Election 2020: Lindsey Boylan Says Jerry Nadler’s Record Isn’t Truly Progressive, But Hers Will Be

By Michael McDowell

Primary Day is June 23rd, and incumbent Congressman Jerry Nadler faces two challengers: Lindsey Boylan and Jonathan Herzog. The Rag spoke with each of the candidates. A televised debate between the candidates is scheduled for June 17th on NY1.

The following conversation with Lindsey Boylan has been condensed and edited.

West Side Rag: Can you please tell us about yourself, and your priorities as a candidate?

Lindsey Boylan: I’m a mom, I’ve got a six-year-old, and my passion in life is how we can use government to make people’s lives better. I come from a family that had multigenerational problems. Three generations of women lost custody of their kids because of mental illness and addiction: my grandmother, who came to live with us later in life; my aunt, and my sister. I’ve always believed that if I worked hard enough, I might not be able to fix my family, but I could certainly help other people’s families, and I find that really redeeming. There would be no greater honor than to serve our community in this way, and that’s why I’m running.

I’ve lived in New York City my whole adult life, since moving here right after college to the Upper West Side. Now I live in West Chelsea, but when I first moved to the city I lived on 85th between Central Park West and Columbus. I joined Community Board 7; Helen Rosenthal was my chair, and I joined the Historic Preservation and Landmarks Committee.

My great hero was Jane Jacobs, and I remember reading her obituary the spring of my senior year in college, and I just knew that that’s what I wanted to be a part of, so that’s why I joined Community Board 7. I’ve been engaged throughout my New York life in supporting how we can make cities work better for people, and for more people, and that’s why I spent my entire twenties working in parks, and ultimately oversaw operations and business affairs at Bryant Park.

I’ve been involved my whole adult life with mental health. I’m very much engaged with the National Alliance of Mental Illness of NYC, which does a lot of important work around the city.

I spent the last four years working for the state. I was chief of staff at Empire State Development, which is the state’s economic development arm. In my last year I was the Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, which means I reported to the governor and his senior team.

I especially care a lot about women and girls. I come from many generations of women who were never able to live up to their full potential, and it’s not lost on me that I will be the first woman to lead this community in 50 years, since Bella Abzug.

WSR: Governor Cuomo’s economic development programs were dogged by allegations of corruption and mismanagement, and were investigated by Preet Bharara in 2015 and Eric Schneiderman in 2016. What did you observe, if anything, and can you comment on this issue?

LB: I love this question. There is little that I appreciated more in doing my job as a public official than the people who screwed it up and betrayed the public’s trust getting held accountable, because that meant that by the time I got into a seat of power, no jerk— whether they be powerful, whether they be the governor—was ever going to be able to say to me, do this, without ethical considerations, and that’s always how I’ve acted.

I was not at all involved in the Buffalo Billions, from conception to realization. I had no role in that, no hand in it whatsoever. I joined and was chief of staff after the Buffalo Billions award was made.

My emphasis on regionally led investments was in part due to the [historical] ineffectiveness of these top-down investments. We were very effective at changing this, and I elevated the local and regional office directors, who reported to me.

When communities themselves lead development, that’s when it’s most successful, because people have a sense for what their communities need, rather than having someone in Albany or New York City determining what kinds of investments should be made. We need more of this, not less of it, in a state where so much of this has been controlled in two cities, and I’m very proud of the infrastructure that I helped create, which helped [ensure] that it’s not just the loudest voices that get the resources. It’s not something where the work ends, and I don’t think it was perfect. We’re talking about one of the largest agencies in the state.

WSR: George Floyd’s funeral was last week. In terms of legislative steps toward police reform, what do you have to say about banning the use of chokeholds, ending the Defense Department practice of giving surplus—

LB: Yes, yes to all of it. I’ve been showing up for protests every day this week. It’s not brave at all, and it’s the least that I can do.

I am absolutely for demilitarizing our police forces across the country, and that doesn’t begin at the local level, that begins at the federal level. That begins with the massive lobbying and special interest group power that makes the choices for how our country invests, not just in our military, but ultimately what ends up being a militarized local law enforcement.

