This article ran in Town & Village on August 28, 2014, but wasn’t online. An interview with Maloney’s challenger Nicholas Di iorio can be found here. Election Day is Tuesday, November 4.
By Sabina Mollot
After 22 years in Congress, Carolyn Maloney could write a book about everything she’s seen in Washington. So that’s what she’s doing.
Though the memoir hasn’t yet been shopped to publishers, the Democrat has some experience in that department, having written a self-help book for women in the workplace, Rumors of Our Success Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, which was published by Rodale in 2008.
The book she’s currently working on, titled Tales from the Front Line, will be about her own experience in Congress, which should certainly provide plenty of material.
A staunch advocate of gun control, Maloney received a death threat last year over legislation she authored that would require gun owners to get liability insurance. (Upstate Elmira resident Ronald Buchanan, the man who made the threat over the phone, has since been charged with the crime.)
She’s also had a few significant political victories that will no doubt be shared, the most recent being the Chinese government’s agreeing to allow two giant pandas to come to a New York zoo to live.
Maloney, who’s running for reelection against Republican Nicholas Di iorio, a former seminary student, discussed some of her career highlights as well as some frustrations during an interview with Town & Village this week. This is when she also mentioned the book, though she didn’t get into specifics of what would be in it.
As for the panda acquisition, which has captured the attention of the press along with that of Di iorio (who didn’t think that should have been the Congresswoman’s priority during Israel’s incursion into Gaza), it was the result of a trip to China earlier this month. Maloney has defended the trip, saying it was also aimed at trade and educational exchange. Since getting the approval from the Chinese, via a government letter, Maloney’s also gotten request letters from American officials in the Rochester, Seneca and Catskills areas who would like custody of the pair of cuddly creatures.
“So everyone wants the pandas,” said Maloney, who would personally prefer to see them headed to The Bronx Zoo. “I think pandas are good luck and we’ve had too many hard hits lately, Sandy, 9/11, the housing crisis. I think every one of the schoolchildren in New York would love to see them.”
Maloney also noted another recent win, which is that she’s just secured $300 million in federal funding for work on a high speed rail between New York and Boston.
“It’s pleasant, it’s fast. It runs 200 miles per hour,” she said. Originally, she admitted, she would have preferred a high speed rail between New York and Washington, but that would have been next to impossible due to all the eminent domain that would have been needed. But Boston was doable and the money was there after it was rejected by some state governors (including New Jersey’s Chris Christie) for a similar, but even more sweeping project suggested by the president five years ago.
When that happened, Maloney pounced. “I said, let’s go after that money,’” she said. “And Governor Cuomo, to his credit, joined us.”
Transit improvement has always been a priority for the congresswoman, for job creation as well as for the infrastructural improvements.
“The unemployment rate for New York is 7.4 percent,” said Maloney. “We have to have a government plan for creating jobs.”
She’s long been the biggest champion of the Second Avenue Subway (soon to start its second phase) and East Side Access projects. Another recent job for the tri-borough pol (her district now includes part of Brooklyn as well as parts of Manhattan and Queens) was getting $670 million for modernization of the Kosciuszko Bridge. The bridge connects Greenpoint, Brooklyn with Maspeth, Queens, and the project includes adding more lanes.
As far as accomplishments in her district are concerned, Maloney noted that since she’s been in office, she’s been instrumental in the opening of six residences built for low-income seniors in Queens, and fought to maintain affordable housing, in particular at Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. Most recently, this was by way of her reintroduction of legislation, first authored in 2010, aimed at preventing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from providing financing to deals that reduce rather than protect affordable housing.
She’s since admitted she doesn’t think she can get it passed any time soon, but added, “I’m not giving up until I do. It’s a reasonable bill.”
On education, she’s supported the opening of six new schools in her district and is a believer in charters.
“I support charter schools, but I don’t think they’re the answer to our entire school system,” she said. “We have to support public schools, which serve the vast majority of students. Parents and children should have choices of schools.”
Maloney said she’s running on her record, and her support for certain issues, including affordable housing, consumers’ rights, gun control and women’s rights can’t be disputed. In 2004, her anti-rape legislation, the Debbie Smith Act, which went towards providing better training for first responders in sexual assault cases, was passed. In 2008, it was reauthorized to allocate $151 million a year (from 2009-2014).
“It’s been called the most important anti-rape legislation to ever be passed,” she said.
However, Maloney’s quick to admit she’s had a near impossible time getting her bills passed in recent years. In fact, she considers it tougher now to do than it’s ever been and blames it on increasing partisanship in Washington.
“The Tea Party has had the effect of shifting Republicans more to the right,” said Maloney. “The Republicans are being challenged by the Tea Party and the divide has become bigger and stronger. It used to be that we could compromise in the glorious center, but it’s been more difficult to achieve compromise.”
Still, she added, this doesn’t mean she’s given up on any of her legislation.
“I’ve had bills that took a long time to get passed,” she said, giving the Zadroga Act, which provides healthcare compensation to 9/11 first responders, and took over seven years to get signed into law, as an example. She co-authored that legislation along with Congress Members Jerrold Nadler and Peter King. Her credit cardholders’ bill of rights, which also took years to go anywhere, is now believed to save Americans a minimum of $10 billion a year in fees. Similar legislation, introduced by Maloney years ago that is aimed at reducing excessive bank overdraft fees, is still pending.
She also has not yet had luck in getting her colleagues to agree to pass a bill that would create a museum devoted to accomplishments by women, even after she promised that no federal money would be used in the project. Maloney considers the resistance to that idea to be just another example of what she’s previously blasted as a “war on women” in Washington, centered mainly on some of her colleagues’ attempts to undo protections of women’s reproductive rights.
“I think the Hobby Lobby decision was a disaster,” said Maloney, in reference to the Supreme Court decision in June that said companies could refuse to include birth control and other reproductive health services in an employee’s healthcare benefits. One of companies engaging in this policy was the chain Hobby Lobby. “There’s a constant eroding or attempt to erode fights we have already won in the past.”
As for the museum, the fact that there is currently no museum devoted to honoring women in the entire country is why Maloney considers its creation a priority. With no government backing, she said she’ll keep trying to open it anyway, “the way women do everything. By ourselves. Raise the money and make it happen.”
She added, “I work hard. They can say a lot about me, but they can’t say I don’t work hard.”