing we have to do is to make sure that everybody in the district knows I'm running, and those people who support me know that I'm running, and we have to make sure that they vote — that's the critical thing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Second thing is, of course, to expand that base of support to other people. People who know my record are very impressed by it. For example, I'm the only one in this race who Gloria Steinem is supporting. She's not a politician, she's not supporting me because she's going to be working with me next year in the City Council or in the State Legislature or in Congress or whatever. She's supporting me because of all of my decades of work of fighting for women's rights and never giving up. She knows me, and I'm really so honored by her endorsement. So I really think that when people know the record, they know that, for example, when I was DA, I was the only district Attorney in america, not just in New York City, in America, to call on the Supreme Court to ban racial discrimination in jury selection. Nobody would join with me in that. But we were able to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to ban that and the Supreme Court acknowledged the work of my office in a footnote in their decision banning the use of peremptory challenges on a racial basis. So I mean, that's the kind of person I was, I mean, when I was in Congress, I mentioned it earlier.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In my very first year, I found out that there were Nazi war criminals living in America and spewing out their hatred and their vitriol, not to mention making an example of their criminal conduct. So nobody wants to deal with that problem. Nobody cared. Not only did I expose a problem, I didn’t just have a press conference. I worked on the problem until there was a new law that strengthened our ability to deport these people, and also got a special unit set up in the Department of Justice. When I was New York City Comptroller on climate, the mayor, who was a Democrat, proposed building nine new polluting incinerators. I worked with all the major environmental groups in New York, we got together, I organized them together, and we took on this proposal. We put an end to the proposal and that in and of itself led to the shutdown of every single polluting incinerator, municipal incinerator, New York City. That's my record, it's right out there. If people don’t want that, don't vote for me. But if people want someone who knows how to get things done, is prepared to stand up to no matter who, and is prepared to take on bad guys. That's me.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I see in some other interviews you're getting a version of this question. And one of the sort of criticisms you're getting in running this race is you had this accomplished career. There's a bunch of young, dynamic, Democratic progressive candidates in the race. Why potentially block one of them if you're able to be successful?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Excuse me? Why should they block me? And why should they block, no, just turn that question right around. You can’t just say I’m blocking them. They're blocking each other. They're running against each other. I'm just bringing something different from all of them in this race. I think the voters should have a choice, and the idea that someone of my age can't do the job. Well, there's some people when I ran for DA, there was a bias about women in office. I remember going campaigning when I was running for DA for the first time in Brooklyn, first time in New York City that a woman was running, voters came to me said ‘Liz, you know we love you. Great record in Congress, and we voted for you for Congress. And so forth the Senate, blah, blah. But this is not a job for a woman.’ They thought it was too tough for a woman to be DA. Well, after I was DA, they said ‘Do you know something? Women can be a DA.’ That question never came up again, never came up in Brooklyn, and didn't really come up in New York City because that preconception went out the window.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think as soon as people see that I've got the energy and the guts, the intellectual ability, and the physical ability to do this job, then they're not going to judge me on basis of how many years pass by chronologically, how tall I am, how much I weigh, the color of my eyes, no. They're going to try to assess, am I someone who's going to fight for them? When the chips are down, am I going to fight for them? And is anyone going to buy me off or stop me from doing that? And am I going to fight for them, not just stand up and fight for them, but fight in a way that's going to produce results? That's what people want, and I think that's how people are going to vote.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Just to be clear, I was not questioning your ability to do the job. It was more a question about the decision whether or not to sort of say, ‘OK, the next generation is coming up and I'll you know let the next congressperson be from the next generation’ or something along those lines. But point taken.</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">But maybe if we weren't in this emergency time, that point would resonate. But it's not resonating with me now because I know how close we're coming to fascism in this country. And everybody basically knows that except the MAGA Republicans, and so we can't go around with business as usual. That's not what's needed now, and I think people in this district understand tha, and that's why I'm running. And I don’t need on the job training.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Do you get a sense of ageism in some of the criticism you're getting?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">No, not from the voters. When I go out on the streets, when people see me in the middle of that hot sun, campaigning, handing out leaflets, talking to people, walking around. She can can do the job now. </span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">What about from your competitors? </span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, none of my competitors have said that to me to my face. I don't know what they say behind my back.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">No, no, I haven’t heard anything. I’m just not at every forum or every block party or wherever you might bump into some competitors or be on the stage with them. Alright, so say a little bit about what you've been doing since leaving elected office. I You've been involved in some appointed positions, but you've also been in some private practice. Tell folks just a few highlights of sort of that private sector work and what you've been up to in the recent decades?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, as people may know, I'm a lawyer. I was one of the women in a very small group of women admitted to Harvard Law School when I went there. There was a quota on the admission of women when I went to Harvard Law School. Anyway, so I've been practicing law, but people just won't let me practice law quietly, so I've been asked to be on several commissions, federal panels. President Clinton appointed me to a panel dealing with secret classified U.S. records on Nazi war criminals. The U.S. government had worked with Nazi war criminals. It was a secret and ugly history, and that required declassifying documents in the possession of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. And I was one of three members on a panel overseeing that declassification effort — one of the biggest in this country's history.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then I was asked more recently to serve on two panels dealing with sexual assault in the military. That was very interesting. We had to deal with reviewing the military code of justice. We had to review different kinds of procedures that were in the military, some of which did not protect victims properly, and they were trial procedures that were not, in some cases, adequate. So we had to review the entire way in which sexual assault victims were treated, and the process took place, and write reports on it, and make recommendations. That was a lot of work, and I was very privileged to be part of that. I hope we made a difference. And then of course here in New York, I was asked to serve on the transition committee for the Attorney General Tish James and then also for Ken Thompson who became DA in Brooklyn and sadly died not too long after he took office. So I've kept my hand in government, not so much in politics since then.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">You could probably list 20 of these, but name one very sort of hyper local issue in the 10th congressional district that you would really pay close attention to. Obviously, listeners here and I heard you speak broadly about climate and housing and gun violence. Those are obviously broad, sweeping issues, but in terms of like a local issue of concern to one of the communities in this NY-10 district, what's something sort of top of mind that you would look to take on in Congress, whether it's securing more funding for something or it's changing regulation, or whatever it might be sort of a hyperlocal neighborhood community issue that's top of the agenda for you?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, not hyperlocal, but pretty local is the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, which it's a toxic site. It's one of the most polluted areas in the country, and that pollution is something that doesn't stay right in the canal. It affects the surrounding neighborhoods. There's a lot of development going on in connection with that, and there's a cleanup of the canal. There's some environmentalists and local activists who were concerned about that. I want to understand the issues in depth. I want to deal with, if a cleanup is not proper, you can be sure I'm going to fight tooth and nail. I mean, that's one of the reasons that we fought that incinerator plan. We actually went out, my office actually went out, and tested the burn temperatures of the existing incinerators and we saw that the burn temperatures were too low to burn off dioxin, which meant that dioxin was being released right into our own communities in New York City. Wll, we publicized that, and we got that plant shut down,and we got those incinerators shut down. And that's the kind of thing I'm going to do. I'm going to find out the facts. I'm going to meet with the community. And I'm going to try to make sure that whatever cleanup that takes place there is thorough and proper and broadly acceptable scientifically and environmentally.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">You're listening to Max Politics here with Ben Max. We're in our last few minutes with Elizabeth Holtzman who's running for Congress in the new 10th congressional district in New York, which includes a large section of Lower Manhattan and a swath of Brooklyn, including neighborhoods in downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus, Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Borough Park, and more. Just a few last questions here. A couple of sort of short answer questions I'm asking all the NY-10 candidates that I'm talking with are these following a few. Do you think it's time for the Rikers Island jail complex to be under a federal receivership? There's a monitor, there's some debate with the Adams administration about how much time they should have to enact their reform plans and whether there will be a federal takeover of the jails. Do you think it's time for that, or do you think more time for the Adams administration to turn things around is warranted?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think it's long past time for the federal government to have taken over Rikers Island. I'm sure that the mayor is doing this in all good faith, even though the Corrections Department and they're committed to do the right thing, someone after the court denied a federal takeover, someone else died. I mean, that's unacceptable. We cannot have people dying because corrections officers or this system in the jails is not adequate to provide proper medical care. We cannot have that happen. That's unacceptable, and it's been going on too long. So as far as I'm concerned, something's wrong with what happened with the monitor. The monitor should have been out there screaming and yelling. I don't know why the federal government wasn't more insistent. Maybe they should have thought about appealing the order of the judge, but I think it's an emergency situation when people are dying, and unnecessarily so. And I don't know what the city government is doing about it. Maybe they ought to be taking some more action with the City Council and state government, where were they in all of this? So I really just think that the action should have been taken before, and it's too late. I mean, it's not too late. It's delayed. It should have been done, and it still can be done and should.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">The New York City Housing Authority, public housing, obviously, there's a federal monitor there as well. There's tens of billions of dollars that have been part of different drafts of the Build Back Better plan that we were discussing earlier. There's a lot of hope that somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 to $40 billion would be heading to NYCHA from the federal government for much needed capital repairs. But short of that type of immense funding, is there a NYCHA revenue-generating strategy that you support? There's a variety of methods that are either partly underway right now or that have been long debated. Is there anything to bring revenue in for NYCHA repairs that you're particularly supportive of that isn't just the federal government sending an immense amount of aid?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I mean, I have to study the various proposals further. I think they should be reviewed. But I think one of the things that has to also be examined very carefully is how the money that they're already getting is being spent and how those repairs are being done right now. I mean there is maintenance going on right now, but it's apparently quite horrible and totally inadequate. So a lot has to be done with regard to public housing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Years ago, public housing was a gem, not just for New York City, but for the country, providing safe, clean, affordable housing to people in need in New York, and that's what it has to be and it's been neglected for too long. It's going to be something that I will pay attention to, and if I can be helpful, you bet I will be. I think we can look for new sources of money, that's important, but we also have to make sure that the monies that we're spending are being spent properly. I mean, what I mentioned to you before about auditing oil company royalty payments. Right now, we're subsidizing the oil industry in many ways, and one of the ways that we may be subsidizing them is they pay a certain royalty on the gas and oil they withdraw from federal lands, but nobody's auditing them. So how do we know that they're telling us the truth? I mean there could be billions involved there. We can't just let money go without checking and that's the kind of thing I think we need to be doing because you've got that money, you could then use it for mass transit, you can use it maybe for non-climate cleanups things, such as housing.We need the money and we can use it, we can put it to very good news. But we got to make sure also that the money is used properly when it gets to the object.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I mentioned in the introduction that former Mayor de Blasio dropped out of this race recently. You've seen a lot obviously in your time and in your government tenure and since. What do you make of what happened to his prospects and his political standing? This was obviously someone ushered into office as a progressive response to the Bloomberg years. He had eight years as mayor, which until the covid crisis, he had many advantages in a robust economy and low crime. And now he enters this congressional race and drops out after receiving so little support in an area that includes his original political home base in Park Slope. Any sort of takeaways that you have of that arc for him and what sort of went so wrong for him?</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I don't really want to comment about Mr. de Blasio. I like to talk more about questions about what can be done in the district and what needs to be addressed. I mean one of the other issues that has come up has to do with this new park that's going to be created on the Lower East Side that apparently is designed to be very resilient. In the process, 500 trees were cut down. I mean to me, cutting down trees, why are we doing that?</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think most, if not all, were being moved as part of the construction process. </span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">No, no, no, no, no. You can’t replace old trees with new trees. Read a book called “The Hidden Life of Trees” and that'll tell you that it's not a substitute. And I just remember when I was a congresswoman and the Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Transportation, wanted to give us money to repair Ocean Parkway, which is a beautiful street design by one of the great designers in our country's history. He designed Central Park and Prospect Park. They said, ‘Oh, well, we're going to put up jersey barriers and we're going to cut down the trees. And guess what? I said, ‘You're going to do the highway and you're going to repave Ocean Parkway and make it a beautiful street, but you're not cutting down one tree.’ And that's what happened. So if you put your foot down about cutting down trees, you can succeed.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Your understanding is that a major resiliency project there could have been done without cutting down trees.</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I don't know that it could have been. All I know is that if I were a congressperson, and somebody came to me with a project that involved cutting down 500 trees, I'd look at it not once and twice. I'd look at it 100 times before I went ahead with something like that. And I'll tell you something, if you tell people they can't cut down the trees, they can always figure out another way to do it.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright, well, we will leave it there. Interesting thoughts from Elizabeth Holtzman, my guest today. Thank you for taking the time. Elizabeth Holzman is of course a former member of Congress, former Brooklyn District Attorney, former New York City Comptroller and now a candidate for Congress again in the new 10th congressional district of New York spanning parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Thank you for the time and be well.</span></p> <p><b>Elizabeth Holtzman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thank you very much.</span></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Transcript: Dan Goldman NY-10 Max Politics Interview 2022-08-05T04:00:00+00:00 2022-08-05T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11486-transcript-dan-goldman-ny-10-max-politics Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mpp-dan-goldman-600px.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Dan Goldman (photo: @dangoldmanforny)</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Dan Goldman Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recorded July 8, 2022</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11442-max-politics-podcast-dan-goldman-running-congress-ny-10"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Listen to the audio here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (</span><a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017"><span style="font-weight: 400;">see map here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Transcript:</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer</b><b> intro…] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dan Goldman, thank you very much for being here and taking the time. How are you today?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I'm great, Ben, thanks so much for having me on.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">So explain just a little bit of your background and resume, we can get to other pieces in a moment. But those are the big and broad strokes of your recent high-profile work. Start us off with your brief overall pitch here in terms of your rationale, why you're running for Congress in this new 10th district of New York, and why you want to represent the district in the House of Representatives.</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, Ben. The threats that we are facing around the country and within the city to our basic foundations of democracy, our free and fair elections, did not end in 2020. And in fact, January 6 was just the beginning, not the end of the Republican efforts to change laws around the country to allow Donald Trump to steal the next election. It is not a joke. There are laws that are being put forward in many states, which will allow the state legislatures to overrule the vote of the people if there are allegations, just mere allegations of fraud. So this is very, very serious. It's far more serious than I think a lot of people recognize. And as someone who has been on the frontlines in Congress, fighting to defend and protect our democracy in leading the impeachment investigation, I am uniquely qualified to take on this very, very important fight to protect and defend our democracy because without our free and fair elections and without our democracy, we cannot put forward, we cannot move forward on any of the policy goals that so many of us in this Democratic primary share.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so I want to get down to Washington to be the bulwark against Trump and the Republican Party, which are not only undermining our democracy, but undermining our fundamental rights. And I think we need new and fresh voices with creative ideas for how to tackle long-standing problems where the same old playbook has not worked. I used some of that same creativity in proving the case against Donald Trump as part of the impeachment, and I'm hopeful of getting the support of the voters in the district to go back to Washington and use that creativity to defend our democracy, protect our fundamental rights, and move forward, actually make some achievements to make the lives of the families and the constituents in the district better.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let's say you're elected here and you take office in January, and let's say, which it’s definitely not a given, but let's say Democrats remain in the majority in the House and you're part of that House majority. What kind of tools would you try to use to do what you just outlined in terms of trying to not let Republicans subvert election results and to preserve the democratic process in the United States? What are some of the specific ways that that can be done?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, one thing that I would want to initiate is some sort of public hearings on disinformation and false misinformation that Republicans are spreading about the elections in this country that appear to be their very thin basis for passing many of these laws. There is very, very extensive statistical data that shows that voter fraud is not a thing. To the extent that voter fraud happens, it happens so sporadically and individually that there is no fear of voter fraud leading to any uncertainty in elections. But that is the basis for these Republican legislators to pass these laws, and it is bogus. So the best way to spread that news, to explain that to the American people, is to do it publicly through Congress, through hearings, and so that is one thing that I would call for is. Let's lay it all out.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Donald Trump initiated an election integrity commission or something led by Kris Kobach right when he took office. It disbanded within a few months without producing anything because there is nothing. Well, let's actually have some Democratic hearings that will expose the fraudulent misrepresentations, the disinformation, that the Republicans are putting forward in order to justify these laws. The American people need to understand in a way that they don't right now that voter fraud is not a thing and it's not a foundation, or it doesn't need correcting by any laws. So that's one example.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are other examples I have for other different areas. Gun control, for an example. We have for too long begged our Republicans in the House and the Senate to come together to do gun control legislation. It hasn't worked. We got a little bit this most recent time because the Republican talking points failed. There wasn't a mental health issue with a Buffalo shooter, he was just a raging antisemite and racist. The school in Uvalde was well secured by armed officers, and that didn't work because they were afraid of a semiautomatic weapon. The Republicans were backed in a corner and they had no explanation for why they weren't going to do anything, so they did something, but it's not enough. So let's investigate the gun manufacturers and the gun dealers who have so much control over Republicans in Congress. Let's see what they know about what their marketing and advertising does in relation to these mass shootings. Let's see if they're targeting 18 to 22 year olds, who are young with these semiautomatic weapons, which are the most profitable for them. Are they putting profits over people's lives? This is the kind of creative thinking that we need in Congress because we can't continue to operate as if the Republicans are good faith actors when they're not. They act in bad faith these days, so we have to figure out alternative ways to put pressure on them to bring them to the table.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">The hearings, you mentioned on misinformation and election integrity, would those be in Washington, D.C.? Could you foresee a strategy where you try to take those on the road in some way and actually go to places in the country where you know Donald Trump's hold on the electorate seems very strong and try to actually go into people's communities and present more facts locally? Do you think enough gets out there from Washington? These hearings on the January 6, 2021 insurrection seem to be getting a lot of attention. They're getting a lot of viewership. It's not, of course, always clear who that is and if it's all Democrats basically watching, but is that one way to potentially break through? Do you have any sort of strategies as to how you reach this segment of the population that seems to really operate in a different media ecosystem, operating under a different set of quote unquote alternative facts here? Any thoughts on how to really break through on that?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think you've hit one of the biggest problems right on the head because so many Americans are not getting the truth. And it's not just about as you point out voter fraud, it's about the 2020 election. The number of people in America who believe that it was a fraudulent election is startling, it is disconcerting, and it is a reflection on the fact that Democrats, I think, need better messaging, need better messengers, but need I agree with you — different tactics and a little bit more creativity. We have to go to the people themselves, we have to reach them. And I think that we should use some of your creative ideas about engaging state legislators. That's something that I've mentioned before is getting state legislators on the Democratic side involved and trying to help them bring information. I frankly think that we should use paid advertising in some of these states just to provide information because people are living in a very, as you point out, a very narrow Fox News-driven media ecosystem with these right wing alt-right websites. They're concealing the facts. They are absolutely misinformation vehicles that are concealing what is actually happening, and if we don't all agree on the facts, it's very hard to move forward. So we're in a very unusual and unprecedented time where we're not arguing about the same facts and which way to use those facts to improve lives of Americans. We're arguing about the facts, and if we don't agree on the facts, then we can have a discussion about the best way forward.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a former lead counsel in an impeachment inquiry of a president, as former assistant U.S. attorney, you must have unique perspective on what the Department of Justice is and isn't doing related to the January 6 interaction, related to the outcomes of some of these Supreme Court rulings, related to a number of issues. Do you think that the Department of Justice, there's a lot of criticism coming from Democrats that the Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland seem to not really be taking an aggressive approach on a whole number of issues. What are your thoughts on that criticism of DOJ and what's your sort of message to the general public really about how to look at this issue?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">My message is pretty simple, which is be patient, which is very hard to do, especially as we're watching these incredibly compelling and powerful hearings from the January 6 committee in Congress. And it looks so bad and it looks so obvious that there were many crimes committed and how come Merrick Garland has taken so long. What I have stressed and what I would stress from my 10 years of prosecuting, not obviously cases like this but sophisticated and complex cases that, always standing up to the mafia bosses, to the powerful to the corporate fraudsters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I spent my career standing up to the powerful, including Donald Trump when I was down in D.C. But what is so important to understand is in order to make any case, and especially a case like this, that is a sprawling, massive, widespread conspiracy, it takes an incredible amount of work. You need to interview all of these witnesses because even if they might not have information that is especially helpful to you, you need to know that and you won't know that until you interview them. You need to know what they know and what they don't know and what the defenses would be so you can anticipate a defense because you have to understand the whole picture in order to actually indict someone and charge them and potentially take away their freedom. It's an incredibly important and awesome responsibility to indict someone, to charge them with committing a crime, where the ultimate punishment could be that they go to jail. That is not a laughing matter and that is not something that anybody should take lightly. So I would say, as I watched these hearings, the evidence is really powerful. But it is something that the Department of Justice is going to have to methodically work through, and that's not going to happen before the November elections. I think the best case scenario is the decision is probably made in spring of 2023.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And when you say the decision, you mean whether to charge Donald Trump?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, look, I think there are other people who are in the crosshairs. There's no question Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows and John Eastman should be in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice. But again, any of these witnesses that we've seen and even some of them that we haven't seen, but the people who were involved in this what appears to be a pretty widespread conspiracy, they could cooperate with the Department of Justice at any time. Well, that would be a great break for the prosecution. It would help them to really understand the inner circle and what was going on, but that will also take a lot of time to vet and to understand. So if John Eastman decides that he is actually going to cooperate, well you're going to spend days and days with John Eastman been going through every detail, and then that will lead to additional witnesses, and you'll need to talk to those witnesses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And that's why when everybody talks about prosecutions, and this really is similar to organized crime prosecutions that I did when I was in the U.S. Attorney's Office, you really do need to sort of work your way, maybe not from the bottom, but certainly from the middle on up to the top because Donald Trump doesn't email, he doesn't text. You need witness testimony most likely in order to be able to convict him. Obviously, there is some good witness testimony that we've seen. There's some recordings with Raffensperger, that's very powerful evidence, but you need to fill in all the gaps.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright, we could talk January 6 and the committee and DOJ and other things for hours, but I want to move on to a few other things. Some of your commentary about new approaches, creativity, a number of challenging issues that are of course facing the country and facing Democrats who are in control right now of the White House and both houses of Congress, obviously, very narrowly in both houses, really. Some of what you're saying seems to be an indictment of leadership on the federal level. Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Schumer, President Biden. Is this generation of leadership, are you among those who think they are really sort of missing their opportunity here to be more creative and aggressive and that this generation of Democratic leadership really needs to figure out a way to either allow some new ideas and approaches in or sort of step out of the way?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">No, I don't think this is a leadership issue. I think the leadership is trying to corral a very diverse caucus, especially in the House. And I think that there's a lot of pressure from a lot of different sides. I worked closely with Nancy Pelosi when I did the impeachment. She is one of the very few most impressive people that I have ever worked with. She is brilliant, and she just is managing so much. I actually think it's more a problem with a broader swath of Democrats and the approach that they take, which is I think a very sort of ideological approach that is not based in pragmatism or realism in some cases.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I think what you'll find as you look at the race, Ben, is that a lot of the policy views that the candidates have, including me, are not so different, but what is very different is the approach. And I read that one of my opponents made a comment about Build Back Better that the House passed it, now it's up to the Senate and the White House to do it. And that is not the way that I would approach things. In order for something to actually get passed and into law, you need the House, you need the Senate, and you need the president, and everybody should be operating from that perspective. If you truly do want to move the ball forward and get something done, even if it's not everything that you believe, but it is better than what exists, then the House and the Senate need to be coordinating. And I think there's a breakdown of coordination, a breakdown of trust. I've seen some sort of nasty insults fired away from House members to Democratic members of the Senate. The infighting is counterproductive, and one of the things that I would want to do when I go down there, is I would want to be a voice of reason and a voice of pragmatism, and I would want to get my House colleagues together with our Senate colleagues to try to figure out something that can work given the current dynamics, whatever they are.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think that one of the problems we run into in politics these days is we were just talking about with DOJ. Everybody expects everything to happen tomorrow. Well, what we have learned in watching the Republicans slowly take over the judiciary branch and the Supreme Court, that was a decades-long operation strategy where they just incrementally floated some of these far right extremist legal theories. And they floated up through the lower courts, and then they were rejected, but then they had more people buying into them, and then more and more, and now you have this incredibly extremist radical Supreme Court that is rolling back fundamental rights for the first time in our history. That did not happen overnight, and I think what we Democrats need to understand is there needs to be a longer-term strategy. Not just go as hard as we can right now, insist that everything gets done right now, and if not, we're going to throw up our hands. So one of the things I want to bring down is not only creative thinking, but more strategic thinking, more tactical thinking, more game theory. Let's game out how this is going to go, what is the first step we need, the second step we need, the third step. We're going to go from A to Z, but we can't skip all the letters in between and I think that's what's missing. And so I think leadership has a very difficult time managing so many different approaches, which are often not consistent with each other.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">So obviously, you're running somewhat on the resume that I mentioned and you have a different background than a number of the other candidates who have been in local elected office or are currently in local elected office. The flip side of some of that is the sort of connections in the communities and the neighborhoods of this district. Do you have those? Have you been active in any of the communities of this district? I know you live in Lower Manhattan and you're a parent, but what are your sort of ties on the ground? Or is it that you've been doing this, this other important work, and that's just not a way you’ve been able to spend your time? What's the sort of pitch on the local level here to voters in this district in terms of your connections to the communities of the district?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I’ve lived in this district now for more than 15 years. I'm raising my five children in the district, some of whom go to school in the Lower Manhattan portion of the district, and some have or currently do go to the school in the Brooklyn part of this district. So I actually have great familiarity with both sides of the river as part of this district. I also worked at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the district for 10 years, and part of my requirements there is that I could not engage in political activity outside of the office. So I am relatively new to sort of the political world, but I'm not new to these issues. Before I was in the US Attorney's Office, I worked very closely in law school with Michelle Alexander and I contributed to her book, “The New Jim Crow,” which is a seminal work on inequities in the criminal justice system. I have been a lifelong champion of social justice, of civil rights.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I've invested a lot of my time and energy in anti-poverty organizations in the city, as well as early childhood education and early childhood development, which are areas that along with criminal justice reform, I bring a real expertise about and that I will push very hard when I get to Congress. So I think what is important for those in the district to understand is I served as a lawyer, I am a lawyer, but my only client as a lawyer has been the United States of America, and I've tried to do my very best to represent the United States and in every aspect that I've done. And I am an incredibly hard worker, and I think I've had success in representing the United States as a lawyer. Now, I want to represent the constituents of this district as a United States congressperson. And in many of the same ways, I would expect to understand and learn all of the community issues, many of which I have already been speaking extensively about and have very good relationships with a number of the community members, and I will represent them very well. And I recently got an endorsement from Park Slope Assemblyman Robert Carroll, whose district is in a significant portion of this district, and I think what Bobby said about why he ultimately endorsed me over two of his colleagues in the state Assembly is that we're just in a different time period right now where the threats to the country that we've known, the existence of this country as we've known it, are greater than ever before. And what we need right now is somebody with the skills and experience to take on those fights, to preserve, defend our democracy, and then someone else who can be really creative and thoughtful in moving forward on the local issues that matter so much to the constituents. And that's something that I've done all my life, and I would be very excited to do as a member of Congress.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: Y</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">ou're listening to Max Politics here with Ben Max from Gotham Gazette. I'm joined by Dan Goldman, a Democratic candidate running in the primary that will occur in August for the new NY-10, the 10th congressional district of New York, including large portions of lower Manhattan and a big swath of Brooklyn, including a whole bunch of neighborhoods from downtown Brooklyn to Gowanus to Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Borough Park, and more. Dan Goldman, just a few more minutes with you here, a couple more questions. In that similar vein, it seems like you've been looking for an opportunity to jump into politics in elected office. When New York Attorney General Letitia James was running for governor briefly, you among others jumped into the attorney general primary that wound up then everyone being vacating for Tish James, when she decided not to run for governor. Say a little something about sort of that turn of interest and how should people understand then turning your attention to a congressional race? A run for New York Attorney General obviously seems to suit your background, obviously, of course, being in the House also, you can use some of that experience and skills. But in terms of the shift to elected office in politics, what's the sort of background there of your thinking and how that shift is going for you?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, as you pointed out, I've always worked in public service and a big part of the reason that I decided to sort of throw a complete monkey wrench in my family and commute down to Washington for almost a year and a half to work for Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee and ultimately lead the impeachment investigation is because I recognized what a threat to our country Donald Trump was, and I wanted to do everything that I could to be a check and a balance and push back against him. And unfortunately, even after he lost the election, he has not gone quietly into the good night.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so part of the reason why I was interested in running for Attorney General is very consistent with why I'm interested in running for Congress right now, is that these threats from Donald Trump and the Republican Party that he controls, and let's not mistake this — he still controls the Republican Party. Those threats are not gone, and what we're seeing is a rollback of our rights, significant existential threats to our democracy, our elections. There is a a very concerted effort now, even recently in the Supreme Court, not only overturning Roe, but preventing states from passing laws to keep guns off the streets to keep the citizens safe, including in this particular instance, New York State and rolling back the the ability of the EPA to monitor climate change and to reduce climate change. Everything that we care about is going in the wrong direction, and I happen to have skills and experience that I think are very relevant to the issues facing New Yorkers and Americans today. And it is very consistent with my personal desire to have done public service, but this is what I think we all need to move forward, and this is a crisis that we're facing. And so the reasons I jumped in the AG race are very consistent with the reasons I'm jumping in here is I want to get back on the front lines to fight for the people of New York, to fight for Democrats around the country, to fight for patriots and Americans who believe in democracy and believe in individual rights and freedoms. That's what this country is all about. That's what has given so many of us such incredible opportunities, and I feel compelled to fight for that until I cannot fight any longer.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright, in closing, we could talk about each of these for 10 minutes each, but give me a quick answer on each of these. One of your opponents in the race is former Mayor Bill de Blasio. What's your sort of quick headlines on what you think of his record as mayor of New York City?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, the good thing about Bill de Blasio is that he has close to 100% name ID, and that means that everybody knows him and everybody has an opinion about. And so  I welcome each voter to make their opinion about him known on election day.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright. Do you think that the Rikers Island jail complex should be brought under a federal receivership?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think Rikers Island jail complex should be shut down. I do think there needs to be greater oversight of it from the federal government. But I think the biggest priority right now is to end Rikers, and we need to move forward on an alternative situation so that we can close Rikers down.