I’m a super political government nerd, and I’ve been that way since I was a teenager. I basically bugged a friend of a friend of a friend’s son, until I was able to become a congressional intern. It happened to be the congressman from San Diego, where I’m originally from, Duncan Hunter, Senior, a Republican. I’ve never been a Republican in my life, but I didn’t care who I interned for, I wanted to learn.

It was the summer of the anthrax letters, and I was opening letters for the congressional office. I opened letters, I went to hearings, and I watched the legislative aides go to lobbyist-funded luncheons and saw who gets to make decisions and influence power.

But I want to be clear: I’ve always been a Democrat.

WSR: There have been calls to defund the NYPD budget. Is that something you would be in support of?

LB: Yes. I would really push people to learn what defunding means. It also means not relying on, or creating, or investing in a police force to handle mental health emergencies. If someone is in crisis, it means that cops, with guns, are going to show up—and this person is already in crisis. That does not lead to good outcomes for anyone.

WSR: You called for the resignation of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance in January. Why?

LB: He has been, at best, a bystander. Sexual abusers have donated to his campaign, for a long time, to avoid being held accountable, and I think we need a new DA.

WSR: How would you fight to improve conditions at NYCHA?

LB: When I was Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, that also includes the housing portfolio. I oversaw all of the agencies in the State that do housing.

In my last year, I was up in Albany for three weeks at all hours of the day trying to negotiate for the budget, and I advocated for the state to get $150 million for NYCHA. That felt like a win. Then, you realize that $150 million dollars does very little for the people who live in NYCHA, who have seen decades of disinvestment. We don’t need $150 million for NYCHA, we need $40 billion.

That disinvestment didn’t happen overnight, and that is the responsibility of our congressional leadership, including the guy I’m running against. We have to get massive investment at the federal level in New York City’s public housing system. It just has to happen.

I would also say, just to ding the Mayor and our City Council Speaker, that the way forward is not to privatize major segments of NYCHA, or to privatize and create market-rate housing to pay for stopgap measures that don’t actually deal with the scale of the financial problem. What has been happening down the street from me at Fulton Houses is totally wrong.

Lindsey Boylan for Congress at the World Pride March in Manhattan, NY June 30, 2019. (Kevin Hagen)

WSR: Wise Towers, a NYCHA development on the Upper West Side, is currently undergoing PACT conversion. Are you monitoring PACT and RAD conversions in the district [PACT and RAD are programs that transfer management of NYCHA apartments to private entities]?

LB: I think there’s been a lot of promotional tools about RAD and what it can do, but this is all a way—long term—to take away the future of public housing. Short term, it may help some families, and I understand that, but we’re not just protecting and fighting for current families that live in NYCHA, we’re fighting for the future of public housing as an idea, as a policy reality, and all of these things undermine that.

WSR: We’ve seen a lot of talk about rent strikes, but residential and commercial landlords have mortgages and city taxes to pay. Many would argue that the federal government is the only entity that can run a deficit to absorb the economic impact of the coronavirus calamity. How will Congress save city and state budgets, as well as renters and mortgage holders who live in the district?

LB: Before the CARES Act came out, I put out a crisis plan that was pretty simple, but it was also very ambitious. There were three main points to it: getting every American $2,000 checks immediately, not means-tested; increasing unemployment benefits levels, and taking away all of the red tape; and giving small business grants, not loans.

If we don’t invest big now, we are going to be hurting more later. We’re going to have to pay the bill anyway, so why wouldn’t we make ambitious choices in terms of federal relief?

WSR: Why should voters in the 10th vote for you, when they currently are represented by one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress, who chairs the Judiciary Committee?

LB: It absolutely will continue to be a very challenging time in American democracy and who is chair of Judiciary will continue to matter. I happen to think Zoe Lofgren, who almost got the chairmanship, would have been a better choice.

