Vanessa Aronson is among 11 candidates vying for the District 4 City Council seat held by Dan Gorodnick, who is being termed out. Photos of the 10 other candidates are in this carousel.
All 51 city council seats are up for grabs this year, and the race to represent District 4 is shaping up to be a competitive campaign. With incumbent Dan Garodnick unable to seek reelection due to term limits, the open seat has attracted a crowded field of candidates with backgrounds and experience as diverse as the district, which encompasses Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, East Midtown and much of the Upper East Side. Our Town checked in with the candidates as they prepare for the Sept. 12 primaries and Nov. 7 general election. We asked them to address what they each think is the biggest issue facing District 4 and what they propose to address it.
Vanessa Aronson (D)
NYC public school teacher (sixth and seventh grade math and science); foreign service officer, U.S. Department of State: economic officer to the United Nations; press and cultural attaché/vice consul at U.S. Consulate General, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; press associate at U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia
Whether at school talking with parents or in the community chatting with neighbors, I'm hearing the same story: our vibrant neighborhoods are disappearing. Families and seniors are being priced out of the city because there isn't enough affordable housing, mom and pops are shutting down, transportation is increasingly unreliable and inaccessible, and for those who do manage to afford to stay in the city, our schools are overcrowded and underfunded. I will work to make New York more affordable, supporting tenants and small businesses. In the face of federal cuts, I will protect public funding for housing, schools and healthcare. I will hold the MTA accountable for improving services for all, including people with disabilities. I will ensure bicyclists, vehicles and pedestrians safely share our streets. As a former teacher, I will be a strong advocate for all students, including those with special needs and the hardworking teachers across our city.
Maria Castro (D)
DNC Convention delegate; New York State Judicial Convention delegate; NYS Supreme Court Small Claims assessment review hearing officer; government relations consultant
The biggest issue facing our district is Quality of Life. When elected, I will fight to improve the Quality of Life for all in our district; it is absolutely unacceptable that less than 30 percent of the subway stations in our district are ADA compliant. This inaccessibility makes it impossible for parents with small children in carriages, the disabled, the mobility-impaired and the aging population to utilize New York City's Subway system. The crosstown buses using Select Bus Service are efficient, however widely spaced apart by as much as 10 blocks in some cases. New York City is a NORC, Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, yet failing our neighbors by neglecting the infrastructure and upgrades necessary to accommodate those who rely solely on public transportation. Today's seniors want to stay in their homes and neighborhoods as long as possible and I will fight to make sure that New York is doing everything achievable to enable them to keep their independence.
Rebecca Harary (R)
Experience: Activist and founder of four nonprofit organizations; owned a small business for 10 years
Whether a voter is a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Working Families, Women's Equality Party, Reform, Liberal, or a Libertarian, the biggest issue facing all of us now is: How do we bring our collective common sense to the table, and work together to find the best solutions to the problems of our quality of life, homelessness, education, affordable housing, jobs, infrastructure, senior citizens and small business issues? That's why I am honored to run for NYC Council in District 4. When I see a problem, I work together with the people affected—and we solve it by using common sense. My message to everyone is one of inclusion, not exclusion. We are all New Yorkers in our hearts, and not people defined by a specific party.
Alec Hartman (D)
Co-founder of two startups: TechDay, a yearly startup event that brings entrepreneurs together, and DigitalOcean, a web infrastructure and hosting service; advises the Estonian government on their e-residency program and the Bermuda Tourism Authority
The biggest issue — with deteriorating mass transit a close second — is strengthening our local public schools. Specifically, we need to address the glaring lack of public pre-K seats on the East Side so that all our children start school with the best chance to succeed. We also need to revamp a high school curricula and put a greater emphasis on technical and vocational training. And we need to push for more funding from Albany to reduce class sizes in all our public schools.
Rachel Honig (D)
Current: Owner of Amplify Cooperative, a public relations and marketing consultancy; Previous: Special projects director, New York State Council on the Arts; chief operating officer, G.S. Schwartz & Co.
In my 24 years of living in NYC, never before have we had such small business displacement issues. This loss affects not only our businesses, our city's lifeblood, but also affects our neighborhoods in innumerable ways—from services, to safety, to quality of life. As City Council Member to District 4, I will seek to facilitate feasible landlord tenant relationship models that allow small businesses to stay, grow and thrive in their spaces. We must also look ahead and create better mechanisms to assure current and prospective businesses along what will be Phase III of the Second Avenue Subway that we will take better care of them, when their time comes, than we did for their neighbors in Phase I.
