Gearing Up for an East Side Race

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:08

Running for the 76th Assembly District on the Upper East Side The race for the 76th Assembly District seat currently occupied by Micah Kellner, who announced in February that he would not seek re-election, is heating up ahead of Primary Day on Sept. 9. Our Town asked the five candidates ? one Republican and four Democrats? to introduce themselves to readers who aren't yet in the know. The 76th Assembly District covers the Upper East Side east of Third Avenue between 61st Street and 92nd Street, as well as the entirety of Roosevelt Island. Kellner cited an ongoing probe into sexual harassment allegations against him, which he denies, as the reason he isn't seeking re-election. He's since announced his intention to run for a post as state committeeman, a position that, despite being unpaid, would still carry with it a certain measure of influence in the district, such as a say on who to nominate for a judgeship. Meanwhile, there's no shortage of people looking to replace him in the Assembly. Gus Christensen - Democrat What is the biggest issue facing the 76th Assembly District? If you were elected, in what way would you address this issue? Our community's biggest local issue is the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station. I have been an active leader in the fight against it, and I took the extreme step of being arrested in protest last week at Asphalt Green. Why? Because the facts are on our side: the MTS will be an environmental nightmare, raising air pollution levels dramatically and risking complete disaster in the next major storm; its construction budget is out of control and will double Manhattan's waste disposal costs; and it will not reduce the garbage truck traffic in other boroughs in the slightest. We need to keep fighting, using the facts, and we need to keep building a bigger coalition around the city. New York has the worst recycling record of any major US city, and we need to make it one of the best. Looking more broadly across New York, we need to pass the Women's Equality Act, fight for more affordable housing and better jobs (including raising the minimum wage) and invest in early childhood education and universal daycare. Why are you the best choice to represent the 76th Assembly District? I believe that I have the best track of success in both the business and the non-profit worlds of any of the candidates, and that I will be able to bring the strongest set of skills and "can do" abilities to bear on behalf of our community. I spent 20 years working in financial services helping businesses grow and create jobs. With real world experience managing budgets and dealing with finance, I want to put my skills and progressive values to work cleaning up Albany and getting our economy working for middle class families. A budget expert, I will increase affordable housing and improve rent regulations, get our schools their fair share and protect senior services. I will stand up for middle class families on Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side and make sure our community is not forced to shoulder an unfair burden of the city problems. I am 100 percent pro-choice and a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose. I will vote to pass Governor Cuomo's Women's Equality Act that protects a woman's right to choose and make her own reproductive health care decisions. Gus Christensen ? Former investment banker and hedge fund manager for 20 years ? Wife, Courtney, pregnant with first child. "We're very excited," said Christensen. ? Has never run for elected office ? Endorsements: Lenox Hill Dem. Club ------ David Garland - Republican( What is the biggest issue facing the 76th Assembly District? If you were elected, in what way would you address this issue? How might it differ from the approaches of other lawmakers or your predecessor? The single biggest issue facing the 76th Assembly District is, as last year, The Dump next to Asphalt Green on East 91st Street. Voters always ask me if this is a "done deal," and the answer is absolutely not. It baffles me that voters voted Democrat last November, and now are shocked that the Dump is moving forward. The party standard-bearer, now Mayor Bill de Blasio, has always supported the Dump and continues to be intransigent on this issue. Once again, we are at a crossroads: the 76th Assembly District can vote Democrat from governor down to assemblyman and nothing will change. Or voters can vote Republican this year straight down the line and the Dump nightmare will be over. Micah Kellner was very proactive on this issue and I applaud him for that. By initiating the lawsuits he attempted to defeat this environmental, financial, health and safety disaster via legal means. Unfortunately, this just hasn't gotten the job done and we need to take the political fight to Albany where it can be defeated once and for all. Why are you the best choice to represent the 76th Assembly District? I am the best choice to represent the Upper East Side because I am the only candidate that represents a change from the status quo. It's no secret that the Upper East Side has experienced a marked decline in quality of life in recent years. The Dump continues to move forward, the 2nd Avenue Subway construction project was grossly mishandled, and the East River esplanade, which should be the pride of the city, remains in disarray. New York also continues to languish in dead last on job creation, unemployment levels, tax and regulatory burdens. And we're threatening our future by poor decisions in education, such as attacking charter schools which have provided hope to so many children in our city. Did you know that every single office, at every level, in Manhattan is currently held by a Democrat? Not only is this unhealthy for our city and our state, but it also stifles new ideas and progress. All Democrats in the city are lined up under their standard-bearer Mayor de Blasio. If we continue to elect only Democrats into office, we know that nothing's going to change. As an Independent Republican, I will be able to stand up for what I know is right for our neighborhood, rather than the politically expedient choice. As a social libertarian and a fiscal conservative, I represent the views of the vast majority of voters in our district. And as someone who wants to make sure the elderly, the unemployed and our children are cared for not just today, but also in the future, I am the only candidate with the experience to take us there. David Garland ? CEO of real estate development company ? Ran for State Senate in 2012, and City Council in 2013. ? "As they say, third time's the charm!" said Garland. ? Endorsements: New York Republican County Committee; New York State Republican Committee ------ Ed Hartzog - Democrat( What is the biggest issue facing the 76th Assembly District? If you were elected, in what way would you address this issue? How might it differ from the approaches of other lawmakers or your predecessor? The biggest issue facing the district is development. Whether it involves the 2nd Avenue Subway, the Marine Transfer Station, Cornell Tech or the