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">The New York City Public Housing Authority is in need of tens of billions of dollars in repairs, as I'm sure you know. There was a recent movement with a state bill to create a new preservation trust to raise some of that money, but there's big gaps. Other than tens of billions of federal dollars just being sent to NYCHA to address those major capital needs, which again, is always potentially possible in something like Build Back Better. But other than that, is there a specific strategy you favor for raising more money for public housing repairs in New York City? There's a variety of other strategies that are out there, controversial ones. Any specific strategy you think that NYCHA needs to move forward on in the absence of those billions of federal dollars?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I will push incredibly hard and will work incredibly hard to get federal dollars for NYCHA. I think that the community trust that was established by the state is a very good vehicle, and I think it actually could be a hook to try to get federal legislation. But the affordable housing problem in the city is not just with the disrepair of NYCHA buildings, which is just not something that we can allow for anymore. It is a function of a lack of housing and a lack of good housing more broadly. And I do have some serious ideas about how we can create more and better housing. One example is that I believe 5 World Trade Center should be 100%, affordable housing, and that it should be available first to the survivors of 9/11, as well as those who have lived in the community, post-9/11, and who endured so much of the the effects of the cleanup. But that is one way where I do believe that the community should receive some further benefits from all of the development that we've had downtown.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I will work very hard to work with real estate developers to make sure that they are incentivized to continue development, while also requiring them to give back more, especially in the way of affordable housing, because I think the best way for us to create more and better housing is to allow the experts in that area to do it while insisting that government incentives yield greater results for the community, and where it's been lacking in a lot of these rezonings and these development is that there is not enough required of the developers to make the rezoned areas, to improve them for the communities, whether that's parks, schools, daycares, medical facilities, mass transit, and of course and most importantly, affordable housing.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last two. I saw your campaign. You tweeted a photo going to vote in the primaries we just had last month in June. Were you a Kathy Hochul, Jumaane Williams, or Tom Suozzi voter in the governor's race?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I proudly voted for Kathy Hochul. I think she was dealt a very difficult hand without any transition period, and she's gotten on her feet very well. She is navigating some very tricky waters, but I've generally been very impressed with the job that she's done.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And lastly, I've heard you talk about this in other interviews. We didn't really get into this this time, but maybe in the future we will. Public safety, you've prosecuted gun trafficking cases you've noted. Just give us one thought on a strategy that you would pursue in Congress to help reduce the flow of guns that's realistic, that's something that if you are let's say in a House Democratic majority, but you're facing the current Senate dynamics or even a Republican Senate, something sort of realistic, but that is a specific strategy that you would look to take at the federal level related to guns in the United States and in New York.</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I think there are lots of different ways that we need to approach this. The first thing I would say is that I think we can have justice and fairness. I think we can improve the fairness of the criminal justice system. We can reduce the number of people going to jail by diverting first-time nonviolent offenders out of the system and into either educational or vocational training, and so that they don't become these recidivists that I think so many of us are frustrated to see. And we also need to improve funding for mental health treatment to allow for experts to deal with domestic violence and homeless problems that the NYPD spends way too much time on. We ought to try to have the NYPD focus on what they are good at, which is fighting crime, and part of that is fighting gun crime.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So a couple of things that I would do. One is II would reinitiate a program that I was a part of when I was in the Southern District of New York, which was called the Trigger Lock Program, where basically, a lot of gun possession charges in the state should go to go federally, because the laws are a little bit easier to prosecute and some of the punishments are more severe. I draw a significant divide between violent crime and gun crime and non violent crime, and I think that what we have to do is be very, very strong on violent crime. We cannot allow for people to be afraid to walk down the street or go on the subways, and so we need to aggressively combat violent crime. So that's one area. I would also include ghost guns and would update the gun trafficking laws to make them easier to prosecute. And I would also strengthen some of the penalties for failure to register a gun and failure to abide by the general gun laws. So we've got to stop this iron pipeline, and part of the way to do that, I think, is to increase penalties. And part of the way to do that is to be a little bit more thoughtful about how we investigate these crimes.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer outro…]</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Dan Goldman, thanks very much for all the time and be well.</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thank you so much, Ben. It was really great to be with you. Thank you.</span></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mpp-dan-goldman-600px.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Dan Goldman (photo: @dangoldmanforny)</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Dan Goldman Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recorded July 8, 2022</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11442-max-politics-podcast-dan-goldman-running-congress-ny-10"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Listen to the audio here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (</span><a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017"><span style="font-weight: 400;">see map here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Transcript:</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer</b><b> intro…] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dan Goldman, thank you very much for being here and taking the time. How are you today?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I'm great, Ben, thanks so much for having me on.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">So explain just a little bit of your background and resume, we can get to other pieces in a moment. But those are the big and broad strokes of your recent high-profile work. Start us off with your brief overall pitch here in terms of your rationale, why you're running for Congress in this new 10th district of New York, and why you want to represent the district in the House of Representatives.</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, Ben. The threats that we are facing around the country and within the city to our basic foundations of democracy, our free and fair elections, did not end in 2020. And in fact, January 6 was just the beginning, not the end of the Republican efforts to change laws around the country to allow Donald Trump to steal the next election. It is not a joke. There are laws that are being put forward in many states, which will allow the state legislatures to overrule the vote of the people if there are allegations, just mere allegations of fraud. So this is very, very serious. It's far more serious than I think a lot of people recognize. And as someone who has been on the frontlines in Congress, fighting to defend and protect our democracy in leading the impeachment investigation, I am uniquely qualified to take on this very, very important fight to protect and defend our democracy because without our free and fair elections and without our democracy, we cannot put forward, we cannot move forward on any of the policy goals that so many of us in this Democratic primary share.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so I want to get down to Washington to be the bulwark against Trump and the Republican Party, which are not only undermining our democracy, but undermining our fundamental rights. And I think we need new and fresh voices with creative ideas for how to tackle long-standing problems where the same old playbook has not worked. I used some of that same creativity in proving the case against Donald Trump as part of the impeachment, and I'm hopeful of getting the support of the voters in the district to go back to Washington and use that creativity to defend our democracy, protect our fundamental rights, and move forward, actually make some achievements to make the lives of the families and the constituents in the district better.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let's say you're elected here and you take office in January, and let's say, which it’s definitely not a given, but let's say Democrats remain in the majority in the House and you're part of that House majority. What kind of tools would you try to use to do what you just outlined in terms of trying to not let Republicans subvert election results and to preserve the democratic process in the United States? What are some of the specific ways that that can be done?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, one thing that I would want to initiate is some sort of public hearings on disinformation and false misinformation that Republicans are spreading about the elections in this country that appear to be their very thin basis for passing many of these laws. There is very, very extensive statistical data that shows that voter fraud is not a thing. To the extent that voter fraud happens, it happens so sporadically and individually that there is no fear of voter fraud leading to any uncertainty in elections. But that is the basis for these Republican legislators to pass these laws, and it is bogus. So the best way to spread that news, to explain that to the American people, is to do it publicly through Congress, through hearings, and so that is one thing that I would call for is. Let's lay it all out.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Donald Trump initiated an election integrity commission or something led by Kris Kobach right when he took office. It disbanded within a few months without producing anything because there is nothing. Well, let's actually have some Democratic hearings that will expose the fraudulent misrepresentations, the disinformation, that the Republicans are putting forward in order to justify these laws. The American people need to understand in a way that they don't right now that voter fraud is not a thing and it's not a foundation, or it doesn't need correcting by any laws. So that's one example.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are other examples I have for other different areas. Gun control, for an example. We have for too long begged our Republicans in the House and the Senate to come together to do gun control legislation. It hasn't worked. We got a little bit this most recent time because the Republican talking points failed. There wasn't a mental health issue with a Buffalo shooter, he was just a raging antisemite and racist. The school in Uvalde was well secured by armed officers, and that didn't work because they were afraid of a semiautomatic weapon. The Republicans were backed in a corner and they had no explanation for why they weren't going to do anything, so they did something, but it's not enough. So let's investigate the gun manufacturers and the gun dealers who have so much control over Republicans in Congress. Let's see what they know about what their marketing and advertising does in relation to these mass shootings. Let's see if they're targeting 18 to 22 year olds, who are young with these semiautomatic weapons, which are the most profitable for them. Are they putting profits over people's lives? This is the kind of creative thinking that we need in Congress because we can't continue to operate as if the Republicans are good faith actors when they're not. They act in bad faith these days, so we have to figure out alternative ways to put pressure on them to bring them to the table.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">The hearings, you mentioned on misinformation and election integrity, would those be in Washington, D.C.? Could you foresee a strategy where you try to take those on the road in some way and actually go to places in the country where you know Donald Trump's hold on the electorate seems very strong and try to actually go into people's communities and present more facts locally? Do you think enough gets out there from Washington? These hearings on the January 6, 2021 insurrection seem to be getting a lot of attention. They're getting a lot of viewership. It's not, of course, always clear who that is and if it's all Democrats basically watching, but is that one way to potentially break through? Do you have any sort of strategies as to how you reach this segment of the population that seems to really operate in a different media ecosystem, operating under a different set of quote unquote alternative facts here? Any thoughts on how to really break through on that?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think you've hit one of the biggest problems right on the head because so many Americans are not getting the truth. And it's not just about as you point out voter fraud, it's about the 2020 election. The number of people in America who believe that it was a fraudulent election is startling, it is disconcerting, and it is a reflection on the fact that Democrats, I think, need better messaging, need better messengers, but need I agree with you — different tactics and a little bit more creativity. We have to go to the people themselves, we have to reach them. And I think that we should use some of your creative ideas about engaging state legislators. That's something that I've mentioned before is getting state legislators on the Democratic side involved and trying to help them bring information. I frankly think that we should use paid advertising in some of these states just to provide information because people are living in a very, as you point out, a very narrow Fox News-driven media ecosystem with these right wing alt-right websites. They're concealing the facts. They are absolutely misinformation vehicles that are concealing what is actually happening, and if we don't all agree on the facts, it's very hard to move forward. So we're in a very unusual and unprecedented time where we're not arguing about the same facts and which way to use those facts to improve lives of Americans. We're arguing about the facts, and if we don't agree on the facts, then we can have a discussion about the best way forward.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a former lead counsel in an impeachment inquiry of a president, as former assistant U.S. attorney, you must have unique perspective on what the Department of Justice is and isn't doing related to the January 6 interaction, related to the outcomes of some of these Supreme Court rulings, related to a number of issues. Do you think that the Department of Justice, there's a lot of criticism coming from Democrats that the Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland seem to not really be taking an aggressive approach on a whole number of issues. What are your thoughts on that criticism of DOJ and what's your sort of message to the general public really about how to look at this issue?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">My message is pretty simple, which is be patient, which is very hard to do, especially as we're watching these incredibly compelling and powerful hearings from the January 6 committee in Congress. And it looks so bad and it looks so obvious that there were many crimes committed and how come Merrick Garland has taken so long. What I have stressed and what I would stress from my 10 years of prosecuting, not obviously cases like this but sophisticated and complex cases that, always standing up to the mafia bosses, to the powerful to the corporate fraudsters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I spent my career standing up to the powerful, including Donald Trump when I was down in D.C. But what is so important to understand is in order to make any case, and especially a case like this, that is a sprawling, massive, widespread conspiracy, it takes an incredible amount of work. You need to interview all of these witnesses because even if they might not have information that is especially helpful to you, you need to know that and you won't know that until you interview them. You need to know what they know and what they don't know and what the defenses would be so you can anticipate a defense because you have to understand the whole picture in order to actually indict someone and charge them and potentially take away their freedom. It's an incredibly important and awesome responsibility to indict someone, to charge them with committing a crime, where the ultimate punishment could be that they go to jail. That is not a laughing matter and that is not something that anybody should take lightly. So I would say, as I watched these hearings, the evidence is really powerful. But it is something that the Department of Justice is going to have to methodically work through, and that's not going to happen before the November elections. I think the best case scenario is the decision is probably made in spring of 2023.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And when you say the decision, you mean whether to charge Donald Trump?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, look, I think there are other people who are in the crosshairs. There's no question Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows and John Eastman should be in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice. But again, any of these witnesses that we've seen and even some of them that we haven't seen, but the people who were involved in this what appears to be a pretty widespread conspiracy, they could cooperate with the Department of Justice at any time. Well, that would be a great break for the prosecution. It would help them to really understand the inner circle and what was going on, but that will also take a lot of time to vet and to understand. So if John Eastman decides that he is actually going to cooperate, well you're going to spend days and days with John Eastman been going through every detail, and then that will lead to additional witnesses, and you'll need to talk to those witnesses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And that's why when everybody talks about prosecutions, and this really is similar to organized crime prosecutions that I did when I was in the U.S. Attorney's Office, you really do need to sort of work your way, maybe not from the bottom, but certainly from the middle on up to the top because Donald Trump doesn't email, he doesn't text. You need witness testimony most likely in order to be able to convict him. Obviously, there is some good witness testimony that we've seen. There's some recordings with Raffensperger, that's very powerful evidence, but you need to fill in all the gaps.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright, we could talk January 6 and the committee and DOJ and other things for hours, but I want to move on to a few other things. Some of your commentary about new approaches, creativity, a number of challenging issues that are of course facing the country and facing Democrats who are in control right now of the White House and both houses of Congress, obviously, very narrowly in both houses, really. Some of what you're saying seems to be an indictment of leadership on the federal level. Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Schumer, President Biden. Is this generation of leadership, are you among those who think they are really sort of missing their opportunity here to be more creative and aggressive and that this generation of Democratic leadership really needs to figure out a way to either allow some new ideas and approaches in or sort of step out of the way?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">No, I don't think this is a leadership issue. I think the leadership is trying to corral a very diverse caucus, especially in the House. And I think that there's a lot of pressure from a lot of different sides. I worked closely with Nancy Pelosi when I did the impeachment. She is one of the very few most impressive people that I have ever worked with. She is brilliant, and she just is managing so much. I actually think it's more a problem with a broader swath of Democrats and the approach that they take, which is I think a very sort of ideological approach that is not based in pragmatism or realism in some cases.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I think what you'll find as you look at the race, Ben, is that a lot of the policy views that the candidates have, including me, are not so different, but what is very different is the approach. And I read that one of my opponents made a comment about Build Back Better that the House passed it, now it's up to the Senate and the White House to do it. And that is not the way that I would approach things. In order for something to actually get passed and into law, you need the House, you need the Senate, and you need the president, and everybody should be operating from that perspective. If you truly do want to move the ball forward and get something done, even if it's not everything that you believe, but it is better than what exists, then the House and the Senate need to be coordinating. And I think there's a breakdown of coordination, a breakdown of trust. I've seen some sort of nasty insults fired away from House members to Democratic members of the Senate. The infighting is counterproductive, and one of the things that I would want to do when I go down there, is I would want to be a voice of reason and a voice of pragmatism, and I would want to get my House colleagues together with our Senate colleagues to try to figure out something that can work given the current dynamics, whatever they are.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think that one of the problems we run into in politics these days is we were just talking about with DOJ. Everybody expects everything to happen tomorrow. Well, what we have learned in watching the Republicans slowly take over the judiciary branch and the Supreme Court, that was a decades-long operation strategy where they just incrementally floated some of these far right extremist legal theories. And they floated up through the lower courts, and then they were rejected, but then they had more people buying into them, and then more and more, and now you have this incredibly extremist radical Supreme Court that is rolling back fundamental rights for the first time in our history. That did not happen overnight, and I think what we Democrats need to understand is there needs to be a longer-term strategy. Not just go as hard as we can right now, insist that everything gets done right now, and if not, we're going to throw up our hands. So one of the things I want to bring down is not only creative thinking, but more strategic thinking, more tactical thinking, more game theory. Let's game out how this is going to go, what is the first step we need, the second step we need, the third step. We're going to go from A to Z, but we can't skip all the letters in between and I think that's what's missing. And so I think leadership has a very difficult time managing so many different approaches, which are often not consistent with each other.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">So obviously, you're running somewhat on the resume that I mentioned and you have a different background than a number of the other candidates who have been in local elected office or are currently in local elected office. The flip side of some of that is the sort of connections in the communities and the neighborhoods of this district. Do you have those? Have you been active in any of the communities of this district? I know you live in Lower Manhattan and you're a parent, but what are your sort of ties on the ground? Or is it that you've been doing this, this other important work, and that's just not a way you’ve been able to spend your time? What's the sort of pitch on the local level here to voters in this district in terms of your connections to the communities of the district?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I’ve lived in this district now for more than 15 years. I'm raising my five children in the district, some of whom go to school in the Lower Manhattan portion of the district, and some have or currently do go to the school in the Brooklyn part of this district. So I actually have great familiarity with both sides of the river as part of this district. I also worked at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the district for 10 years, and part of my requirements there is that I could not engage in political activity outside of the office. So I am relatively new to sort of the political world, but I'm not new to these issues. Before I was in the US Attorney's Office, I worked very closely in law school with Michelle Alexander and I contributed to her book, “The New Jim Crow,” which is a seminal work on inequities in the criminal justice system. I have been a lifelong champion of social justice, of civil rights.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I've invested a lot of my time and energy in anti-poverty organizations in the city, as well as early childhood education and early childhood development, which are areas that along with criminal justice reform, I bring a real expertise about and that I will push very hard when I get to Congress. So I think what is important for those in the district to understand is I served as a lawyer, I am a lawyer, but my only client as a lawyer has been the United States of America, and I've tried to do my very best to represent the United States and in every aspect that I've done. And I am an incredibly hard worker, and I think I've had success in representing the United States as a lawyer. Now, I want to represent the constituents of this district as a United States congressperson. And in many of the same ways, I would expect to understand and learn all of the community issues, many of which I have already been speaking extensively about and have very good relationships with a number of the community members, and I will represent them very well. And I recently got an endorsement from Park Slope Assemblyman Robert Carroll, whose district is in a significant portion of this district, and I think what Bobby said about why he ultimately endorsed me over two of his colleagues in the state Assembly is that we're just in a different time period right now where the threats to the country that we've known, the existence of this country as we've known it, are greater than ever before. And what we need right now is somebody with the skills and experience to take on those fights, to preserve, defend our democracy, and then someone else who can be really creative and thoughtful in moving forward on the local issues that matter so much to the constituents. And that's something that I've done all my life, and I would be very excited to do as a member of Congress.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: Y</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">ou're listening to Max Politics here with Ben Max from Gotham Gazette. I'm joined by Dan Goldman, a Democratic candidate running in the primary that will occur in August for the new NY-10, the 10th congressional district of New York, including large portions of lower Manhattan and a big swath of Brooklyn, including a whole bunch of neighborhoods from downtown Brooklyn to Gowanus to Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Borough Park, and more. Dan Goldman, just a few more minutes with you here, a couple more questions. In that similar vein, it seems like you've been looking for an opportunity to jump into politics in elected office. When New York Attorney General Letitia James was running for governor briefly, you among others jumped into the attorney general primary that wound up then everyone being vacating for Tish James, when she decided not to run for governor. Say a little something about sort of that turn of interest and how should people understand then turning your attention to a congressional race? A run for New York Attorney General obviously seems to suit your background, obviously, of course, being in the House also, you can use some of that experience and skills. But in terms of the shift to elected office in politics, what's the sort of background there of your thinking and how that shift is going for you?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, as you pointed out, I've always worked in public service and a big part of the reason that I decided to sort of throw a complete monkey wrench in my family and commute down to Washington for almost a year and a half to work for Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee and ultimately lead the impeachment investigation is because I recognized what a threat to our country Donald Trump was, and I wanted to do everything that I could to be a check and a balance and push back against him. And unfortunately, even after he lost the election, he has not gone quietly into the good night.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so part of the reason why I was interested in running for Attorney General is very consistent with why I'm interested in running for Congress right now, is that these threats from Donald Trump and the Republican Party that he controls, and let's not mistake this — he still controls the Republican Party. Those threats are not gone, and what we're seeing is a rollback of our rights, significant existential threats to our democracy, our elections. There is a a very concerted effort now, even recently in the Supreme Court, not only overturning Roe, but preventing states from passing laws to keep guns off the streets to keep the citizens safe, including in this particular instance, New York State and rolling back the the ability of the EPA to monitor climate change and to reduce climate change. Everything that we care about is going in the wrong direction, and I happen to have skills and experience that I think are very relevant to the issues facing New Yorkers and Americans today. And it is very consistent with my personal desire to have done public service, but this is what I think we all need to move forward, and this is a crisis that we're facing. And so the reasons I jumped in the AG race are very consistent with the reasons I'm jumping in here is I want to get back on the front lines to fight for the people of New York, to fight for Democrats around the country, to fight for patriots and Americans who believe in democracy and believe in individual rights and freedoms. That's what this country is all about. That's what has given so many of us such incredible opportunities, and I feel compelled to fight for that until I cannot fight any longer.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright, in closing, we could talk about each of these for 10 minutes each, but give me a quick answer on each of these. One of your opponents in the race is former Mayor Bill de Blasio. What's your sort of quick headlines on what you think of his record as mayor of New York City?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, the good thing about Bill de Blasio is that he has close to 100% name ID, and that means that everybody knows him and everybody has an opinion about. And so  I welcome each voter to make their opinion about him known on election day.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alright. Do you think that the Rikers Island jail complex should be brought under a federal receivership?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think Rikers Island jail complex should be shut down. I do think there needs to be greater oversight of it from the federal government. But I think the biggest priority right now is to end Rikers, and we need to move forward on an alternative situation so that we can close Rikers down.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">The New York City Public Housing Authority is in need of tens of billions of dollars in repairs, as I'm sure you know. There was a recent movement with a state bill to create a new preservation trust to raise some of that money, but there's big gaps. Other than tens of billions of federal dollars just being sent to NYCHA to address those major capital needs, which again, is always potentially possible in something like Build Back Better. But other than that, is there a specific strategy you favor for raising more money for public housing repairs in New York City? There's a variety of other strategies that are out there, controversial ones. Any specific strategy you think that NYCHA needs to move forward on in the absence of those billions of federal dollars?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I will push incredibly hard and will work incredibly hard to get federal dollars for NYCHA. I think that the community trust that was established by the state is a very good vehicle, and I think it actually could be a hook to try to get federal legislation. But the affordable housing problem in the city is not just with the disrepair of NYCHA buildings, which is just not something that we can allow for anymore. It is a function of a lack of housing and a lack of good housing more broadly. And I do have some serious ideas about how we can create more and better housing. One example is that I believe 5 World Trade Center should be 100%, affordable housing, and that it should be available first to the survivors of 9/11, as well as those who have lived in the community, post-9/11, and who endured so much of the the effects of the cleanup. But that is one way where I do believe that the community should receive some further benefits from all of the development that we've had downtown.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I will work very hard to work with real estate developers to make sure that they are incentivized to continue development, while also requiring them to give back more, especially in the way of affordable housing, because I think the best way for us to create more and better housing is to allow the experts in that area to do it while insisting that government incentives yield greater results for the community, and where it's been lacking in a lot of these rezonings and these development is that there is not enough required of the developers to make the rezoned areas, to improve them for the communities, whether that's parks, schools, daycares, medical facilities, mass transit, and of course and most importantly, affordable housing.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last two. I saw your campaign. You tweeted a photo going to vote in the primaries we just had last month in June. Were you a Kathy Hochul, Jumaane Williams, or Tom Suozzi voter in the governor's race?</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I proudly voted for Kathy Hochul. I think she was dealt a very difficult hand without any transition period, and she's gotten on her feet very well. She is navigating some very tricky waters, but I've generally been very impressed with the job that she's done.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And lastly, I've heard you talk about this in other interviews. We didn't really get into this this time, but maybe in the future we will. Public safety, you've prosecuted gun trafficking cases you've noted. Just give us one thought on a strategy that you would pursue in Congress to help reduce the flow of guns that's realistic, that's something that if you are let's say in a House Democratic majority, but you're facing the current Senate dynamics or even a Republican Senate, something sort of realistic, but that is a specific strategy that you would look to take at the federal level related to guns in the United States and in New York.</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I think there are lots of different ways that we need to approach this. The first thing I would say is that I think we can have justice and fairness. I think we can improve the fairness of the criminal justice system. We can reduce the number of people going to jail by diverting first-time nonviolent offenders out of the system and into either educational or vocational training, and so that they don't become these recidivists that I think so many of us are frustrated to see. And we also need to improve funding for mental health treatment to allow for experts to deal with domestic violence and homeless problems that the NYPD spends way too much time on. We ought to try to have the NYPD focus on what they are good at, which is fighting crime, and part of that is fighting gun crime.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So a couple of things that I would do. One is II would reinitiate a program that I was a part of when I was in the Southern District of New York, which was called the Trigger Lock Program, where basically, a lot of gun possession charges in the state should go to go federally, because the laws are a little bit easier to prosecute and some of the punishments are more severe. I draw a significant divide between violent crime and gun crime and non violent crime, and I think that what we have to do is be very, very strong on violent crime. We cannot allow for people to be afraid to walk down the street or go on the subways, and so we need to aggressively combat violent crime. So that's one area. I would also include ghost guns and would update the gun trafficking laws to make them easier to prosecute. And I would also strengthen some of the penalties for failure to register a gun and failure to abide by the general gun laws. So we've got to stop this iron pipeline, and part of the way to do that, I think, is to increase penalties. And part of the way to do that is to be a little bit more thoughtful about how we investigate these crimes.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer outro…]</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Dan Goldman, thanks very much for all the time and be well.</span></p> <p><b>Dan Goldman: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thank you so much, Ben. It was really great to be with you. Thank you.</span></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Absentee Ballot Programs Could Be 'Single Most Important Factor' in High-Profile NY-10 and NY-12 Congressional Races 2022-08-05T04:00:00+00:00 2022-08-05T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11505-absentee-ballots-ny-10-12-races-congress Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/cast-votes-pres.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Voters on the move (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>There are less than three weeks until primary day, August 23, and the deadline for voters to request an absentee ballot is Monday, August 8. In New York’s 10th and 12th congressional districts, where there are heated Democratic primary contests underway, absentee ballots may play a particularly significant role under the peculiar circumstances of the election.</p> <p>“Absentee ballot organizing is likely to be the single most important factor in determining the winner of these races,” Neal Kwatra, founder of Metropolitan Public Strategies, told Gotham Gazette. “It’s of paramount importance in both races.”</p> <p>Absentee voting played a very limited role in most New York elections until the COVID-19 pandemic, but since rules were loosened under emergency order in 2020, the significance of vote-by-mail has been far greater. But many campaigns have always made sure to have so-called absentee ballot programs in order to reach out to those who typically vote absentee. Those efforts have only intensified in recent years, becoming an absolute necessity in any close or unpredictable race.</p> <p>The state’s chaotic redistricting process this year led to a judge ordering new maps for State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives districts and for the primaries for those seats to be held in August rather than June. (State leaders decided to leave the statewide and Assembly primaries in June.)</p> <p>New York has never held a primary in August before and turnout is expected to be low as the temperature climbs and many New Yorkers leave the city for annual vacations, especially among the many wealthier communities of both districts. The two districts are also home to the areas of the city with the highest voter turnout in every election.</p> <p>The <a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=10.79/40.7262/-74.0043" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">newly drawn 10th District</a>, which covers Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, has drawn a crowded field of a dozen candidates. <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The leading contenders</a> include Assemblymembers Yuh-line Niou and Jo Anne Simon, City Council Member Carlina Rivera, Representative Mondaire Jones, former Representative Elizabeth Holtzman, and attorney Dan Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who led the first Trump impeachment trial.</p> <p>In NY-12, longtime Democratic congressional Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney have found themselves at odds in <a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-73.953,40.757#%26map=11.89/40.77425/-73.96211" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a new district</a> that combined the East and West Sides of Manhattan, from roughly 13th Street to 110th Street, with variation on each side of Central Park. A third candidate, Suraj Patel, who twice previously ran unsuccessfully against Maloney, coming close in the 2020 primary, has also emerged as a strong rival in the race.</p> <p>Experts like Kwatra, a political consultant who advised former Mayor Bill de Blasio's NY-10 campaign until he ended it in July, agree that absentee-ballot programming is of utmost importance for these two races. Candidates and campaigns say likewise, and some said their campaigns are carrying out robust programs to encourage as many voters to cast a ballot as possible. There are a number of other competitive races taking place for State Senate and Congress in the city and beyond where absentee balloting will play an important role, but the 10th and 12th congressional district primaries will likely see the most such votes cast and they are perhaps the most-watched given their special circumstances including, respectively, a rare open seat and a race featuring two 30-year incumbents.</p> <p>In January this year, Governor Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature approved a measure that would allow anyone to request an absentee ballot for fear of contracting covid, an extension of the pandemic-era executive order first approved in 2020. Previously, voters could only request an absentee ballot if they expected to be out of state on the day of the election or if they had an illness, physical disability, or if they were the primary caregiver for someone who is ill or has a disability, among other reasons.</p> <p>In the November 2020 general election in New York, a record 662,314 absentee ballots were cast citywide, compared to just under 67,000 in the pre-pandemic 2018 general election. Absentee voting is harder to compare in primaries in those years. In 2020, there was a presidential primary and a consolidated state and congressional primary, while in 2018, separate primary elections were held for congressional and state races in June and September respectively.</p> <p>The Legislature also passed bills last year and this year to expedite the process of counting absentee ballots and to protect ballots from being improperly invalidated when the express intent of a voter is clear.</p> <p>“Obviously [absentee ballots] are very important in an August 23 primary,” said Bob Liff, a spokesperson for the Maloney campaign, in a phone interview. “Having an August primary is not something anybody is used to and it's something we have to deal with. And yes, we're doing extensive early voting and absentee ballot outreach.”</p> <p>Without offering too many details, Liff said the campaign is sending out mailers, advertising, conducting door-to-door outreach, and reaching out through political clubs.</p> <p>Liff noted that voters in the 12th district are among the most motivated Democrats in the city who tend to turnout in higher numbers in every election. “We're gonna have a significant turnout. We always do in this district,” he said.</p> <p>Indeed, in the June primary, Assembly districts covering the Upper East Side and Upper West Side of Manhattan were the top four of 13 districts in Manhattan in terms of total numbers of absentee ballots requested and returned by Democrats. Assembly Districts 67 and 69, which span the Upper West Side, accounted for 2,968 absentee ballots returned and Districts 73 and 76 covering the Upper East Side accounted for 3,440 absentee ballots. A total of 12,702 absentee votes were cast by Manhattan Democrats.</p> <p>But he conceded that an August primary is “uncharted territory” and is hard to compare with previous elections.