By Carol Tannenhauser
Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12) is running in the August 23rd Democratic Primary to hold her seat against Representative Jerrold “Jerry” Nadler (D-NY-10) and four other candidates. Nadler has represented the Upper West Side for three decades, but it was “drawn out” of his district in 2022, when New York State’s electoral map was revised for a second and final time during the redistricting process.
Though Maloney’s old district comprises 60% of the new District 12, Nadler has chosen to run in the 12th, he has said, because of strong political and personal ties; he has lived in the neighborhood for his entire adult life. Maloney has lived on the Upper East Side, the core of her constituency, for just as long.
Nadler is a formidable opponent — and only one of the five Maloney faces, including Suraj Patel, who is running on a platform of “generational change.” He is 38, Nadler is 75, Maloney is 76. This is the third time Patel will face Maloney; he came within four points of beating her in the 2020 primary.
Other candidates include Mike Fitzgerald, Vladimy Joseph, and Ashi Sheth.
Maloney is undaunted. “I’ve been primaried my whole life,” she told WSR in a recent interview. Below is the interview, conducted by email and lightly edited for clarity and length.
Note: There will be a Meet & Greet/Q&A with Carolyn Maloney, on Tuesday, July 12th, from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm, organized by residents of several UWS buildings and paid for by Maloney. RSVP here to get the Zoom link.
West Side Rag: Both Suraj Patel and Andrew Yang made age an issue in this race in Patel’s West Side Rag interview. Do you think age should be a factor in assessing a candidate? How do you respond to their view that it’s time to step aside and let the next generation rise?
Carolyn Maloney: Now is no time for on-the-job training. The stakes are too high. It is an all-hands-on-deck battle for the future of our city and our country. I have been in that fight for a long time and am ready to saddle up and head back into battle. Suraj Patel should run his own race and not expose his bigotry and lack of experience in dealing with critical issues I have dealt with my entire career, including protecting a woman’s right to control her reproductive health; fighting the NRA and its enablers for sensible gun laws; building infrastructure across the 12th Congressional District, including the Second Avenue subway after 100 years of planning; bringing $10 billion in funding for NYCHA, Section 8 vouchers, climate control policies, and the health needs of our heroes who answered the call and worked on the World Trade Center pile after the terrorist attacks of 9-11.
WSR: Do you think congressional representatives should be term limited?
CM: We have term limits every two years. That is what elections are for.
WSR: Patel has argued that the first redistricting map removed neighborhoods from your district where he had done well in the last election. Were you involved in any way or did you have any influence on the redrawing of the first, now-defunct, redistricting map? What do you think about the final map?
CM: It is not my choice to run against my longtime 10th District colleague, but the Special Master had other ideas. Jerry Nadler has been an ally and a friend for years. We had some discussions before the primary began in which he suggested I run in the 10th District, but the new 12th district has been my home for years, which I have had the privilege to represent. I am not the only woman in a leadership role who has been asked to step aside for a man to do a job. I haven’t stepped aside yet, and don’t intend to do so now.
WSR: You once said there was little difference between Upper West and Upper East Siders. Do you still think that is true? What have you noticed and learned about the Upper West Side since you have been campaigning?
CM: There are commonalities and differences between the East and West Side, and remember, I represented Morningside Heights and Manhattanville as a City Councilmember [from 1982 to 1992.] The history, the passion, the commitment to progressive values, the belief in expanding opportunities to those currently locked out, all those are values shared across Manhattan and values I not only share, but have worked to bring to fruition over my career.
WSR: What do you think are the most important UWS issues? Tell us where you stand on a few current controversies: the West Park Church issue; the Soldiers and Sailors monument: bail reform; helicopters?
CM: I support rehabbing and making repairs to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. It is a New York City icon that stands to commemorate the soldiers and sailors who served in the American Civil War. We have a responsibility to preserve and maintain our city’s landmarks. I supported Community Board 7’s June 7th Resolution opposing the hardship application to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, filed by the West-Park Presbyterian Church [which would lead to the demolition of the church.]
Helicopters: Helicopter noise is a problem. Alongside my colleagues, Reps. Nadler and Velazquez, I introduced the Helicopter Safety and Noise Management Act. This bill would create a commission between the FAA, local government officials and noise and safety advocates to assess and address how to combat the incessant problems caused by the flights.
Bail Reform: A majority of prisoners at Rikers fall within the pre-trial status where they are awaiting trial, including many who are there only because of a financial inability to post bail or bond. Judges need to consider alternatives to incarceration when determining a person’s pre-trial status. There are options like pre-trial supervision that New York City has where someone is being monitored but they are allowed to continue their lives and avail themselves of drug treatment, mental health treatment and the like.
WSR: What do you consider your three greatest accomplishments?
CM: It is hard to single out three, but let me start with some of the feminist legislation I have authored or spearheaded to victory, including the Debbie Smith Act, which funded and mandated the testing of old DNA rape kits that sat dormant in police departments across the country, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, along with bills promoting gender diversity on corporate boards and continuing to press for adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment. It is why I have been endorsed by a wide cross-section of leading feminist activists and leaders.
I also have passed some of the most critical consumer protection legislation, including the Credit CARD Act of 2009, which has saved card users an estimated $16 billion a year, and a follow-up bill that saved consumers billions more by limiting overdraft fees.
And my tireless work on infrastructure, whether the Second Avenue subway or the Kosciuszko Bridge, will benefit commuters for generations to come all across the region. That is why the Center for Effective Lawmaking has consistently ranked me among the top three most effective Congressmembers when it comes to proposing and passing legislation.
WSR: What do you hope to accomplish if you win another term?
The recent decisions by an out-of-control Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade, gutting New York’s century-old gun licensing law, and severely limiting the government’s ability to enforce clean air and water regulations show the need for an aggressive, skilled and experienced advocate to fight all that much harder first to protect advances we thought were settled, and push for greater protections for women, the LGBTQ+ community, public safety and the environment going forward.
WSR: Tell us a little about yourself personally – i.e. life before politics; how you entered politics; personal traits, and anything else you feel is relevant?
CM: I got started in politics when, as an ESL teacher in East Harlem, funding was cut for the program and my colleagues elected me to be their advocate to successfully fight to restore the funding. That took me first to a job at what was then the Board of Education and then as a staffer in Albany. I returned to the city to run for City Council in a district that spanned Manhattan Valley and Morningside Heights to East Harlem, South Bronx and Carnegie Hill. Ignoring the naysayers, I was elected and have never lost an election since.
On the Council, I was the first woman to give birth while serving, and introduced the first LGBTQ+ equality bill including domestic partnerships, despite opposition from leaders in my own party who even refused to print the bill. I began work on issues I still fight for today, including getting arrested in a demonstration against apartheid, cleaning up government contracts, pushing inclusive family leave policies, and standing up for racial and economic justice.
I am proud my hard work and commitment has been recognized. The Times called me “prolific” and described me as one of a handful who “stand out for their moxie, kind of the way New Yorkers often do.” The Village Voice called me “a tiger in the House on every dollar due New York.” Time magazine labeled me “a tenacious, resilient legislator.” Even the New York Post called me one of the city’s “hardest working lawmakers.”
“And in 2007, I attained a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Just saying.”