Assembly candidates talk traffic, construction and MCIs at forum

Assembly candidates Mike Corbett, Harvey Epstein and Sandro Sherrod at a forum held by local Democratic clubs on Saturday (Photo by Bert Ongkeo)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Candidates for the 74th Assembly District seat met for a forum hosted by the Tilden Democratic Club and the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club last Saturday evening at the Seafarer’s International House. The forum had been postponed from earlier in the month due to the snowstorm, although the Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats, which originally planned the event with the two other clubs, ultimately braved the weather and held its forum that day.

Sandro Sherrod, a technology director at NYU Langone, Harvey Epstein, a project director with the Urban Justice Center, and Mike Corbett, an aide to City Council Member Costa Constantinides, all agreed that they didn’t disagree on much but shared their specific positions on issues such as affordability, the MTA, education and other topics.

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Former Obama staffer runs for Council

Ronnie Cho with former President Barack Obama at the White House (Photo by Pete Souza)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East Village resident Ronnie Cho knew that he wanted to be in public service when he saw how hard his parents worked as struggling small business owners while he was growing up.

“That experience made me want to help my community,” he said. “I didn’t know about politics then but I had the seed of public service planted early. I wanted to be a part of the process that elected good people.”

Cho is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez in District 2, which covers the East Village as well as Union Square, Alphabet City, Kips Bay, Murray Hill and parts of the Lower East Side, and is a former staffer from the Obama administration in addition to previous roles with MTV in social engagement and public affairs.

Cho’s parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea and ultimately settled in Phoenix, where Cho and his siblings grew up and where they opened a restaurant in which he spent his childhood years. Cho ultimately studied political science in college with the goal of connecting with people in the community.

“People need a relationship with government,” he said. “I believe government should be a force of good. It should have a role in creating opportunities and protecting people. You need to stand on street corners and be ready to be yelled at, disagreed with. It’s part of the process.”

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Real estate attorney running for City Council

Erin Hussein (Photos courtesy of Erin Hussein)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Real estate attorney Erin Hussein, a candidate for City Council, said that she was motivated to join the race because she’s invested in her neighborhood, the East Village.

“I’m running for District 2 because of District 2,” she said. “I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and it’s been intertwined with my entire life.”

Hussein, a Democrat, is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez. She moved to the city for college in 1988 after growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut. While New York is a bigger city, Hussein said she sees neighborhoods that make up the communities as similar to small towns like hers.

“Cities are organisms,” she said. “It’s a collection of neighborhoods, a collection of people. But we’re becoming less focused on people and more focused on buildings, and on the very wealthy elites.”

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T&V asks teens about governor’s free CUNY tuition proposal

Interviews by Maya Rader

Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed making tuition free at CUNY and SUNY colleges for students with households earning under $125,000. Town & Village asked students at Clinton High School for Writers and Artists if this would impact where they choose to go to school.


George Weathers III
“I feel that I would probably want to stay in the city or the state rather than go outside and spend more money. My parent does not make over 125 thousand dollars, so I would want to get the free education.”

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GOP-leaning candidate enters Council race

Melissa Jane Kronfeld says she’s a “progressive Conservative.”

Melissa Jane Kronfeld says she’s a “progressive Conservative.”

By Sabina Mollot

The race to replace term-limited City Council Member Dan Garodnick has a new candidate in the GOP-leaning Midtown East resident Melissa Jane Kronfeld.

Kronfeld, a former New York Post reporter, said she is not yet sure what party she’ll be running on, although one thing is for sure. It won’t be Democrat. The 34-year-old, a lifelong resident of the City Council District 4, which snakes its way from Stuyvesant Town to the East 90s, identifies as a “progressive Conservative.”

Asked what this means, Kronfeld, known to friends as “MJ,” said, “Being progressive and conservative are not mutually exclusive. Democrats didn’t copyright it. I checked.

“But,” she added, “we don’t bend so far to the left that it’s a free for all for everybody.”