ongoing construction along York Avenue, we need to think comprehensively and long-term about the consequences of these and other projects. We also need to ensure we have enough middle school seats for the children filling up our K-5 schools, protect our dwindling stock of affordable housing and fight for self-governance on Roosevelt Island. One way I would address this issue is to introduce and enact legislation that implements my plan to create and maintain open and green space for the Upper East Side. In terms of differing from other lawmakers or my predecessor, I don't believe it is a matter of differing as much as it is building upon the work of those who have come before us and looking to contribute to the overall effort moving forward. Why are you the best choice to represent the 76th Assembly District? I am the best choice to represent this district because my personal and professional experience make me uniquely qualified to serve as the advocate for the residents of this community. As a two-term member of Community Board 8, I have a steady and proven record of advocacy and results ? including calling for 100 percent barging for the Cornell Tech project, preserving the playground and green space for the residents of Ruppert Towers, or advocating for more open and green space as part of the CUNY-MSK and Rockefeller University projects. Additionally, my years of involvement with the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, Pledge 2 Protect, Residents for Reasonable Development and other reform and advocacy groups, have given me a full understanding of the issues and concerns facing our community. All this coupled with my experience in the private sector make me the best equipped to achieve results for our Assembly District. Ed Hartzog ? Attorney specializing in insurance, employment, and commercial law ? Wife, Nalika; son, Alex ? Ran for City Council in 2013 ? Endorsements: Former Congressman Peter Kostmayer; Americans for Economic Justice ------   David Menegon - Democrat( What is the biggest issue facing the 7th Assembly District? If you were elected, in what way would you address this issue? How might it differ from the approaches of other lawmakers or your predecessor? I believe the biggest issue facing the district is preserving affordable housing so that middle-class families can still call Manhattan and Roosevelt Island home. New York is in an affordable housing crises. Reports show the median rent surged over the last decade while incomes stagnated, and Albany stood idly by. In the Assembly, I will fight to repeal the Urstadt Law and return the authority to regulate rents where it belongs: New York City. I will also take up the fight against illegal hotels, which hurt our community and rob New Yorkers of affordable housing options. I will make sure the Attorney General has more resources to step up enforcement measures. Seniors living on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable to increased housing costs. The current population of New Yorkers over 65 is expected to double to nearly two million by the year 2040. We need to protect the programs that allow seniors to live in security. I will fight for affordable and expanded senior housing so we can get ahead of a coming a crisis. Why are you the best choice to represent the 76th Assembly District? I'm a community leader, a mentor, and a veteran. My experience in business, management, leadership, and community service help me understand the issues in our community and empower me to tackle these challenges in Albany. As a veteran, my work with a Civil Affairs unit gives me very good perspective on long-term strategic planning for a community and what needs to be done on a state and national level. I want to bring those skills to the Assembly to stop the Marine Transfer Station; create and preserve affordable housing; ensure the 2nd Avenue Subway is fully funded; enact real campaign finance reform; stop the overcrowding in our schools and ensure that all children have access to a great education; increase New York's commitment to renewable energy; and protect seniors. We need leaders in the Assembly to provide greater accountability and transparency in how government delivers services and spends our tax dollars. If I can exceed goals in Iraq, I can take on Albany. David Menegon ? Marketing executive at Xerox, Iraq War veteran in the U.S. Army Reserves ? Has never run for elected office ? Endorsements: Four Freedoms Democratic Club ------ Rebecca Seawright - Democrat( What is the biggest issue facing the 76th Assembly District? If you were elected, in what way would you address this issue? How might it differ from the approaches of other lawmakers or your predecessor? The biggest issue facing the 76th Assembly District is how to keep the East Side, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island a safe and affordable place for families and seniors. That means advocating for public schools, supporting affordable housing, and promoting greater quality of life by ensuring access to parks and open space. Community Board 8 faces a dire school overcrowding problem. Cramming countless students into the same number of classrooms is a recipe for disaster. We need to give our already great public schools on the UES the resources they need to thrive. I will fight for preschool seats and against overcrowding. New construction must include affordable housing so that seniors, working families, and people with disabilities can continue to make their homes in our community. We must expand our senior centers and protect senior meal programs from short-sighted budget cuts. I will demand that our green spaces remain public and open and that we encourage the development of new open spaces for future generations. The Marine Transfer Station is a real threat to the safety of our children and seniors. The East Side is already congested with traffic that causes fatal crashes and asthma. We don't need hundreds of garbage trucks spewing exhaust next to a children's recreation center. I pledge to be an activist fighting against the dump, building a coalition against it, and making sure the needs of our neighborhood are on the governor's agenda as he seeks reelection this fall. Why are you the best choice to represent the 76th Assembly District? I am a life-long Democrat and I am committed to representing the values of the voters in this neighborhood. Voters can trust me to fight for public schools because I sent my kids to public schools. Voters can trust me to fight for the Women's Equality Agenda because I've been fighting for women my whole life. Voters can trust me to fight the dump, because I raised my family in this neighborhood and know the importance of protecting families and seniors. I am an activist and leader who will bring much needed energy and reform to Albany. Rebecca Seawright ? Attorney specializing in contract law ? Husband, Jay Hershenson; son, Brad; daughter, Haley ? Has never run for elected office ? Endorsements: Comptroller Scott Stringer; Public Advocate Letitia James; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; Assemblyman Dan Quart; Councilman Dan Garodnick; Retail Wholesale Department Store Union