</p> <p>“I think regardless of any differences any of the campaigns have, every single campaign would come together and agree that August 23rd is the absolute worst possible day you could have for a primary election,” said Julian Gerson, Nadler’s co-campaign manager, in a phone interview. Besides the crushing heat of the summer, he expected that many voters would be out of the city or just not used to voting in late August. “So I think it would be malpractice almost to not have an active and dynamic absentee program,” he said.</p> <p>Gerson said the campaign is sending out absentee ballot applications with mailers to make it as easy as possible for voters. Their field and phone teams also help voters plan to vote through absentee ballots, and the campaign <a href="https://jerrynadler.com/voting-info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website</a> directs voters to the necessary resources.</p> <p>He also expects turnout to be extremely low, relatively speaking, considering there was a significant drop in voters in even the June primary, which had statewide races on the ballot. Nonetheless, in Nadler’s Upper West Side base, he said, Democrats “vote early and often as the cliche goes.”</p> <p>“So maybe absentee outreach goes further here because people are desperate to vote,” said Gerson. “They don't miss a cycle, they don't want to miss a cycle. So they hear about it and they want the options to do so.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11481-max-politics-podcast-suraj-patel-runs-congress-ny-12-manhattan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Patel’s campaign</a> said they are taking absentee balloting "very seriously" and engaging with voters in a variety of ways. "We don't have to win the East Side or the West Side, we just have to come in second in both," Patel said during a <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11481-max-politics-podcast-suraj-patel-runs-congress-ny-12-manhattan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recent appearance on Gotham Gazette's Max Politics podcast</a>, where he also discussed his ability to connect with younger voters on social media.</p> <p>The three campaigns expect a close race and know that every vote will count, potentially making absentee ballots particularly decisive. A <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-york-elections-government/ny-election-2022-12-congressional-district-nadler-maloney-patel-poll-20220801-sauix73xkzcgthxarn4cf3vham-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">poll released</a> on Monday by Patel’s campaign, the only made public so far in the race, found Nadler and Maloney tied at 31% of the vote while Patel got 24%, with 12% undecided (though campaigns' internal polls often show the client candidate in stronger position than other polls).</p> <p>In the 10th district, polls have shown Rivera, Niou, and Goldman toward the front of the pack, though no candidate has had a commanding share of the vote and there has been a plurality undecided in every poll that’s been made public. With so many candidates in the field, the race could easily be very close and absentee ballots could prove critical.</p> <p>“We've been focusing on absentee voters, obviously in both boroughs,” said Assemblymember Simon, who currently represents Assembly District 52 covering the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, and parts of Park Slope. Her district covers a significant cross-section of the Brooklyn half of the new 10th congressional district, and is home to some of the highest voter-turnout areas of the city.</p> <p>Simon’s Assembly district accounted for the most absentee ballots requested and returned by Democrats in Brooklyn in the June primary; 906 absentee votes were cast from that district out of 7,816 in total by Brooklyn Democrats, according to the <a href="https://vote.nyc/sites/default/files/pdf/absentee_reports/PE2022_July/KingsDemocraticAbsenteeRecapByAD-July15.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">city Board of Elections</a>. And her campaign has been making concerted efforts to reach out to those voters as well as the broader base through texts, emails, physical mailers and phone banking. Simon even carries absentee ballot applications with her so she can hand them to voters personally on the street, she said.</p> <p>Simon echoed the other campaigns in her concerns about low turnout. “Who remembers to get an absentee ballot for a primary in August? We’ve never had one,” she said. “This is off the radar screen of so many people.”</p> <p>There’s also the fact that the district is new and includes many voters who might be unaware that there is a competitive race in their backyard or know the contours of the new district. “People have in their head a very different thing, a very different map,” she said.</p> <p>One minor factor that Simon said could possibly cause confusion at the polls is a change in election law enacted by the Legislature this year. Voters who have been issued an absentee ballot for an election can no longer cast a ballot on a voting machine at their local poll site. If they choose to vote in person, they will instead have to use an affidavit ballot, which will be counted or not depending on whether their absentee ballot has also been submitted.</p> <p>“Any change is likely to cause some confusion among voters. I think that that is a given,” she said. “I think that it's like a combination of things for this primary in August, which itself is so confusing to people. So it kind of exacerbates the confusion, or the potential confusion factor.”</p> <p>Three of the other four leading campaigns (Jones, Rivera, Niou) did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>"We want to encourage as many voters as possible to participate in the electoral process in whichever way is easiest for them - voting absentee is a safe and easy way to do so,” said Simone Kanter, a spokesperson for Goldman’s campaign. “Dan is running to protect our democracy, expand the right to vote, and eliminate barriers to the fundamental right to free and fair elections.”</p> <p>Assembly District 66 covers the western side of the Manhattan part of the 10th Congressional District, including the neighborhoods of Tribeca, SoHo, Hudson Square, the East Village, Greenwich Village, and West Village. In the June primary, that Assembly district had more than twice as many absentee ballots cast than neighboring District 65, currently represented by Niou and including Chinatown, Little Italy, the Lower East Side, Two Bridges, and parts of the Financial District.</p> <p>Voters can fill out an absentee ballot application online, request one in person at their local county Board of Elections office, or designate a third party to deliver their application in person and receive their ballot.</p> <p>For the August 23 primary, a voter can cast an absentee ballot by:<br />– mailing it to the State Board of Elections with a postmark no later than August 23<br />– bringing it to a local BOE office in person no later than 9 pm on August 23<br />– bringing it to an early voting site in person in their county between August 13-21<br />– bringing it to their local poll site in person on August 23 by 9 pm<br />For more information visit <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingAbsentee.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the State Board of Elections website</a>.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/cast-votes-pres.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Voters on the move (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>There are less than three weeks until primary day, August 23, and the deadline for voters to request an absentee ballot is Monday, August 8. In New York’s 10th and 12th congressional districts, where there are heated Democratic primary contests underway, absentee ballots may play a particularly significant role under the peculiar circumstances of the election.</p> <p>“Absentee ballot organizing is likely to be the single most important factor in determining the winner of these races,” Neal Kwatra, founder of Metropolitan Public Strategies, told Gotham Gazette. “It’s of paramount importance in both races.”</p> <p>Absentee voting played a very limited role in most New York elections until the COVID-19 pandemic, but since rules were loosened under emergency order in 2020, the significance of vote-by-mail has been far greater. But many campaigns have always made sure to have so-called absentee ballot programs in order to reach out to those who typically vote absentee. Those efforts have only intensified in recent years, becoming an absolute necessity in any close or unpredictable race.</p> <p>The state’s chaotic redistricting process this year led to a judge ordering new maps for State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives districts and for the primaries for those seats to be held in August rather than June. (State leaders decided to leave the statewide and Assembly primaries in June.)</p> <p>New York has never held a primary in August before and turnout is expected to be low as the temperature climbs and many New Yorkers leave the city for annual vacations, especially among the many wealthier communities of both districts. The two districts are also home to the areas of the city with the highest voter turnout in every election.</p> <p>The <a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=10.79/40.7262/-74.0043" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">newly drawn 10th District</a>, which covers Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, has drawn a crowded field of a dozen candidates. <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/ny-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The leading contenders</a> include Assemblymembers Yuh-line Niou and Jo Anne Simon, City Council Member Carlina Rivera, Representative Mondaire Jones, former Representative Elizabeth Holtzman, and attorney Dan Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who led the first Trump impeachment trial.</p> <p>In NY-12, longtime Democratic congressional Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney have found themselves at odds in <a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-73.953,40.757#%26map=11.89/40.77425/-73.96211" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a new district</a> that combined the East and West Sides of Manhattan, from roughly 13th Street to 110th Street, with variation on each side of Central Park. A third candidate, Suraj Patel, who twice previously ran unsuccessfully against Maloney, coming close in the 2020 primary, has also emerged as a strong rival in the race.</p> <p>Experts like Kwatra, a political consultant who advised former Mayor Bill de Blasio's NY-10 campaign until he ended it in July, agree that absentee-ballot programming is of utmost importance for these two races. Candidates and campaigns say likewise, and some said their campaigns are carrying out robust programs to encourage as many voters to cast a ballot as possible. There are a number of other competitive races taking place for State Senate and Congress in the city and beyond where absentee balloting will play an important role, but the 10th and 12th congressional district primaries will likely see the most such votes cast and they are perhaps the most-watched given their special circumstances including, respectively, a rare open seat and a race featuring two 30-year incumbents.</p> <p>In January this year, Governor Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature approved a measure that would allow anyone to request an absentee ballot for fear of contracting covid, an extension of the pandemic-era executive order first approved in 2020. Previously, voters could only request an absentee ballot if they expected to be out of state on the day of the election or if they had an illness, physical disability, or if they were the primary caregiver for someone who is ill or has a disability, among other reasons.</p> <p>In the November 2020 general election in New York, a record 662,314 absentee ballots were cast citywide, compared to just under 67,000 in the pre-pandemic 2018 general election. Absentee voting is harder to compare in primaries in those years. In 2020, there was a presidential primary and a consolidated state and congressional primary, while in 2018, separate primary elections were held for congressional and state races in June and September respectively.</p> <p>The Legislature also passed bills last year and this year to expedite the process of counting absentee ballots and to protect ballots from being improperly invalidated when the express intent of a voter is clear.</p> <p>“Obviously [absentee ballots] are very important in an August 23 primary,” said Bob Liff, a spokesperson for the Maloney campaign, in a phone interview. “Having an August primary is not something anybody is used to and it's something we have to deal with. And yes, we're doing extensive early voting and absentee ballot outreach.”</p> <p>Without offering too many details, Liff said the campaign is sending out mailers, advertising, conducting door-to-door outreach, and reaching out through political clubs.</p> <p>Liff noted that voters in the 12th district are among the most motivated Democrats in the city who tend to turnout in higher numbers in every election. “We're gonna have a significant turnout. We always do in this district,” he said.</p> <p>Indeed, in the June primary, Assembly districts covering the Upper East Side and Upper West Side of Manhattan were the top four of 13 districts in Manhattan in terms of total numbers of absentee ballots requested and returned by Democrats. Assembly Districts 67 and 69, which span the Upper West Side, accounted for 2,968 absentee ballots returned and Districts 73 and 76 covering the Upper East Side accounted for 3,440 absentee ballots. A total of 12,702 absentee votes were cast by Manhattan Democrats.</p> <p>But he conceded that an August primary is “uncharted territory” and is hard to compare with previous elections.</p> <p>“I think regardless of any differences any of the campaigns have, every single campaign would come together and agree that August 23rd is the absolute worst possible day you could have for a primary election,” said Julian Gerson, Nadler’s co-campaign manager, in a phone interview. Besides the crushing heat of the summer, he expected that many voters would be out of the city or just not used to voting in late August. “So I think it would be malpractice almost to not have an active and dynamic absentee program,” he said.</p> <p>Gerson said the campaign is sending out absentee ballot applications with mailers to make it as easy as possible for voters. Their field and phone teams also help voters plan to vote through absentee ballots, and the campaign <a href="https://jerrynadler.com/voting-info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website</a> directs voters to the necessary resources.</p> <p>He also expects turnout to be extremely low, relatively speaking, considering there was a significant drop in voters in even the June primary, which had statewide races on the ballot. Nonetheless, in Nadler’s Upper West Side base, he said, Democrats “vote early and often as the cliche goes.”</p> <p>“So maybe absentee outreach goes further here because people are desperate to vote,” said Gerson. “They don't miss a cycle, they don't want to miss a cycle. So they hear about it and they want the options to do so.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11481-max-politics-podcast-suraj-patel-runs-congress-ny-12-manhattan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Patel’s campaign</a> said they are taking absentee balloting "very seriously" and engaging with voters in a variety of ways. "We don't have to win the East Side or the West Side, we just have to come in second in both," Patel said during a <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11481-max-politics-podcast-suraj-patel-runs-congress-ny-12-manhattan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recent appearance on Gotham Gazette's Max Politics podcast</a>, where he also discussed his ability to connect with younger voters on social media.</p> <p>The three campaigns expect a close race and know that every vote will count, potentially making absentee ballots particularly decisive. A <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-york-elections-government/ny-election-2022-12-congressional-district-nadler-maloney-patel-poll-20220801-sauix73xkzcgthxarn4cf3vham-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">poll released</a> on Monday by Patel’s campaign, the only made public so far in the race, found Nadler and Maloney tied at 31% of the vote while Patel got 24%, with 12% undecided (though campaigns' internal polls often show the client candidate in stronger position than other polls).</p> <p>In the 10th district, polls have shown Rivera, Niou, and Goldman toward the front of the pack, though no candidate has had a commanding share of the vote and there has been a plurality undecided in every poll that’s been made public. With so many candidates in the field, the race could easily be very close and absentee ballots could prove critical.</p> <p>“We've been focusing on absentee voters, obviously in both boroughs,” said Assemblymember Simon, who currently represents Assembly District 52 covering the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, and parts of Park Slope. Her district covers a significant cross-section of the Brooklyn half of the new 10th congressional district, and is home to some of the highest voter-turnout areas of the city.</p> <p>Simon’s Assembly district accounted for the most absentee ballots requested and returned by Democrats in Brooklyn in the June primary; 906 absentee votes were cast from that district out of 7,816 in total by Brooklyn Democrats, according to the <a href="https://vote.nyc/sites/default/files/pdf/absentee_reports/PE2022_July/KingsDemocraticAbsenteeRecapByAD-July15.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">city Board of Elections</a>. And her campaign has been making concerted efforts to reach out to those voters as well as the broader base through texts, emails, physical mailers and phone banking. Simon even carries absentee ballot applications with her so she can hand them to voters personally on the street, she said.</p> <p>Simon echoed the other campaigns in her concerns about low turnout. “Who remembers to get an absentee ballot for a primary in August? We’ve never had one,” she said. “This is off the radar screen of so many people.”</p> <p>There’s also the fact that the district is new and includes many voters who might be unaware that there is a competitive race in their backyard or know the contours of the new district. “People have in their head a very different thing, a very different map,” she said.</p> <p>One minor factor that Simon said could possibly cause confusion at the polls is a change in election law enacted by the Legislature this year. Voters who have been issued an absentee ballot for an election can no longer cast a ballot on a voting machine at their local poll site. If they choose to vote in person, they will instead have to use an affidavit ballot, which will be counted or not depending on whether their absentee ballot has also been submitted.</p> <p>“Any change is likely to cause some confusion among voters. I think that that is a given,” she said. “I think that it's like a combination of things for this primary in August, which itself is so confusing to people. So it kind of exacerbates the confusion, or the potential confusion factor.”</p> <p>Three of the other four leading campaigns (Jones, Rivera, Niou) did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>"We want to encourage as many voters as possible to participate in the electoral process in whichever way is easiest for them - voting absentee is a safe and easy way to do so,” said Simone Kanter, a spokesperson for Goldman’s campaign. “Dan is running to protect our democracy, expand the right to vote, and eliminate barriers to the fundamental right to free and fair elections.”</p> <p>Assembly District 66 covers the western side of the Manhattan part of the 10th Congressional District, including the neighborhoods of Tribeca, SoHo, Hudson Square, the East Village, Greenwich Village, and West Village. In the June primary, that Assembly district had more than twice as many absentee ballots cast than neighboring District 65, currently represented by Niou and including Chinatown, Little Italy, the Lower East Side, Two Bridges, and parts of the Financial District.</p> <p>Voters can fill out an absentee ballot application online, request one in person at their local county Board of Elections office, or designate a third party to deliver their application in person and receive their ballot.</p> <p>For the August 23 primary, a voter can cast an absentee ballot by:<br />– mailing it to the State Board of Elections with a postmark no later than August 23<br />– bringing it to a local BOE office in person no later than 9 pm on August 23<br />– bringing it to an early voting site in person in their county between August 13-21<br />– bringing it to their local poll site in person on August 23 by 9 pm<br />For more information visit <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingAbsentee.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the State Board of Elections website</a>.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Transcript: Jo Anne Simon NY-10 Max Politics Interview 2022-08-03T14:00:00+00:00 2022-08-03T14:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11485-transcript-jo-anne-simon-ny-10-max-politics Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mxp-jasimon-pp600.jpeg" width="600" /></p> <p>Jo Anne Simon at an abortion rights rally</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Jo Anne Simon Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recorded July 12, 2022</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11443-max-politics-podcast-jo-anne-simon-runs-congress-ny-10"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Listen to the audio here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</span></p> <p>Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</p> <p>District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (<a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">see map here</a>)</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Transcript:</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer intro...] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, thank you for being here. Welcome. How are you?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I’m great. Good to speak with you again this morning Ben.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yes, we’re speaking here on the morning of Tuesday, July 12, and some listeners may know, last night I moderated a candidate forum in the race at a church in downtown Brooklyn. So we’ve spoken just hours ago in person and it was broadcast over zoom. So a quick turnaround here for us, but now we get to have a more extended conversation about you and your campaign. So start us off a little bit with just the broad rationale for running for Congress. Why are you doing this? Broadly speaking, what brought you into this race?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well thank you, Ben. What brought me into this race, I think what brought everybody into this race, was the court's ruling that there would be a new congressional district that kind of changes the landscape of the 10th congressional district, as well as the 12th in Manhattan. And so when Congressman Nadler made his decision to run in the 12th, where he lives, this race was made open. So when I looked at the map of this race, I realized number one, my entire district was within the district. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other districts that I had worked in and advocated in throughout Western Brooklyn, communities I had worked with over the years were also in this district, and I knew the issues. I am an issue person. I've always been about the intersection of our neighborhoods and our communities, and working within those communities to ensure that their voices are heard, and that Congress was a new way for me to serve those communities and the additional communities in Lower Manhattan.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And why Congress instead of the Assembly? What is it that appeals to you about being able to potentially represent these communities at the federal level? Is there something that is drawing you, is pulling you other than the trips to Washington, D.C. instead of Albany? What's drawn you here interested in Congress instead of the Assembly?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, so much of the challenges on the ground for New Yorkers are often a result of federal policy, federal funding decisions, federal rights, for example. And so I'm in a district where it's both bridges, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge come into my district. I have a major interstate highway. Those decisions and the funding of those decisions, or the lack of funding of the infrastructure, are critical issues to the folks I represent and anybody who's in that Western Brooklyn corridor. The Gowanus Canal Superfund Site is in my district. That has been something that we worked on getting for for many years, and that is an EPA Superfund site. So the federal issues on the ground are very. Housing is another major issue that affects my district, as well as everybody's district. The lack of support that the federal government has given to public housing and other housing programs over the last several decades has really made so much of our housing unaffordable and untenable. So those are big issues at the federal level that also affect all of us here in New York at the ground level, and because I have that experience in working with communities, city, state, and the federal government, for me, this was a natural move to sort of connect those dots in a fundamentally different way than you can from a single Assembly district.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gotcha. So we'll get into more of what you want to do if elected in a moment, but let's talk about your Assembly tenure. You were elected in 2014, so you've been there several terms now. What would you say are your top accomplishments in the New York State Assembly?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I would say a couple of things. Number one, I'm very proud to have been part of the effort that really passed codification of Roe vs. Wade in the state Legislature. That was something that we heard all the time we didn't need to do because of Roe in the Supreme Court, we’d never overturn it. Many of us knew that was not going to be the case, and so we fought very hard to ensure that we had those rights here in New York. And all of the amplification of those rights and the ability to welcome people to New York for that kind of care is something I'm very proud of having been a part of. I've also passed the “red flag” law in New York. We passed it several times in the Assembly. I’ve passed it twice before we had a Democratic Senate and were able to get it passed in the Senate. It is really the strongest such law in the country. It is quite protective of anybody's rights under the second amendment, but it is also very specific about the criteria that needs to be met and the evidence that needs to be submitted to the court in order to get those guns away from people who shouldn't have them. And that protects New Yorkers, and I'm very excited about the way we are currently expanding and really mandating that law enforcement actually refer those cases to the court as opposed to making a decision based on what was perhaps a different standard under criminal law, which really doesn't apply. The red flag law is a civil procedure, so there's no criminality involved at the time that that petition is made to the Supreme Court and the evidence brought to the judge.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I've also this past year passed a groundbreaking supported-decision making so that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have as much control over the decisions that affect their lives as possible. But you know, a few years ago, I passed a bill that requires that school districts be able to use the words dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, in and around the IEP process for students with disabilities. And that is something that school districts had been telling parents they were not allowed to do for about 40 years. We changed that and have really opened the door to more such progressive changes with regard to addressing the needs of kids with reading disabilities, as well as just reading in general in New York. So I've been working very hard on those issues, and I'm very proud of my work to pass that seminal bill. I closed the LLC loophole. I have a bill for zoonotic transfer of viruses, which sounds a little wonky, but you know, climate change, deforestation, loss of habitat, that is encouraging all of these viruses to mutate and to jump from one species to the other. We need to be doing what we can do here to ensure that that doesn't happen in our country.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me quickly jump in there. Just explain that a little bit more, what would that do in New York? And that's a proposal, not something that's passed?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well it's passed in, the Assembly, I believe, but it hasn't taken off in the Senate. It’s a two House legislature. So it's a bill I'm working on, I mean it's not a bill, we're still working on that issue. But the more you hear about this latest variant, the more that is evidence that we need to start making decisions differently. We have a lot of these rare species that are getting imported into the country illegally or they're getting imported into the country and it's not yet illegal. We want to make sure they're not coming into New York. We don't want to feed that crisis. And as more states get on board with doing this kind of legislation, then it will bubble up and become easier for I think, passage at the federal level, to really look at how climate is impacting our health beyond the ways that we all know about, which is pulmonary disease and asthma, and, so many of the implications in the way our children's cognition is affected by the toxicity on our environment. We know about those things, but we're not paying as much attention to what we're doing to actually encourage or allow new variants of various viruses. COVID has been terrible, and we have learned a lot about it, but we haven't learned as much as we should. But COVID isn't the last one that might come around, and we need to be much more intentional about the work that we do in that area.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me ask about the red flag law. You noted that you passed it previously. And then recently, after the massacre in Buffalo, it was tightened up here and, as you said, sort of requiring law enforcement to file in civil procedures. There are clearly some challenges with implementation around the law. Just looking back at that and evaluating that, where do you see the gaps there? Is that something that once this was signed into law by then Governor Cuomo, there should have been more done to ensure stronger implementation and education in localities and among the state police and local law enforcement? Was there something that needed to be followed up on in terms of implementation there?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yes, I think so. Senator Kavanaugh carried the bill in the Senate. We were really trying to work with the administration on getting the various agencies that might be involved in these circumstances to work together to ensure that there was better public education. And just recently before the shooting in Buffalo, in fact, I was talking with the Governor's office in the Speaker's office and some folks in the Senate about the need for a massive public education campaign, so that people knew about their rights under the extreme risk protection order bill. And because in fact, it's not just mass shootings, I mean we want to eliminate those. It's also other interpersonal violence, and it's also suicide. So when you look at some of the counties have really gotten behind implementing that. Suffolk County, for example, has been the lead user of the red flag laws’ protections compared to other counties.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I think a lot of it has to do with — if you have a member of your family who is saying the kinds of things that are warning signs for gun violence, they may be purchasing weapons, they may be stockpiling ammunition. Most people don't know what to do. If you look at Parkland, for example, the mother went to the cops and said, ‘My kid needs help, can you talk him out of this?’ He hadn't done anything wrong at that point, and the cops can't do that. Right, they might sit him down and have a conversation, but they have no authority, and people don't want to get their family members in trouble with the law. So also, they may be fearful themselves. So it is important that they know that they can go, for example, to law enforcement, or they can talk to the school authorities. Very often to just the school authorities that also get wind of the concerns of young people who may end up getting an illegal weapon, but when they're making threats of violence of various kinds. So the schools are often in a position to know this information. They too can file a petition with the Supreme Court in every county to seek an extreme risk protection order.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I think that the fact that law enforcement has filed most of these petitions goes to the fact that law enforcement may come into contact with folks earlier, but also, they can be a great repository and a safety valve for those people who aren't quite sure how to do it themselves or are fearful of doing it themselves. And so, law enforcement should know how to do that. The Office of Court Administration has a very, very well rounded page on how to file for an extreme risk protection order. It's very user friendly. It is designed to be used by people who are not lawyers. I think that's a great way we need to make sure people know about that, but I'm also not unmindful of the fact that for some people, it may be a daunting process, and I think that that's where law enforcement can step in and have their attorneys filed this civil petition for extreme risk protection order and get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">The state Legislature holds a limited number of oversight hearings. Do you think there should have been more oversight from your Legislature on the implementation of the red flag law or even just broader gun measures that have been signed in the last several years? Obviously, when Democrats took control of the state Senate in 2019 and you had the Democratic majority of the year part of the Assembly, the Democratic governor, then Cuomo. And you then had full control of state government. There was a flood of legislation passed. So many things that were given attention and passage and new budget allocations and a lot of different things. So there's always sort of a limited calendar for what gets chosen. But would you, looking back, would you say there should have been more oversight about the implementation of this and other gun regulations?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the benefit of hindsight, that sounds like an idea. I think that the real issue in the initial stages of, and remember this was effective in August of 2019, so it's not a law that's been around for a very, very long time, was really focusing on getting the word out, and that's going to be really handled by state entities and differently in different counties throughout the state. I think you could see, for example, in Suffolk County, Suffolk County really took it seriously and went about educating people, and really using that process. So I think number one, there's always an issue with implementation and how much we support that and in what way.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think that what we have seen also in some instances is once legislation is passed, that sometimes the administration doesn't follow through and for example, I can cite to part of the New York SAFE Act, and the fact that there was supposed to be a registry for bullets, bullets for handguns. That you can only buy a bullet for a handgun you owned. That will help drive registration. About 5% of our firearms in New York State are actually registered. But in fact, once the bill was passed, the Republican conference really didn't want that database to be developed, and so there was a memorandum of understanding between the governor and the Republican leadership in the state senate to kind of not move forward with that. Governor Hochul has recently canceled that memorandum of understanding, and we are focusing on building out that database in a fundamentally different way than it was before. So sometimes it's the public's interest, sometimes it's the Legislature, which doesn't administer laws, doesn't implement laws ourselves, and the agencies may or may not be as collaborative with the Legislature as we would like in some cases, but also, sometimes it's from the administration's actions as well, and that that issue with the database has been a big one — it’s been one we've been concerned about for quite some time. I'm very glad that Governor Hochul has taken the lead on that.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let's talk about what you want to do in Congress, if elected, what are some of the top priorities? Obviously, at this forum we were both part of that occurred the night before we're speaking here, we're talking again on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 here, hosted by a number of Brooklyn democratic clubs. We were discussing things related to voting rights and protecting women's reproductive rights, climate, a variety of the very high-profile issues, of course, that especially given recent Supreme Court rulings, are particularly top of mind for many voters, especially Democratic voters. But what do you want to highlight for people listening here in terms of your top priorities if elected to Congress? Are there specific bills that you just want to become part of, hopefully in your mind, a majority in the House that helps push through? Are there specific under the radar pieces of legislation that you'd want to highlight for people or things you would look to introduce that don't exist already? What do you want to highlight for folks in terms of your top priorities if you were to head to the House?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Number one, I think what needs to be top of mind for everybody is climate. I certainly support the Green New Deal and those efforts to build into Build Back Better and the infrastructure plan to fund what it is we need to fund to achieve a healthy and safe environment. We have a long way to go in doing that, and there are, without a doubt, there will be other bills that can be brought to the floor and other appropriations that we can advocate for to effectuate that. And climate goes to issues like our housing, right. This federal government has not supported public housing and other innovative programs. And so for example, we need to keep fighting for that $40 billion that will help make NYCHA livable again, and moving forward with additional federal programs. Right now, they have section 202 housing, for example, that really prioritizes low-income communities, as well as people who are seniors and people with disabilities. So we need to strengthen the laws that we have and also fund those things in a much more constructive way because climate is affecting all of us in all of the areas of life, and so I think we have to really sort of look at that as kind of part of the linchpin to the way that our people live our lives, right. So all of the flooding, all of the fires out west, all of this is really about climate change and the failure of the federal government to have pursued that. And that is often as you know, something that has been a very divisive issue politically, and I point the recent decision in West Virginia vs. the EPA, where I don't know who is supposed to guard against greenhouse gas emissions then the EPA, I mean, it is only in their name, Environmental Protection Agency, and the environment is very much impacted by greenhouse gasses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So we are going to have to, I believe, codify what it is we need to do, that the Supreme Court has said that the EPA didn't have the authority to do, so that's one approach. I think we need to really deal with this issue of of access to abortion and pass the Women's Health Protection Act, and also ensure that we look at other ways that we can protect people who are seeking care. Very pleased that the President has come out and said that the states cannot just allow women to die. When the life of the mother is at stake, that the Supreme Court's ruling doesn't apply. I think we can also do a lot at the executive level. We can talk about the use of our Native American lands, we can talk about the use of now there’s a doctor in California who wants to do abortions on boats, right, that you can have a medical ship and provide that care. It's being done in other countries. I think that's a great way of kind of evading the issues of certain states that have really banned or all but banned abortion rights. So we need to be creative, and I'm looking forward to working with people on coming up with solutions for these issues. And I think if we just codify Roe vs. Wade and and expand that in the Women's Health Protection Act, that will make a big difference because the Legislature, which is Congress, has a right to pass federal laws and the Supreme Court can't overrule a federal law that is constitutionally passed.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Interesting. The politics of Washington are obviously very fluid right now. There's the question of whether, if you're elected to Congress, it's all but certain that a Democrat will be representing this new district, of course, at some of the highest Democratic enrollment areas of the state. But the question of balance of power in the House, in the Senate, these are up for grabs in the general election that will be coming this fall. But let's just say in the current landscape, that something close to it remains, it's not a given by any means, but the Democrats continue to have a slim majority in the House and a tie breaking vice presidential majority in the U.S. Senate. What do you make of those dynamics? Because there's people who obviously think — you get some of this in Albany, too, that the far left of the Democratic Party is pulling the party a little bit too far to the left at least a little bit and people saying that that's turning off a lot of moderate voters and you have Latino voters and Asian voters in in some significant numbers moving towards the Republican Party on some issues. But then you have, of course, a couple of the more moderate to conservative U.S. senators who had been holding up certain priorities of the President and Democrats. What do you make of that landscape? And what do you see, again, just assuming the sort of current landscape, which which will obviously change by next year, but what do you make of that landscape and the path forward for Democrats with these narrow majorities and how to get to agreement on some big ticket things to deliver for Democratic voters and the public?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">One thing I think that is true is when you're in a Legislature, just because you think you're right, doesn’t mean it sells well. But I would say, the right has a very effective echo chamber. And I think that you see that with the migration of recent immigrants, particularly Asian immigrants, are often very conservative. And their notion of socialism is China, which is, in my mind, more fascist and socialist. So I think some of the language we use is misunderstood by certain groups of people, number one. And the other thing, I think, is that the Democrats have been a big tent and we have always had these internal conversations, and we are much more likely to have those internal conversations more publicly. That is something that the Republican Party doesn't do, right. They will talk amongst themselves, but you know as Hillary Clinton once said years ago, the Democrats need to fall in love, but the Republicans fall in line. And I think what we need to do is really respect and honor everybody's views in the Democratic Party.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We need to listen to each other, and I think we have so much more in common than not. So I think a lot of what it is that kind of makes it seem like the left is too left, etc., is often some of the media coverage, and it's also led by the Republican echo chamber, right. The reality is that there are many things that they just deliberately misconstrue and miscommunicate about that aren't real, and we need to be better at combating that. We need to be better at saying ‘No, that is not the facts. The facts and the data and the science show X, they do not show Y.’ And so you saw that with one of the referendums last year no fault absentee voting, which we have fought for years so that people don't have to be sick or out of town to vote by absentee ballot. Mail in voting was something that all of the red states had and most Republicans states, it's all by mail in ballots, right? But they've demonized that. And so they went around and started campaigning that this would allow for ‘illegal aliens,’ to vote. It absolutely had nothing to do with that whatsoever. But the Democrats were caught flat-footed, they didn't properly educate, they didn't realize early enough that there would be this campaign to misconstrue and misrepresent what this would do. And we're not taking that lying down and we're moving forward on doing it again.