Now that it’s official, a Q and A with our Councilmember Elect
After more than a year of campaigning and a sweeping win in September’s primary election, last Tuesday Stephen Levin officially won his title as the next councilmember for the 33rd district. The Gazette had a chance to catch up and ask him a few questions about his upcoming jump into city politics.
Greenpoint Gazette: How does it feel to officially be the new councilmember of the 33rd district?
Stephen Levin: There’s a strong sense of obligation to get to work. As people begin to call me with issues in the district, there’s a sense of obligation to start dealing with issues head-on in our neighborhood. People are calling about affordable housing issues, rezoning issues, transportation issues, parkland issues, and making sure that there is a continuity of services. I’m very excited, I think any relief was short-lived, as I begin to work on addressing the major challenges that we face. I’m certainly not content to rest on an electoral victory, I have to make sure I’m doing the job required of me.
GG: What did you learn working on your first campaign?
SL: The campaign itself lived up to my expectations and more, and in a lot of ways I kind of miss it. The opportunity to go out there and talk with people about the issues that they are facing, and the issues that matter to them most, is a wonderful opportunity and experience, and it’s my goal to maintain that level of engagement. They say that a campaign is a kind of crucible, and what happens is you begin to internalize a lot of these issues and they become part of your every day life, and so certainly I feel as if I have grown into the role by going through the campaign process. I just want to say, Vito Lopez’ support was instrumental in my election, first as a mentor but also as someone who has given me guidance throughout my campaign. I want to acknowledge his efforts. I also owe a huge debt to my campaign manager Deborah Feinberg. She was, in a lot of ways, the mastermind of the election, and she’s a brilliant campaigner and absolutely tireless in her work ethic.
GG: What excites you most about your new job?
SL: What I’m most looking forawd to is being able to have an impact on people’s day to day lives, and harnass the power of the local government to improve people’s quality of life, whether it be transportation issues, housing issues, health issues and government services. It’s an opportunity to really make a positive impact, so that’s something I look forward to tremendously.
GG: How are you preparing for taking office?
SL: I am spending a lot of time meeting with various constituent groups throughout the district, and various representatives from the community board, community activists, open space advocates, affordable housing groups, and getting a sense of what the needs are and what the priorities are.
GG: What qualities in a councilmember do you think will be most important? What are your priorities?
SL: I think David Yassky did a very good job representing the district over the last eight years. The most important thing is that constituents feel that they have a councilmember that is accessible, there and willing to listen, and act in the interest of their needs. It’s a very diverse and expansive district, which just means that I’m going to have to work extra hard. I believe that I will be able to serve every community well.
It is my preference, as soon as I can, to open up a second office. I would very much like to have a district office in the north where people can go when they have issues that arise.
GG: How do you feel about the possibility of Newtown Creek being designated as an EPA Superfund site?
SL: Obviously, I’m in favor of a comprehensive solution for cleaning up the creek. Judging by the EPA’s presentation, it is a massive, massive job. I think there are some issues that we need to clarify and go over, and there are some local residents who would still like to hear their concerns with the proposal, but as the EPA representatives stated, the sediment in the creek, the sludge, is highly toxic, a 50/50 in toxicity. It’s such an enormous problem, it very well might be that the EPA will be the only entity who has the resources to take it on.
GG: How do you plan to work with Diana Reyna, the newly elected three-term councilwoman for the 34th district?
SL: Declined to answer.