Bay Ridge and Staten Island assemblywoman and New York City mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis met with the editors of Community News Group and NYC Community Media at our office Downtown on May 18 to discuss her campaign to unseat Mayor DeBlasio in November. During wide-ranging discussion, Malliotakis — who has amassed $94,624 in her war chest since announcing her campaign less than a month ago and has the backing of the state’s Conservative Party — had a lot to say about her disagreements with Hizzoner, including his stance on destroying information obtained by those applying for the city’s identification cards, undocumented immigrants, closing the Rikers Island jail, how he handles the city’s failing transit system, quality of life issues, and homelessness.
Malliotakis’ claimed Mayor DeBlasio’s is incompetent when dealing with the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which she said can never get a job done on time or on budget, citing the Second Avenue Subway as an example. If elected mayor, she would ensure her representatives on the MTA’s board would fight for the city, and not just rubberstamp everything put in front of them:
“Transportation is one of my biggest issues. I’m someone who has been very vocal against the MTA and the Port Authority. These projects, there’s no excuse for a project being $6-billion over budget, and 10 years over schedule. If I had four members at the MTA, I would make sure they are challenging the status quo, that they are trying to get to the bottom of why all this mismanagement is taking place and really looking to make some serious changes. But also I vote with respect to holding the MTA accountable. I’ve voted against increasing the MTA debt limit repeatedly, as long as they continue to be a runaway train, we will never be able to lower tolls and fares or at least keep them flat. The subways, how crowded the trains are, many of them don’t come on schedule.”
Malliotakis also challenged Hizzoner’s promise to destroy records obtained through New York City’s identification card program because she believes it could lead to public safety problems. But the seven-year state legislator said she agrees with the premise of the program and would reason with the Feds if they came knocking on City Hall’s door for the records, instead of just handing them over.
“We should not be destroying city records, period. You don’t go get a driver’s license and destroy all the records. It’s not what government should be doing. I don’t believe that the federal government would request those records, but we would negotiate that. We would definitely sit down with them and tell them the reasons why we don’t want to see individuals who have been here contributing to our society a long time deported if they have not committed a crime, but we would certainly comply with detainer requests for individuals who have committed crimes. I also think that as a Republican, I would be best positioned to negotiate with this administration.”
The sanctuary city
Malliotakis said she disagrees with DeBlasio’s stance on shielding illegal immigrants who committed “minor” crimes from federal authorities, claiming she favored the policy of former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch, who had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it came to illegal immigrants seeking city services.
“He believes we should not be complying with federal detainer requests in the incidence of individuals who commit crimes like grand larceny, sexual abuse, forcible touching, patronizing a child for prostitution, identity theft, welfare fraud — all crimes in which the city will not comply with detainer requests. I have to make the distinction because I am the daughter of immigrants and I understand the aspirations of the American dream and I understand that we are a compassionate city who has welcomed immigrants from all over the world as my parents were able to come to this city and create a better life for themselves. Now we have had policy in this city going back to Ed Koch that says if you’re here and you’re undocumented but you come forward to a city agency, we are not going to ask you your status, and that was put in place to incentivize victims of crimes to come forward to report those crimes. We want that to continue that policy.”
Quality of life issues
Malliotakis also brought up many quality of life issues she said impacted her constituents in Brooklyn and in Staten Island, including how many women don’t feel safe while walking the streets of the city due to a recent uptick in sexual assaults.
“He can tout crime is low but if you look at the murder rates, it’s actually the same, it’s been flat since Bloomberg left — rape and sex crimes are up 15 percent. So I think women in this city generally don’t feel safe especially walking around at night in different communities. I know I don’t feel safe when I’m walking alone down a street in the city.”
Illegal home conversions
Illegal home conversions, in which homes are illegally converted from one- or two-family homes to those housing many more people, is one of the biggest development issues facing Brooklyn today, Malliotakis said, especially in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
“In Brooklyn you see a lot of illegal conversions. The laws are not being enforced with the Department of Buildings so those are issues that I think need to be addressed. They are not enforcing the laws when it comes to the DOB in regards to illegal conversations, which is adding even more congestion because you have multiple families living in a one-family house.”
Malliotakis added that DeBlasio’s wasn’t tackling homelessness at its root, she said, instead deciding to build shelters across the city in neighborhoods where nobody wants them.
“There’s an obvious problem when you walk through the city and you see poor individuals who are sleeping on the street and they have an underlying issue, whether it’s domestic violence, substance abuse, whether it’s mental illness, whether they are a veteran or [have] PTSD — whatever the issues are I think it’s very important we try to be a little more proactive in finding out. What are the core problems so we can help them address — we cannot allow the subway station to become a homeless shelter and his answer is just to build 90 homeless shelters across the city instead of trying to help these people either remain in their homes to begin with or try to address the underlying issues. But certainly the idea of building 90 homeless shelters across the city will be heavily rejected by the communities and I don’t think that that’s what people feel the solution should be.”
Malliotakis also took umbrage with DeBlasio’s pledge to close Rikers — she believes it’s possible to reform the current system. And she thinks the mayor shouldn’t stand behind Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte, who she thinks isn’t doing his job.
“Rikers Island is a mess, everybody knows it. And this mayor says that his commissioner is doing a great job. He’s still defending his commissioner even after the commissioner says he’s going to resign. If he’s doing such a great job then why do we need to close Rikers Island and build jails in all the communities across the city? We have 10 jails in Rikers Island, why can’t we just reform those jails and make them more humane for the inmates, try to make them safer. Whatever you were going to do in the boroughs with those five jails let’s just do it, revamp the 10 jails that are already there and do something to make it better. I don’t think anyone’s going to want a jail in their neighborhood.”
And the editors of Gay City News and Chelsea Now got into a heated debate with Malliotakis over how someone who voted against the state’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act could ask for votes from the LGBTQ community. The bill passed in the Assembly in 2007 despite her “no” vote, but has never come to the floor in the Republican-controlled Senate. Malliotakis said she agrees with the bill, but voted against it because of its wording.
“I feel that it was a loophole — the way it’s written, I really have no issue with the overall bill but what I’ve expressed to the groups that have come to see me, is the way it’s written, it gives an individual a defense to say I was somewhere because of their identity. I feel like there needs to be some type of component that does not allow that to be used as a criminal defense should they be using it to exploit the law. I believe that there is a loophole in the law that allows it to be exploited for individuals who want to exploit the law to commit a type of sex crime and that’s my belief.”