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">All right, we're in our last few minutes here with state Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, who represents the 52nd assembly district in Brooklyn, which covers a significant stretch of the new 10th congressional district. And she's running in that Democratic primary, which is happening in August. Speaking of the sort of politics of the race, you represent this assembly district that's within the new congressional district. It is a very high turnout district. It delivered you. You ran for Brooklyn Borough President last year, it delivered you a very strong showing in that race. This is an even more crowded field here in the congressional primary. What's the sort of path to victory? How much do you need your assembly district to really come through for you in this race? And how do you sort of see where your other stronger areas of support might come from? How are you branching out into Manhattan in this race? Just a few thoughts on the sort of politics and your path to victory here. What do you make of it?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I think that, yes, the 52nd AD, I have been the top vote-getter in the state for the last three terms, so the AD 52 does vote. In last year's race, I won the 44th as well, and there's a lot of commonality in those communities. And here's where my community experience really matters. People know me — not just the people in my district — because I was leading on those issues of street safety early on, on environmental justice early on, on working with communities on those issues that we share in common, whether they were in what is now the 52nd assembly district or not, because I worked with with communities throughout Western Brooklyn and in and around downtown Brooklyn, which is also another assembly district, part of it, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill have traditionally been a different assembly district. Folks know me and they know my work. I have been like them in the trenches. I've been that person in the auditorium looking to get my voice heard with officialdom, whether it's an agency or elected officials, and so I know what people's concerns are and I am always there listening and working with people.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I'm very accessible. I have these “Java with Jo Annes” all the time. People know they can come to me. People who come to my “Java with Jo Annes” are often people from outside my assembly district because they have questions about something that affects their district that also affects mine. And similarly, when I've been out campaigning, people have said, ‘I'm not in your district, but you and your staff helped me with my unemployment benefits last year when nobody else would.’ So that to me is meaningful, and I think that people respond to that experience. But I also think, for example, that folks in Manhattan have very, very similar concerns, right. Resiliency is a big issue. Housing is a big issue, development and the development of enough affordable housing and the displacement of people. Whenever there's a big project being done, people are inevitably displaced. How do we counter that? How do we ensure that people are not pushed out of the neighborhoods that they built their lives and their homes and raise their families there? That young people can afford to live in the communities that they were raised in? That is something that we need to work together on. These are thorny issues, and when you've been working with people consistently over the years, people hear that message. I believe, for example, that is one of the reasons why I was just endorsed by the Downtown Independent Democrats, which is the largest Democratic club in Manhattan, as far as that goes, because what I'm talking about resonates with them and their lives. They want someone who will fight, and someone who will listen to them and work with them, and be able to read between the lines on so many of these proposals.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are a lot of things that sound like good deals, but you really have to look at them to see if they're all they're cracked up to be. And if they're not, then you need to find effective ways to ensure that that project becomes more responsive and doesn't end up doing damage that none of us really want. So I think that I have a message that is resonating with people in both boroughs, and that is my path to victory. I also think this district, we've never had an August primary before. We've had September, so there's been a lot of summer campaigning certainly in the past, but never in August. And so it's going to be an issue where people who are those primary voters, those people who are most deeply engaged, those people like the constituents in my district that come out and vote, rain or shine, they will come out and vote in primaries. That data shows that the double prime votes, that could be triple primes in this race, we don't know, 30% of them come out of my district, and 60% of them are women. So the demographics and the turnout numbers also are key to my path to victory.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> In this crowded race, your Assembly district coming in big for you could be almost all you need. All right, I just want to get to a few other things here. This is sort of a rapid fire, let's call it a lightning round type of thing. Just a few quick questions, short answers, if you don't mind. You are keeping open the possibility of appearing in the general election for your Assembly seat. Is that correct?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yes, I’m on the ballot as you know. If I am successful in the congressional primary, then the lawyers will figure that out. And the governor would call a special election to fill the seat.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Right. I mentioned in the introduction, Representative Mondaire Jones moved to the district just a few weeks ago. You've been in the district, as you've noted, since the early 80s. You've been in the assembly for seven, eight years now. What do you make briefly of him moving into this district to run? Do you think that's fair game, or do you do you know, does that sort of make you bristle at all?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">It's unusual. I think that you see that in some of the questions that people are asking. He's going to run his race. He's going to have to bring his experience to bear and convince the voters of the 10th congressional district that they should be voting for him. In the meantime, I'm focusing on my race.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And Mayor Bill de Blasio, the former mayor is in the race as well obviously. He has much deeper roots in the district than Mondaire Jones. Briefly, how do you capture your assessment of his record as mayor? If you're asked about it, your sort of clear answer to people on the street. What do you make of his record in eight years as mayor of New York City?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I would say it was mixed. He's done some excellent things, but it's been mixed in other ways. I think that he would say that himself. I think his communications and his speed of decision-making has been problematic in a lot of people's minds, and frustrating if nothing else. I have been personally less happy with the way this city has stepped up and taken responsibility for the work it needs to do and the Gowanus Canal Area, because it's a responsible party and has significant obligations under the federal remedy that in my mind, they have dragged their feet on for way too long. But again, the former mayor will make his commitments, and he will campaign. He has the benefit of 100% name recognition. I think that my community roots are different than his. As you know, I didn't come out of politics, he did, and I am making my case to the people on the ground who are going to be in those voting booths. And I'm confident that I can compete.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last couple and these could each be a half hour discussion, but just for the sake of the record here. Do you think it's time for the Rikers Island jails to be under a full federal receivership? Just just yes or no is fine and we can discuss further at another time. But there's obviously a monitor and there's questions about whether there should be a receivership. Mayor Adams has argued against it and they've gotten a bit of a reprieve from the courts. But do you think it's time for receivership for Rikers?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I do think it's time. Obviously, the court has given the administration a little more time, but I think it's moving in that direction.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And lastly here, you mentioned public housing earlier. We discussed it a bit at that forum last night. But short of tens of billions of dollars coming from the federal government from NYCHA, and I understand you and any of your competitors here in this race would be fighting for that in Congress, and it could come. But separate from that, short of that, is there a NYCHA rescue strategy that you're particularly supportive of other than tens of billions of dollars coming from the federal government? There's the new NYCHA Preservation Trust that you and your colleagues just passed and the governor signed into law, so that will help raise some money. But beyond that, do you support some affordable housing infill development in NYCHA? Do you support a lot more sales of air rights? Do you support the Rental Administration Demonstration program? Are there any NYCHA-related strategies, any one in particular that you support?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Each of these ideas have issues that I think need to be further developed, so it's very hard to say in a quick answer situation. I do not believe we need to be privatizing public housing. The NYCHA Preservation Trust, in fact, is still public ownership. I think there's some misunderstanding about that among tenants, and certainly their lack of trust in NYCHA is well deserved. But I do think that we were able to come out with an approach that gave a lot of autonomy to the residents of NYCHA housing and preserves the public ownership of NYCHA. Infill housing, that's been proposed, it’s been proposed in one of the public housing developments in my district, it hasn't happened — I think that's a good thing. Part of the problem is if you look at the way NYCHA developments are built, there was sort of a theme in the urban design of that, which also means that it's much harder to actually do viable infill developments from a position of light and air and open space. And so I think that it seems to be one of those ideas that looks good on paper, but not very much in the implementation and the doing of it, and it's not happened, and for a large portion, it's been very little of that that's actually occurred. Sales of bear rights, again, that goes to who's gonna buy those air rights. If it's a big developer that is not going to consult with community in a real way on the ground, I think that's a problem. We  need to look really at what it is we mean by these things and how they could end up furthering displacement, for example, in the unaffordability of neighborhoods. I think we don't look at that seriously enough, in the beginning when we're first talking about these ideas, and we need to do that much more.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">All right. Well you weren't you weren't in a rush, so I wasn't gonna rush you there to give answers on meaty topics here. We've covered a lot. There's still plenty more to get to down the line, but Jo Anne Simon, assemblymember and running for the Democratic primary nomination in the new 10th congressional district, thank you for the time and and be well.</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: T</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">hank you so much, Ben. Nice to speak to you again.</span></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mxp-jasimon-pp600.jpeg" width="600" /></p> <p>Jo Anne Simon at an abortion rights rally</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Jo Anne Simon Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recorded July 12, 2022</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11443-max-politics-podcast-jo-anne-simon-runs-congress-ny-10"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Listen to the audio here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</span></p> <p>Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</p> <p>District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (<a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">see map here</a>)</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Transcript:</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer intro...] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, thank you for being here. Welcome. How are you?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I’m great. Good to speak with you again this morning Ben.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yes, we’re speaking here on the morning of Tuesday, July 12, and some listeners may know, last night I moderated a candidate forum in the race at a church in downtown Brooklyn. So we’ve spoken just hours ago in person and it was broadcast over zoom. So a quick turnaround here for us, but now we get to have a more extended conversation about you and your campaign. So start us off a little bit with just the broad rationale for running for Congress. Why are you doing this? Broadly speaking, what brought you into this race?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well thank you, Ben. What brought me into this race, I think what brought everybody into this race, was the court's ruling that there would be a new congressional district that kind of changes the landscape of the 10th congressional district, as well as the 12th in Manhattan. And so when Congressman Nadler made his decision to run in the 12th, where he lives, this race was made open. So when I looked at the map of this race, I realized number one, my entire district was within the district. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other districts that I had worked in and advocated in throughout Western Brooklyn, communities I had worked with over the years were also in this district, and I knew the issues. I am an issue person. I've always been about the intersection of our neighborhoods and our communities, and working within those communities to ensure that their voices are heard, and that Congress was a new way for me to serve those communities and the additional communities in Lower Manhattan.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And why Congress instead of the Assembly? What is it that appeals to you about being able to potentially represent these communities at the federal level? Is there something that is drawing you, is pulling you other than the trips to Washington, D.C. instead of Albany? What's drawn you here interested in Congress instead of the Assembly?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, so much of the challenges on the ground for New Yorkers are often a result of federal policy, federal funding decisions, federal rights, for example. And so I'm in a district where it's both bridges, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge come into my district. I have a major interstate highway. Those decisions and the funding of those decisions, or the lack of funding of the infrastructure, are critical issues to the folks I represent and anybody who's in that Western Brooklyn corridor. The Gowanus Canal Superfund Site is in my district. That has been something that we worked on getting for for many years, and that is an EPA Superfund site. So the federal issues on the ground are very. Housing is another major issue that affects my district, as well as everybody's district. The lack of support that the federal government has given to public housing and other housing programs over the last several decades has really made so much of our housing unaffordable and untenable. So those are big issues at the federal level that also affect all of us here in New York at the ground level, and because I have that experience in working with communities, city, state, and the federal government, for me, this was a natural move to sort of connect those dots in a fundamentally different way than you can from a single Assembly district.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gotcha. So we'll get into more of what you want to do if elected in a moment, but let's talk about your Assembly tenure. You were elected in 2014, so you've been there several terms now. What would you say are your top accomplishments in the New York State Assembly?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I would say a couple of things. Number one, I'm very proud to have been part of the effort that really passed codification of Roe vs. Wade in the state Legislature. That was something that we heard all the time we didn't need to do because of Roe in the Supreme Court, we’d never overturn it. Many of us knew that was not going to be the case, and so we fought very hard to ensure that we had those rights here in New York. And all of the amplification of those rights and the ability to welcome people to New York for that kind of care is something I'm very proud of having been a part of. I've also passed the “red flag” law in New York. We passed it several times in the Assembly. I’ve passed it twice before we had a Democratic Senate and were able to get it passed in the Senate. It is really the strongest such law in the country. It is quite protective of anybody's rights under the second amendment, but it is also very specific about the criteria that needs to be met and the evidence that needs to be submitted to the court in order to get those guns away from people who shouldn't have them. And that protects New Yorkers, and I'm very excited about the way we are currently expanding and really mandating that law enforcement actually refer those cases to the court as opposed to making a decision based on what was perhaps a different standard under criminal law, which really doesn't apply. The red flag law is a civil procedure, so there's no criminality involved at the time that that petition is made to the Supreme Court and the evidence brought to the judge.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I've also this past year passed a groundbreaking supported-decision making so that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have as much control over the decisions that affect their lives as possible. But you know, a few years ago, I passed a bill that requires that school districts be able to use the words dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, in and around the IEP process for students with disabilities. And that is something that school districts had been telling parents they were not allowed to do for about 40 years. We changed that and have really opened the door to more such progressive changes with regard to addressing the needs of kids with reading disabilities, as well as just reading in general in New York. So I've been working very hard on those issues, and I'm very proud of my work to pass that seminal bill. I closed the LLC loophole. I have a bill for zoonotic transfer of viruses, which sounds a little wonky, but you know, climate change, deforestation, loss of habitat, that is encouraging all of these viruses to mutate and to jump from one species to the other. We need to be doing what we can do here to ensure that that doesn't happen in our country.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me quickly jump in there. Just explain that a little bit more, what would that do in New York? And that's a proposal, not something that's passed?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well it's passed in, the Assembly, I believe, but it hasn't taken off in the Senate. It’s a two House legislature. So it's a bill I'm working on, I mean it's not a bill, we're still working on that issue. But the more you hear about this latest variant, the more that is evidence that we need to start making decisions differently. We have a lot of these rare species that are getting imported into the country illegally or they're getting imported into the country and it's not yet illegal. We want to make sure they're not coming into New York. We don't want to feed that crisis. And as more states get on board with doing this kind of legislation, then it will bubble up and become easier for I think, passage at the federal level, to really look at how climate is impacting our health beyond the ways that we all know about, which is pulmonary disease and asthma, and, so many of the implications in the way our children's cognition is affected by the toxicity on our environment. We know about those things, but we're not paying as much attention to what we're doing to actually encourage or allow new variants of various viruses. COVID has been terrible, and we have learned a lot about it, but we haven't learned as much as we should. But COVID isn't the last one that might come around, and we need to be much more intentional about the work that we do in that area.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me ask about the red flag law. You noted that you passed it previously. And then recently, after the massacre in Buffalo, it was tightened up here and, as you said, sort of requiring law enforcement to file in civil procedures. There are clearly some challenges with implementation around the law. Just looking back at that and evaluating that, where do you see the gaps there? Is that something that once this was signed into law by then Governor Cuomo, there should have been more done to ensure stronger implementation and education in localities and among the state police and local law enforcement? Was there something that needed to be followed up on in terms of implementation there?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yes, I think so. Senator Kavanaugh carried the bill in the Senate. We were really trying to work with the administration on getting the various agencies that might be involved in these circumstances to work together to ensure that there was better public education. And just recently before the shooting in Buffalo, in fact, I was talking with the Governor's office in the Speaker's office and some folks in the Senate about the need for a massive public education campaign, so that people knew about their rights under the extreme risk protection order bill. And because in fact, it's not just mass shootings, I mean we want to eliminate those. It's also other interpersonal violence, and it's also suicide. So when you look at some of the counties have really gotten behind implementing that. Suffolk County, for example, has been the lead user of the red flag laws’ protections compared to other counties.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I think a lot of it has to do with — if you have a member of your family who is saying the kinds of things that are warning signs for gun violence, they may be purchasing weapons, they may be stockpiling ammunition. Most people don't know what to do. If you look at Parkland, for example, the mother went to the cops and said, ‘My kid needs help, can you talk him out of this?’ He hadn't done anything wrong at that point, and the cops can't do that. Right, they might sit him down and have a conversation, but they have no authority, and people don't want to get their family members in trouble with the law. So also, they may be fearful themselves. So it is important that they know that they can go, for example, to law enforcement, or they can talk to the school authorities. Very often to just the school authorities that also get wind of the concerns of young people who may end up getting an illegal weapon, but when they're making threats of violence of various kinds. So the schools are often in a position to know this information. They too can file a petition with the Supreme Court in every county to seek an extreme risk protection order.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I think that the fact that law enforcement has filed most of these petitions goes to the fact that law enforcement may come into contact with folks earlier, but also, they can be a great repository and a safety valve for those people who aren't quite sure how to do it themselves or are fearful of doing it themselves. And so, law enforcement should know how to do that. The Office of Court Administration has a very, very well rounded page on how to file for an extreme risk protection order. It's very user friendly. It is designed to be used by people who are not lawyers. I think that's a great way we need to make sure people know about that, but I'm also not unmindful of the fact that for some people, it may be a daunting process, and I think that that's where law enforcement can step in and have their attorneys filed this civil petition for extreme risk protection order and get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">The state Legislature holds a limited number of oversight hearings. Do you think there should have been more oversight from your Legislature on the implementation of the red flag law or even just broader gun measures that have been signed in the last several years? Obviously, when Democrats took control of the state Senate in 2019 and you had the Democratic majority of the year part of the Assembly, the Democratic governor, then Cuomo. And you then had full control of state government. There was a flood of legislation passed. So many things that were given attention and passage and new budget allocations and a lot of different things. So there's always sort of a limited calendar for what gets chosen. But would you, looking back, would you say there should have been more oversight about the implementation of this and other gun regulations?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the benefit of hindsight, that sounds like an idea. I think that the real issue in the initial stages of, and remember this was effective in August of 2019, so it's not a law that's been around for a very, very long time, was really focusing on getting the word out, and that's going to be really handled by state entities and differently in different counties throughout the state. I think you could see, for example, in Suffolk County, Suffolk County really took it seriously and went about educating people, and really using that process. So I think number one, there's always an issue with implementation and how much we support that and in what way.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think that what we have seen also in some instances is once legislation is passed, that sometimes the administration doesn't follow through and for example, I can cite to part of the New York SAFE Act, and the fact that there was supposed to be a registry for bullets, bullets for handguns. That you can only buy a bullet for a handgun you owned. That will help drive registration. About 5% of our firearms in New York State are actually registered. But in fact, once the bill was passed, the Republican conference really didn't want that database to be developed, and so there was a memorandum of understanding between the governor and the Republican leadership in the state senate to kind of not move forward with that. Governor Hochul has recently canceled that memorandum of understanding, and we are focusing on building out that database in a fundamentally different way than it was before. So sometimes it's the public's interest, sometimes it's the Legislature, which doesn't administer laws, doesn't implement laws ourselves, and the agencies may or may not be as collaborative with the Legislature as we would like in some cases, but also, sometimes it's from the administration's actions as well, and that that issue with the database has been a big one — it’s been one we've been concerned about for quite some time. I'm very glad that Governor Hochul has taken the lead on that.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let's talk about what you want to do in Congress, if elected, what are some of the top priorities? Obviously, at this forum we were both part of that occurred the night before we're speaking here, we're talking again on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 here, hosted by a number of Brooklyn democratic clubs. We were discussing things related to voting rights and protecting women's reproductive rights, climate, a variety of the very high-profile issues, of course, that especially given recent Supreme Court rulings, are particularly top of mind for many voters, especially Democratic voters. But what do you want to highlight for people listening here in terms of your top priorities if elected to Congress? Are there specific bills that you just want to become part of, hopefully in your mind, a majority in the House that helps push through? Are there specific under the radar pieces of legislation that you'd want to highlight for people or things you would look to introduce that don't exist already? What do you want to highlight for folks in terms of your top priorities if you were to head to the House?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Number one, I think what needs to be top of mind for everybody is climate. I certainly support the Green New Deal and those efforts to build into Build Back Better and the infrastructure plan to fund what it is we need to fund to achieve a healthy and safe environment. We have a long way to go in doing that, and there are, without a doubt, there will be other bills that can be brought to the floor and other appropriations that we can advocate for to effectuate that. And climate goes to issues like our housing, right. This federal government has not supported public housing and other innovative programs. And so for example, we need to keep fighting for that $40 billion that will help make NYCHA livable again, and moving forward with additional federal programs. Right now, they have section 202 housing, for example, that really prioritizes low-income communities, as well as people who are seniors and people with disabilities. So we need to strengthen the laws that we have and also fund those things in a much more constructive way because climate is affecting all of us in all of the areas of life, and so I think we have to really sort of look at that as kind of part of the linchpin to the way that our people live our lives, right. So all of the flooding, all of the fires out west, all of this is really about climate change and the failure of the federal government to have pursued that. And that is often as you know, something that has been a very divisive issue politically, and I point the recent decision in West Virginia vs. the EPA, where I don't know who is supposed to guard against greenhouse gas emissions then the EPA, I mean, it is only in their name, Environmental Protection Agency, and the environment is very much impacted by greenhouse gasses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So we are going to have to, I believe, codify what it is we need to do, that the Supreme Court has said that the EPA didn't have the authority to do, so that's one approach. I think we need to really deal with this issue of of access to abortion and pass the Women's Health Protection Act, and also ensure that we look at other ways that we can protect people who are seeking care. Very pleased that the President has come out and said that the states cannot just allow women to die. When the life of the mother is at stake, that the Supreme Court's ruling doesn't apply. I think we can also do a lot at the executive level. We can talk about the use of our Native American lands, we can talk about the use of now there’s a doctor in California who wants to do abortions on boats, right, that you can have a medical ship and provide that care. It's being done in other countries. I think that's a great way of kind of evading the issues of certain states that have really banned or all but banned abortion rights. So we need to be creative, and I'm looking forward to working with people on coming up with solutions for these issues. And I think if we just codify Roe vs. Wade and and expand that in the Women's Health Protection Act, that will make a big difference because the Legislature, which is Congress, has a right to pass federal laws and the Supreme Court can't overrule a federal law that is constitutionally passed.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Interesting. The politics of Washington are obviously very fluid right now. There's the question of whether, if you're elected to Congress, it's all but certain that a Democrat will be representing this new district, of course, at some of the highest Democratic enrollment areas of the state. But the question of balance of power in the House, in the Senate, these are up for grabs in the general election that will be coming this fall. But let's just say in the current landscape, that something close to it remains, it's not a given by any means, but the Democrats continue to have a slim majority in the House and a tie breaking vice presidential majority in the U.S. Senate. What do you make of those dynamics? Because there's people who obviously think — you get some of this in Albany, too, that the far left of the Democratic Party is pulling the party a little bit too far to the left at least a little bit and people saying that that's turning off a lot of moderate voters and you have Latino voters and Asian voters in in some significant numbers moving towards the Republican Party on some issues. But then you have, of course, a couple of the more moderate to conservative U.S. senators who had been holding up certain priorities of the President and Democrats. What do you make of that landscape? And what do you see, again, just assuming the sort of current landscape, which which will obviously change by next year, but what do you make of that landscape and the path forward for Democrats with these narrow majorities and how to get to agreement on some big ticket things to deliver for Democratic voters and the public?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">One thing I think that is true is when you're in a Legislature, just because you think you're right, doesn’t mean it sells well. But I would say, the right has a very effective echo chamber. And I think that you see that with the migration of recent immigrants, particularly Asian immigrants, are often very conservative. And their notion of socialism is China, which is, in my mind, more fascist and socialist. So I think some of the language we use is misunderstood by certain groups of people, number one. And the other thing, I think, is that the Democrats have been a big tent and we have always had these internal conversations, and we are much more likely to have those internal conversations more publicly. That is something that the Republican Party doesn't do, right. They will talk amongst themselves, but you know as Hillary Clinton once said years ago, the Democrats need to fall in love, but the Republicans fall in line. And I think what we need to do is really respect and honor everybody's views in the Democratic Party.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We need to listen to each other, and I think we have so much more in common than not. So I think a lot of what it is that kind of makes it seem like the left is too left, etc., is often some of the media coverage, and it's also led by the Republican echo chamber, right. The reality is that there are many things that they just deliberately misconstrue and miscommunicate about that aren't real, and we need to be better at combating that. We need to be better at saying ‘No, that is not the facts. The facts and the data and the science show X, they do not show Y.’ And so you saw that with one of the referendums last year no fault absentee voting, which we have fought for years so that people don't have to be sick or out of town to vote by absentee ballot. Mail in voting was something that all of the red states had and most Republicans states, it's all by mail in ballots, right? But they've demonized that. And so they went around and started campaigning that this would allow for ‘illegal aliens,’ to vote. It absolutely had nothing to do with that whatsoever. But the Democrats were caught flat-footed, they didn't properly educate, they didn't realize early enough that there would be this campaign to misconstrue and misrepresent what this would do. And we're not taking that lying down and we're moving forward on doing it again.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">All right, we're in our last few minutes here with state Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, who represents the 52nd assembly district in Brooklyn, which covers a significant stretch of the new 10th congressional district. And she's running in that Democratic primary, which is happening in August. Speaking of the sort of politics of the race, you represent this assembly district that's within the new congressional district. It is a very high turnout district. It delivered you. You ran for Brooklyn Borough President last year, it delivered you a very strong showing in that race. This is an even more crowded field here in the congressional primary. What's the sort of path to victory? How much do you need your assembly district to really come through for you in this race? And how do you sort of see where your other stronger areas of support might come from? How are you branching out into Manhattan in this race? Just a few thoughts on the sort of politics and your path to victory here. What do you make of it?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, I think that, yes, the 52nd AD, I have been the top vote-getter in the state for the last three terms, so the AD 52 does vote. In last year's race, I won the 44th as well, and there's a lot of commonality in those communities. And here's where my community experience really matters. People know me — not just the people in my district — because I was leading on those issues of street safety early on, on environmental justice early on, on working with communities on those issues that we share in common, whether they were in what is now the 52nd assembly district or not, because I worked with with communities throughout Western Brooklyn and in and around downtown Brooklyn, which is also another assembly district, part of it, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill have traditionally been a different assembly district. Folks know me and they know my work. I have been like them in the trenches. I've been that person in the auditorium looking to get my voice heard with officialdom, whether it's an agency or elected officials, and so I know what people's concerns are and I am always there listening and working with people.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I'm very accessible. I have these “Java with Jo Annes” all the time. People know they can come to me. People who come to my “Java with Jo Annes” are often people from outside my assembly district because they have questions about something that affects their district that also affects mine. And similarly, when I've been out campaigning, people have said, ‘I'm not in your district, but you and your staff helped me with my unemployment benefits last year when nobody else would.’ So that to me is meaningful, and I think that people respond to that experience. But I also think, for example, that folks in Manhattan have very, very similar concerns, right. Resiliency is a big issue. Housing is a big issue, development and the development of enough affordable housing and the displacement of people. Whenever there's a big project being done, people are inevitably displaced. How do we counter that? How do we ensure that people are not pushed out of the neighborhoods that they built their lives and their homes and raise their families there? That young people can afford to live in the communities that they were raised in? That is something that we need to work together on. These are thorny issues, and when you've been working with people consistently over the years, people hear that message. I believe, for example, that is one of the reasons why I was just endorsed by the Downtown Independent Democrats, which is the largest Democratic club in Manhattan, as far as that goes, because what I'm talking about resonates with them and their lives. They want someone who will fight, and someone who will listen to them and work with them, and be able to read between the lines on so many of these proposals.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are a lot of things that sound like good deals, but you really have to look at them to see if they're all they're cracked up to be. And if they're not, then you need to find effective ways to ensure that that project becomes more responsive and doesn't end up doing damage that none of us really want. So I think that I have a message that is resonating with people in both boroughs, and that is my path to victory. I also think this district, we've never had an August primary before. We've had September, so there's been a lot of summer campaigning certainly in the past, but never in August. And so it's going to be an issue where people who are those primary voters, those people who are most deeply engaged, those people like the constituents in my district that come out and vote, rain or shine, they will come out and vote in primaries. That data shows that the double prime votes, that could be triple primes in this race, we don't know, 30% of them come out of my district, and 60% of them are women. So the demographics and the turnout numbers also are key to my path to victory.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> In this crowded race, your Assembly district coming in big for you could be almost all you need. All right, I just want to get to a few other things here. This is sort of a rapid fire, let's call it a lightning round type of thing. Just a few quick questions, short answers, if you don't mind. You are keeping open the possibility of appearing in the general election for your Assembly seat. Is that correct?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yes, I’m on the ballot as you know. If I am successful in the congressional primary, then the lawyers will figure that out. And the governor would call a special election to fill the seat.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Right. I mentioned in the introduction, Representative Mondaire Jones moved to the district just a few weeks ago. You've been in the district, as you've noted, since the early 80s. You've been in the assembly for seven, eight years now. What do you make briefly of him moving into this district to run? Do you think that's fair game, or do you do you know, does that sort of make you bristle at all?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">It's unusual. I think that you see that in some of the questions that people are asking. He's going to run his race. He's going to have to bring his experience to bear and convince the voters of the 10th congressional district that they should be voting for him. In the meantime, I'm focusing on my race.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And Mayor Bill de Blasio, the former mayor is in the race as well obviously. He has much deeper roots in the district than Mondaire Jones. Briefly, how do you capture your assessment of his record as mayor? If you're asked about it, your sort of clear answer to people on the street. What do you make of his record in eight years as mayor of New York City?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon:</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I would say it was mixed. He's done some excellent things, but it's been mixed in other ways. I think that he would say that himself. I think his communications and his speed of decision-making has been problematic in a lot of people's minds, and frustrating if nothing else. I have been personally less happy with the way this city has stepped up and taken responsibility for the work it needs to do and the Gowanus Canal Area, because it's a responsible party and has significant obligations under the federal remedy that in my mind, they have dragged their feet on for way too long. But again, the former mayor will make his commitments, and he will campaign. He has the benefit of 100% name recognition. I think that my community roots are different than his. As you know, I didn't come out of politics, he did, and I am making my case to the people on the ground who are going to be in those voting booths. And I'm confident that I can compete.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last couple and these could each be a half hour discussion, but just for the sake of the record here. Do you think it's time for the Rikers Island jails to be under a full federal receivership? Just just yes or no is fine and we can discuss further at another time. But there's obviously a monitor and there's questions about whether there should be a receivership. Mayor Adams has argued against it and they've gotten a bit of a reprieve from the courts. But do you think it's time for receivership for Rikers?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I do think it's time. Obviously, the court has given the administration a little more time, but I think it's moving in that direction.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">And lastly here, you mentioned public housing earlier. We discussed it a bit at that forum last night. But short of tens of billions of dollars coming from the federal government from NYCHA, and I understand you and any of your competitors here in this race would be fighting for that in Congress, and it could come. But separate from that, short of that, is there a NYCHA rescue strategy that you're particularly supportive of other than tens of billions of dollars coming from the federal government? There's the new NYCHA Preservation Trust that you and your colleagues just passed and the governor signed into law, so that will help raise some money. But beyond that, do you support some affordable housing infill development in NYCHA? Do you support a lot more sales of air rights? Do you support the Rental Administration Demonstration program? Are there any NYCHA-related strategies, any one in particular that you support?