By Sabina Mollot
On the Friday before last, Carolyn Maloney had the mother of all colds. Her voice unusually scratchy and her face makeup free, the congresswoman stood on the sidewalk outside of Stuyvesant Town, as a few supporters milled nearby holding banners with her name on it. They ignored the rain. There was after all, a primary around the corner.
On June 28, Maloney will be facing off against Democrat Peter Lindner, a Union Square resident and computer programmer. As T&V has previously reported, last month, Lindner tried to get Maloney kicked off the ballot due to a paperwork snafu. She then retaliated by arguing to the Board of Elections that Lindner didn’t even get half the required amount of signatures while petitioning. However, they were both unsuccessful at giving the other the boot.
But ballot challenges aside, like most Democratic incumbents in New York City, Maloney hasn’t had much difficulty in getting reelected. At this point, she’s been a member of Congress for 24 years.
As for her being under the weather while campaigning, after about an hour of that, she insisted she was still up for a prescheduled interview with a Town & Village reporter.
During the interview over coffee at Petite Abeille, Maloney discussed the issues she’s currently focused on, which are homeland security, the so-called “war on women” (a phrase she said she coined) and as far as the district is concerned, improving transportation on the East Side.
She’s been a champion of the Second Avenue Subway in particular, securing $1.3 billion for the project’s nearly complete first phase, and last month, gave the MTA an “A-“ report card for managing to stay on time and on budget.
The main goal though, she said, is job growth and improving the economy. “One of the reasons I work so hard on transportation infrastructure is it not only improves the marketplace in the city — if people can’t get to work there’s no quality of life — it creates jobs,” she said.
Another priority, connected to homeland security, is to target the practice of criminals and corrupt officials who use shell companies and limited liability corporations to hide behind anonymity. This, she explained, has given way not only to corrupt activities but money laundering used to fund terrorism. The money laundering is of enough concern to Washington, Maloney noted, that she was recently invited to a meeting in the situation room on the subject.
She’s also recently authored legislation that force the companies’ owners to disclose their identities.
“All of law enforcement is for it,” said Maloney. “I’m trying to get a hearing.”
On more local concerns, the issue of the day is the dreaded shutdown of much of the L line while the MTA makes badly needed repairs. At this time the agency is deciding between a full shutdown, which would last 18 months or a partial one, which would take three years. Of the two, Maloney is pushing for the former option.
“Just get it over with as fast as possible,” she said, adding that she is looking into alternative methods of transit including dedicated buses and ferries.
Another district issue she’s been hearing about, at least in Stuyvesant Town, while she campaigned there was last year’s sale to Blackstone and the deal that preserves 5,000 of the apartments.
“They were talking a lot about the agreement,” she recalled residents telling her, “saying it doesn’t do enough for the middle class.”
Other than this particular concern though, Maloney said she’s found that the sentiments of voters are generally the same throughout the entire 12th Congressional District. The district includes much of Manhattan’s East Side as well as parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
“Security, protecting our citizens, good public schools, affordable healthcare, quality of life in neighborhoods where children have access to playgrounds,” she said.
Throughout her career in Congress, Maloney said it was ongoing transit projects like the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access have proven the biggest challenge. But another equally major challenge was finding ways to respond to 9/11. She recalled starting a bipartisan caucus after the attacks “to find out what went wrong” and issuing a report on the findings. “It read like a thriller,” she recalled, adding that she considers that project and others relating to 9/11 recovery to be “the most important work I’ve ever done.”
It was also unfortunately some of the most frustrating for the Congress member, who described hearing how the CIA, when asked if it had known about people learning to fly but not to land, said it had. Asked what their operatives were doing about it, they’d responded, “Nothing.” This, Maloney said, was due to the law being written in a way that kept the CIA and the FBI from sharing their data. “It was ridiculous so we changed it,” she said.
Maloney also, after seven years of debate in Washington, was able to pass the Zadroga Act, which covers the medical needs of 9/11 first responders.
On women’s issues, however, some of her legislation has been left to collect dust. Maloney has long accused some of her Republican colleagues of waging a war on women over issues like abortion access and equal pay at work. On reproductive rights, she noted “Other states have been successful in rolling back access (to abortions)”. Additionally, in a recently issued report, Maloney noted that the infamous pay gap between men and women increases for women with age. According to the April report issued by Maloney, who’s the ranking member of the Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, current figures show women earn on average 79 cents to a man’s dollar and women over 75 are twice as likely to live in poverty as men.
She’s also been repeatedly blocked on stricter gun control measures, a fact she brought up in a press release after this past weekend’s mass murder in an Orlando gay club.
Still, she insisted, “even with the gridlock (in Washington), I’m still getting things done.”
Major bills she’s authored that have been signed into law include one that protects credit card holders from excessive fees, anti-rape legislation to improve training for first responders and she finally accomplished a longtime goal of passing a bill authorizing the opening a museum in Washington, DC devoted to women’s accomplishments. A bill she got passed last month, to create a commemorative breast cancer coin, is expected to raise $8.5 million for breast cancer research.
Meanwhile, when not focused on her own campaign, Maloney, a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton, has been campaigning heavily for the candidate, even serving as a surrogate.
“The divide on platforms between Republicans and Democrats has never been more clear,” said Maloney, while discussing the campaign trail.
Nonetheless, she’s been enjoying the fact that the final three contenders in the presidential race are all from New York.
“Bernie was born in Brooklyn. Hillary lives in Chappaqua and Donald lives in my district,” Maloney said. “You can say many things about this election season, but you cannot call it boring.”