Potential candidate would run as Independent
By Sabina Mollot
The race to succeed Dan Garodnick on the City Council may soon have another candidate in Peter Cooper resident Diane Grayson, a 26-year old associate editor and former assistant teacher.
Grayson, who’s a third-generation resident of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village community, added that she may run as an Independent.
Currently, there’s only one candidate officially on the ballot so far, Democrat Joshua Thompson, a Stuyvesant Town resident who’s held government jobs in Newark, New Jersey and Bridgeport, Connecticut. However, as Town & Village recently reported, the Council seat for the city’s fourth district is also being eyed by a few others, also Democrats. There’s East Midtown resident Jeff Mailman, currently legislative director to Council Member Liz Crowley; Peter Cooper resident Keith Powers, who’s the president of a government and nonprofit consulting and lobbying firm and has previously worked for elected officials; Central Park area resident Renee Cafaro, a political consultant and fundraiser; and Andrew Kalloch, a Lenox Hill resident and deputy policy director to Comptroller Scott Stringer.
After reading about the aforementioned may-runs in T&V, Grayson said she wants to run because she didn’t feel that any candidate (or current elected official) so far has offered solutions to what she believes is the biggest problem facing the community — the lack of affordable housing.
“I feel that’s something that’s not been addressed,” she said. “I like that (other potential candidates) are alluding to it, but we need real right now solutions.”
Grayson noted that in ST/PCV, with the future availability of affordable units likely to be determined by a lottery, it doesn’t necessarily do anything to help existing tenants.
“A lot of my friends who are third generation can’t afford to stay,” said Grayson. “My best friend just moved to Portland, Oregon. The market rate tenants are completely not being represented and rent stabilized people are saying they also can’t afford to live here.”
Grayson, who’s been following local housing lotteries for the past couple of years, said she’s noticed that many give preference to people in the communities where they’re advertised. For the one planned for ST/PCV, she’d like to see at least 50 percent of the units be earmarked for people already in the community.
Grayson added that the only reason she can afford to stick around herself is because lives in an apartment with her grandmother. As someone earning under $50,000, she called that income level an unrepresented one in terms of affordable housing programs. “SCRIE isn’t always enough,” she said.
“It’s great that there’s housing for those who make under 30 or 40, but when you make $50,000, there’s not a single lottery you can apply to if you’re one person in an apartment. Every single one is lower than that.”
But aside from affordable housing, the idea of running for office is something she’s wanted to do for a long time, anyway.
“I’ve always really wanted to run for City Council,” she said. “It’s been a passion of mine.”
So much so, she claims to be willing to take $50,000 of her salary, if elected, to spend on local needs. “Like senior centers or something that benefits the community. The City Council should be for someone who’s passionate about the community.”
She blasted the current salary for City Council members, $122,500 and the recently approved vote by members to give themselves $36,000 raises, as “outrageous.”
Preservation of local businesses is also an issue of importance to her. “I would say that 80 percent of the businesses I grew up with are gone,” said Grayson.
Another is transit and while East Siders wait for that elusive Second Avenue Subway to be completed, she thinks improvements should be made for more reliable train and bus service. “It’s great that we have Citi Bike, but realistically a lot of people in the community can’t use Citi Bike, like the older people,” said Grayson.
On education, she believes the issue of money not going where it’s needed is due to mismanagement. “We need a better allocation of funds,” she said. “The budget is big.”
Grayson’s mother is a former teacher, and her father a retired attorney.
She developed a taste for politics as a student at Friends Seminary. She recalled how one project was to write a letter to an elected official and she chose to write to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ask him to increase hours at libraries. This was because she didn’t feel the Epiphany Branch was open late enough.
After Friends, she went to Binghamton University, majoring in Judaic studies. She also at that time did an internship working for Governor David Paterson’s reelection campaign.
“Unfortunately he did not get elected,” said Grayson, “but it was a good introduction to politics. I learned a lot about working behind the scenes and fundraising.”
While still a student, she also worked as an English as a Second Language tutor and assistant teacher. This led to a job assistant teaching second grade at a dual language private school in Brooklyn. Recently, she began a job for McCraw-Hill’s textbook division as an associate editor. She’s also head proctor for a company called Ivy Key, proctoring practice SATs and grading practice SAT essays for under-privileged students. The company also offers tutoring, mentoring and admissions counseling.
“I would love to be able to expand programs like it,” she said.
As for her possible run for public office, Grayson said while on a scale of 1-10, she’s at an eight in certainty she’ll run, there’s still the possibility she could get swept off her feet by another candidate whose views are similar to her own. “I wouldn’t want to take votes from someone whose views I agree with,” she explained.
But if elected, she said a priority would be to be transparent about her activities. As a constituent, she doesn’t feel there are enough ways to get access to a Council member or stay on top of what he or she is doing.
“Your average member of District 4 has probably no idea about anything in the district. A lot of people don’t even know who’s the current Council member.”
Politicians she admires include Democrats Russ Feingold, a former Unites States senator in Wisconsin who’s running again, Brooklyn/Queens Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and local Congresswomen Nydia Vasquez and Carolyn Maloney.
“I feel that we need a lot more women in politics, because now we’re really under-represented,” said Grayson.
Grayson said she’d welcome any questions or feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.