</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Each of these ideas have issues that I think need to be further developed, so it's very hard to say in a quick answer situation. I do not believe we need to be privatizing public housing. The NYCHA Preservation Trust, in fact, is still public ownership. I think there's some misunderstanding about that among tenants, and certainly their lack of trust in NYCHA is well deserved. But I do think that we were able to come out with an approach that gave a lot of autonomy to the residents of NYCHA housing and preserves the public ownership of NYCHA. Infill housing, that's been proposed, it’s been proposed in one of the public housing developments in my district, it hasn't happened — I think that's a good thing. Part of the problem is if you look at the way NYCHA developments are built, there was sort of a theme in the urban design of that, which also means that it's much harder to actually do viable infill developments from a position of light and air and open space. And so I think that it seems to be one of those ideas that looks good on paper, but not very much in the implementation and the doing of it, and it's not happened, and for a large portion, it's been very little of that that's actually occurred. Sales of bear rights, again, that goes to who's gonna buy those air rights. If it's a big developer that is not going to consult with community in a real way on the ground, I think that's a problem. We  need to look really at what it is we mean by these things and how they could end up furthering displacement, for example, in the unaffordability of neighborhoods. I think we don't look at that seriously enough, in the beginning when we're first talking about these ideas, and we need to do that much more.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">All right. Well you weren't you weren't in a rush, so I wasn't gonna rush you there to give answers on meaty topics here. We've covered a lot. There's still plenty more to get to down the line, but Jo Anne Simon, assemblymember and running for the Democratic primary nomination in the new 10th congressional district, thank you for the time and and be well.</span></p> <p><b>Jo Anne Simon: T</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">hank you so much, Ben. Nice to speak to you again.</span></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Transcript: Yuh-Line Niou NY-10 Max Politics Interview 2022-08-03T15:00:00+00:00 2022-08-03T15:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11484-transcript-yuh-line-niou-ny-10-max-politics-interview Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/y-lniou600.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (photo: Wikimedia Commons)</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Yuh-Line Niou Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p>Recorded July 19, 2022</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11463-max-politics-podcast-yuh-line-niou-runs-congress-ny-10">Listen to the audio here</a>, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</p> <p>Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</p> <p>District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (<a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">see map here</a>)</p> <p>Transcript:</p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer intro...]</b> Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, thanks for being here and taking the time. How are you today?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Thank you so much for having me. It's always good to be on your show.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Thanks for joining me, good. So, we're speaking here, as I said, just after former Mayor de Blasio announced he's dropping out of this race. This is not where I expected to start with you, but why don't you share your reaction to the news of the former mayor dropping out of this primary?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I think that it’s democracy, and everybody should be able to run, and I just wanted to say, I guess, for the last 20 years plus, I believe that he has been a public servant. I know that being in public service myself, it's not easy, and it's a really, really difficult choice to make for what you want to do with your life to make sure that you're serving people and serving your constituency. So I wish him well, and I think that I appreciate that he was willing to put over 20 plus years of his life into service.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Any sense of what you think sort of did him in with the voters of this district in particular. This is a district home to his original political base, which seemed to have sort of left him or he left it sometime during his mayoralty. A lot of sort of disillusioned progressive Brooklyn voters who elected him to the city council, helped elect him public advocate, mayor. What do you think, and you are now something of a progressive standard bearer in New York, you have the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which Bill de Blasio helped to start, what do you think did the mayor in, in terms of his relationships with the sort of progressive base of at least Brooklyn where he came through?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I'm not actually sure what would have been any kind of trigger or anything like that, but I definitely think that it's really important to hear your constituents, hear them out, and be willing to listen, and I think that there's a lot of issues that people might not 100% agree on, or even vehemently disagree on. But I think that what is really important is to make sure that we actually have the ability to be able to have somebody who's listening, who's always willing to sit down, actually have the time, make the time. It doesn't matter where they are talking to you from, but to meet them where they are, meet all of your constituents where they are, and to be willing to listen to all the issues and understand why somebody thinks the way they do, even if they disagree with you. And I think that it's really important to take that time, and I think that over time, people as they are in different positions might have a harder time reaching people, and maybe that could be a frustration. I know that as an assembly member, I definitely have always tried to make that time, but I know that there are moments when people are frustrated with me even when we used to be able to talk all the time, and sometimes it makes it so it's harder for us to be able to reach each other. It doesn't mean I don't care, and it doesn't mean that I don't regard everybody's thoughts, but I could understand how sometimes it's harder.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>All right, we can talk with others and maybe the former mayor himself about all that another time. But let's get into your candidacy here for the new 10th congressional district of New York, which as I said in the introduction, includes a big chunk of Lower Manhattan — part of what you represent now in the assembly — and a big swath of Brooklyn. So why are you in this race? Broad strokes, we'll get into a bunch of specifics. But what drew you to this race? Why are you running here for Congress?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I mean, obviously, our entire country right now is in crisis. I really am seeing that a lot of people are very scared. We have a lot of people who are getting killed every single day. When it comes to mass shootings, our country has experienced more mass shootings than there are days of the year. I mean, even during July 4, we've seen two mass shootings, where children lost their parents. One little boy lost both of his parents and one girl lost her mom. And people are losing their rights. We saw in Buffalo, how horrifying it was, and people are really suffering. And we have lost our bodily autonomy. I think that right now, we really need to continue to fight for our rights as people. I've already represented part of this district in the state assembly for the past six years, and I think I've represented it really well. 100% of my Assembly district, as you had mentioned earlier, is inside of this NY-10 district, and I really want to continue to represent my neighbors, my community, because I think that right now, our country is in this moment of apathy, right, where a lot of times, it's just like these horrible things are happening to us and we feel like we can't do anything to change it. But as a young person who's just started working in public service when I was in, I guess, in college, I really realized that there are a lot of times when people make it seem like there's some big secret to accessing government, but it's really just that there are powerful people that are in government right now, that don't want us to realize that we actually have the power to make the changes that we want to see. And so I know that it's important for us to run because we are then showing that when we mobilize and come together, we can make government work for us.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Who in the district are you most focused on sort of trying to make sure that their voices are heard? Like many congressional districts, there's a lot of different communities and a lot of different neighborhoods in this new NY-10. A big chunk of the voting population is white, but there's two Chinatowns in the district, including the one you represent currently in Manhattan. There's two large, more than two large Latino neighborhoods. It's a diverse district, there’s an Orthodox Jewish part of Borough Park. How are you thinking about sort of being a voice for the residents of this district, and not all of those residents are voters in the Democratic primary, but who are you looking to sort of really hear out and represent and appeal to in this district?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Of course, there’s the vote, but then also the fact that when you're representing any district, when you're representing in any seat, you have to represent everybody who's inside that district, and you have to also be willing to hear everybody out. And again, I think it's really about being a good listener and being somebody who's willing to go and meet people where they're at. And for me, I tend to look at making sure that things are accessible for all, and you and I have talked about this at length before, but I think that it's so important for us to be able to have the lens of looking through all legislation and all representation as ‘Is this going to help with social justice? Is this going to make it so that we have ecological and environmental justice? And is this going to make it so that we're looking at things with disabilities centered in our conversation? Or is this making it so that we are actually looking at economic justice?’ We have to ask those questions. Let's close the racial wealth gap — does this make it so that we are making it so that things are more just for every single person, right. And I think that when we are looking at all of these pieces, I think that we have to be fighting for those who are the most vulnerable in our communities, because when we do that, we are then uplifting everyone. When we build a ramp, everybody walks over it or goes over it and uses it, and whenever we are talking about language accessibility, we're making it so that everybody can have access to services, right. So everything needs to make sure that we have to speak to the most vulnerable at all times, and I think that that's really kind of where I'm coming from when it comes from legislation and representation.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>In your original answer and while you're running, you got at some of the big issues that a lot of Democrats especially are focused on right now. But are there specific policies that you would most champion in Congress? There is a lot of agreement, and in many Democratic primaries, especially in New York City on a lot of the big stuff: protecting abortion rights, advancing more gun control, some of the things you refer to. But what would be top priorities for you if you were elected in terms of policies and areas to focus on?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, so one of the things that I would definitely be focusing on, which I think a couple of other legislators have already looked at, which is making sure that we are looking at social infrastructure spending. I think that really passing the Green New Deal, taking our fight for working people in Albany to the halls of Congress. We can really build an economy that really works for regular New Yorkers. One of the biggest things that I speak on all the time is trying to fully fund our public housing. When we are in Albany, I will say that I pushed and pushed and pushed to make sure that our state took some responsibility for our public housing. And when I was elected, I wrote a letter to Carl [Heastie, the Assembly Speaker], making sure that every single one of our elected officials who represent public housing in their districts was on that letter, and we were able to finally get $100 million for the very first time for capital dollars to spend from Albany. And we continued to fight every single year and we got more and more dollars until now, we have put over a billion dollars into public housing. But every single time I fought for public housing on the state level, people told me this is a federal issue, and this is why we don't need to fund it, and this is why we can't fund it, etc., etc., etc.</p> <p>They gave me a ton of different excuses, but the biggest the biggest thing that I think that we need to do is make sure that we are fully funding our public housing because we have divested, our federal government has divested for decades, from our public housing, and it's really, really important that we are making sure that we are funding all of our capital needs. It means passing the Green New Deal to direct federal funds to protect our public housing. They have a whole Green New Public Housing Deal inside of it. And they also have a Green New Public Schools inside. This is Jamaal Bowman’s bill inside of this package, and this is something that would be so helpful to all of our schools right now, because as we know, some of our schools have aged infrastructure. And also, we haven't talked a lot about the ventilation, the way that it's been so important for us to have that ventilation for so many of our students because of COVID. These are different ways that we can really bridge that gap. And I also think, obviously, we have to really deal with some of the climate change issues that really plague Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and shore up the defenses of our small businesses while creating strong union jobs in the process. This is really, really good stuff inside of the Green New Deal. And it also means doing in Congress what I did in Albany, which is winning our community a larger share of government support for that true affordable housing, to ensure people who live and work in us can keep their head above water. And obviously, if we work together, we can make an economy that works for all New Yorkers.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>In a democratic supermajority in the State Assembly, you've been one of the voices on the left sort of really trying to push the conversation in that more leftward progressive direction, voting no on a number of budget bills, really trying to say ‘This is not enough, we should be increasing taxes on the wealthy further,’ and investing even more money in services and programs and public housing and so forth. Would you see yourself playing a similar role in Congress, given the current landscape? And again, for the sake of a lot of this discussion, we can sort of assess the current congressional landscape. There's a chance obviously that Democrats lose the house majority in the coming elections. But in terms of that role and that sort of progressive left voice, how would you see yourself in the House?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, I mean, I think that there's obviously a need for political courage right now, more than ever, in our Congress. And we have a majority in the Senate, we have a majority in the House, and so obviously, we also have a Democratic president. And I think that it's really about making sure that we are people who have that political courage in order to fight for the things that we desperately need because we don't need to save seats — what we need to do is save our people. And so I always think that it's really important that we vote for somebody who's willing to stand in front of our people and make sure that they take the hits. I think that one of the biggest things for me is that I know that progressives are going to fight like hell to keep the House majority. We always have, we always will, but if there's a risk of losing it, we still have an important role to play. And one, even in the minority, we can be a roadblock to conservative overreach. Two, we can be a voice of moral authority in the face of attacks on our rights or giveaways to the wealthy. And three, we can develop policy and legislation that will improve people's lives when we take the majority, which we will.</p> <p>And I have worked across the aisle in Albany, obviously, to get legislation passed, but I think it's important to be honest about what bipartisanship means when we're talking about the congressional level, and when we have sitting Congress people who actually voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results, and electeds who actively planned, promoted, and participated in a violent attack against our democracy. And if people in our government are actively working against our democracy, I'm not really sure what achieving a bipartisanship even looks like when bipartisanship is obviously only possible when the party across the aisle isn't actively working to undo our democracy or violently harm their colleagues in a fascist coup. And I'm happy to obviously work with anyone who can pass that litmus test.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Some of what you're saying about courage and about having the majorities and about having a Democratic president. What do you make of federal leadership, Democratic leadership? Senate Majority Leader Schumer, who obviously is from Brooklyn, Speaker Pelosi, President Biden. Is part of your campaign here for Congress about the need for generational change, is it about the need for some sort of critique those leaders, that they haven't really adapted or adjusted to the modern Republican Party that they're really dealing with? And in some ways, obviously, Schumer and Pelosi have recognized that, and in some ways, Biden seems to have come around to recognize that, even though he sort of ran on the idea that he could get Republicans to return to more bipartisanship. They've had a couple of bipartisan accomplishments on infrastructure and the recent gun legislation, but it's part of your pitch here about the need for generational change in Congress. Are you someone who would definitely be seeking a different speaker of the house than Nancy Pelosi if you were in the House majority?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>So for me, I think that I'm somebody who's always spoken truth to power. Iit didn't matter if it was against my own leadership or the governor, right, and I think that I've been very honest about everything that I've seen. I spoke up against Cuomo, I did, I spoke up when I felt like the austerity budget was going to kill us. And I felt like we lost a lot of lives because instead of passing a budget that would be something that was going to make us healthy, happy, and whole again, we were cutting and slashing health care funds and social services, and education dollars in the beginning of a worldwide global pandemic, right. We were doing that, and we should have been investing in our communities. I feel like that goes to show that I want to be able to, no matter what, be accountable to my constituents and the people who chose to have me represent them, and I think that that's the most important thing. Even if it means speaking up when it's uncomfortable, even when it means speaking out when people want you to toe the status quo line, and I think that it's important for us to have somebody who's willing to do that.</p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b> Let me throw a couple of the some of the common criticisms of you and see what your responses are on these two things. One is, one way to frame some of this, as you said, is sort of having courage and speaking out and speaking truth to power. But some people say, ‘Well, you're always you're always sort of saying no to everything,’ that you're always saying ‘This is not enough,’ and vote no uncertain budget deals, oppose specific projects in the district. What's your response to that critique that you're sort of never willing to sort of get to yes and make more compromise, and not never obviously, that's sort of a overstatement, but that you're sort of too hesitant to come along and get to some compromises and almost always opposed to things.</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I am very rarely opposed to things. I think that's why the things that are shining out are really the times when I do say no, and I think that I do say no to things that need to be said no to. I think that a lot of times when you're seeing a budget like that, and you're seeing that there's education cuts that are making it so that students, when you know, kids are not going to be able to go to school in person and they're going to struggle. You can't skim, you have to make sure that you're speaking out when you know that it's a healthcare crisis and you see that the governor is taking away healthcare dollars and underfunding, like you need to say no. And if you are seeing that, you know that in the future, that social services are going to prevent worse deaths or prevent harm to people, that you have to say no. I think that there are moments when that is the courageous thing to do. And I think that if somebody's paying attention, then they would say no to, but I think a lot of times things are happening and people aren't paying attention. And I think that because I pay attention and I read everything, and I try to be really thorough, and I try to raise the question, and if those questions are not answered, then I can't be OK with this until I have my questions answered for these particular issues. And I think that every single time when I have had the courage to go out and fight for folks, I'm just really trying to shine a light on some of the places where people are not given the ability to shine the light on the normal darkness and opaqueness of government. And I would say that it's really about accessibility, trying to talk to my constituents first about what is happening, and then I think that because of my speeches on things, because of my clarity on the reason behind something, people are actually more involved and have more say in the process. And I think that that's always something that's good in government.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>How do you think about this district, this congressional district, and it obviously expands quite a bit into Brooklyn and other parts of Manhattan than you currently represent. But about bringing more housing into the district, and the debate over what it means to sort of be progressive on housing issues. You hear from some people, for example the chair of the City Council housing committee, Pierina Ana Sanchez, who is talking about the need for more housing everywhere and of all types. But then there's a pretty strong sort of left-leaning group of people on many issues who are very often opposed to a lot of new housing development, and largely because they say it's not affordable enough. How are you thinking about that with respect to this larger 10th congressional district and the importance of housing development broadly and affordable housing within that conversation?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, absolutely. So one of the biggest things is I am very much in, I think in a lot of ways, in both those cans. We do need to build a lot more housing, and we need to make sure that it is deeply affordable, permanently affordable, and also something that people can afford, because I have seen all over my district, a lot of luxury housing that people can't afford. And I think that it's really important for us to be able to be sure to build affordable housing and make sure that people have those programs. And I will say that we have a lot of housing developments that go on in lower Manhattan. Density is obviously not an issue with me, and I think that it's something that is important. It lowers the carbon footprint, it helps to make sure that we have a lot more people being able to come and go easier. We also have the very, very important thing of having more units on the market, right.</p> <p>Obviously in Lower Manhattan, we have buildings that are even on top of buildings. But what I do think is really important is people don't realize how many developments are going on that people don't really have any say over. But I do think that it's really important that if we do on the city level have any kind of public space or kind of public housing or anything like that that is built there, then we have to make sure that people can actually afford it. And I think that we have to make sure that things are deeply affordable, permanently affordable, and if something's taken away from somebody for public good, then we have to make sure that we replace it with another public good, right. And I think that it's really important for us to be able to be vocal when the community has any pushback, because we represent our people and we have to make sure that we're representing what the people want out of all of these different developments, and I think that that's the most important thing. I think that it's really about making sure that we have a neighborhood that works for everyone.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>As I mentioned earlier, there's a couple of pretty large majority Asian communities in this new 10th congressional district. One of them is Manhattan's Chinatown, which is currently in your assembly district. By no means making a plurality or a majority of voters in this new district, but the new district does combine those two significant heavily Asian communities. How are you thinking about representation and Asian representation in Congress as part of this run? And forgive me, but as part of this question, we've seen some movement of Asian American voters towards the Republican Party in New York City and elsewhere. How are you thinking about that and what's at the root of that? And as a progressive, how are you thinking about sort of winning over some of those voters who might be disaffected from the Democratic Party who are registered Democrats most likely?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>So first and foremost, that's several questions and I will try to take it. I love them, really important questions. So first and foremost, this district actually designated by this special master included both Chinatowns on purpose, both the Brooklyn-side Chinatown on Bat Dai Do [8th Avenue] is what we call it, and also in Chinatown here in Lower Manhattan, which we call it Táng Rén Jiē. And so we have both of our Chinatowns voting together for the first time and an open primary, and it's really important because if we have this opportunity to be able to have Asian American representation, that's really what this district was kind of slated for by the special master. But if we don't actually win this seat, then for 10, 20, 30, maybe years, we might not be able to have another opportunity to be able to have another Asian American representative from New York on the congressional level. And here in New York, we obviously have one Asian American on the congressional level — Grace Meng, she's amazing. But we also have not had another American representative ever, so I think that it's really important that we do have that representation because nationwide, Asian Americans make up over 7% of the country's population, and yet we have less than 1% of representation here in Congress. And so I think that it's really important for us to be able to have more Asian American representation because as we know, it's important to be able to have diverse lenses in order to make better policy.</p> <p>And so during this time especially, we saw such an increase in anti-Asian hate, antisemitism, we have seen Islamophobia in a way that we can't even describe. There's so much hatred going on throughout our country that it's really important that people recognize that a lot of times when we're seeing this kind of hatred, this kind of fear throughout, the purpose of that kind of terrorism, that kind of hatred, is to make us afraid and to make us not show up for things, not run for things, just to hide, I guess. And I think that's why it's so much more important that we have visibility and that we have somebody who's running that looks like us and helps us to be able to break some of the stereotypes and break some of the hatred and the perpetual foreigner syndrome that our country buys into, right. And I think that it's really important for us to be able to have those conversations as well.</p> <p>I will say that I am not surprised by folks being disillusioned with the Democratic Party when it comes to our Asian American communities because I will say that during this pandemic and for many, many years before it, we have not had the representation to really be able to speak for our communities in a way that matters. Until I was elected in our New York State Legislature, we didn't even have line items for our community organizations, for our Asian American community organizations in our budget. We had no set aside funding for our Asian American groups as a whole, and I felt like that was something that needed to change and we were able to bring, for the first time, when it was very apparent to me when we were talking about legal services for our immigrant communities, and there was funding for everybody except for the Asian American groups, I was shocked. And it was called the Liberty Defense Fund, you can look it up, it was put together by the IDC actually, and I was shocked that Asian Americans were not included in that funding. And so I fought to make sure that we had some dollars. And Carl [Heastie, the Assembly Speaker] actually, to his credit, gave us 300,000, and said that was a start and that I could fight for more later. So then I fought for more later, we got another 600k. And then we were finally able to get last year, $10 million to our Asian American organizations for the first time ever in the history of the nation, probably. And then in California, they actually copied us and were able to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to our Asian American communities.</p> <p>And then this year, we were able to double what we were able to give for Asian American communities and anti-hate work to 20 million. So it was really incredible to be able to see and I was able to triple the dollars that our yeshivas got for protections like against hate crimes, so some of the dollars for cameras, etc. These kinds of dollars are really important so that we can stop the hatred that we are seeing, and so that's why from my end, I'm not surprised by the Asian American population getting a little bit more disillusioned with how little we've protected them. The anti-Asian hate is really, really scary and frightening, and I think that it's really important for us to be able to provide the resources in order to combat it.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>I kind of want to try to get to a few more things in our last five or so minutes here. Just quickly, one more on that. There seems to be, and again, it's hard to quantify exactly, but there seems to be some gap between some portion of Asian American communities and the progressive vision around divesting from police funding to go to some other community programs. And again, maybe if you're saying some of this work you've done to target some new funding into programs that actually benefit in Asian American communities, then people might see some of that differently, but there seems to be a bit of a gap, again not in totality, but some portion of Asian American communities here in New York City around that progressive push. How do you sort of try to bridge that gap, because you have been much more firmly in the camp of ‘Let's move funding away from law enforcement into more community programs?’”</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, I think that it's about educating everyone on why it's so important that we have funding for the programs that are really important in helping with ending poverty, creating community safety, like real community safety, and we have to talk about safety as something that's important to all of us in this in the real community safety sense. Because when we're talking about changing what safety, in that conversation around safety, to really talk about what actually keeps us safe. It’s not having somebody respond to you after something horrible has happened. It's about making sure that we're preventing these horrible things from happening and it's supposed to be, ‘Hey, if you have somebody checking in on you,’ if we have a lot of people making sure that there are services for folks who need them, and then if we have services for folks who are also wanting to make sure that they can have mental health services or the ability to be able to talk about what's happening inside the community. It will help us to be able to have more of an ability to fight back in the sense of really just prevention, right. And I think that the more education that we have, the more representation that we have, the more diversity that we have in our representation, the more that we will actually be able to cover the things that cause it so that people don't get services.</p> <p>One of the biggest things is language access. Right now, our government and our law enforcement, we don't have people who are speaking our languages actually helping us on the ground, right. And I think it's really hard when you have like an app or something telling you something, or you don't hear somebody talking to you because you don't understand that they're speaking to you. And I think that it's really important that we are talking about how we can get more of those services. Majority of the cases that we get in our office are really like somebody just needing some translation help to get the services that they already qualify for, right. And so I think that it's really important to help us to be able to get those kinds of services going and then making sure that our government is actually able to get us to things that we need. That biggest thing, again, being funding towards our community organizations in order to be able to provide them.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Alright, thank you. So let's try to get a little clarity on something that blew up related to you in the news recently. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that's focused on Israel, the disapproval of actions by the Israeli government and other issues. You told Jewish Insider that you believe in the right to protest as a fundamental tenet of Western democracy, so I do support BDS. Then I saw a tweet from a Jewish community leader, Alexander Rapaport, who said that you told him and others in the community that you are against BDS. Can you clarify your stance on this, and just try to sort of give us where you stand on this issue?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>So first and foremost, that tweet. I think that it was maybe made in joking, I don't know. But that was not, yeah, I did not say enough things. I will say that I am adamantly committed to the safety, security, and well being of all Jewish people, whether they live in my district in New York, in the United States, in Israel, or anywhere else in the world. I have dedicated my personal and public life to fighting for all targeted communities impacted by bigotry, by white supremacy, and nationalism, and that has and will always include my Jewish neighbors. And when it comes to Israel and Palestine, I support the BDS movement’s right to political speech. I was very, very clear about that, including boycotts and economic pressure. I also share the movement's commitment to human rights. I think that that's for everyone in the region. I know that boycotts are tried to and respected and constitutionally protected, non-violent tactic for human rights and social justice movements, and I think that it's really important that we be able to continue to be able to utilize that tool, right. And so from the movement against like South African apartheid to my own mentors’ biggest causes was the great boycott in solidarity with the United Farm Workers to the Montgomery Bus Boycotts to fight segregation. I think that it's really important that we are able to have that political speech, whether it's towards our government or our government’s relationships with other governments.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>And in giving full-throated support for the right to do these things, do you also consider yourself a supporter of that BDS movement?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I mean, I personally, myself, , I think that it's really important for us to know, I believe our tax dollars should never be used to violate human rights, which is why I also support legislation that would prevent federal funds from going to the persecution of Palestinians or to the construction of settlements. And I think that the only way that we have a voice in this is the direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are going. We have to make sure that they are the ones who are actually, since they're closest to their own pain, obviously, that there are many things that they can do, and I think that they have to be the ones to make that decision. This issue is one that's personal to me. Some of you may know the story of Rachel Corrie. She was a young activist who was killed by an armored bulldozer while protesting for Palestinian rights. She was my classmate and she was my friend, and she was part of a movement and that movement obviously deserves the right to be heard. And so here's the bottom line, I'll just say it out loud that I will be a strong voice in Congress against occupation and in support of equality, justice, and a thriving future for all Israelis and Palestinians. So I think that the only way we get there is through direct negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>OK, thank you. Last few things and these are things I'm asking all the candidates in NY-10, and they’re sort of a quick, final little lightning round of quick answers. You don't have to give a whole explanation here and I want to let you go on time. Do you think it's time, and again, you're up to get into a rationale, but do you think it's time for a full federal receivership of the Rikers Island jails? There's a monitor in place and there's questions around whether there should be a receivership. Do you think it's time for that? Yes or no?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I think that it’s time to close Rikers. I think that we don't need to even, I mean…</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>There’s going to be some time between now and the closure, though. So the question is the Adams administration has asked for more time, presented a plan. Obviously, the new mayor's only been in office six or seven months, and they got a little more time. But do you think it's time for the federal government to play an even more active role here?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I think so. I mean, in the sense that we have more and more people dying, every single day, we have something horrible coming out of Rikers. We've had, I believe, 11 people have died since the beginning of this year, I believe, in Rikers, and that is not something that should continue. We need to do something about Rikers and I believe that Rikers needs to close. We cannot keep on kicking the ball down the road or the can down the road, I think that's the terminology for it. But we can' keep on waiting. Rikers Island is a human rights atrocity.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>And I mentioned earlier, Representative Jones has moved into the district just a few weeks ago. Do you take any issue with that, or do you, again, do you think it's a little bit different, it’s a democracy and he didn't even have to move into the district to run. But do you take any issue with that, given that a lot of the other candidates in the race are people who have had a long-standing commitment to the district?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou:</b> I mean I think that again, it's a democracy, everyone can run, but I think that our constituents probably would like somebody who knows their issues and cares about the things that they've gone through, knows where the bathrooms are in their apartment layout. I think that it's really important for us to be able to have a representative who is speaking for all of us and is willing to make sure that we have somebody who wants to continue to get to know and listen to our constituents. And I think that when we have neighbors that we already know and already know the issues that they care about, it makes a big difference in how we represent them.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>And lastly in this little round here, other than tens of billions of dollars for NYCHA, which obviously you've made clear you would fight for at the federal level and there's lots of potential NYCHA money in Build Back Better, which has stalled in Washington, obviously. You and others in the race would obviously fight for that. Other than tens of billions of federal dollars going to help NYCHA with its huge need of capital repairs, is there one NYCHA revenue raising strategy that you support? Is there anything other than major amounts of federal aid, state aid as you've talked about fighting for and securing, but is there any other NYCHA-related strategy to raise revenue that you support?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, so actually, Nydia Velázquez has a standalone bill to fully fund public housing, it's also a very good bill, the Green New Housing Deal is also one way of being able to also fully fund our public housing, and then of course, there is the addition to the Build Back Better plan, also fully funding our public housing. And I think that we need a lot of different bills to take the chance of being able to fully fund our public housing, but I think that the most important thing is that we find more and more mechanisms in order to be able to get those dollars to our state and to our public housing residents who are seeing that their homes are making them sick — no hot water, no heat, mold, lead, paint. It's really, really devastating every single time. I know that whenever it gets hot, I'm going to get calls to try to figure out how they can cool their apartments. Whenever it gets cold, I already know that they're going to have hot water and heating issues. And every single time that it happens, it's been devastating. So we've had we've seen fires happen when seniors who have Alzheimer's or something who will turn on and open their stoves for heat and forget that they had them turned on or open. I think that it's really important that we are preventing those kinds of accidents.</p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b> Alright, Yuh-Line Niou. Democratic candidate in the new 10th congressional district of New York, including parts of Lower Manhattan and a big swath of Brooklyn. Why don't you take a closing moment here, a closing minute, anything we haven't touched on or any message to the NY-10 voters who are listening that you want to leave them with after listening to this conversation. Go ahead and take a minute, and then we'll say goodbye.</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I just want to say thank you so much Ben for having the opportunity to be able to talk to you and be able to deep dive into so many of these issues. I think that it's really important that we are very much having these discussions in order for people to see who they want to be able to support for the new NY-10. Again, I think that right now we need to have that political courage and we have to make sure that we have somebody who's willing to fight for us, fight for us continuously, and make sure that we are standing up in this moment where our government is needing that voice more than ever. And so I hope that you'll all vote for me. You can go to nioufornewyork.com in order to make sure to look up and find out and hear more about all of the things that are happening in our race. Again, that's nioufornewyork.com. Thank you so much.</p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b> All right. Yuh-Line Niou represents the 65th assembly district in the New York State Assembly that includes parts of Lower Manhattan that are part of the new 10th congressional district where she's a candidate in the Democratic primary coming up in August. Primary day is August 23. Get that on your calendar, whether you're in the 10th district or not. And if you're an eligible Democratic voter, you can still register to vote in these races. The state senate and U.S. House primaries coming up in August, and then of course, the general election in the fall that will also include the winners of the assembly and statewide primaries that happened in June. It's another busy election year here in New York. Yuh-Line Niou, thank you very much for the time, appreciate it, and be well.