I’m not running to replace the Chair of Judiciary, I’m running to represent our community, and I know I will do a better job at that. As much as the congressman has spoken about issues like Medicare for All, as much as the congressman has talked about holding Bill Barr accountable, he’s gone a year without subpoenaing him. He has not moved meaningful legislation of his own forward into law on pretty much any issue of substance. The man has had almost three decades and he’s passed only a handful of his own pieces of legislation into law.

The other thing people say is, well, this is a high voter turnout district, the Upper West Side especially, and they’ve been voting for Jerry — ‘our Jerry’ — for a long time. Well, let’s take a look at those numbers: about 30,000 people out of 750,000 people show up in [the primary], and they mean this man gets elected every two years.

I’m sorry that it’s taken almost thirty years for him to have someone with the gall to actually call him out on how he’s not progressive. I’m sorry to our community, and I want to make sure that they understand that he has not been progressive, that he has not led, and that he is a big part of the reason why we are in this moment in time, he and his fellow colleagues who go along with whatever the party says, especially when the fine print means that [constituents] are getting screwed.

WSR: Are you a public school parent or a private school parent, and could you talk about that decision?

LB: Private school. I get this, people aren’t going to like this and I think they’re fair to not like it. My daughter goes to a Chinese immersion program, around the block, and I’m thinking really carefully about that. I struggle with this. My daughter is my great joy in life, with whom I do almost everything.

I’m going to spend every day focused not on my kid’s school, but on all of our kids’ schools, because that’s what matters.

WSR: Is there anything we missed that you’d like to address?

LB: I think a lot about why I’m doing this and why it matters to me and why I want to serve our community. It connects a lot to the things that were painful in my history. When you see me swearing on Twitter, when you see me being authentic, know that that same power is what I will use to defend anyone in our community regardless of whether or not they agree with me, every day, regardless of whether or not they vote for me.

WSR: Thank you.

More information on how to vote can be found here.

Photos via Boylan campaign.

NEWS | 39 comments | permalink
    1. Chris says:

      We Do not need another AOC we just need a Centrist like Bill Clinton

    2. Joanne says:

      I switched my voter registration from Red to Blue so I could vote for Bloomberg. That wasn’t an option, but I’m glad I could use my new voter registration to vote against another AOC.

    3. Joe says:

      Time for a new generation of leadership that can be moneyed and still be progressive.

      Advantage Lindsey Boylan.

    4. JS says:

      It is important that people are active and concerned about government, so I appreciate Lindsey Boylan’s interest.

      That said….I think Jerry Nadler (a native New Yorker) has worked hard.
      And this is no time to lose a representative with seniority.
      Also not comfortable with her criticisms of Rep Nadler, particularly as she was part of the Cuomo Administration.

      • Robert Goodman says:

        Agree. This challenge derived from the fantasy that an earlier impeachment would have made a difference.

      • Kayla says:

        We need someone who ACTUALLY gets stuff done. I don’t agree with *EVERY* THING AOC advocates but she’s undoubtedly a FAR MORE effective advocate & is thus getting much more critical attention paid to urgent issues than her predecessor.

        Likewise, Nadler has become utterly indifferent and ineffectual. He talks some, but THAT’S IT. Aside from bungling the impeachment process (which Schiff would’ve handled much more effectively) Nadler & his staff have ZERO interest in getting things done for his constituents & for NY.

        My friend literally went to his office recently for help with a matter involving misconduct by federal agency—an issue that fellow constituent Prof. Paul Light at NYU has tried to get Congress to address for years—but Nadler’s staff effectively told them to go fly a kite because Nadler and/or his staff don’t like addressing almost any pressing policy issue or constituent matter.

        Surely Congressional staff of women like AOC or Boylan would NOT have responded that way to a constituent. That’s why Nadler needs to pass his seat to someone like Boylan, who’s demonstrated her commitment to advocating for pressing change. As for the Judiciary Committee, Hakeem Jeffries would do a better job as Chair than Nadler.

        • JS says:

          Kayla,
          Sorry – but am not really comfortable with Ms. Boylan’s work in the Cuomo Administration (big real estate etc).

          I continue to prefer Rep. Nadler – and his knowledge and experience.