Melissa Jane Kronfeld (R)
Social impact consultant; college lecturer; journalist/editor/editorialist
We must improve the affordability of our city to keep all New Yorkers and their business on a reliable and stable track towards prosperity and growth. We have to slash through the bureaucratic red tape that is keeping our storefronts closed, we must reassess the inequities in our property tax system that is driving up costs for landlords as well as rents for tenants and we have to prioritize innovation in our housing market to spur the creation of accessible and cost effective units. Because affordability is the key to our most pressing problems, by lowering the cost of living in our city, we can also tackle the equally important issue of homelessness in New York City. Once we focus on moving our families and working homeless off the streets, out of shelters and into jobs or training programs, we can use our resources to provide services for the chronically homeless who require more attention and/or medical care.
Jeffrey S. Mailman (D)
Legislative director & counsel to Council Member Elizabeth Crowley; Previous: Attorney; adjunct assistant professor of law at Cardozo Law School; public service fellow at the N.Y.S. Attorney General's Office
Quality of life issues such as pedestrian safety, excessive noise and rodent infestations are of utmost concern to residents in District 4. I will work to ensure that sufficient resources from City agencies, such as the NYPD, the Department of Buildings, Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health are allocated to address these issues. I will work with the community boards, civic associations and residents to remedy such quality of life issues to the greatest extent possible.
Keith Powers (D)
Office of State Senator Liz Krueger; Office of Assembly Member Jonathan Bing; Constantinople & Vallone Consulting LLC
Affordable housing is the biggest issue facing District 4. As a lifelong East Sider, where I grew up in a rent stabilized apartment, I know our rent stabilized apartment was the only reason my family could afford to live in the city. I want to make sure families like mine have a place in this city, that's why I'm proposing new housing for middle-class families with a 21st Century Mitchell-Lama program, giving communities the tools they need to better participate in city planning process (including protecting air, sunlight and open space), and creating a new program modeled from SCRIE to assist many more seniors with their rent.
Bessie Schachter (D)
Democratic State Committee member for Midtown and the Upper East Side; director of community outreach for state Senator Liz Krueger
Our community is facing a lack of affordability which threatens people's ability to stay in our community. Seniors are being priced out of their homes; small businesses nickel and dimed into extinction; families are forced to leave for a place more affordable. We aspire to achieve a city for all, a city not stratified by race or class or income. We know that an integrated city provides more opportunity to rise economically and develop socially. We understand that a unified city is far more cultured and strong. With our sights set high, our city council must take practical measures to achieve the goal of a livable and affordable city. We must audit our affordable housing units to keep them from disappearing prematurely, end the tax on small businesses below 96th Street and curtail retail blight to ensure that our city remains a place where people can find community.
Barry Shapiro (D)
Enterprise architect for marketing systems with American Express, retired; IT project manager and systems analyst contractor
Among the many issues facing District 4 I believe that rent stabilization and affordable housing will have the greatest effect on the greatest number of people here. Most of the laws dealing with rental housing in the city are controlled at the state level so that today a councilman can have little direct effect on these laws. However, the councilman has ability to get publicity and be advocate for change, and that's what I intend to do. I intend to champion Home Rule for NYC with respect to all residential rent regulation. That is, I want to see the city council have control over all such future legislation. I intend to task the Democratic State Party to challenge and defeat the renegades within its ranks. Our housing fate in the city is strongly tied to state politics. If elected, I intend to do all I can to change that.
Marti Speranza (D)
Director of Women Entrepreneurs NYC; director of strategic initiatives for NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, Democratic state committeewoman for 74th Assembly District; Community Board 5 member; small business owner
Tenants and small business owners are struggling to meet rent because of loopholes like the exploitation of Major Capital Improvements (MCI) and bad policy like the Commercial Rent Tax (CRT). We need MCI reform, stronger rent laws and affordable housing to keep tenants in their homes, an increase in the CRT threshold and a study of the impact of eliminating it altogether. Protecting and empowering the people and small businesses of our District — the fabric of our community — is the key to thriving neighborhoods in District 4 and citywide.