</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Thank you so much. Bye Ben.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/y-lniou600.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (photo: Wikimedia Commons)</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Yuh-Line Niou Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p>Recorded July 19, 2022</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11463-max-politics-podcast-yuh-line-niou-runs-congress-ny-10">Listen to the audio here</a>, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</p> <p>Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</p> <p>District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (<a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">see map here</a>)</p> <p>Transcript:</p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer intro...]</b> Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, thanks for being here and taking the time. How are you today?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Thank you so much for having me. It's always good to be on your show.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Thanks for joining me, good. So, we're speaking here, as I said, just after former Mayor de Blasio announced he's dropping out of this race. This is not where I expected to start with you, but why don't you share your reaction to the news of the former mayor dropping out of this primary?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I think that it’s democracy, and everybody should be able to run, and I just wanted to say, I guess, for the last 20 years plus, I believe that he has been a public servant. I know that being in public service myself, it's not easy, and it's a really, really difficult choice to make for what you want to do with your life to make sure that you're serving people and serving your constituency. So I wish him well, and I think that I appreciate that he was willing to put over 20 plus years of his life into service.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Any sense of what you think sort of did him in with the voters of this district in particular. This is a district home to his original political base, which seemed to have sort of left him or he left it sometime during his mayoralty. A lot of sort of disillusioned progressive Brooklyn voters who elected him to the city council, helped elect him public advocate, mayor. What do you think, and you are now something of a progressive standard bearer in New York, you have the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which Bill de Blasio helped to start, what do you think did the mayor in, in terms of his relationships with the sort of progressive base of at least Brooklyn where he came through?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I'm not actually sure what would have been any kind of trigger or anything like that, but I definitely think that it's really important to hear your constituents, hear them out, and be willing to listen, and I think that there's a lot of issues that people might not 100% agree on, or even vehemently disagree on. But I think that what is really important is to make sure that we actually have the ability to be able to have somebody who's listening, who's always willing to sit down, actually have the time, make the time. It doesn't matter where they are talking to you from, but to meet them where they are, meet all of your constituents where they are, and to be willing to listen to all the issues and understand why somebody thinks the way they do, even if they disagree with you. And I think that it's really important to take that time, and I think that over time, people as they are in different positions might have a harder time reaching people, and maybe that could be a frustration. I know that as an assembly member, I definitely have always tried to make that time, but I know that there are moments when people are frustrated with me even when we used to be able to talk all the time, and sometimes it makes it so it's harder for us to be able to reach each other. It doesn't mean I don't care, and it doesn't mean that I don't regard everybody's thoughts, but I could understand how sometimes it's harder.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>All right, we can talk with others and maybe the former mayor himself about all that another time. But let's get into your candidacy here for the new 10th congressional district of New York, which as I said in the introduction, includes a big chunk of Lower Manhattan — part of what you represent now in the assembly — and a big swath of Brooklyn. So why are you in this race? Broad strokes, we'll get into a bunch of specifics. But what drew you to this race? Why are you running here for Congress?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I mean, obviously, our entire country right now is in crisis. I really am seeing that a lot of people are very scared. We have a lot of people who are getting killed every single day. When it comes to mass shootings, our country has experienced more mass shootings than there are days of the year. I mean, even during July 4, we've seen two mass shootings, where children lost their parents. One little boy lost both of his parents and one girl lost her mom. And people are losing their rights. We saw in Buffalo, how horrifying it was, and people are really suffering. And we have lost our bodily autonomy. I think that right now, we really need to continue to fight for our rights as people. I've already represented part of this district in the state assembly for the past six years, and I think I've represented it really well. 100% of my Assembly district, as you had mentioned earlier, is inside of this NY-10 district, and I really want to continue to represent my neighbors, my community, because I think that right now, our country is in this moment of apathy, right, where a lot of times, it's just like these horrible things are happening to us and we feel like we can't do anything to change it. But as a young person who's just started working in public service when I was in, I guess, in college, I really realized that there are a lot of times when people make it seem like there's some big secret to accessing government, but it's really just that there are powerful people that are in government right now, that don't want us to realize that we actually have the power to make the changes that we want to see. And so I know that it's important for us to run because we are then showing that when we mobilize and come together, we can make government work for us.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Who in the district are you most focused on sort of trying to make sure that their voices are heard? Like many congressional districts, there's a lot of different communities and a lot of different neighborhoods in this new NY-10. A big chunk of the voting population is white, but there's two Chinatowns in the district, including the one you represent currently in Manhattan. There's two large, more than two large Latino neighborhoods. It's a diverse district, there’s an Orthodox Jewish part of Borough Park. How are you thinking about sort of being a voice for the residents of this district, and not all of those residents are voters in the Democratic primary, but who are you looking to sort of really hear out and represent and appeal to in this district?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Of course, there’s the vote, but then also the fact that when you're representing any district, when you're representing in any seat, you have to represent everybody who's inside that district, and you have to also be willing to hear everybody out. And again, I think it's really about being a good listener and being somebody who's willing to go and meet people where they're at. And for me, I tend to look at making sure that things are accessible for all, and you and I have talked about this at length before, but I think that it's so important for us to be able to have the lens of looking through all legislation and all representation as ‘Is this going to help with social justice? Is this going to make it so that we have ecological and environmental justice? And is this going to make it so that we're looking at things with disabilities centered in our conversation? Or is this making it so that we are actually looking at economic justice?’ We have to ask those questions. Let's close the racial wealth gap — does this make it so that we are making it so that things are more just for every single person, right. And I think that when we are looking at all of these pieces, I think that we have to be fighting for those who are the most vulnerable in our communities, because when we do that, we are then uplifting everyone. When we build a ramp, everybody walks over it or goes over it and uses it, and whenever we are talking about language accessibility, we're making it so that everybody can have access to services, right. So everything needs to make sure that we have to speak to the most vulnerable at all times, and I think that that's really kind of where I'm coming from when it comes from legislation and representation.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>In your original answer and while you're running, you got at some of the big issues that a lot of Democrats especially are focused on right now. But are there specific policies that you would most champion in Congress? There is a lot of agreement, and in many Democratic primaries, especially in New York City on a lot of the big stuff: protecting abortion rights, advancing more gun control, some of the things you refer to. But what would be top priorities for you if you were elected in terms of policies and areas to focus on?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, so one of the things that I would definitely be focusing on, which I think a couple of other legislators have already looked at, which is making sure that we are looking at social infrastructure spending. I think that really passing the Green New Deal, taking our fight for working people in Albany to the halls of Congress. We can really build an economy that really works for regular New Yorkers. One of the biggest things that I speak on all the time is trying to fully fund our public housing. When we are in Albany, I will say that I pushed and pushed and pushed to make sure that our state took some responsibility for our public housing. And when I was elected, I wrote a letter to Carl [Heastie, the Assembly Speaker], making sure that every single one of our elected officials who represent public housing in their districts was on that letter, and we were able to finally get $100 million for the very first time for capital dollars to spend from Albany. And we continued to fight every single year and we got more and more dollars until now, we have put over a billion dollars into public housing. But every single time I fought for public housing on the state level, people told me this is a federal issue, and this is why we don't need to fund it, and this is why we can't fund it, etc., etc., etc.</p> <p>They gave me a ton of different excuses, but the biggest the biggest thing that I think that we need to do is make sure that we are fully funding our public housing because we have divested, our federal government has divested for decades, from our public housing, and it's really, really important that we are making sure that we are funding all of our capital needs. It means passing the Green New Deal to direct federal funds to protect our public housing. They have a whole Green New Public Housing Deal inside of it. And they also have a Green New Public Schools inside. This is Jamaal Bowman’s bill inside of this package, and this is something that would be so helpful to all of our schools right now, because as we know, some of our schools have aged infrastructure. And also, we haven't talked a lot about the ventilation, the way that it's been so important for us to have that ventilation for so many of our students because of COVID. These are different ways that we can really bridge that gap. And I also think, obviously, we have to really deal with some of the climate change issues that really plague Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and shore up the defenses of our small businesses while creating strong union jobs in the process. This is really, really good stuff inside of the Green New Deal. And it also means doing in Congress what I did in Albany, which is winning our community a larger share of government support for that true affordable housing, to ensure people who live and work in us can keep their head above water. And obviously, if we work together, we can make an economy that works for all New Yorkers.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>In a democratic supermajority in the State Assembly, you've been one of the voices on the left sort of really trying to push the conversation in that more leftward progressive direction, voting no on a number of budget bills, really trying to say ‘This is not enough, we should be increasing taxes on the wealthy further,’ and investing even more money in services and programs and public housing and so forth. Would you see yourself playing a similar role in Congress, given the current landscape? And again, for the sake of a lot of this discussion, we can sort of assess the current congressional landscape. There's a chance obviously that Democrats lose the house majority in the coming elections. But in terms of that role and that sort of progressive left voice, how would you see yourself in the House?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, I mean, I think that there's obviously a need for political courage right now, more than ever, in our Congress. And we have a majority in the Senate, we have a majority in the House, and so obviously, we also have a Democratic president. And I think that it's really about making sure that we are people who have that political courage in order to fight for the things that we desperately need because we don't need to save seats — what we need to do is save our people. And so I always think that it's really important that we vote for somebody who's willing to stand in front of our people and make sure that they take the hits. I think that one of the biggest things for me is that I know that progressives are going to fight like hell to keep the House majority. We always have, we always will, but if there's a risk of losing it, we still have an important role to play. And one, even in the minority, we can be a roadblock to conservative overreach. Two, we can be a voice of moral authority in the face of attacks on our rights or giveaways to the wealthy. And three, we can develop policy and legislation that will improve people's lives when we take the majority, which we will.</p> <p>And I have worked across the aisle in Albany, obviously, to get legislation passed, but I think it's important to be honest about what bipartisanship means when we're talking about the congressional level, and when we have sitting Congress people who actually voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results, and electeds who actively planned, promoted, and participated in a violent attack against our democracy. And if people in our government are actively working against our democracy, I'm not really sure what achieving a bipartisanship even looks like when bipartisanship is obviously only possible when the party across the aisle isn't actively working to undo our democracy or violently harm their colleagues in a fascist coup. And I'm happy to obviously work with anyone who can pass that litmus test.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Some of what you're saying about courage and about having the majorities and about having a Democratic president. What do you make of federal leadership, Democratic leadership? Senate Majority Leader Schumer, who obviously is from Brooklyn, Speaker Pelosi, President Biden. Is part of your campaign here for Congress about the need for generational change, is it about the need for some sort of critique those leaders, that they haven't really adapted or adjusted to the modern Republican Party that they're really dealing with? And in some ways, obviously, Schumer and Pelosi have recognized that, and in some ways, Biden seems to have come around to recognize that, even though he sort of ran on the idea that he could get Republicans to return to more bipartisanship. They've had a couple of bipartisan accomplishments on infrastructure and the recent gun legislation, but it's part of your pitch here about the need for generational change in Congress. Are you someone who would definitely be seeking a different speaker of the house than Nancy Pelosi if you were in the House majority?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>So for me, I think that I'm somebody who's always spoken truth to power. Iit didn't matter if it was against my own leadership or the governor, right, and I think that I've been very honest about everything that I've seen. I spoke up against Cuomo, I did, I spoke up when I felt like the austerity budget was going to kill us. And I felt like we lost a lot of lives because instead of passing a budget that would be something that was going to make us healthy, happy, and whole again, we were cutting and slashing health care funds and social services, and education dollars in the beginning of a worldwide global pandemic, right. We were doing that, and we should have been investing in our communities. I feel like that goes to show that I want to be able to, no matter what, be accountable to my constituents and the people who chose to have me represent them, and I think that that's the most important thing. Even if it means speaking up when it's uncomfortable, even when it means speaking out when people want you to toe the status quo line, and I think that it's important for us to have somebody who's willing to do that.</p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b> Let me throw a couple of the some of the common criticisms of you and see what your responses are on these two things. One is, one way to frame some of this, as you said, is sort of having courage and speaking out and speaking truth to power. But some people say, ‘Well, you're always you're always sort of saying no to everything,’ that you're always saying ‘This is not enough,’ and vote no uncertain budget deals, oppose specific projects in the district. What's your response to that critique that you're sort of never willing to sort of get to yes and make more compromise, and not never obviously, that's sort of a overstatement, but that you're sort of too hesitant to come along and get to some compromises and almost always opposed to things.</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I am very rarely opposed to things. I think that's why the things that are shining out are really the times when I do say no, and I think that I do say no to things that need to be said no to. I think that a lot of times when you're seeing a budget like that, and you're seeing that there's education cuts that are making it so that students, when you know, kids are not going to be able to go to school in person and they're going to struggle. You can't skim, you have to make sure that you're speaking out when you know that it's a healthcare crisis and you see that the governor is taking away healthcare dollars and underfunding, like you need to say no. And if you are seeing that, you know that in the future, that social services are going to prevent worse deaths or prevent harm to people, that you have to say no. I think that there are moments when that is the courageous thing to do. And I think that if somebody's paying attention, then they would say no to, but I think a lot of times things are happening and people aren't paying attention. And I think that because I pay attention and I read everything, and I try to be really thorough, and I try to raise the question, and if those questions are not answered, then I can't be OK with this until I have my questions answered for these particular issues. And I think that every single time when I have had the courage to go out and fight for folks, I'm just really trying to shine a light on some of the places where people are not given the ability to shine the light on the normal darkness and opaqueness of government. And I would say that it's really about accessibility, trying to talk to my constituents first about what is happening, and then I think that because of my speeches on things, because of my clarity on the reason behind something, people are actually more involved and have more say in the process. And I think that that's always something that's good in government.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>How do you think about this district, this congressional district, and it obviously expands quite a bit into Brooklyn and other parts of Manhattan than you currently represent. But about bringing more housing into the district, and the debate over what it means to sort of be progressive on housing issues. You hear from some people, for example the chair of the City Council housing committee, Pierina Ana Sanchez, who is talking about the need for more housing everywhere and of all types. But then there's a pretty strong sort of left-leaning group of people on many issues who are very often opposed to a lot of new housing development, and largely because they say it's not affordable enough. How are you thinking about that with respect to this larger 10th congressional district and the importance of housing development broadly and affordable housing within that conversation?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, absolutely. So one of the biggest things is I am very much in, I think in a lot of ways, in both those cans. We do need to build a lot more housing, and we need to make sure that it is deeply affordable, permanently affordable, and also something that people can afford, because I have seen all over my district, a lot of luxury housing that people can't afford. And I think that it's really important for us to be able to be sure to build affordable housing and make sure that people have those programs. And I will say that we have a lot of housing developments that go on in lower Manhattan. Density is obviously not an issue with me, and I think that it's something that is important. It lowers the carbon footprint, it helps to make sure that we have a lot more people being able to come and go easier. We also have the very, very important thing of having more units on the market, right.</p> <p>Obviously in Lower Manhattan, we have buildings that are even on top of buildings. But what I do think is really important is people don't realize how many developments are going on that people don't really have any say over. But I do think that it's really important that if we do on the city level have any kind of public space or kind of public housing or anything like that that is built there, then we have to make sure that people can actually afford it. And I think that we have to make sure that things are deeply affordable, permanently affordable, and if something's taken away from somebody for public good, then we have to make sure that we replace it with another public good, right. And I think that it's really important for us to be able to be vocal when the community has any pushback, because we represent our people and we have to make sure that we're representing what the people want out of all of these different developments, and I think that that's the most important thing. I think that it's really about making sure that we have a neighborhood that works for everyone.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>As I mentioned earlier, there's a couple of pretty large majority Asian communities in this new 10th congressional district. One of them is Manhattan's Chinatown, which is currently in your assembly district. By no means making a plurality or a majority of voters in this new district, but the new district does combine those two significant heavily Asian communities. How are you thinking about representation and Asian representation in Congress as part of this run? And forgive me, but as part of this question, we've seen some movement of Asian American voters towards the Republican Party in New York City and elsewhere. How are you thinking about that and what's at the root of that? And as a progressive, how are you thinking about sort of winning over some of those voters who might be disaffected from the Democratic Party who are registered Democrats most likely?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>So first and foremost, that's several questions and I will try to take it. I love them, really important questions. So first and foremost, this district actually designated by this special master included both Chinatowns on purpose, both the Brooklyn-side Chinatown on Bat Dai Do [8th Avenue] is what we call it, and also in Chinatown here in Lower Manhattan, which we call it Táng Rén Jiē. And so we have both of our Chinatowns voting together for the first time and an open primary, and it's really important because if we have this opportunity to be able to have Asian American representation, that's really what this district was kind of slated for by the special master. But if we don't actually win this seat, then for 10, 20, 30, maybe years, we might not be able to have another opportunity to be able to have another Asian American representative from New York on the congressional level. And here in New York, we obviously have one Asian American on the congressional level — Grace Meng, she's amazing. But we also have not had another American representative ever, so I think that it's really important that we do have that representation because nationwide, Asian Americans make up over 7% of the country's population, and yet we have less than 1% of representation here in Congress. And so I think that it's really important for us to be able to have more Asian American representation because as we know, it's important to be able to have diverse lenses in order to make better policy.</p> <p>And so during this time especially, we saw such an increase in anti-Asian hate, antisemitism, we have seen Islamophobia in a way that we can't even describe. There's so much hatred going on throughout our country that it's really important that people recognize that a lot of times when we're seeing this kind of hatred, this kind of fear throughout, the purpose of that kind of terrorism, that kind of hatred, is to make us afraid and to make us not show up for things, not run for things, just to hide, I guess. And I think that's why it's so much more important that we have visibility and that we have somebody who's running that looks like us and helps us to be able to break some of the stereotypes and break some of the hatred and the perpetual foreigner syndrome that our country buys into, right. And I think that it's really important for us to be able to have those conversations as well.</p> <p>I will say that I am not surprised by folks being disillusioned with the Democratic Party when it comes to our Asian American communities because I will say that during this pandemic and for many, many years before it, we have not had the representation to really be able to speak for our communities in a way that matters. Until I was elected in our New York State Legislature, we didn't even have line items for our community organizations, for our Asian American community organizations in our budget. We had no set aside funding for our Asian American groups as a whole, and I felt like that was something that needed to change and we were able to bring, for the first time, when it was very apparent to me when we were talking about legal services for our immigrant communities, and there was funding for everybody except for the Asian American groups, I was shocked. And it was called the Liberty Defense Fund, you can look it up, it was put together by the IDC actually, and I was shocked that Asian Americans were not included in that funding. And so I fought to make sure that we had some dollars. And Carl [Heastie, the Assembly Speaker] actually, to his credit, gave us 300,000, and said that was a start and that I could fight for more later. So then I fought for more later, we got another 600k. And then we were finally able to get last year, $10 million to our Asian American organizations for the first time ever in the history of the nation, probably. And then in California, they actually copied us and were able to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to our Asian American communities.</p> <p>And then this year, we were able to double what we were able to give for Asian American communities and anti-hate work to 20 million. So it was really incredible to be able to see and I was able to triple the dollars that our yeshivas got for protections like against hate crimes, so some of the dollars for cameras, etc. These kinds of dollars are really important so that we can stop the hatred that we are seeing, and so that's why from my end, I'm not surprised by the Asian American population getting a little bit more disillusioned with how little we've protected them. The anti-Asian hate is really, really scary and frightening, and I think that it's really important for us to be able to provide the resources in order to combat it.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>I kind of want to try to get to a few more things in our last five or so minutes here. Just quickly, one more on that. There seems to be, and again, it's hard to quantify exactly, but there seems to be some gap between some portion of Asian American communities and the progressive vision around divesting from police funding to go to some other community programs. And again, maybe if you're saying some of this work you've done to target some new funding into programs that actually benefit in Asian American communities, then people might see some of that differently, but there seems to be a bit of a gap, again not in totality, but some portion of Asian American communities here in New York City around that progressive push. How do you sort of try to bridge that gap, because you have been much more firmly in the camp of ‘Let's move funding away from law enforcement into more community programs?’”</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, I think that it's about educating everyone on why it's so important that we have funding for the programs that are really important in helping with ending poverty, creating community safety, like real community safety, and we have to talk about safety as something that's important to all of us in this in the real community safety sense. Because when we're talking about changing what safety, in that conversation around safety, to really talk about what actually keeps us safe. It’s not having somebody respond to you after something horrible has happened. It's about making sure that we're preventing these horrible things from happening and it's supposed to be, ‘Hey, if you have somebody checking in on you,’ if we have a lot of people making sure that there are services for folks who need them, and then if we have services for folks who are also wanting to make sure that they can have mental health services or the ability to be able to talk about what's happening inside the community. It will help us to be able to have more of an ability to fight back in the sense of really just prevention, right. And I think that the more education that we have, the more representation that we have, the more diversity that we have in our representation, the more that we will actually be able to cover the things that cause it so that people don't get services.</p> <p>One of the biggest things is language access. Right now, our government and our law enforcement, we don't have people who are speaking our languages actually helping us on the ground, right. And I think it's really hard when you have like an app or something telling you something, or you don't hear somebody talking to you because you don't understand that they're speaking to you. And I think that it's really important that we are talking about how we can get more of those services. Majority of the cases that we get in our office are really like somebody just needing some translation help to get the services that they already qualify for, right. And so I think that it's really important to help us to be able to get those kinds of services going and then making sure that our government is actually able to get us to things that we need. That biggest thing, again, being funding towards our community organizations in order to be able to provide them.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>Alright, thank you. So let's try to get a little clarity on something that blew up related to you in the news recently. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that's focused on Israel, the disapproval of actions by the Israeli government and other issues. You told Jewish Insider that you believe in the right to protest as a fundamental tenet of Western democracy, so I do support BDS. Then I saw a tweet from a Jewish community leader, Alexander Rapaport, who said that you told him and others in the community that you are against BDS. Can you clarify your stance on this, and just try to sort of give us where you stand on this issue?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>So first and foremost, that tweet. I think that it was maybe made in joking, I don't know. But that was not, yeah, I did not say enough things. I will say that I am adamantly committed to the safety, security, and well being of all Jewish people, whether they live in my district in New York, in the United States, in Israel, or anywhere else in the world. I have dedicated my personal and public life to fighting for all targeted communities impacted by bigotry, by white supremacy, and nationalism, and that has and will always include my Jewish neighbors. And when it comes to Israel and Palestine, I support the BDS movement’s right to political speech. I was very, very clear about that, including boycotts and economic pressure. I also share the movement's commitment to human rights. I think that that's for everyone in the region. I know that boycotts are tried to and respected and constitutionally protected, non-violent tactic for human rights and social justice movements, and I think that it's really important that we be able to continue to be able to utilize that tool, right. And so from the movement against like South African apartheid to my own mentors’ biggest causes was the great boycott in solidarity with the United Farm Workers to the Montgomery Bus Boycotts to fight segregation. I think that it's really important that we are able to have that political speech, whether it's towards our government or our government’s relationships with other governments.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>And in giving full-throated support for the right to do these things, do you also consider yourself a supporter of that BDS movement?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I mean, I personally, myself, , I think that it's really important for us to know, I believe our tax dollars should never be used to violate human rights, which is why I also support legislation that would prevent federal funds from going to the persecution of Palestinians or to the construction of settlements. And I think that the only way that we have a voice in this is the direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are going. We have to make sure that they are the ones who are actually, since they're closest to their own pain, obviously, that there are many things that they can do, and I think that they have to be the ones to make that decision. This issue is one that's personal to me. Some of you may know the story of Rachel Corrie. She was a young activist who was killed by an armored bulldozer while protesting for Palestinian rights. She was my classmate and she was my friend, and she was part of a movement and that movement obviously deserves the right to be heard. And so here's the bottom line, I'll just say it out loud that I will be a strong voice in Congress against occupation and in support of equality, justice, and a thriving future for all Israelis and Palestinians. So I think that the only way we get there is through direct negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>OK, thank you. Last few things and these are things I'm asking all the candidates in NY-10, and they’re sort of a quick, final little lightning round of quick answers. You don't have to give a whole explanation here and I want to let you go on time. Do you think it's time, and again, you're up to get into a rationale, but do you think it's time for a full federal receivership of the Rikers Island jails? There's a monitor in place and there's questions around whether there should be a receivership. Do you think it's time for that? Yes or no?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I think that it’s time to close Rikers. I think that we don't need to even, I mean…</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>There’s going to be some time between now and the closure, though. So the question is the Adams administration has asked for more time, presented a plan. Obviously, the new mayor's only been in office six or seven months, and they got a little more time. But do you think it's time for the federal government to play an even more active role here?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I think so. I mean, in the sense that we have more and more people dying, every single day, we have something horrible coming out of Rikers. We've had, I believe, 11 people have died since the beginning of this year, I believe, in Rikers, and that is not something that should continue. We need to do something about Rikers and I believe that Rikers needs to close. We cannot keep on kicking the ball down the road or the can down the road, I think that's the terminology for it. But we can' keep on waiting. Rikers Island is a human rights atrocity.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>And I mentioned earlier, Representative Jones has moved into the district just a few weeks ago. Do you take any issue with that, or do you, again, do you think it's a little bit different, it’s a democracy and he didn't even have to move into the district to run. But do you take any issue with that, given that a lot of the other candidates in the race are people who have had a long-standing commitment to the district?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou:</b> I mean I think that again, it's a democracy, everyone can run, but I think that our constituents probably would like somebody who knows their issues and cares about the things that they've gone through, knows where the bathrooms are in their apartment layout. I think that it's really important for us to be able to have a representative who is speaking for all of us and is willing to make sure that we have somebody who wants to continue to get to know and listen to our constituents. And I think that when we have neighbors that we already know and already know the issues that they care about, it makes a big difference in how we represent them.</p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b>And lastly in this little round here, other than tens of billions of dollars for NYCHA, which obviously you've made clear you would fight for at the federal level and there's lots of potential NYCHA money in Build Back Better, which has stalled in Washington, obviously. You and others in the race would obviously fight for that. Other than tens of billions of federal dollars going to help NYCHA with its huge need of capital repairs, is there one NYCHA revenue raising strategy that you support? Is there anything other than major amounts of federal aid, state aid as you've talked about fighting for and securing, but is there any other NYCHA-related strategy to raise revenue that you support?</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Yeah, so actually, Nydia Velázquez has a standalone bill to fully fund public housing, it's also a very good bill, the Green New Housing Deal is also one way of being able to also fully fund our public housing, and then of course, there is the addition to the Build Back Better plan, also fully funding our public housing. And I think that we need a lot of different bills to take the chance of being able to fully fund our public housing, but I think that the most important thing is that we find more and more mechanisms in order to be able to get those dollars to our state and to our public housing residents who are seeing that their homes are making them sick — no hot water, no heat, mold, lead, paint. It's really, really devastating every single time. I know that whenever it gets hot, I'm going to get calls to try to figure out how they can cool their apartments. Whenever it gets cold, I already know that they're going to have hot water and heating issues. And every single time that it happens, it's been devastating. So we've had we've seen fires happen when seniors who have Alzheimer's or something who will turn on and open their stoves for heat and forget that they had them turned on or open. I think that it's really important that we are preventing those kinds of accidents.</p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b> Alright, Yuh-Line Niou. Democratic candidate in the new 10th congressional district of New York, including parts of Lower Manhattan and a big swath of Brooklyn. Why don't you take a closing moment here, a closing minute, anything we haven't touched on or any message to the NY-10 voters who are listening that you want to leave them with after listening to this conversation. Go ahead and take a minute, and then we'll say goodbye.</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>I just want to say thank you so much Ben for having the opportunity to be able to talk to you and be able to deep dive into so many of these issues. I think that it's really important that we are very much having these discussions in order for people to see who they want to be able to support for the new NY-10. Again, I think that right now we need to have that political courage and we have to make sure that we have somebody who's willing to fight for us, fight for us continuously, and make sure that we are standing up in this moment where our government is needing that voice more than ever. And so I hope that you'll all vote for me. You can go to nioufornewyork.com in order to make sure to look up and find out and hear more about all of the things that are happening in our race. Again, that's nioufornewyork.com. Thank you so much.</p> <p><b>Ben Max:</b> All right. Yuh-Line Niou represents the 65th assembly district in the New York State Assembly that includes parts of Lower Manhattan that are part of the new 10th congressional district where she's a candidate in the Democratic primary coming up in August. Primary day is August 23. Get that on your calendar, whether you're in the 10th district or not. And if you're an eligible Democratic voter, you can still register to vote in these races. The state senate and U.S. House primaries coming up in August, and then of course, the general election in the fall that will also include the winners of the assembly and statewide primaries that happened in June. It's another busy election year here in New York. Yuh-Line Niou, thank you very much for the time, appreciate it, and be well.</p> <p><b>Yuh-Line Niou: </b>Thank you so much. Bye Ben.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Transcript: Carlina Rivera NY-10 Max Politics Interview 2022-08-04T04:00:00+00:00 2022-08-04T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11487-transcript-carlina-rivera-ny-10-max-politics Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/carlina-riv-running600.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Carlina Rivera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Carlina Rivera Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p><b>Recorded June 1, 2022</b></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11348-max-politics-podcast-carlina-rivera-running-congress-ny-10"><b>Listen to the audio here</b></a><b>, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</b></p> <p><b>Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</b></p> <p><b>District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (</b><a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017"><b>see map here</b></a><b>)</b></p> <p><b>Transcript:</b></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer intro…] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">So we have Carlina Rivera with us today. Welcome.</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thank you so much for having me. What a great kind of rundown of what's been happening in New York City politics.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thanks. You know, it is hard to keep it concise. I didn't there, but I tried to keep it as narrow as possible. You are in the City Council now. You've been on the show in the past. You represent the 2nd City Council district, including the East Village, Lower East Side, and other parts of Manhattan. You chair the criminal justice committee in the City Council. Last term, you chaired the committee on hospitals, lots of work there that we'll get to, but you're here in a new and different capacity, and you're making an announcement.</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yes, I am running for Congress in NY-10, which is a fantastic district that includes neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including where I was born and raised in the Lower East Side. And I'm here to let people know, I am very, very excited about this. I am someone who really believes deeply in public service. I truly care about doing this work. I think I have a record of results, and I am someone who wants to make New York a city everyone can see themselves in. I get the job done. This is my home, and the community is behind me. So I'm really excited to move forward and to, as you mentioned, engage in what's going to be a very hot and busy summer. And I'm excited to do that with all of my neighbors, my friends, my family from Brooklyn to Manhattan, people that I know that I have a local perspective that NY-10 I think really wants from their representative, and I want to be the member of Congress that does both — that really understands how universal issues affect people across the country, but that has a very, very nuanced and local understanding as to how to get things done. And of course, how to build coalitions to make sure that we have a really, really balanced approach to how we're taking care of families.