Garodnick Sharpens Focus for Final Council Term

| 17 Feb 2015 | 12:59

After conceding the speaker's race, the third-term Upper East Side council member turns his attention to development and neighborhood concerns

Dan Garodnick is nothing if not unflappable. Coming down from a roller coaster year of campaigning for three different elected positions as well as supporting colleagues running for citywide offices, Garodnick has just started his third term in the city council representing the Upper East Side's 4th district, and he has already shaken off the ups and downs of his ride, setting his sights firmly forward.

Early in 2013, Garodnick began a campaign for city comptroller but stepped aside when then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer jumped into the race, which he eventually won against Eliot Spitzer. Then Garodick ran unopposed to retain his council seat, winning easily, and also put himself in the running for speaker of the city council, a position that's essentially second in power to the mayor and is chosen by the 51 members of the council. Presenting himself as a business-friendly Democrat who would work with the mayor but also act as an independent counterbalance for his agenda, Garodnick garnered the support of some 20 council members, but conceded the race to Melissa Mark-Viverito hours before the vote. He asked his supporters to join him in voting for his one-time rival in the name of council unity. Now he's finally able to turn away from campaigning and back to his job and his district.

"We have a lot on the agenda, starting with a number of land use related issues, the East Midtown rezoning - we're going to pick that back up to finish," said Garodnick in a recent interview. "We are going to try to advance the East River esplanade and we're going to be dealing with infrastructure concerns like resiliency against coastal flooding and improved transportation options and traffic reduction."

The East Midtown rezoning is an ambitious project championed by former Mayor Bloomberg that would allow more new and high-rise development in the area, intended to retain and attract major corporations. The city council voted late last year to reconfigure much of the original rezoning plan and will send the revisions back to community boards to review. Garodnick has continually pressed for more consideration of pedestrian and infrastructure issues in the rezoning.

"Improving the functionality of transportation is important," Garodnick said. "One of the reasons we should do the East Midtown rezoning is it's paired with improvements to the Grand Central subway experience - finding ways to move trains out of Grand Central faster, creating more space on the platforms, improving pedestrian flow, improving commuter flow."

Garodnick said that making improvements in the city's transportation systems was a top priority of his constituents, along with ensuring good public schools, keeping housing affordable and maintaining the low levels of crime the Upper East Side currently experiences.

In his time campaigning first for comptroller and then for speaker, Garodnick also had a chance to talk with residents in all five boroughs.

"I think being a candidate in broader than my own area has opened my eyes to a variety of issues which will be instructive for me, whether it is the fact that there are many New Yorkers who are struggling for economic opportunities, to people who are trying to have fairness in their own employment, to the broader transportation issues or housing issues that exist," he said. "I have seen a lot and it certainly has made me a better public servant."

Not one to dwell on setbacks, Garodnick also insisted that the speaker's race is over, along with any contention between him and Speaker Mark-Viverito. He said that he still believes the council can act as a unified, independent counterbalance to the mayor, a theme he continually emphasized during his campaign. He also wants to keep working for his East Side constituents ? creating a path to tenant ownership of Stuyvesent Town and Peter Cooper Village is another priority for his final term.

"Above all we want to continue to be the most responsive office to the people who have put us here," Garodnick said. "When constituents call we want them to get a responsive and effective result."