This candidate statement is part of The Lo-Down’s 2017 Voter Guide. To view the main page and to learn about other candidates on the ballot in New York City’s Sept. 12 Democratic Primary, please click here.
Residence: Lower East Side (Seward Park Co-op) since 2003; NYC since 1998
Office: Female District Leader 65th Assembly District, Part A
Occupation: Documentary filmmaker, writer, mother
Why are you seeking this office?
I want people to know they have District Leaders! So many people in our neighborhood were unaware of this position before our campaign. Let’s expect more from our electeds – yes, even the volunteer, entry-level ones – like proactive visibility.
I want people to know what “AD65 Part A” means – and that’s just for starters. An informed electorate offers a kind of herd immunity in a democratic society. Let’s bring back Civics lessons and make it fun and accessible for everyone to feel fluent in our city and state’s labyrinthine political structure. The process of filling Daniel Squadron’s open seat in the state senate gives us an immediate, real-life example to get the ball rolling. Knowledge is power, and we shouldn’t be hoarding or hiding it behind closed doors.
I want to amplify our community’s voices. We have concerns that are super-local (Where will more parking spaces come from? How about that middle school we were promised?) and part of an ongoing national conversation (What can we do to improve our flood resiliency?).
I want to help grow a new political club – Grand Street Democrats – that will bring true progressive Democratic Party representation to our corner of the Lower East Side. That means: pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ, pro-religion freedom, pro-public school, pro-affordable housing, pro-immigrant; anti-corruption, fully transparent, accessible and compliant with campaign/election law.
This is a Democratic Party position, so I want help our community organize and engage in bigger picture campaigns. I phone-banked with many of my neighbors in the weeks before the presidential election, and I know there’s a lot of energy and concern down here for getting Democrats elected far and wide. That could mean working to flip a seat in the New York State Senate, or a road trip with Sister District for the 2018 mid-term elections, and gearing up for 2020.
I had never considered running for office until after the crushing results of the presidential election. Going to the Women’s March in DC on a bus filled with my Grand Street neighbors was inspiring and encouraging, as was attending local rallies. And as I looked to be a more active participant at the local level, I was shocked and truly disappointed that our current District Leaders had not organized a single campaign event leading up to the election, nor any response to any of Trump’s vile, disrespectful and damaging words and actions. Yes, District Leader is a neighborhood, volunteer position, but if we show no engagement at this elemental level, how can we assume any strength higher up? I have been proud to live on Grand Street since 2003 (and even prouder that I encouraged my husband to move here in 2001, when we were still dating). Let’s harness the energy and ability right here in our own backyard and turn AD65 Part A’s rich history into an even brighter future.
What are your professional qualifications for this position?
My professional experience – as a documentary filmmaker, cookbook co-author, live event producer and off-off-off Broadway theater director – has been intensively collaborative, and I learned long ago that giving people opportunities to grow and share their skills and passions is key to building a strong team.
All of my projects have been produced on low or ultra-low budgets, and their success has rested largely on my ability to get a broad community of talented individuals involved at every level of production. The documentary my husband (Ian Rosenberg) and I co-produced and directed, “Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort,” is a personal favorite. The Kutsher family granted us total access to their life’s work, and we were privileged to witness the last years of this historic hotel, preserving a crucial element of Jewish and American culture for future generations. This film wouldn’t have been possible without builidng trust with the Kutshers to tell their story, and the faith of our incredibly dedicated crew that this story was worth years of their time.
While I haven’t held elected office before, I have honed my skills as an active listener and can synthesize a multitude of opinions to formulate a unified voice. As I continue to meet and talk with my neighbors, discussing our hopes, dreams and concerns for Grand Street, I think this might be my most important qualification.
Top Legislative Priority: What is the first piece of legislation you would advocate for if elected?
Getting the New York Reproductive Health Act (RHA) – currently stalled by Republican leadership in the New York Senate – passed. To quote NOWNYC “Women’s health matters, and access to safe abortion is a cornerstone of defending our women and girls.” When a woman’s control over her own body is compromised, and proper health care defunded, mortality rates rise and economic independence suffers, particularly among low-income women. Reproductive freedom and equal rights are inextricably linked, and New York State should be a progressive model for the country.
In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue faced by the people who live on the Lower East Side? How would you deal with this issue as an elected official?
The challenges of worsening traffic congestion, inadequate public transportation and the need for more quality public middle schools are overwhelmingly the unifying complaints I’ve heard when meeting with people in the community. These stem from the same elemental issue of overdevelopment without improving infrastructure. There is no one-time solution that will alleviate traffic approaching the Williamsburg Bridge (which would then allow for better bus service), instantly repair the decaying subway system, and establish the middle schools our kids deserve. Our needs will require ongoing evaluation as the area becomes more populated. So at the DL level, I would ensure: 1) Constant amplification of our collective voice to all the city departments (as we did at a recent town hall held by Mayor deBlasio, when we asked for – and received – a traffic cop at Clinton & Grand); and 2) Open, accessible communication between our community and local elected officials.
Education: BA Communication, Stanford University
Key Endorsements: Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club