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">So many of these congressional districts are very big, obviously, and I ran through a little bit of what this new NY-10 looks like with some big chunks of downtown Manhattan. Some of those have some similarities. There's of course different neighborhoods, different demographics. You already have that even in a City Council district, which is smaller. And then we get into Brooklyn, and there's various and diverse communities in Brooklyn. When you're looking at this new congressional district and you're seeking voters' approval in the Democratic primary coming up in August now, and you want to represent this congressional district. How do you describe this district? What are some of the ways you're thinking about the people and the neighborhoods and the communities that you're seeking to represent here?</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">This was a very highly engaged district. These are people and families that take voting very, very seriously. I also think that they look at their congressional members, their representatives, as very local positions. They want someone who is going to understand what's going on like in their streets and on their block. And understanding that housing, jobs, reproductive rights, acting on climate change, public safety, these are some of the top issues that we discuss every single day in the council, but of course, when I'm at community meetings, when I'm checking in with folks. So I think there is just an understanding that right now, the future of New York is up for grabs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think I'm the candidate to lead us there. I'm a homegrown candidate of fierce commitment to my community to fighting, to bring resources into our neighborhoods, especially for those who are struggling, and that I've stood up to powerful interests in the past. This is a place where I have a lot of memories too. I have memories of going to the matinees on Sundays at Cobble Hill Theater where my mom and family came from Puerto Rico, they landed in Brooklyn. Going to Fulton Street, shopping at A&amp;S, it's now a Macy's, visiting my family and friends, and Sunset Park, and of course all of the memories I have playing basketball on the west side, visiting small businesses and restaurants in Chinatown. My entire life has taken place in these amazing neighborhoods, and now to have this rare opportunity to be able to be their representative in Washington is something that I'm really excited about. I think New York is at a crossroads, and I'm running for Congress to turn my love for New York into a vision for the city that everyone can see themselves in. I think even before the pandemic, people were wondering, they felt very, very transient in their jobs and in their homes. Is there going to be a future for me here in New York City? I have those lived experiences living paycheck to paycheck, having student debt, looking for a job, filing for unemployment during economic crisis and instability, and I'll be a tireless advocate for New Yorkers. I'll drive new and creative solutions as the city rebounds from the pandemic and rebuilds for the future. And I understand the city's most pressing problems, but also our limitless potential.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is so much talent here in New York City. There is really a time right now to, of course, deliver a just recovery, but to also think about, alright, how can we take some of these solutions and some of the things and the accomplishments that I've had on the local level, and it can certainly translate to solutions for communities and people across the country. Some of my housing work and really changing the whole conversation around building affordable housing by bringing deeply affordable mixed-income housing to two of the highest opportunity neighborhoods in the country at no cost to taxpayers. I think a lot of the work that I've done around healthcare and specifically reproductive rights, leading the change to create the first municipal program in the country to directly fund abortion care. And in terms of public safety, which I know is at the top of the agenda for many folks, increasing investments in some of these strategies to law enforcement that include community-level programs and violence interrupters. I've visited the stand up to violence program at Jacobi Hospital where they're treating gun violence as a public health issue. So these are programs that are working that I've really been advocating for and want to take some of those skills and of course, my lived experience and my absolute love for the city, and I love to do that as the Congressmember for NY-10.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">There's a little bit of an interesting dynamic developing in this race. Yourself, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, Mondaire Jones, who as I said in the introduction is a member of Congress now but from quite far away now coming into run in this district, that there's sort of this younger generation of elected officials here. And then there's the former mayor, maybe the former Congressmember Elizabeth Holtzman. But regardless of your competition in this race per se, how much are you thinking about, even more broadly, for the Democratic Party for the federal government sort of needing a new generation of leadership? And what does that mean in concrete terms in terms of like policies that you'd fight for? People sometimes will run on the idea of sort of generational change, but their policies are not really that different from the older generation that's currently in office, they just want to sort of take out an incumbent. You're not running it against the incumbent here, but how do you think about sort of the need, if you think there is one, of sort of generational change within the Democratic Party, within the federal government? And if that's something you're thinking about, how does it manifest on the policy level?</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think a lot about how some of my policy work has been able to take on some of our biggest issues. One thing that's really important that's finally at the forefront of the national conversation is climate change. I fought for and passed the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, which is a $1.45 billion plan to protect the east side from future disasters and storm surges, and that was such an emotional, intense time after the hurricane, and our community really came together to figure out ‘OK, how can we best protect ourselves?’ And I think issues like this influence national and even international policy, and I think these are some of the issues that we're really trying to figure out how can we work on a local level. I mean that even in the federal way. Even as a congress member, you have a local responsibility to your folks.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many of us are going to say, of course, we want to codify Roe. In New York City, I led the change to create the first municipal program in the country for abortion access. That is something that should be replicated across cities, and certainly will have to, especially in these kinds of times when reproductive rights are under attack. When I think about our vision as a city, revitalizing our city is my top priority in our pandemic recovery and beyond. I think for what I bring that's really unique to the role is that I'm the only candidate with a strong existing constituency in the district, and I have, I think, the clearest path to building a district-wide coalition. The support for my run from a very diverse NY-10 and the city leaders is a clear sign that we have momentum and I think that they're excited that I'm someone who is just very energized by the possibility of our city and of our communities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are great candidates running all over the state and all over this country, and we certainly have a lot in common in terms of our national agenda on gun control, on codifying Roe, on getting big money out of politics and enabling someone with very, very humble beginnings like myself to run. What I come to is the issues New Yorkers face continue to grow and my record proves that I'm well equipped to help deliver solutions as a member of Congress, just like I have as a member of the City Council, but that New Yorkers are certainly very hungry for leadership and vision that's as bold as it is pragmatic in taking on those fights. And so, I think I've used my platform, kind of my own identity, to try to talk about these issues that are really affecting us in a very, very deep way. I think what is exciting and what I think people have really kind of responded to when I'm talking to them about my run is that I just have a love for my city and I'm deeply grateful for all the support that I've already seen. To run for Council and now for Congress and what an honor it would be. I'm a homegrown candidate, I'm from the neighborhood. I think people want to see someone who does have bold ideas, but who also has a very nuanced understanding of the local issues. </span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s come back to local issues in a second. In terms of going big, going bold on the national level. If you're elected to Congress, if Democrats keep control of the House, obviously, those are our significant ifs that will play out over the course of this election. You're one of hundreds in the majority. If that happens, in the minority, it's even harder to get your priorities done. But let's say you are a member of the House in the Democratic majority. What are the one or two things at the top of the list where you would want to go big and bold with Democratic leadership, let's just say in the House, in the Senate, in the presidency, where those issues where you would really want to use your voice, whatever it can it can help a crew in terms of political momentum to really have the country go big and go bold? </span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I don't want to name a whole bunch because I’m sure you have other questions for me and we have limited time. I mentioned the reproductive rights movement, the fight for abortion access. I think what we've been able to do in New York City with the first municipal abortion access fund, and it's since been replicated in other cities like Austin. We're learning from Austin too, right, they went ahead and they included something like transportation expenses. I think these are things that we can sort of influence in a national way that will hopefully lead to ultimately codifying Roe. I think that is such an important issue, and yes, it reverberates. It has consequences for other issues, I think that include just civil rights in general and treating people as full people, as real citizens.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cities are not structures, cities are the people that lead them have to center our humanity first and foremost, so I think reproductive rights is certainly a big issue and that just is healthcare in general. As you mentioned, I was chair of the committee on hospitals, and the work that we did in terms of addressing some of the systemic inequities that a lot of us knew was already there, and how the money flows into our hospital systems in a very disproportionate way, and the largest municipal healthcare system in the country is Health + Hospitals. And so who they serve and how they're supported by the federal government is incredibly important. Health care and reproductive rights are very important. I mentioned climate change. I think some of the work that I've done not just on something like the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, but in the Council, we passed the Climate Mobilization Act. A lot of people call that the Dirty Buildings Bill, which was to address the emissions from our very inefficient buildings here in New York City. I think it also goes to how we're prioritizing mass transit, green infrastructure, so really first prioritizing our cyclists and our pedestrians and investing in mass transit. I know where those transit dollars should go here in New York City, whether we're extending the Second Avenue subway, looking at how to make sure that Brooklyn, Queens, some of our other boroughs have the same sort of concentration and focus in terms of infrastructure money, and making sure that we're designing cities for people. I introduced and passed Open Streets. That's been a national model in terms of how we reclaim our open space and redesign it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And then ultimately, housing, I can't tell you how, I guess encouraged that I am that housing is really finally kind of going to the top of the national agenda of how people are suffering in terms of access to housing and overall affordability. Whether it's making sure that our communities are actually contributing affordable housing to the overall stock, especially in cities that are in crisis like New York City, but that's being felt across the country. So how do we amp up mass production? How do we ensure that people with vouchers aren't being discriminated against? We really have to talk about treating public housing as part of our general infrastructure, so the way that we mentioned hospitals and transit or like the MTA, that's how we should talk about public housing. There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of families, people that are living in public housing here and across the country, and their apartments are in disrepair and they're living in such terrible conditions. It's just not the New York way, and we have to care for these families and I think that that is certainly one of the best examples of affordable housing, and we have to go further. And we have to make sure that we're preserving, and of course, really stepping up the supply and that production.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other than a massive amount of federal funding for NYCHA repairs, which obviously plenty of people are advocating for and is something that there's obviously a big chorus pushing for, but hasn't happened. But other than that, is there one lever on NYCHA that you really want to see pulled or pulled further than it has been pulled? Is there something related to public housing that you would really try to move ahead on, or maybe there's something that's already moving ahead, but you want to accelerate beyond just a huge big old allocation towards NYCHA.</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is I think the question that a lot of us struggle with, because yes, we can all agree we need a giant influx of cash. I mean, New York City alone needs $40 billion, and I thought what an opportunity there would have been to fund it as we were discussing kind of the American Rescue Plan and hopefully Build Back Better and those infrastructure bills that can bring this large influx of cash. I hope that people can admit to actually walking public housing. I have walked all of the developments in the Lower East Side, in Brooklyn, in Red Hook. I feel like until people actually see and understand what these families are going through, they have to do everything in their power, in their capacity to make sure that these families are supported to make their own decisions, whatever that may be in terms of their development. These tenant association leaders and public housing, specifically in NYCHA, they're usually women, women of color, and they do this day in and day out, countless hours, they do not get paid. And all of this is to take care of the families there who have been really neglected for a long time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So what are some of our solutions? I know there have been some legislative solutions being explored. I've certainly tried to do what I can as a councilwoman, funding the renovation of parks, making sure that their dollars are going in for things like making sure the compactor is moving because there's a big trash and rat problem in our city. So I think people really need to walk public housing and understand what is going on, and then further move to empower these tenant associations and these leaders to make the decisions for their developments that make the most sense.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Quick question that connects your current work chairing the City Council criminal justice committee and a potential federal role. Do you believe that it's time for a federal receivership of the city's jails, especially those on Rikers Island? Do you think that it's time to do that? I saw your colleague Keith Powers in the City Council says it's time for that, there's some others I think that believe that. Do you think there should be a federal takeover of the city's jails?</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Rikers Island, period. I think it is receiving national attention and the conditions there for the incarcerated and officers alike are completely unacceptable, and it's dangerous. I do not see a plan from the city to tackle these issues in the next few months, and I feel that the receivership is imminent. If, and again, we've asked in multiple hearings, I encourage people if you have the time, take a look at the hearings that we've had in the Council in trying to hold the Department of Corrections and of course this mayoral administration accountable for the lack of reform, and hopefully more transparency as time goes on. And recently, they announced an interagency task force, which sounds like a plan to make a plan, and that is just not the spot that we are in.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So unless they can really turn it around and come forward with actual reform and a plan to which I hope ultimately close Rikers Island, but to at least get conditions up to the point where we do not have, we are not at vigils or reading news about people who have died within the facilities themselves, then this administration should get on board in choosing a receiver and getting on board with federal intervention that they themselves could participate in terms of the discussion. There are only two options and I do not see the plan coming together, and it looks like federal intervention is on its way. So we have a few conversations ahead of us in terms of what to expect from leadership, but we are just not seeing it right now and we just had another person pass away. It is just in a very, very dangerous, harmful place, and we have to do something.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">We're in our last few minutes here with City Council Member Carlina Rivera, who is now a candidate for Congress in the new New York 10th congressional district, which includes parts of downtown Manhattan, parts of downtown Brooklyn, and a whole bunch of other neighborhoods in Brooklyn that I won't list off right now because some of them are part of one of my last couple questions here. Coming back to the race here, you said something earlier about being the cannon in the race with the real sort of constituency and base. I think Assemblymember Niou would probably take some issue with that. I think former Mayor de Blasio would probably take some issue with that, although he's obviously got lots of challenges in his old backyard where there's a lot of disillusionment with his leadership, but he's hoping to win people back, and maybe others in the race as well. But as you look at this new district, there's a really interesting sort of demographics here. Very clearly, just by the voting age population, the total population in the district. White voters are likely to be a sizable majority of the voters here. They're very much going to be mostly liberal to pretty darn progressive in some of these neighborhoods in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Then you've got heavily Latino neighborhoods and communities in both Manhattan and Brooklyn parts, heavily Asian communities in both Manhattan and Brooklyn parts of the district, and then you have more conservative white communities in parts of the district like out in Borough Park. When you're thinking about those three to four big groups there, and again, these are broad brushes, but congressional districts are huge. Are there any ways that you're thinking about sort of issues that matter the most to certain constituencies and certain communities that you would almost be able to say, ‘I know that the Latino communities, some of which you currently represent in Manhattan, and those in Brooklyn that are part of this district, the Asian communities, again predominantly Asian communities care about certain issues at the top of the list, et cetera, et cetera?’ Do you have thoughts on sort of that approach to the groups within this larger group and how you're going to sort of talk to these different constituencies?</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yeah, of course. Sometimes people ask me, what are Latino issues? What are women's issues? We have the same issues as everyone else, and that is that people want a more affordable, livable city. I have very deep roots in this community. I've worked with all different sorts of stakeholders, even people who might be on kind of the opposing end of an issue. It's so important to have that conversation to understand and broaden your perspective. And I've been navigating these dynamics for years and throughout my career.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I'm about outcomes that lift everyone and I have a record of doing that even before I became a City Council woman. I worked on a project called the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, that's Essex Crossing now, and that was a very big issue for the Lower East Side. That was 40 years of history, nearly 2,000 families displaced, many of them Puerto Rican. And finally, there was a conversation that was going to be had about what to do, which was pretty much largely just parking lots. And that conversation of like, well what do we want? The people that have lived here, the people that lived through this displacement. What do we want? Well, we wanted affordable housing because that was the right thing and the justice part of it was so important. Open space, making sure that there was local hiring, having a seamless transition for the Essex Street Market vendors to go from one market to another with the same rents, but more amenities, because that market was so important, symbolic of the community's history, and because there's such a diversity in some of the kiosks and and the shop owners in there. And then of course, making sure there was a right to return for those families that were displaced many, many years ago, which was in and of itself another challenge, and how do some of these families prove that they actually live there? They have to go find baptism records and old report cards, and there were some great organizations on the ground that helped people do that. And you know, those issues unite all of us. I bring up Essex Crossing because it's an example of lots of people wanting lots of different things, and the community coming together to say, ‘Here's what we can agree to, and here's how we have to move forward.’ And when I think about just kind of like my past and why I think I understand the issues, just so acutely and so personally, I know what it's like to live in this city day in and day out, and I think what what gives me a lot of pride are the things that we have all been through together and how we've recovered as a community and as a city, whether it's 9/11 recovery and taking care of those workers, whether it’s the Essex Crossing project, whether it's Hurricane Sandy relief.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When I first ran, it was a crowded primary too and this is the council race. It was an exciting time for me as a first-time candidate. I won a crowded six-week primary with over 60% of the vote. When I first ran, I delivered for the community, I won my second term with 74% of the vote. And that is because I'm out there, I'm in the streets, I'm talking to folks, people know me, I went to school here, I played basketball here, I've won a couple softball championships here. Every milestone in my life is here and I know the struggles that everyday New Yorkers face because I lived them myself. This is so much more than just a job to me. It's about taking care of the communities that raised me, and that's what we do for each other as New Yorkers.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer outro…] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Carlina Rivera, thanks for taking the time and be well.</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thank you. Thanks, talk soon.</span></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/carlina-riv-running600.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Carlina Rivera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><b>Max Politics Podcast: Carlina Rivera Runs for Congress in the New NY-10</b></p> <p><b>Recorded June 1, 2022</b></p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11348-max-politics-podcast-carlina-rivera-running-congress-ny-10"><b>Listen to the audio here</b></a><b>, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.</b></p> <p><b>Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022</b></p> <p><b>District: Lower Manhattan &amp; parts of Brooklyn (</b><a href="https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cd&amp;propA=current_2012&amp;propB=congress_specialmastercorrected_20220604&amp;selected=-74.010,40.704#%26map=11.12/40.7066/-74.0017"><b>see map here</b></a><b>)</b></p> <p><b>Transcript:</b></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer intro…] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">So we have Carlina Rivera with us today. Welcome.</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thank you so much for having me. What a great kind of rundown of what's been happening in New York City politics.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thanks. You know, it is hard to keep it concise. I didn't there, but I tried to keep it as narrow as possible. You are in the City Council now. You've been on the show in the past. You represent the 2nd City Council district, including the East Village, Lower East Side, and other parts of Manhattan. You chair the criminal justice committee in the City Council. Last term, you chaired the committee on hospitals, lots of work there that we'll get to, but you're here in a new and different capacity, and you're making an announcement.</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yes, I am running for Congress in NY-10, which is a fantastic district that includes neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including where I was born and raised in the Lower East Side. And I'm here to let people know, I am very, very excited about this. I am someone who really believes deeply in public service. I truly care about doing this work. I think I have a record of results, and I am someone who wants to make New York a city everyone can see themselves in. I get the job done. This is my home, and the community is behind me. So I'm really excited to move forward and to, as you mentioned, engage in what's going to be a very hot and busy summer. And I'm excited to do that with all of my neighbors, my friends, my family from Brooklyn to Manhattan, people that I know that I have a local perspective that NY-10 I think really wants from their representative, and I want to be the member of Congress that does both — that really understands how universal issues affect people across the country, but that has a very, very nuanced and local understanding as to how to get things done. And of course, how to build coalitions to make sure that we have a really, really balanced approach to how we're taking care of families.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">So many of these congressional districts are very big, obviously, and I ran through a little bit of what this new NY-10 looks like with some big chunks of downtown Manhattan. Some of those have some similarities. There's of course different neighborhoods, different demographics. You already have that even in a City Council district, which is smaller. And then we get into Brooklyn, and there's various and diverse communities in Brooklyn. When you're looking at this new congressional district and you're seeking voters' approval in the Democratic primary coming up in August now, and you want to represent this congressional district. How do you describe this district? What are some of the ways you're thinking about the people and the neighborhoods and the communities that you're seeking to represent here?</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">This was a very highly engaged district. These are people and families that take voting very, very seriously. I also think that they look at their congressional members, their representatives, as very local positions. They want someone who is going to understand what's going on like in their streets and on their block. And understanding that housing, jobs, reproductive rights, acting on climate change, public safety, these are some of the top issues that we discuss every single day in the council, but of course, when I'm at community meetings, when I'm checking in with folks. So I think there is just an understanding that right now, the future of New York is up for grabs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think I'm the candidate to lead us there. I'm a homegrown candidate of fierce commitment to my community to fighting, to bring resources into our neighborhoods, especially for those who are struggling, and that I've stood up to powerful interests in the past. This is a place where I have a lot of memories too. I have memories of going to the matinees on Sundays at Cobble Hill Theater where my mom and family came from Puerto Rico, they landed in Brooklyn. Going to Fulton Street, shopping at A&amp;S, it's now a Macy's, visiting my family and friends, and Sunset Park, and of course all of the memories I have playing basketball on the west side, visiting small businesses and restaurants in Chinatown. My entire life has taken place in these amazing neighborhoods, and now to have this rare opportunity to be able to be their representative in Washington is something that I'm really excited about. I think New York is at a crossroads, and I'm running for Congress to turn my love for New York into a vision for the city that everyone can see themselves in. I think even before the pandemic, people were wondering, they felt very, very transient in their jobs and in their homes. Is there going to be a future for me here in New York City? I have those lived experiences living paycheck to paycheck, having student debt, looking for a job, filing for unemployment during economic crisis and instability, and I'll be a tireless advocate for New Yorkers. I'll drive new and creative solutions as the city rebounds from the pandemic and rebuilds for the future. And I understand the city's most pressing problems, but also our limitless potential.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is so much talent here in New York City. There is really a time right now to, of course, deliver a just recovery, but to also think about, alright, how can we take some of these solutions and some of the things and the accomplishments that I've had on the local level, and it can certainly translate to solutions for communities and people across the country. Some of my housing work and really changing the whole conversation around building affordable housing by bringing deeply affordable mixed-income housing to two of the highest opportunity neighborhoods in the country at no cost to taxpayers. I think a lot of the work that I've done around healthcare and specifically reproductive rights, leading the change to create the first municipal program in the country to directly fund abortion care. And in terms of public safety, which I know is at the top of the agenda for many folks, increasing investments in some of these strategies to law enforcement that include community-level programs and violence interrupters. I've visited the stand up to violence program at Jacobi Hospital where they're treating gun violence as a public health issue. So these are programs that are working that I've really been advocating for and want to take some of those skills and of course, my lived experience and my absolute love for the city, and I love to do that as the Congressmember for NY-10.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">There's a little bit of an interesting dynamic developing in this race. Yourself, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, Mondaire Jones, who as I said in the introduction is a member of Congress now but from quite far away now coming into run in this district, that there's sort of this younger generation of elected officials here. And then there's the former mayor, maybe the former Congressmember Elizabeth Holtzman. But regardless of your competition in this race per se, how much are you thinking about, even more broadly, for the Democratic Party for the federal government sort of needing a new generation of leadership? And what does that mean in concrete terms in terms of like policies that you'd fight for? People sometimes will run on the idea of sort of generational change, but their policies are not really that different from the older generation that's currently in office, they just want to sort of take out an incumbent. You're not running it against the incumbent here, but how do you think about sort of the need, if you think there is one, of sort of generational change within the Democratic Party, within the federal government? And if that's something you're thinking about, how does it manifest on the policy level?</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I think a lot about how some of my policy work has been able to take on some of our biggest issues. One thing that's really important that's finally at the forefront of the national conversation is climate change. I fought for and passed the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, which is a $1.45 billion plan to protect the east side from future disasters and storm surges, and that was such an emotional, intense time after the hurricane, and our community really came together to figure out ‘OK, how can we best protect ourselves?’ And I think issues like this influence national and even international policy, and I think these are some of the issues that we're really trying to figure out how can we work on a local level. I mean that even in the federal way. Even as a congress member, you have a local responsibility to your folks.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many of us are going to say, of course, we want to codify Roe. In New York City, I led the change to create the first municipal program in the country for abortion access. That is something that should be replicated across cities, and certainly will have to, especially in these kinds of times when reproductive rights are under attack. When I think about our vision as a city, revitalizing our city is my top priority in our pandemic recovery and beyond. I think for what I bring that's really unique to the role is that I'm the only candidate with a strong existing constituency in the district, and I have, I think, the clearest path to building a district-wide coalition. The support for my run from a very diverse NY-10 and the city leaders is a clear sign that we have momentum and I think that they're excited that I'm someone who is just very energized by the possibility of our city and of our communities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are great candidates running all over the state and all over this country, and we certainly have a lot in common in terms of our national agenda on gun control, on codifying Roe, on getting big money out of politics and enabling someone with very, very humble beginnings like myself to run. What I come to is the issues New Yorkers face continue to grow and my record proves that I'm well equipped to help deliver solutions as a member of Congress, just like I have as a member of the City Council, but that New Yorkers are certainly very hungry for leadership and vision that's as bold as it is pragmatic in taking on those fights. And so, I think I've used my platform, kind of my own identity, to try to talk about these issues that are really affecting us in a very, very deep way. I think what is exciting and what I think people have really kind of responded to when I'm talking to them about my run is that I just have a love for my city and I'm deeply grateful for all the support that I've already seen. To run for Council and now for Congress and what an honor it would be. I'm a homegrown candidate, I'm from the neighborhood. I think people want to see someone who does have bold ideas, but who also has a very nuanced understanding of the local issues. </span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s come back to local issues in a second. In terms of going big, going bold on the national level. If you're elected to Congress, if Democrats keep control of the House, obviously, those are our significant ifs that will play out over the course of this election. You're one of hundreds in the majority. If that happens, in the minority, it's even harder to get your priorities done. But let's say you are a member of the House in the Democratic majority. What are the one or two things at the top of the list where you would want to go big and bold with Democratic leadership, let's just say in the House, in the Senate, in the presidency, where those issues where you would really want to use your voice, whatever it can it can help a crew in terms of political momentum to really have the country go big and go bold? </span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">I don't want to name a whole bunch because I’m sure you have other questions for me and we have limited time. I mentioned the reproductive rights movement, the fight for abortion access. I think what we've been able to do in New York City with the first municipal abortion access fund, and it's since been replicated in other cities like Austin. We're learning from Austin too, right, they went ahead and they included something like transportation expenses. I think these are things that we can sort of influence in a national way that will hopefully lead to ultimately codifying Roe. I think that is such an important issue, and yes, it reverberates. It has consequences for other issues, I think that include just civil rights in general and treating people as full people, as real citizens.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cities are not structures, cities are the people that lead them have to center our humanity first and foremost, so I think reproductive rights is certainly a big issue and that just is healthcare in general. As you mentioned, I was chair of the committee on hospitals, and the work that we did in terms of addressing some of the systemic inequities that a lot of us knew was already there, and how the money flows into our hospital systems in a very disproportionate way, and the largest municipal healthcare system in the country is Health + Hospitals. And so who they serve and how they're supported by the federal government is incredibly important. Health care and reproductive rights are very important. I mentioned climate change. I think some of the work that I've done not just on something like the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, but in the Council, we passed the Climate Mobilization Act. A lot of people call that the Dirty Buildings Bill, which was to address the emissions from our very inefficient buildings here in New York City. I think it also goes to how we're prioritizing mass transit, green infrastructure, so really first prioritizing our cyclists and our pedestrians and investing in mass transit. I know where those transit dollars should go here in New York City, whether we're extending the Second Avenue subway, looking at how to make sure that Brooklyn, Queens, some of our other boroughs have the same sort of concentration and focus in terms of infrastructure money, and making sure that we're designing cities for people. I introduced and passed Open Streets. That's been a national model in terms of how we reclaim our open space and redesign it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And then ultimately, housing, I can't tell you how, I guess encouraged that I am that housing is really finally kind of going to the top of the national agenda of how people are suffering in terms of access to housing and overall affordability. Whether it's making sure that our communities are actually contributing affordable housing to the overall stock, especially in cities that are in crisis like New York City, but that's being felt across the country. So how do we amp up mass production? How do we ensure that people with vouchers aren't being discriminated against? We really have to talk about treating public housing as part of our general infrastructure, so the way that we mentioned hospitals and transit or like the MTA, that's how we should talk about public housing. There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of families, people that are living in public housing here and across the country, and their apartments are in disrepair and they're living in such terrible conditions. It's just not the New York way, and we have to care for these families and I think that that is certainly one of the best examples of affordable housing, and we have to go further. And we have to make sure that we're preserving, and of course, really stepping up the supply and that production.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other than a massive amount of federal funding for NYCHA repairs, which obviously plenty of people are advocating for and is something that there's obviously a big chorus pushing for, but hasn't happened. But other than that, is there one lever on NYCHA that you really want to see pulled or pulled further than it has been pulled? Is there something related to public housing that you would really try to move ahead on, or maybe there's something that's already moving ahead, but you want to accelerate beyond just a huge big old allocation towards NYCHA.</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is I think the question that a lot of us struggle with, because yes, we can all agree we need a giant influx of cash. I mean, New York City alone needs $40 billion, and I thought what an opportunity there would have been to fund it as we were discussing kind of the American Rescue Plan and hopefully Build Back Better and those infrastructure bills that can bring this large influx of cash. I hope that people can admit to actually walking public housing. I have walked all of the developments in the Lower East Side, in Brooklyn, in Red Hook. I feel like until people actually see and understand what these families are going through, they have to do everything in their power, in their capacity to make sure that these families are supported to make their own decisions, whatever that may be in terms of their development. These tenant association leaders and public housing, specifically in NYCHA, they're usually women, women of color, and they do this day in and day out, countless hours, they do not get paid. And all of this is to take care of the families there who have been really neglected for a long time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So what are some of our solutions? I know there have been some legislative solutions being explored. I've certainly tried to do what I can as a councilwoman, funding the renovation of parks, making sure that their dollars are going in for things like making sure the compactor is moving because there's a big trash and rat problem in our city. So I think people really need to walk public housing and understand what is going on, and then further move to empower these tenant associations and these leaders to make the decisions for their developments that make the most sense.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Quick question that connects your current work chairing the City Council criminal justice committee and a potential federal role. Do you believe that it's time for a federal receivership of the city's jails, especially those on Rikers Island? Do you think that it's time to do that? I saw your colleague Keith Powers in the City Council says it's time for that, there's some others I think that believe that. Do you think there should be a federal takeover of the city's jails?</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Rikers Island, period. I think it is receiving national attention and the conditions there for the incarcerated and officers alike are completely unacceptable, and it's dangerous. I do not see a plan from the city to tackle these issues in the next few months, and I feel that the receivership is imminent. If, and again, we've asked in multiple hearings, I encourage people if you have the time, take a look at the hearings that we've had in the Council in trying to hold the Department of Corrections and of course this mayoral administration accountable for the lack of reform, and hopefully more transparency as time goes on. And recently, they announced an interagency task force, which sounds like a plan to make a plan, and that is just not the spot that we are in.