This, she said, means support for immigrants. “There should be a process (to become legal) but I don’t want to send you anywhere because (your) parents didn’t fill out the proper paperwork,” Kronfeld said. “I’m not a conservative who will tell you don’t have the right to choose or that you don’t have the right to hold your husband’s hand if you’re a man.”

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New Epiphany principal aims to build students’ confidence

Stuyvesant Town resident Kate McHugh has replaced James Hayes as principal at Epiphany School. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town resident Kate McHugh has replaced James Hayes as principal at Epiphany School. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

After nearly four decades, The Epiphany School will have a new principal.

Former principal — and now school foundation president — James Hayes left the position in June to much fanfare and a 200-person flash mob.

Taking over for him is the former assistant principal, Stuyvesant Town resident Kate McHugh, who joined the school 15 years ago as a science teacher. She is also a graduate of the Catholic school, which now has 560 students.

During a recent interview, McHugh said she’s not planning any major changes, just tweaks to the current curriculum with the goal of doing what it takes to make sure students are confident, both in their faith and in being prepared for the realities of the day’s highly technological world.

“We’ve increased the amount of technology a lot in 15 years,” McHugh said, “mirroring what’s going on in society.”

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Attorney running for Council

Helene Jnane outside Peter Cooper Village Photo by Sabina Mollot

Helene Jnane outside Peter Cooper Village
Photo by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot
It’s not easy to be a Republican in New York City, in particular on Manhattan’s East Side, and even less simple is running against a popular Democratic incumbent. However, a political outsider on the Republican and Libertarian ballots said she’s determined to give it a shot.
Helene Jnane, an Upper East Sider who’s been a practicing attorney for 23 years, is currently the only candidate for City Council running against Dan Garodnick, also an attorney, who’s now seeking a third term representing the 4th district. Jnane has had some experience in the world of politics though, having been a campaign attorney for Ron Paul, whose ideals she says she admires in terms of factors like fiscal conservatism and keeping government small.
Jnane, who left the law firm Short & Billy last February, and is now doing freelance legal consulting work, hasn’t yet begun the process of fundraising for her campaign though she said she has plans to get her name out there once the primary is over. (Neither she or Garodnick have opponents in their parties and therefore neither will be on the ballot until November.)
Meanwhile, she’s been campaigning here and there at three-hour clips, trying to get the word out on the street while fending off the occasional barb aimed at her party. While most democrats have been polite even after hearing the dreaded R-word, that hasn’t always been the case. Recently, said Jnane, while she was petitioning in midtown, a woman gave the international vomit sign by sticking her finger in her throat when asked if she was a registered republican. This, said Jnane, was in contrast to Stuyvesant Town, where voters have all at least been willing to put aside their earbuds and give a candidate’s pitch about fiscal conservatism and socially liberal values a chance. Jnane admitted it’s sometimes been hard to stay motivated in less friendly environments, but said she has “faith in the voters,” who she believes will vote in November for the candidate that has “respect for the constitution.”
When discussing the values of the Republican Party, Jnane said she believes there’s a “misunderstanding about what it means to be Republican,” that the party wants to infringe on people’s personal rights. “It’s about not growing government at the expense of the people.” And when asked about social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, Jnane indicated (though she didn’t outright say) that she wasn’t opposed to either.
“The government should not be telling people they can’t have inter-personal relationships and the government shouldn’t be telling women what they should be doing in their personal lives,” she said.
During a recent interview at Second Avenue coffee bar Pushcart, Jnane also discussed her campaign and her platform, which is more than anything else about making sure government officials are responsible for keeping the promises they make and keeping government spending at a minimum. With almost all questions asked, she paused before answering, and often referred to legal points in either the state constitution or city charter to explain her reasoning. However, consistently, she appeared most confident when discussing her philosophy about a desire to see less government overreach and spending and a return to the idea of legislators as “humble public servants.”
