Democratic Congressman-elect Max Rose — a U.S. Army veteran and former health-care executive — ousted New York City’s only House Republican, Rep. Dan Donovan (R–Bay Ridge), in a Nov. 6 upset, winning more than 52 percent of the votes to represent the city’s 11th congressional district, which covers Bay Ridge, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay, and all of Staten Island. The incoming congressman recently talked to us about how he will hit the ground running in Washington, DC, come January, sharing plans to push for an infrastructure bill to improve his constituents’ commutes, ensure the most vulnerable residents of his ethnically diverse district are represented, and mitigate the effects of climate change in the area:
Julianne McShane: Rep. Donovan was the only Southern Brooklyn pol in DC who publicly supported including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census — despite experts’ warnings that it could lead to cuts in federal funding in your district, which is home to a high number of immigrants who might be discouraged from participating should such a question be asked. Do you support including the citizenship question on the census?
Max Rose: Absolutely not. Any effort that we make to make people even slightly weary of answering questions on a census — I think we need to take a step back and not do that.
JM: Bay Ridge specifically has a high number of Arab and Muslim residents. Would you introduce or support legislation in Congress to challenge President Trump so-called Muslim ban?
MR: Yes, of course. Trump’s travel ban was un-American in nature. We can be a nation of laws, public safety, and values, and still treasure the beautiful mosaic that is the United States — which is certainly the case in the 11th congressional district. But we have got to explore the individual legislation here, so I don’t want to make any overt specific legislative commitments before I’ve been sworn in.
JM: You campaigned on an infrastructure plan to improve the commutes of your constituents. But what can you do in DC to improve the city’s bus and subway systems, especially service on the beleaguered R train, which are overseen by the state?
MR: This is not just a state issue. This Congress will certainly take up an infrastructure bill. I intend on being a real leader and fighting for that for New York’s 11th congressional district, as well as for New York City as a whole, because it’s so interconnected. The absence of two-way tolling on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge clogs up traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. And when it comes to the R train specifically, I do believe investing more in the basic infrastructure of our subway system — particularly the signal system — and spending less money on fancy modernization will improve not just the R train but the whole subway system.
JM: Speaking of infrastructure, the mayor needs more than $1 billion in federal funding to finance his beloved trolley, the Brooklyn Queens Connector, which Donovan called a “dying project” that the mayor “shouldn’t hold his breath” for federal funding for. What’s your take?
MR: It is certainly possible [to secure federal funding], but you’re out of your damn mind if you think that I’m not going to prioritize things that ease the commuting nightmare of folks living in Southern Brooklyn and on Staten Island.
JM: Do you support your new Congressional colleagues’ “Green New Deal” — which demands the House of Representatives prioritize fighting climate change — as a way to protect your coastal district from such climate-related issues as sea-level rise and flooding?
MR: We’ve got to start treating global warming with the same levels of commitment and bipartisan resoluteness as we did to the threats that ISIS and nuclear proliferation proposed. As to the specifics of this Green New Deal, no one’s been able to give me an answer on it, but I look forward to working with people on both sides of the aisle on how we’re going to address this incredibly significant national security threat. One way in which we can do that is with the [aforementioned] infrastructure bill. We need to build smart grids [power grids that accommodate various forms of renewable energy] into the bill, certainly green jobs, so we can transition America to alternative forms of energy. We obviously have to look at global solutions here, too — that’s why I am so intent on us re-joining the Paris Climate Accord.
Following the chat, which has been condensed and edited, Rose participated in a rapid-fire lighting round of questions:
Favorite restaurant in the Brooklyn part of your district: Cebu in Bay Ridge.
Last book you read: I just wrapped up Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Leadership.”
Main news sources: I try every day to read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post. I try to get the headlines on the Daily News, the New York Post, the Staten Island Advance, and, of course, all of your publications. I love you guys, I love the Home Reporter as well.
Are journalists the “enemy of the people”?: Absolutely not. Sometimes you guys really do piss me off, but I love you.
Is the migrant caravan an “invasion”?: Absolutely not — that’s dangerous language.
— Julianne McShane