Opinion: Powers and Epstein

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

It sounds like a law firm. But in reality, this duo is now the political first responders for our Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village community.

Keith Powers became our new City Council member in January following the term-limited retirement of 12-year Councilman Dan Garodnick. Harvey Epstein was elected to the State Assembly last month in a Special Election occasioned by Brian Kavanagh vacating his Assembly seat for the State Senate in lower Manhattan.

Given the fact that most of our State Senate’s district represented by Brad Hoylman is west of Fifth Avenue, and our community is but a small part of Carolyn Maloney’s Manhattan-Queens Congressional District, the predominant burden of representing this community on a day to day basis falls to Powers and Epstein.

And there are no shortage of issues. Preserving affordability in our housing stock and repairing public housing projects, improving mass transit especially the subway system, keeping our streets safe and maintaining city services while the federal government retreats are but a few of the issues facing Manhattan’s East Side and the City.

Both Councilman Powers and Assemblyman Epstein come to their respective new jobs with experience interacting with city and state government which gives them a good start. Powers spent years lobbying government on a variety of city issues. Now he will be lobbied. And Epstein has a good resume of civic involvement as a former chair of a local Community Planning Board and as a self-described “public interest attorney.”

But representing the needs of your communities and constituents is different with many competing interests. Moreover, getting things done at City Hall and in the state legislature in Albany requires tenacious advocacy for your district but also knowing when to compromise. It is a delicate balance. To be successful, they will each need to form alliances with their new partners in government.

Given the Trump Administration’s determination to do less for states, especially ones in the northeast and given the blood feud between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo, politics has become tougher than ever. So my advice to these new public officials is to take the time to learn your new craft.

Study the issues carefully and develop productive relationships with your colleagues. Nobody can succeed in government on their own, especially in a legislative capacity.

Dan Garodnick figured this out early on and proceeded to become one of the most accomplished and respected members of the City Council and our community benefited by his mastery of the political process.

Also, it is impossible to satisfy every group. So establish your priorities and become expert in those areas. And most important of all, build your constituent service operation within your office to respond effectively to the many individual problems you will receive. Make every constituent feel as though they are the most important person in your district.

If you do those things and remain humble and honest, you gentlemen will be around for a long time. My fingers are crossed for you both.

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