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So unless they can really turn it around and come forward with actual reform and a plan to which I hope ultimately close Rikers Island, but to at least get conditions up to the point where we do not have, we are not at vigils or reading news about people who have died within the facilities themselves, then this administration should get on board in choosing a receiver and getting on board with federal intervention that they themselves could participate in terms of the discussion. There are only two options and I do not see the plan coming together, and it looks like federal intervention is on its way. So we have a few conversations ahead of us in terms of what to expect from leadership, but we are just not seeing it right now and we just had another person pass away. It is just in a very, very dangerous, harmful place, and we have to do something.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">We're in our last few minutes here with City Council Member Carlina Rivera, who is now a candidate for Congress in the new New York 10th congressional district, which includes parts of downtown Manhattan, parts of downtown Brooklyn, and a whole bunch of other neighborhoods in Brooklyn that I won't list off right now because some of them are part of one of my last couple questions here. Coming back to the race here, you said something earlier about being the cannon in the race with the real sort of constituency and base. I think Assemblymember Niou would probably take some issue with that. I think former Mayor de Blasio would probably take some issue with that, although he's obviously got lots of challenges in his old backyard where there's a lot of disillusionment with his leadership, but he's hoping to win people back, and maybe others in the race as well. But as you look at this new district, there's a really interesting sort of demographics here. Very clearly, just by the voting age population, the total population in the district. White voters are likely to be a sizable majority of the voters here. They're very much going to be mostly liberal to pretty darn progressive in some of these neighborhoods in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Then you've got heavily Latino neighborhoods and communities in both Manhattan and Brooklyn parts, heavily Asian communities in both Manhattan and Brooklyn parts of the district, and then you have more conservative white communities in parts of the district like out in Borough Park. When you're thinking about those three to four big groups there, and again, these are broad brushes, but congressional districts are huge. Are there any ways that you're thinking about sort of issues that matter the most to certain constituencies and certain communities that you would almost be able to say, ‘I know that the Latino communities, some of which you currently represent in Manhattan, and those in Brooklyn that are part of this district, the Asian communities, again predominantly Asian communities care about certain issues at the top of the list, et cetera, et cetera?’ Do you have thoughts on sort of that approach to the groups within this larger group and how you're going to sort of talk to these different constituencies?</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yeah, of course. Sometimes people ask me, what are Latino issues? What are women's issues? We have the same issues as everyone else, and that is that people want a more affordable, livable city. I have very deep roots in this community. I've worked with all different sorts of stakeholders, even people who might be on kind of the opposing end of an issue. It's so important to have that conversation to understand and broaden your perspective. And I've been navigating these dynamics for years and throughout my career.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I'm about outcomes that lift everyone and I have a record of doing that even before I became a City Council woman. I worked on a project called the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, that's Essex Crossing now, and that was a very big issue for the Lower East Side. That was 40 years of history, nearly 2,000 families displaced, many of them Puerto Rican. And finally, there was a conversation that was going to be had about what to do, which was pretty much largely just parking lots. And that conversation of like, well what do we want? The people that have lived here, the people that lived through this displacement. What do we want? Well, we wanted affordable housing because that was the right thing and the justice part of it was so important. Open space, making sure that there was local hiring, having a seamless transition for the Essex Street Market vendors to go from one market to another with the same rents, but more amenities, because that market was so important, symbolic of the community's history, and because there's such a diversity in some of the kiosks and and the shop owners in there. And then of course, making sure there was a right to return for those families that were displaced many, many years ago, which was in and of itself another challenge, and how do some of these families prove that they actually live there? They have to go find baptism records and old report cards, and there were some great organizations on the ground that helped people do that. And you know, those issues unite all of us. I bring up Essex Crossing because it's an example of lots of people wanting lots of different things, and the community coming together to say, ‘Here's what we can agree to, and here's how we have to move forward.’ And when I think about just kind of like my past and why I think I understand the issues, just so acutely and so personally, I know what it's like to live in this city day in and day out, and I think what what gives me a lot of pride are the things that we have all been through together and how we've recovered as a community and as a city, whether it's 9/11 recovery and taking care of those workers, whether it’s the Essex Crossing project, whether it's Hurricane Sandy relief.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When I first ran, it was a crowded primary too and this is the council race. It was an exciting time for me as a first-time candidate. I won a crowded six-week primary with over 60% of the vote. When I first ran, I delivered for the community, I won my second term with 74% of the vote. And that is because I'm out there, I'm in the streets, I'm talking to folks, people know me, I went to school here, I played basketball here, I've won a couple softball championships here. Every milestone in my life is here and I know the struggles that everyday New Yorkers face because I lived them myself. This is so much more than just a job to me. It's about taking care of the communities that raised me, and that's what we do for each other as New Yorkers.</span></p> <p><b>Ben Max: [Longer outro…] </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Carlina Rivera, thanks for taking the time and be well.</span></p> <p><b>Carlina Rivera: </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thank you. Thanks, talk soon.</span></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Public Advocate Wins Lawsuit Over Property Tax Warrants, Though City Also Gets Relief 2022-08-02T15:00:00+00:00 2022-08-02T15:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11501-public-advocate-wins-lawsuit-over-property-tax-warrants-though-city-also-gets-relief Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/jw-image.png" width="600" /></p> <p>Jumaane Williams at the Public Advocate's Office (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Two years ago, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams used an obscure City Charter provision to withhold his signature on property tax warrants in order to leverage changes to the city budget. The provision required both Williams and the City Clerk to sign those warrants before they were executed by the city. But the city went ahead with property tax collections nonetheless and, eventually, in March 2021, Williams filed suit that the administration had broken the law.</p> <p>On Friday, State Supreme Court Judge Verna Saunders ruled in favor of Williams, finding that under Section 1518 of the New York City Charter, the city must receive the Public Advocate’s signature on property tax warrants, along with a countersignature from the City Clerk. But, at the same time, the judge ordered that the Public Advocate “shall” sign such tax warrants that he receives, effectively preventing anyone in the position from holding up the city budget.</p> <p>Even so, Williams sees new leverage in the decision and said it upholds a crucial check and balance on the administration.</p> <p>“Obviously, we're happy with the ruling,” Williams said in a brief phone interview. “We thought that this was the power that this office had, which is why we brought the lawsuit a few years back to begin with. And the ruling states pretty clearly that our authority here can't just be overlooked and ignored like it was a couple of years ago.”</p> <p>“It does concretize our authority to look into and resolve complaints that we may get as it pertains to tax warrants and so we take it seriously and we will take it seriously moving forward,” he added.</p> <p>In 2020, when Williams raised his initial objections, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council were amidst heated negotiations over the proposed $87 billion budget, in particular funding for the NYPD. A mass movement to cut police funding had emerged in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests and Williams was among those calling for large cuts to the police budget and reinvestment of funds in social services. The public advocate threatened to withhold his signature on property tax warrants, to prevent the city from collecting property taxes unless there was a freeze on NYPD hiring and reforms to the school safety program.</p> <p>“We plan on using our Charter powers to prevent the execution of the budget once it passes,” Williams told reporters at the time. But de Blasio and the City Council came to a budget deal and passed it, and the city went about its subsequent business paying no heed to Williams’ maneuver. The city is particularly dependent on property taxes, which make up about 30% of the city’s total revenue base for the fiscal year.</p> <p>“The court agreed that the charter is clear: The City Council has the power to adopt the budget, subject to mayoral veto,” Jonah Allon, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams, said in an email. “As the city moves forward with its ongoing process to collect the property taxes necessary to fund critical public services, we look forward to the public advocate’s signing the tax warrants pursuant to his duty under the charter.”</p> <p>Friday’s ruling did not invalidate past tax warrant deeds but did clarify that Williams was exercising his Charter-mandated authority to require the administration to receive his signature. At the same time, the judge wrote that allowing Williams’ office “to prevent the budget from being executed is not only improper, it is not in the interest of justice.”</p> <p>“While it is not lost on this court that Mr. Williams’ endeavors here stem from zealous advocacy for New Yorkers, efforts to thwart the collection of taxes is outside of the scope and discretion of the Public Advocate’s role,” she wrote.</p> <p>But Williams and the outside counsel involved in the case said the ruling will now require the city to take him to court to compel him to sign property tax warrants if he has not signed them. “And that's an important step that was just overlooked previously,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/jw-image.png" width="600" /></p> <p>Jumaane Williams at the Public Advocate's Office (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Two years ago, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams used an obscure City Charter provision to withhold his signature on property tax warrants in order to leverage changes to the city budget. The provision required both Williams and the City Clerk to sign those warrants before they were executed by the city. But the city went ahead with property tax collections nonetheless and, eventually, in March 2021, Williams filed suit that the administration had broken the law.</p> <p>On Friday, State Supreme Court Judge Verna Saunders ruled in favor of Williams, finding that under Section 1518 of the New York City Charter, the city must receive the Public Advocate’s signature on property tax warrants, along with a countersignature from the City Clerk. But, at the same time, the judge ordered that the Public Advocate “shall” sign such tax warrants that he receives, effectively preventing anyone in the position from holding up the city budget.</p> <p>Even so, Williams sees new leverage in the decision and said it upholds a crucial check and balance on the administration.</p> <p>“Obviously, we're happy with the ruling,” Williams said in a brief phone interview. “We thought that this was the power that this office had, which is why we brought the lawsuit a few years back to begin with. And the ruling states pretty clearly that our authority here can't just be overlooked and ignored like it was a couple of years ago.”</p> <p>“It does concretize our authority to look into and resolve complaints that we may get as it pertains to tax warrants and so we take it seriously and we will take it seriously moving forward,” he added.</p> <p>In 2020, when Williams raised his initial objections, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council were amidst heated negotiations over the proposed $87 billion budget, in particular funding for the NYPD. A mass movement to cut police funding had emerged in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests and Williams was among those calling for large cuts to the police budget and reinvestment of funds in social services. The public advocate threatened to withhold his signature on property tax warrants, to prevent the city from collecting property taxes unless there was a freeze on NYPD hiring and reforms to the school safety program.</p> <p>“We plan on using our Charter powers to prevent the execution of the budget once it passes,” Williams told reporters at the time. But de Blasio and the City Council came to a budget deal and passed it, and the city went about its subsequent business paying no heed to Williams’ maneuver. The city is particularly dependent on property taxes, which make up about 30% of the city’s total revenue base for the fiscal year.</p> <p>“The court agreed that the charter is clear: The City Council has the power to adopt the budget, subject to mayoral veto,” Jonah Allon, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams, said in an email. “As the city moves forward with its ongoing process to collect the property taxes necessary to fund critical public services, we look forward to the public advocate’s signing the tax warrants pursuant to his duty under the charter.”</p> <p>Friday’s ruling did not invalidate past tax warrant deeds but did clarify that Williams was exercising his Charter-mandated authority to require the administration to receive his signature. At the same time, the judge wrote that allowing Williams’ office “to prevent the budget from being executed is not only improper, it is not in the interest of justice.”</p> <p>“While it is not lost on this court that Mr. Williams’ endeavors here stem from zealous advocacy for New Yorkers, efforts to thwart the collection of taxes is outside of the scope and discretion of the Public Advocate’s role,” she wrote.</p> <p>But Williams and the outside counsel involved in the case said the ruling will now require the city to take him to court to compel him to sign property tax warrants if he has not signed them. “And that's an important step that was just overlooked previously,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
'Time to Make Wise Fiscal Choices Without Hitting Our Schools': Comptroller Lander on Education Spending, Upcoming Audits & More 2022-08-03T04:00:00+00:00 2022-08-03T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11489-comptroller-lander-city-finances-school-budgets-audits Jiada Valenza jvalenza@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/comp-lander-finances.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Comptroller Brad Lander (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>According to New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, the city’s chief financial officer, “it’s a very mixed-signals moment” for the city’s economy.</p> <p>On one hand, Lander said during a <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11464-max-politics-podcast-comptroller-lander-city-finances-school-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recent appearance on Gotham Gazette’s Max Politics podcast</a>, the city economy is seeing increased job and business growth; while on the other hand, nationwide inflation is among the challenges now and into the future.</p> <p>Now roughly seven months in his new citywide post, the Brooklyn Democrat is charged with leading an office that monitors the city’s economic and fiscal conditions, acts as a watchdog over city government, audits city agencies, is a fiduciary to the five public pension funds and their roughly $250 billion in assets, and more.</p> <p>During the podcast discussion Lander outlined the city’s relatively solid fiscal picture, with a new $101 billion city budget effective July 1 that included strong deposits in savings, but questions around the significant Wall Street slump thus far this year. He also spoke about how those stock market trends do and don’t impact the city’s public pension funds and how his office’s bureau of asset management does and doesn’t adjust to market fluctuation.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11464-max-politics-podcast-comptroller-lander-city-finances-school-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Lander and Max also discussed</a> controversy over the new city budget, namely hundreds of millions of dollars in school funding cuts being made by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams and what Lander says should be done to reverse those cuts. They touched on Lander’s outlook on the city’s fiscal and economic health; the push the comptroller is working to organize for comprehensive property tax reform; upcoming audits his office will be releasing; and more.</p> <p>Prior to becoming comptroller after winning last year’s election, Lander served in the New York City Council for three four-year terms, representing District 39 in Brooklyn. He succeeded Bill de Blasio in that position and has now been replaced by City Council Member Shahana Hanif, who Co-Chairs the Council’s Progressive Caucus, which Lander co-founded.</p> <p>On the city’s economy, notable positives according to Lander are declining unemployment rates and the growth of new businesses. “We are back above 95% of the jobs that we had in the city prior to the pandemic. Unemployment is down at 5.7%, which is below where it was at the beginning of the pandemic [when it exceeded 20%], and down from 10.2% a year ago,” said Lander.</p> <p>Brooklyn is leading the charge in business growth in New York City, Lander noted, overtaking Manhattan for the first time in terms of the borough where new businesses are opening. And of the new establishments created recently, Lander highlighted, 2,285 do not fit pre-existing classifications from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Hopefully we’re going to see an era of new business generation, of creativity in technology, in health care, in a range of fields,” Lander said.</p> <p>Tax revenues to the city also surprisingly exceeded projections as the fiscal year came to a close at the end of June, Lander noted, giving the city $600 million more in tax collections than projected in the adopted budget, which was finalized only weeks prior.</p> <p>But there are “dark clouds on the horizon,” Lander said, including the results of this year’s Wall Street slump and thus income tax collections. That and other worrisome trends and signs make it even more important, the comptroller said, that the city has strong reserves. “I don’t foresee tax revenues continuing to be strong at anything like those [higher recent] levels in the year to come,” Lander said.</p> <p>He touted additions to the city’s new “rainy day fund” (otherwise known as the Revenue Stabilization Fund). Lander had called on Mayor Adams and the City Council to expand the fund to $2.5 billion. The adopted budget put $2.2 billion in the fund, which Lander said was not quite what he wanted to see but very close nonetheless. Those savings are part of a larger picture of roughly $8 billion the city has set aside in different types of funds in case of emergency.</p> <p>Along with the impacts of inflation and significant climb in food, gas, and other prices, the prospect of a looming recession is especially worrisome, Lander said. The city is highly-reliant on income and capital gains tax collection, which largely rely on Wall Street’s prowess.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Lander sought to assure public sector retirees, saying, “Your pensions are solid, our systems are well-funded.”</p> <p>But, Lander noted, the worse the market does, the more must come out of the city’s annual operating budget to make up for pension return shortfalls. “Yes,” he said, there’s a chance the additional revenue from the end of fiscal year 2022 will need to be used in fiscal year 2023 toward pension returns. But he explained there are key strategies in place to carefully manage the pension portfolios in order to limit that exposure and to approach investment decisions on five-year cycles, as opposed to reacting to short-term market trends.</p> <p>The city’s finances are also significantly dependent upon property taxes, and there have long been calls for the city and state to work together on comprehensive property tax reform, which could also help, to some extent, address the city’s affordable housing crisis.</p> <p>Lander was one of many voices opposed to renewing the 421-a property tax break for developers and state leaders did let it expire earlier this year. The comptroller and others believe that some kind of tax break for building affordable housing may be needed, but that it should be part of the larger property tax reform effort.</p> <p>“The system has protected homeowners in Park Slope from paying our fair share of property taxes, and that has to change,” he said of himself and his neighbors. “We need a system that taxes people fairly.”</p> <p>Since “there are winners and losers” in any reform, it is going to continue to take work to grow the coalition and get a plan over the finish line, he said. Lander has said this should be done by the end of this year — there are widely-applauded recommendations from a commission assembled by then-Mayor de Blasio and then-City Council Speaker Corey Johnson that could form the basis for the next phase of negotiations — but most likely this would have to be on the state and city policy agenda for 2023.</p> <p>More immediately, Lander has been focused on the new city budget and school funding cuts made by the Adams administration. Soon after budget negotiations <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11376-mayor-adams-council-speaker-adams-nyc-budget-deal-fy23" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were settled</a> between the City Council and Mayor Adams in mid-June, backlash emerged from school leaders, parents, advocates, and City Council members who started to see what the Department of Education had planned for school-based cuts that were the result of lower student enrollment.</p> <p>Lander has been among those pushing back against the cuts, and his office has done further financial analysis. The comptroller has presented new data and a proposal for backfilling the reductions for the coming school year while also saying it is important to set the stage for what potential enrollment-focused cuts may need to be made for the following school year.</p> <p>“You’re excessing teachers, or eliminating your art or music program, or maybe you hired a second guidance counselor to help people during the pandemic,” Lander decried. “And I’ve talked to principals who’ve had to eliminate all those things.”</p> <p>Instead, Lander has called on Mayor Adams and City Council to use more of the billions left in  federal covid relief for schools, a total of $7 billion of which has come to New York City.</p> <p>While Mayor Adams is using some of the remaining roughly $4 billion in federal school covid aid to soften the blow of the cuts, Lander and others say he should use more of it to avoid the hundreds of millions of dollars in school cuts altogether, at least for this coming school year.</p> <p>Lander’s office estimated that the Department of Education has just rolled over $640 million in unspent funding, which he said could easily be used to cover the planned cuts (a parent-led lawsuit has stopped those cuts from going ahead, at least for now).</p> <p>There is some concern, however, that Lander’s proposed approach is a temporary band-aid, Max noted, holding off tough decisions for just another year. Lander acknowledged these concerns, but said that in this instance, it is a wise use of the federal funding to keep schools whole as the city is working to both help students recover from the pandemic’s tumultuous years and entice more (re)enrollment in the school system.</p> <p>As decided by the prior de Blasio administration, some of the one-time federal funding is being used to expand permanent programs like 3-K, adding to the looming fiscal questions as federal relief funding runs out over the next few years. Keeping in mind the longevity and continuity of school programs will be an important part of the “longer-term conversation,” which Lander said he’s ready to have.</p> <p>“I’m confident we have the time to make wise fiscal choices without hitting our schools this fall,” <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11464-max-politics-podcast-comptroller-lander-city-finances-school-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Lander said</a>.</p> <p>As for his office’s role as the city’s auditor-in-chief, Lander recently released an audit of the NYC Ferry system and its questionable financial practices under Mayor de Blasio. Lander’s office found that the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which de Blasio assigned to run the program, underreported the cost of ferry system operations by $224 million, from 2017-2021. The audit also raised additional questions about the very high per-ride subsidies the city has covered to run the ferry at just $2.75 per ride.</p> <p>The audit was received well by Mayor Adams, who quickly announced new changes to NYC Ferry, including both a program to help low-income New Yorkers afford to ride while also raising the base fare.</p> <p>“The whole purpose of the audits is to help governments change,” said Lander, whose office has completed 22 audits since he became comptroller, most of them finalized from the prior administration given that audits typically take at least six months to complete.</p> <p>Asked about upcoming audits or audits he’s put in motion since he took office, Lander pointed to NYCHA public housing and the Department of Correction. He also highlighted the launch of his office's new <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/services/for-the-public/audit/audit-recommendations-tracker/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Audit Recommendations Tracker</a>, which helps track the comptroller’s offices recommendations for change to city agencies and whether those suggestions are being implemented.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Lander has also been involved in climate-related policies, one of his major focus areas when running for comptroller last year. Lander has been working with the city’s Chief Climate Officer and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala, the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, and others on programming for “a much more expansive solar array.”</p> <p>Lander likened the vision, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11254-lander-adams-nyc-public-solar-rooftop-energy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">which is still in the planning phase</a>, to cell phone towers, using city capital to install solar panels on both public and private buildings. Lander said the proposals are “promising” in light of major environmental setbacks from the federal government, including restrictions on the EPA’s power. “New York City and other municipalities have to step up, and this is one way we can,” he said.</p> <p>Max also asked Lander about recent <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-york-elections-government/ny-nyc-comptroller-brad-lander-office-approves-millions-contracts-wife-group-20220705-o2iua7gflfbvzbwbqo25t4ya5e-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Daily News reporting</a> related to Lander’s office’s role vetting city contracts entered into by the mayoral administration and the role of Lander’s wife, Meg Barnett, who leads an advocacy group for nonprofits, many of which rely on government contracts. Lander said that his wife’s organization does not pursue city contracts itself or lobby his office, and that he reached out to the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board to be sure there wasn’t an issue. “Trust in government is really important and I take it super seriously,” Lander said, reporting that the board confirmed there was no conflict law violation.</p> <p>The comptroller said his office registers contracts, it does not delegate them. “We don’t do anything discretionary,” Lander said of the contracts entered into by city agencies and sent to his office, “we just make sure the process was followed appropriately.”</p> <p>[LISTEN to the full conversation: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11464-max-politics-podcast-comptroller-lander-city-finances-school-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Max Politics Podcast: Comptroller Brad Lander on City Finances, School Budget Cuts, &amp; More</a>]</p> <p>

***
Jiada Valenza, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/comp-lander-finances.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Comptroller Brad Lander (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>According to New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, the city’s chief financial officer, “it’s a very mixed-signals moment” for the city’s economy.</p> <p>On one hand, Lander said during a <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11464-max-politics-podcast-comptroller-lander-city-finances-school-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recent appearance on Gotham Gazette’s Max Politics podcast</a>, the city economy is seeing increased job and business growth; while on the other hand, nationwide inflation is among the challenges now and into the future.</p> <p>Now roughly seven months in his new citywide post, the Brooklyn Democrat is charged with leading an office that monitors the city’s economic and fiscal conditions, acts as a watchdog over city government, audits city agencies, is a fiduciary to the five public pension funds and their roughly $250 billion in assets, and more.</p> <p>During the podcast discussion Lander outlined the city’s relatively solid fiscal picture, with a new $101 billion city budget effective July 1 that included strong deposits in savings, but questions around the significant Wall Street slump thus far this year. He also spoke about how those stock market trends do and don’t impact the city’s public pension funds and how his office’s bureau of asset management does and doesn’t adjust to market fluctuation.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11464-max-politics-podcast-comptroller-lander-city-finances-school-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Lander and Max also discussed</a> controversy over the new city budget, namely hundreds of millions of dollars in school funding cuts being made by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams and what Lander says should be done to reverse those cuts. They touched on Lander’s outlook on the city’s fiscal and economic health; the push the comptroller is working to organize for comprehensive property tax reform; upcoming audits his office will be releasing; and more.</p> <p>Prior to becoming comptroller after winning last year’s election, Lander served in the New York City Council for three four-year terms, representing District 39 in Brooklyn. He succeeded Bill de Blasio in that position and has now been replaced by City Council Member Shahana Hanif, who Co-Chairs the Council’s Progressive Caucus, which Lander co-founded.</p> <p>On the city’s economy, notable positives according to Lander are declining unemployment rates and the growth of new businesses. “We are back above 95% of the jobs that we had in the city prior to the pandemic. Unemployment is down at 5.7%, which is below where it was at the beginning of the pandemic [when it exceeded 20%], and down from 10.2% a year ago,” said Lander.</p> <p>Brooklyn is leading the charge in business growth in New York City, Lander noted, overtaking Manhattan for the first time in terms of the borough where new businesses are opening. And of the new establishments created recently, Lander highlighted, 2,285 do not fit pre-existing classifications from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Hopefully we’re going to see an era of new business generation, of creativity in technology, in health care, in a range of fields,” Lander said.</p> <p>Tax revenues to the city also surprisingly exceeded projections as the fiscal year came to a close at the end of June, Lander noted, giving the city $600 million more in tax collections than projected in the adopted budget, which was finalized only weeks prior.</p> <p>But there are “dark clouds on the horizon,” Lander said, including the results of this year’s Wall Street slump and thus income tax collections. That and other worrisome trends and signs make it even more important, the comptroller said, that the city has strong reserves. “I don’t foresee tax revenues continuing to be strong at anything like those [higher recent] levels in the year to come,” Lander said.</p> <p>He touted additions to the city’s new “rainy day fund” (otherwise known as the Revenue Stabilization Fund). Lander had called on Mayor Adams and the City Council to expand the fund to $2.5 billion. The adopted budget put $2.2 billion in the fund, which Lander said was not quite what he wanted to see but very close nonetheless. Those savings are part of a larger picture of roughly $8 billion the city has set aside in different types of funds in case of emergency.</p> <p>Along with the impacts of inflation and significant climb in food, gas, and other prices, the prospect of a looming recession is especially worrisome, Lander said. The city is highly-reliant on income and capital gains tax collection, which largely rely on Wall Street’s prowess.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Lander sought to assure public sector retirees, saying, “Your pensions are solid, our systems are well-funded.”</p> <p>But, Lander noted, the worse the market does, the more must come out of the city’s annual operating budget to make up for pension return shortfalls. “Yes,” he said, there’s a chance the additional revenue from the end of fiscal year 2022 will need to be used in fiscal year 2023 toward pension returns. But he explained there are key strategies in place to carefully manage the pension portfolios in order to limit that exposure and to approach investment decisions on five-year cycles, as opposed to reacting to short-term market trends.</p> <p>The city’s finances are also significantly dependent upon property taxes, and there have long been calls for the city and state to work together on comprehensive property tax reform, which could also help, to some extent, address the city’s affordable housing crisis.</p> <p>Lander was one of many voices opposed to renewing the 421-a property tax break for developers and state leaders did let it expire earlier this year. The comptroller and others believe that some kind of tax break for building affordable housing may be needed, but that it should be part of the larger property tax reform effort.</p> <p>“The system has protected homeowners in Park Slope from paying our fair share of property taxes, and that has to change,” he said of himself and his neighbors. “We need a system that taxes people fairly.”</p> <p>Since “there are winners and losers” in any reform, it is going to continue to take work to grow the coalition and get a plan over the finish line, he said. Lander has said this should be done by the end of this year — there are widely-applauded recommendations from a commission assembled by then-Mayor de Blasio and then-City Council Speaker Corey Johnson that could form the basis for the next phase of negotiations — but most likely this would have to be on the state and city policy agenda for 2023.</p> <p>More immediately, Lander has been focused on the new city budget and school funding cuts made by the Adams administration. Soon after budget negotiations <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11376-mayor-adams-council-speaker-adams-nyc-budget-deal-fy23" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were settled</a> between the City Council and Mayor Adams in mid-June, backlash emerged from school leaders, parents, advocates, and City Council members who started to see what the Department of Education had planned for school-based cuts that were the result of lower student enrollment.</p> <p>Lander has been among those pushing back against the cuts, and his office has done further financial analysis. The comptroller has presented new data and a proposal for backfilling the reductions for the coming school year while also saying it is important to set the stage for what potential enrollment-focused cuts may need to be made for the following school year.</p> <p>“You’re excessing teachers, or eliminating your art or music program, or maybe you hired a second guidance counselor to help people during the pandemic,” Lander decried. “And I’ve talked to principals who’ve had to eliminate all those things.”</p> <p>Instead, Lander has called on Mayor Adams and City Council to use more of the billions left in  federal covid relief for schools, a total of $7 billion of which has come to New York City.</p> <p>While Mayor Adams is using some of the remaining roughly $4 billion in federal school covid aid to soften the blow of the cuts, Lander and others say he should use more of it to avoid the hundreds of millions of dollars in school cuts altogether, at least for this coming school year.</p> <p>Lander’s office estimated that the Department of Education has just rolled over $640 million in unspent funding, which he said could easily be used to cover the planned cuts (a parent-led lawsuit has stopped those cuts from going ahead, at least for now).</p> <p>There is some concern, however, that Lander’s proposed approach is a temporary band-aid, Max noted, holding off tough decisions for just another year. Lander acknowledged these concerns, but said that in this instance, it is a wise use of the federal funding to keep schools whole as the city is working to both help students recover from the pandemic’s tumultuous years and entice more (re)enrollment in the school system.</p> <p>As decided by the prior de Blasio administration, some of the one-time federal funding is being used to expand permanent programs like 3-K, adding to the looming fiscal questions as federal relief funding runs out over the next few years. Keeping in mind the longevity and continuity of school programs will be an important part of the “longer-term conversation,” which Lander said he’s ready to have.</p> <p>“I’m confident we have the time to make wise fiscal choices without hitting our schools this fall,” <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11464-max-politics-podcast-comptroller-lander-city-finances-school-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Lander said</a>.</p> <p>As for his office’s role as the city’s auditor-in-chief, Lander recently released an audit of the NYC Ferry system and its questionable financial practices under Mayor de Blasio. Lander’s office found that the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which de Blasio assigned to run the program, underreported the cost of ferry system operations by $224 million, from 2017-2021. The audit also raised additional questions about the very high per-ride subsidies the city has covered to run the ferry at just $2.75 per ride.</p> <p>The audit was received well by Mayor Adams, who quickly announced new changes to NYC Ferry, including both a program to help low-income New Yorkers afford to ride while also raising the base fare.</p> <p>“The whole purpose of the audits is to help governments change,” said Lander, whose office has completed 22 audits since he became comptroller, most of them finalized from the prior administration given that audits typically take at least six months to complete.</p> <p>Asked about upcoming audits or audits he’s put in motion since he took office, Lander pointed to NYCHA public housing and the Department of Correction. He also highlighted the launch of his office's new <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/services/for-the-public/audit/audit-recommendations-tracker/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Audit Recommendations Tracker</a>, which helps track the comptroller’s offices recommendations for change to city agencies and whether those suggestions are being implemented.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Lander has also been involved in climate-related policies, one of his major focus areas when running for comptroller last year. Lander has been working with the city’s Chief Climate Officer and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala, the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, and others on programming for “a much more expansive solar array.”</p> <p>Lander likened the vision, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11254-lander-adams-nyc-public-solar-rooftop-energy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">which is still in the planning phase</a>, to cell phone towers, using city capital to install solar panels on both public and private buildings. Lander said the proposals are “promising” in light of major environmental setbacks from the federal government, including restrictions on the EPA’s power. “New York City and other municipalities have to step up, and this is one way we can,” he said.</p> <p>Max also asked Lander about recent <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-york-elections-government/ny-nyc-comptroller-brad-lander-office-approves-millions-contracts-wife-group-20220705-o2iua7gflfbvzbwbqo25t4ya5e-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Daily News reporting</a> related to Lander’s office’s role vetting city contracts entered into by the mayoral administration and the role of Lander’s wife, Meg Barnett, who leads an advocacy group for nonprofits, many of which rely on government contracts. Lander said that his wife’s organization does not pursue city contracts itself or lobby his office, and that he reached out to the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board to be sure there wasn’t an issue. “Trust in government is really important and I take it super seriously,” Lander said, reporting that the board confirmed there was no conflict law violation.</p> <p>The comptroller said his office registers contracts, it does not delegate them. “We don’t do anything discretionary,” Lander said of the contracts entered into by city agencies and sent to his office, “we just make sure the process was followed appropriately.”</p> <p>[LISTEN to the full conversation: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11464-max-politics-podcast-comptroller-lander-city-finances-school-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Max Politics Podcast: Comptroller Brad Lander on City Finances, School Budget Cuts, &amp; More</a>]</p> <p>

***
Jiada Valenza, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Max Politics Podcast: Rethinking How Public Space is Allocated in New York City 2022-08-01T15:00:00+00:00 2022-08-01T15:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11490-max-politics-podcast-rethinking-how-public-space-is-allocated-in-new-york-city Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/Tompkins-Ave-2.jpg" /></p> <p>Use of public space on Tompkins Ave, BK (photo: Jackson Chabot)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>July 29, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Rethinking How Public Space is Allocated in New York City<br /></strong></p> <p>Jackson Chabot, Director of Public Space Advocacy at nonprofit Open Plans, joined the show to discuss rethinking the use of public space in New York City, including the organization's 'reimagine the curb' plan, the push for an Office of Public Space Management, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts at Max Politics.</p> <p class="feed-readmore"><a target="_blank" href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11490-max-politics-podcast-rethinking-how-public-space-is-allocated-in-new-york-city">Read More ...</a></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/Tompkins-Ave-2.jpg" /></p> <p>Use of public space on Tompkins Ave, BK (photo: Jackson Chabot)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>July 29, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Rethinking How Public Space is Allocated in New York City<br /></strong></p> <p>Jackson Chabot, Director of Public Space Advocacy at nonprofit Open Plans, joined the show to discuss rethinking the use of public space in New York City, including the organization's 'reimagine the curb' plan, the push for an Office of Public Space Management, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts at Max Politics.</p> <p class="feed-readmore"><a target="_blank" href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11490-max-politics-podcast-rethinking-how-public-space-is-allocated-in-new-york-city">Read More ...</a></p>