    5. Bob Lamm says:

      So someone who chose to work for Andrew Cuomo is saying that Jerry Nadler isn’t progressive. That’s hilarious! Not within a mile of being honest, but hilarious.

    6. Michal says:

      She seems like a great candidate, and I’d love to see her policy positions. That said, I love Jerry Nadler and see no reason to replace him. He’s doing good work.

    7. Rob G. says:

      It still amazes me to hear these “progressives” compete with each other to see who can finish off New York City the fastest.

      • sg says:

        Rob G – Totally agree but unfortunately the person can have a wider impact, especially when they get seniority.

    8. john gibson says:

      Someone needs to come up with a better slogan than “Defund the Police”. If one has to go through that much trouble to explain what the slogan means and if the slogan can mean completely different things to different people, then the slogan is a failure.

      • Chris says:

        How about Protect your self and save tax payer dollars! 311 will get back to you in 1-3 months.

    9. Julie says:

      We don’t need another wannabe AOC whose sole purpose has been to attack Nancy Pelosi and Hakeem Jeffries.

    10. Eric says:

      New York Democrats need to take a page from the Republican playbook and start thinking strategically (not just ideologically) in the voting booth. We need power players on the team in Washington and that means people who will have Congressional seniority. It is a wasted vote to send people to the hill who have no leverage and will take 12 to 20 years to rise to a committee chairmanship. And to put it even more plainly, having a large Twitter following is NOT the same as having political power.

      https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/08/upshot/democratic-electorate-twitter-real-life.html

    11. m.pipik says:

      I thought she’s running for Congress. Not governor of NYS or NYC mayor.

      She doesn’t touch upon national issues only local ones. Yeah our congress people have to advocate for our city and state, but they also have to work for the country as a whole. I don’t see any of that here.

      He’s gone a year without subpoenaing Bill Barr. Really? Please tell me 1) when he has had time to do that 2) would he have gotten anywhere with that now?

    12. Judith M Kass says:

      Jerry Nadler has served the Upper West Side long and well. And continues to do so. There is no reason to vote him out.

    13. Private school??????????????????????
      NO GOOD.
      She seems fine for some other position.
      TY, Neal H. Hurwitz
      Stuyvesant HS (Jerry Nadler is too :))

      • Please_Leave says:

        Your kidding yourself. Stuyvesant H. S. Is the most public private school maybe in the entire country. Exclusivity

    14. Brett says:

      I would definitely vote for Lindsay Boylan. But I’ve already voted for Jonathan Herzog, not because I strongly support him but because Nadler’s campaign was doing robo calls in the middle of the effin’ work day during a pandemic and I work in healthcare and…I will never vote for that man again. Btw, anybody know, is the term limit for the U.S. House of Representatives eternity or just forever?

    15. Miki Fiegel says:

      I served on CB7 when Lindsay Boylan was a member. I was a Vice Chair at that time. She doesn’t seem to remember the name of the committee she was on (actually she was on 2 committees). Perhaps it’s because she rarely attended the Preservation Committee meetings and when she did bother to show up, her participation was minimal. She served a very brief time on CB7. Jerry Nadler on the other hand, shows up. He does the work. He has worked tirelessly for our community and has important seniority which he has earned.

    16. West Side Lifer says:

      Lindsey Boylan wants to run on her record and resume–fine. But then she tries to knock Jerry Nadler for not being a progressive without backing up her claim in any way. That’s not gonna fly. The 10th district knows Nadler, and likes what we have. That’s why we continue to re-elect him. The claim that he’s not progressive is preposterous.

    17. Catherine says:

      Anyone but Nadler. He is a hoax do nothing representative. I’m voting for Boylan – she has to be better. He needs to take a knee for all the blustering he has done.

    18. Uwsider says:

      We don’t need another private school progressive hypocrite. Next.

    19. Leon says:

      I don’t think a person from Chelsea who spends $50k plus a year to send her kid to Avenues is representative of the UWS. And though I really don’t like AOC, I think someone from her background has the street cred to speak to the progressive agenda more than someone with Boylan’s very privileged background.