She gave an example of government arrogance, as well as the government catering to special interests, when referring to a bill sponsored by a state senator in 2011 that would have legislatively undone the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” case. The bill, sponsored by upstate Senate Member Cathy Young, which was eventually shot down, would have made landlords who’d deregulated apartments while accepting J-51 tax breaks responsible for paying back the taxes but not the money overpaid by tenants.
“The government benefits, but not the people,” she said.
As for her own interest in running for office, Jnane said, “The government has to obey the law and a lot of politicians have forgotten that. I’m not talking about anyone in particular, but there is an important adjustment the government in general needs to make to be more humble public servants.”
On the City Council having to work with the mayor, Jnane wouldn’t say if she had a favored candidate for that role, but, when asked who she saw herself working with, responded, “Whoever becomes the mayor of New York City.”
She also discussed her dislike of what she called the “one-party system” in the City Council.
“Like a monopoly in the market, it causes prices to rise and services to be reduced,” she said. “Costs go up and innovation goes down and this is what we’re seeing in city government.”
However, on the issues faced by residents of the district, which winds from Stuyvesant Town to 96th Street along the East Side, as well as issues faced by the entire city, Jnane was less quick to suggest change.
One exception to this is with regards to education, with Jnane saying it’s important to “empower students and parents” by making class size smaller and allowing families more school choice. She’s also a supporter of charter schools.
On housing, however, or more specifically concerns from tenants about affordability, she said she isn’t about to interfere with the market. Doing so, she said, would infringe on personal liberty.
For example, while sympathetic to issues faced by tenants like rising rents, in particular in Stuy Town following the settlement of “Roberts,” she has no plans for drafting legislation that would add to tenant protections. She also has no plans for building affordable housing or protecting the existing stock of it.
However, she said, she would make sure the existing laws protecting tenants “are obeyed” to the letter. “Contract is promise.”
She gave an example by responding to a growing concern of residents in Stuyvesant Town, which is that as the rents continue to rise, the community has become more transient with more and more students and post-graduates taking up residence in groups as opposed to families.
“If it is legal for landlords to rent apartments to students, I cannot ask him to do otherwise,” she said. “What I can do is make sure that the laws that may apply to habitation, quality of life (are followed), like if the students next door are making all kinds of noise. But I will not make promises to people that I can’t keep.”
On another housing matter, the Rent Guidelines Board, Jnane said she is interested in making sure that those who sit on it are “not doing it for themselves or their own self-aggrandizement.”
Another issue, one of the few Jnane has been particularly vocal about, is stop-and-frisk. This past week, Jnane posted on her campaign website that she felt the recent decision by a judge declaring stop-and-frisk unconstitutional was an example of government overreach. She explained during the interview with Town & Village her belief that one of two pending stop-and-frisk bills, which would appoint an inspector general to oversee the NYPD, is just a waste of taxpayer money that adds another layer to government while not necessarily making New Yorkers any safer.
“The solution to the problem of the government is not more government or a bigger government,” she said.
Jnane, who’s lived at the same co-op building on 95th Street for the past 15 years, sits on the board there. A native of Morris County, New Jersey, Jnane has lived in New York for 20 years in different Manhattan neighborhoods, including Greenwich Village.
When not working, she enjoys walking and reading articles on the economy and government as well as more local issues. She got into law, first with firm Seeger Weiss, which handles a lot of class action lawsuits, and then later moved onto Short & Billy, which focuses on no fault insurance law.
“I love the law,” said Jnane. “It’s a focused way of thinking. We start from principles and we apply the principles to the facts of any situation that comes up and this is how you draw a conclusion.”

CECD2 to hold meeting on opening of new school

Community Education Council District 2 has announced that it will be holding a Zoning Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m. to explore zoning issues for 2012-2013, including the opening of a new school P.S. 281 at 35th Street and First Avenue.

The meeting will be held in the P.S. 40 auditorium (20th Street between First and Second Avenues).

The agenda will include:

  1. Review of the P.S./I.S. 281 facility
  2. Discussion of the possible grade configuration of the building
  3. Discussion of programming for building (Pre-K, G&T, Language, etc.)
  4. Review of zoning milestones and timeline
  5. Public comments

Public comment is welcome on P.S. 281 as well as all District 2 zoning matters.

For more information on CECD2, which has an advisory role in DOE issues, visit the board’s website.