    20. GRO says:

      Was favorably reacting to Ms Boylan, until the last question. You care about public schools, but you send your child to private school? Is that hypocritical?

      • Dom says:

        No. Not hypocritical. You can be rich and care about the poor. Live in a penthouse and care about the the housing projects. Eating well and care about the starving. One does not preclude the other.

    21. Mr. AOC says:

      I like this woman. You say we don’t need another AOC. Perhaps that’s true of the UWS. But, what about the other neighborhoods in the district. Don’t get me wrong. Jerry’s OK for you rent controlled boring old schoolers. But what about the youngsters? What about the gays in Chelsea? What about the Roosevelt era Dems in Penn South? What about the Blacks and Latinos? Change is good. She seems sincere. Give her a chance! The rest of us Normal/Crazy/Weird voters do need another AOC! Why? Because we’re not you!

      • Joan says:

        1. AOC has endorsed Jerry Nadler. (The Climate Crisis is one of his main concerns.) 2. Ms. Boylan is no AOC.

    22. Kayson212 says:

      Thanks WSR for the extensive interview. I learned more about Boylan’s positions from this article than from her mailers to me, which consisted solely of vowing to retain elderly benefits. The clunky pandering to seniors and assumption that’s all we care about was a turnoff. How can you pitch for diversity if you stereotype based on age?

    23. My2¢ says:

      Surprising to see fresh faces willing to help CD10 voters.
      If Boylan is committed to integrating public schools, affordable safe housing, senior issues, etc that’s a plus! Both candidates are a clean slate, representing the Future without political hamstrings. So tired of UWS mean cliques and it’s very own citizens counsel, ignoring certain voters until election time?
      Think BOYLAN & Herzoge are really worthy of serious consideration.

    24. Chris says:

      I voted for Lindsey!

      Nadler’s all talk and emotionally i invested in our community.

    25. Tania Toni Tulcin says:

      Lindsey Boylan cares about people. Nadler just pays “lip service.” She called me personally concerning an Unemployment Insurance issue. Jerry Nadler, by contrast, ignored me. Now you tell me — who would you rather cote for: A complacent hack or a caring Progressive?

    26. Winton Sweum says:

      Earlier this week during the district debate on NY1 Ms. Boylan’s face was often fixed in a smirk. Does she think her smugness will win over Washington?

    27. Bree140 says:

      As one of the 30,000 people Lindsey Boylan mentions who regularly vote in every election, I’m frankly offended by her implication that Jerry Nadler doesn’t really represent the community because he “only” gets the votes of the people who turn out in every election to vote for him. I know she’s young, so here’s a tip from someone who has been voting since before she was born: if you want to win elected office, don’t discount the regular voter. You’re going to need us if you hope to win.

    28. anonymous upper westsider says:

      I cast my early vote for Nadler yesterday. I followed Boyle for a bit on Twitter to see what I thought about her and really disliked her tactics. She frequently retweets things about Nadler that aren’t accurate. He’s not perfect but who is? He has worked hard for us.

    29. Don Wershba says:

      I just watched Boylan/Herzog/Nadler on C-Span. Between her smug comments, interruptions and general disrespect for other’s, I was firmly convinced that she would be a terrible candidate. Lucky for her, I am not a voter in her district. I will be voting for Jamaal Bowman, so please don’t call me a conservative Democrat! In short – I was appalled by Ms Boylan’s performance. We don’t need anymore self-centered narcissists in politics!

    30. Caroline says:

      I’m voting for Lindsey! Love her dedication to our community and how she is prioritizing better mental healthcare access for all.

      This pandemic has been horrifically tough on everyone’s mental & emotional states. We’re going to be dealing with the psychological fallout of this prolonged isolation for years to come. Now more than ever, I want a representative who will help everyone gain access to mental services, not just the wealthy who can afford to pay out of pocket.

    31. Jill says:

      I watched the debate of the canditates for the primary for congressional 10th district. I found Linday Boylan’s smug and disrespectful demaner difficult to watch. character traits very unbecoming for candidates.